For homeowners in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, keeping on top of the lengthy list of home and crawl space maintenance tasks can be an uphill struggle. After all, it seems that there is always something to do.
This means there are some things that can fall through the cracks very easily. Condensation or general dampness in a crawl space is often one of the first things to be overlooked in a home. You should never ignore these issues, however, as they can be both a symptom and a cause of serious structural damage to a property.
It is also important to remember that the health of your crawl space is directly related to and has an impact on the health of your property as a whole. From the air you breathe to the condition of your soft furnishings, your crawl space is an incredibly important space that you should not take for granted.
Why Condensation Forms in a Crawl Space
Generally speaking, condensation occurs in a crawl space, or any space, because the relative humidity has reached 100%. At this point, the air can no longer hold onto moisture and will deposit it onto cool surfaces where it will gather in droplets. This will lead to a generally damp climate and create a cyclical problem.
There are many things that could raise the relative humidity of a crawl space to 100%. They include but are not limited to:
Open Crawl Space Vents
Having a crawl space that is exposed to the elements via uncovered vents is one of the most common causes of crawl space condensation and dampness. Open crawl space vents also increase the likelihood of pest infestation and mold formation, as well as allowing the stack effect to take hold.
Thankfully this is easy to rectify. Installing durable vent covers and some basic crawl space waterproofing measures will go a long way.
Leaking or burst pipes are a leading cause of water damage, flooding, and general dampness in crawl spaces across Cincinnati and Columbus, OH. The risk of experiencing plumbing leaks is increased in non-insulated and waterproofed crawl spaces because of the effect that a sudden cold snap can have on exposed pipes.
Sudden freezes can lead to the water inside of your pipes freezing, expanding, and as a result, damaging the pipes. Of course, this is not the only form of internal leak that can affect a crawl space. Leaking appliances (for example, damaged sump pumps or hot water heaters) can have the same effect.
Structural damage is one of the most concerning potential causes of dampness and condensation in a crawl space. The most typical kinds of structural damage that might lead to an increase in dampness are cracked walls, subsidence, and settlement. Both subsidence and settlement are caused by issues within the soil.
Subsidence is most likely to be caused by wet, loose, or weak soil, while subsidence tends to be caused by the shrinkage of excessively dry soil. Cracked walls can be caused by a number of issues, and in fact, often co-occur with foundation issues.
As well as being a warning sign for these issues, among others, crawl space condensation can actually cause and contribute to secondary and tertiary damage to your home. This makes it an issue that you should not ignore, no matter how small it may seem.
Recognizing Crawl Space Condensation
Learning to recognize the problem signs of condensation is important to prevent avoidable damage. Of course, this may seem a little obvious, because you can recognize condensation by the presence of moisture on a surface. However, there is a difference between active condensation, sporadic condensation, and dampness caused by other issues.
Pooling and Beading Water
Beads of water or water pooling by the base of a surface can be signs of active condensation, but you should be aware of movement. If the water is actively running down the surface or exists only in specific areas, it is more likely that this is being caused by a leak somewhere above the surface. Condensation tends to be static overall but can form small streams of water when one or more droplets come together.
This is because the droplets finally become large enough and heavy enough to be pulled downward by gravity. As such, the pools of water that are caused by condensation will be smaller than the pools caused by an active leak.
If the walls in question seem to be uniformly wet, but the water is not beading, pooling, or trickling down to the floor, this could be the onset of condensation. However, if you have poured concrete walls in your crawl space, it could just as easily be seepage. Seepage is a process by which concrete absorbs water and allows it to pass through it in its entirety.
This is most common in homes that rest on heavily saturated soil, but it can affect any kind of concrete wall or floor when the conditions are right.
This will be most obvious on smooth, shiny surfaces, or those that stain easily. The evidence of sporadic condensation can be seen either in the presence of dull, discolored tracks running down a surface (this is caused by minerals in the water) or by patches of discoloration. Poured concrete and wooden surfaces may become stained (or rotten in the case of wood) when condensation is persistently present.
There are other problem signs you can look out for, but they tend to be signs of general dampness. These are the most common signs of crawl space condensation itself.
Crawl Space Condensation
Open crawl space vents can cause many problems for an otherwise healthy property. This is why they are no longer considered construction best practice. While it was previously believed that they prevented damage, we now know that they are more likely to contribute to it.
