Found between the first floor of a home and the ground, a crawl space ranges from one to three feet in height and acts as somewhat of a hub for all the property’s most important systems. From your HVAC to your plumbing and even your electrical system, it all passes through your crawl space. This makes the crawl space a very important part of a property that must remain dry and temperate in order to protect your home.
This is just one of the reasons having crawl space water is a problem sign that you should not ignore. Of course, there is also the matter of how the water made its way into your crawl space in the first place. Some form of damage is often at the root of this. Thankfully, there are things that you can do to protect your home in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, from crawl space water damage and humidity.
How Water Gets into a Crawl Space
Water can get into your crawl space in several ways, but there are, broadly speaking, two main categories of leaks: internal and external.
Internal sources of water are those that come from within a property’s plumbing system in some way. External sources, of course, are sources of moisture that originate outside of the structure.
Internal Sources of Crawl Space Water
The most common internal sources of water are leaking pipes and appliances. Small leaks can be caused by various issues and concerns. From high water pressure to corrosion, your plumbing system in particular is incredibly vulnerable to changes in temperature and climate. Likewise, appliances that are connected to the plumbing system can be impacted by these same issues, as well as general wear and tear through use.
External Sources of Crawl Space Water
External sources of crawl space water tend to be the more worrying of the two because they are often created by structural damage. However, this is not always the case. Open crawl space vents, for example, can contribute to dampness and humidity through condensation and flooding. If a property does not have crawl space vents or the vents are covered, the most common external sources of water are structural damage to the walls or foundation.
The Damage Crawl Space Water Signifies
As you can see, water in your crawl space is a warning sign that there may be damage at work in your home. Here are some of the most worrying issues that crawl space water could be warning you about:
Damage to your property’s foundation is one of the issues most likely to cause dampness, standing water, and related issues in a property’s crawl space. In fact, these issues can be considered early warning signs for foundation issues like settlement and subsidence. Heeding the red flags and calling a professional quickly can make the foundation repair process much quicker and lower in cost.
Foundation damage is generally caused by issues in the soil beneath a property, which is why dampness is a common symptom. Groundwater seeps through cracks in a foundation.
One frequent cause of crawl space water and dampness is the breakdown of appliances like water heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines. When these machines break down, they can release a huge amount of water into a property.
You can recognize this, first and foremost, by the breakdown of the appliance, but also by the damage and water around the appliance. After all, water will have to make its way down to the crawl space from the appliance.
Plumbing leaks are some of the most insidious and hard-to-place sources of crawl space water for a variety of reasons. Firstly, your plumbing system spans the breadth of your home, which means there are hundreds of points from which it can leak. As a result, it is likely to be a prolonged process too.
However, when pipes burst (which is common in an exposed crawl space), the damage can be catastrophic.
Cracks that are spreading through your property’s walls or flooring are often connected to foundation problems but may also be caused by hydrostatic pressure and localized damage to other parts of your home.
Whatever causes cracks, however, they will let water seep into your home, effectively acting as channels for water into your home.
Seepage is a very common and hard to deal with issue because, while it is damaging, it is not a result of damage. Concrete is a porous substance that will absorb water, especially when it is surrounded by saturated soil. This will allow water to seep into a property over time and lead to crawl space water, dampness, humidity, and all the things that they can cause.
Each of these issues can cause secondary problems, as can water in your crawl space. It is these fringe issues that can really mess with your home and cause problems for your health and well-being.
Crawl Space Water
As with most issues, it is far better to prevent crawl space water and all the issues it can cause before it becomes a problem. There are some things that you can do to prevent avoidable issues in your home.
Keeping your property’s perimeter saturation under control will be of huge benefit when it comes to preventing avoidable dampness and damage to your crawl space, and indeed your property as a whole. You can do this by undertaking basic seasonal maintenance on the drainage and moisture control systems around your property. This means keeping your roof gutters free from debris and sediment buildup.