Open Vents Increase Airflow
Open crawl space vents increase airflow around a property. While this may seem like a positive thing, it can in fact have a number of negative causes for a home as a whole. This is, in part, to do with the stack effect and the way in which thermal movement continually draws in air from the exterior of a property. This process will also bring in contaminants, pollen, and bacteria from outside, potentially exacerbating allergies.
This will also make condensation far more likely in all areas of your home, but particularly in your crawl space. This is because of how the warm and cold air interact with each other. Warm air has a far greater capacity for moisture than cold air, so when they come together, it is likely that condensation will be the result. This will contribute to a general air of dampness and humidity in your crawl space and home as a whole.
Water and Pests Can Get In
Crawl space vents offer convenient access points for water, dirt, and pests of all kinds. This can, obviously, cause many different problems for your home. The issue that can be most immediately damaging is, of course, flooding. When a property has open crawl space vents, any serious perimeter saturation or localized flooding will affect your crawl space hugely.
Pest infestation, however, can be far more subtle. This also means that it is more likely to be a long-term issue. The most common pest infestations in Ohio are cockroach, spider, rodent, and bee or wasp infestations. Each of these pests brings its own set of challenges, but none are ideal when it comes to protecting the health of your home. You can help prevent this with the use of vent covers.
Preventing dampness and condensation in your property and crawl space need not be overly difficult or expensive. There are some basic things that you can do to protect your home.
The process of crawl space encapsulation is fairly straightforward, but most of its effectiveness hinges on the preparation work that you are willing to do. Sealing or encapsulating a crawl space that already has problems with dampness or mold will only create an incubator of sorts. As such, it is best to have a professional assess your crawl space before you do anything.
However, if your crawl space is eligible for the process, encapsulation will go a long way toward preventing condensation, dampness, pest infestation, and a number of other problems. This will also have an effect on the rest of your home and can even reduce your energy usage and costs a little. As such, this is a wonderful investment for people looking to protect their homes.
Insulation and Waterproofing
Interior waterproofing will enhance the benefits provided by encapsulation and give you a crawl space that is safe, dry, and hygienic. However, there are additional benefits too. For example, insulating walls, flooring, and exposed pipework is a common part of crawl space waterproofing. This will not only ensure better temperature regulation in your home but increase energy efficiency and lower your bills.
Waterproofing will also lower humidity and prevent crawl space condensation, thereby minimizing the chances of mold and mildew formation and wood rot. These are issues that can be incredibly damaging to your home and your personal health. In fact, if you have underlying respiratory issues mold formation could be lethal!
We can understand the desire to save money by completing renovation and repair work yourself. However, we urge you to call in a professional when it comes to crawl space encapsulation and waterproofing. These are often complex processes that require specialist knowledge and skills.
DIY Work Often Goes Wrong
While there are some issues that can be tackled by a skilled amateur DIYer, we recommend you always call in a professional when you see crawl space condensation. It is imperative that you have a professional inspection before you even think about waterproofing to make sure that there is no structural damage at work. If you try to start work without an inspection you run the risk of covering up a serious issue or even making it worse.
In fact, even if you do try to inspect your crawl space for problem signs, you could miss some. In any case, undertaking work without a total understanding of the state of your crawl space could easily spell disaster. Furthermore, there are some tasks that you simply cannot complete as a non-professional.
The Benefits of Professional Service
Structural repairs of any kind, but foundation repairs in particular, can be actively dangerous to you and your home if you try to tackle them without any help. While this may seem a long way from crawl space condensation, the truth is that foundation damage could well be the cause of the excessively high humidity in your crawl space. These issues are not likely to improve or stabilize without intervention, however, and will become more difficult and expensive to fix as they advance.
If you hire a professional to deal with these issues, you are far more likely to see a quick, efficient, and high-quality result, no matter the root cause of your crawl space damage. Furthermore, once the damage has been repaired, professionals will make quick work of waterproofing and encapsulation. This will ensure a permanent solution.
What Damage Can Condensation Do?
While we understand that crawl space condensation may not seem like a huge issue in the grand scheme of things, we urge you not to ignore it. Condensation can directly contribute to many kinds of damage that are dangerous to your property and your health. As with any problem, these issues will only become more complex over time. The kinds of damage that condensation can cause include:
If you have already waterproofed your crawl space, but moisture has somehow found its way in, the humidity and condensation it causes can ruin many of your waterproofing measures. While things like vapor barriers are waterproof, most insulation is not.
Most insulation may be water-resistant, but when it is regularly exposed to dampness and humidity, it will become saturated. This will lead to it losing its heat retaining properties but also start to rot over time, creating an unhygienic and pungent environment. You can recognize damaged insulation particularly if it is fiberglass that starts to swell and hang from the top or sides of your crawl space.
Mold and Mildew Formation
One of the most common and potentially hazardous consequences of prolonged dampness and condensation is mold and mildew formation. Mold is one of the most versatile, hardy, and tenacious substances that can find its way into a home. It can eat away at wood and textiles, and even cause health issues.
People who have underlying respiratory conditions like emphysema, asthma, or bronchitis are the most at risk from mold formations in their homes. Those with pre-existing skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis will notice that their symptoms become worse. However, even perfectly healthy people can experience skin, eye, and nasal irritation, headaches, and lightheadedness when there is mold in their home.
Persistently damp and humid environments that produce condensation are incredibly damaging to exposed wooden beams and furnishings. If your crawl space becomes subject to persistent or repeated condensation, the wooden joists that support your flooring could easily become rotten. This will lead to a lot of issues in a very short time.
One such issue is the increased likelihood of pest infestation. Certain pests are drawn to dark, humid environments and can feed on rotting organic material. When these creatures take root in your home, their nests will combine with the rotting wood and mold in your crawl space to create a truly pungent odor.
Sagging flooring will be the ultimate outcome of rotting supports and joists in your crawl space. If the condensation in your home becomes serious enough to cause wood rot in supporting joists, your floors will start to suffer as a result of a lack of support. You will be able to notice this by springiness and bounciness underfoot when you walk.
When the process becomes advanced, you may notice that the floor seems to form a bowl, or that it tilts from one side of the room to the next. It may also start to pull away from the walls that it should be attached to. If this issue is allowed to progress without being addressed, you could see your floor collapse entirely!
Humid air puts a real strain on any HVAC appliance. Unless you have a powerful dehumidifier at work, you can expect to see serious wear and tear to your heating and air conditioning appliances. This is because humid air is actually harder to heat and cool than arid air. This increases wear and tear on your appliances and can lead to premature breakdowns, and even shorten the lifespan of your appliances by a few years.
Even appliances that do not process the air will suffer when you have frequent and severe humidity and condensation in your crawl space. This is because the humid environment will create an environment that is damaging to many surfaces. Metal pipes, for example, will become more prone to corrosion and rust, thereby increasing the risks of leaking and bursting.
Increased Energy Costs
When your appliances have to work harder to heat and cool the air, their energy draw will increase. As well as causing more strain on your appliances and potentially damaging them, this will increase your overall energy costs and, therefore, your energy bills. Depending on the severity of the condensation and humidity in your home, this increase in costs can be small or very significant.
Generally speaking, these increases will be gradual, but there are some cases in which they can come on very quickly. Most notably, a sudden onslaught of dampness as a result of flooding in your crawl space will cause a more sudden spike in costs.
What many homeowners do not realize is that their crawl space and the environment within it have a huge impact on the rest of their home. When your crawl space is damp and suffering from condensation, the level of relative humidity throughout your home will increase. Likewise, the chances of mold formation, rot, damage to your furnishings, and even cosmetic issues like bubbling wallpaper increase greatly.
When you notice signs of condensation and dampness in your crawl space, it is important that you act quickly to save yourself a lot of trouble and time. Finding the right crawl space repair specialists will make the whole situation seem a lot more manageable.
Quality Crawl Space Repair Services in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH
When it comes to crawl space repair, waterproofing, and encapsulation, the homeowners of Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, trust Ohio Basement Authority to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Our highly skilled and well-trained team of specialists is equipped to handle any issue, no matter how big or small. Since opening our doors in 2009, we have helped thousands of homeowners to restore their homes to full health. That’s why we are Ohio’s number one crawl space contractor. If you are concerned about crawl space condensation and dampness, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. Our team will help you to arrange a free inspection appointment. These inspection appointments come without obligation and will include a written estimate for all repair costs. Please feel free to ask your inspector about any of their suggested work or call us if you have questions at a later date. We hope that this will help you to make an informed decision about what is best for your home.