You should also think about your ground-based drainage systems, however. Make sure your downspouts are aimed away from your home and check your perimeter drains as well. You can also invest in an extended downspout and a longer discharge line for your sump pump. This will ensure that the water that is being drained from your home is carried away from your home rather than pooling by your foundation. This can also protect your home from foundation damage by minimizing soil saturation and preventing expansive soils from shifting or greatly changing in size or texture.
Cover Crawl Space Vents
If you have a property that was built between the 1950s and 1990s, it is likely that you will have crawl space vents. If these vents are still uncovered, you should invest in high-quality, water- and moisture-resistant vent covers or doors to prevent dampness, humidity, and flooding. You see, while crawl space vents were believed to improve airflow and prevent dampness in the past, we now know that this is not true. Uncovered vents are now known to cause dampness and humidity via condensation, which forms when the cool air from the crawl space and warmer, more humid air from outside clash.
This leads to the formation of condensation because of the lower capacity of cool air to hold moisture. When this condensation forms, it can cause corrosion to uncovered pipes, saturate insulation and wooden supports, and lead to a generally unhealthy environment (as well as rust and rot). Investing in covers is one simple way to prevent this. Of course, installing crawl space vent covers without also investing in general waterproofing can be a quick recipe for disaster. As such, you should always consult a professional before you begin.
Once there is water in your crawl space, however, preventative measures will only contain the issue and stop it from getting worse. It will not resolve the issues altogether. For this, you need professional intervention and crawl space waterproofing.
Draining and Repairs
When you have water in your crawl space, the first thing you need to do is drain away the water and have the space assessed to find out the cause of the dampness and the extent of the damage that has been caused. If you have a sump pump already, this will help in the process of drainage (unless it is responsible for the flooding as a result of breakdown).
If you do not have a sump pump, however, a professional will likely suggest that you install one (especially if your home is in a wet area). Once most of the water has been drained away properly, structural damage will need to be repaired before measures can be taken to waterproof the crawl space against future dampness and water intrusion. This process can be lengthy and disruptive depending on the nature of the underlying damage. While an open vent will be easy to cover, foundation damage is much harder to address.
Once your crawl space is ready to be waterproofed, the process will be fairly straightforward, simple, and non-disruptive. Unless you need to have a sump pump installed, for example, there will be no need for excavation in your home. If you do need to have one installed, there will be a small amount of excavation, but your day will not be hugely disrupted as a result of this and the whole process of encapsulation should still take a day or less.
Generally speaking, waterproofing looks different for most crawl spaces because it is dependent on the needs of a particular property. For a home that has had no previous work, however, waterproofing and encapsulation will involve the installation of an interior drainage system, drainage matting, insulation, a vapor barrier, and crawl space vent covers as well as, potentially, a dehumidifier. This process will minimize the likelihood of dampness and damage to your home in the future.
We understand that many people are keen to save money by doing as much work themselves as possible. However, we do not recommend that you attempt to waterproof your crawl space alone. There are many potential issues with trying the DIY approach.
The Best Products are Professional
One of the main challenges that comes with DIY work of any kind, but particularly crawl space repair and waterproofing, is that the best products are not always sold over the counter in hardware stores. While you will certainly be able to find an equivalent, they may be more expensive and less effective than the products that professionals can acquire through industry suppliers and manufacturers. This means that even a successful process could give you a worse result at a higher cost.
There is also the issue of finding the most suitable solutions for your home. As a non-professional, it is likely that you may not be able to diagnose all the underlying causes of your crawl space water. If you do not fully understand the causes, or you have not accounted for all the secondary damage, the products you choose may be unsuitable as well as lower quality. This can cause a lot of issues for you and your home.
DIY Work Can do More Harm Than Good
When it comes to structural repairs and crawl space waterproofing, there is a high chance that DIY work can go wrong, even if you identify all the correct causes and co-occurring damage. This is partly because of the specialist nature of some of the products, but also because of the environment. Most crawl spaces are one to three feet in height. This means that as well as working with complex tools and products, you will be undertaking work in a cramped environment. This increases the likelihood of damage by an incredible amount.
Professional crawl space specialists, by contrast, are used to working in these conditions and can get the job done quickly, efficiently, and to a high standard, no matter how tricky the task is. When you hire a professional to undertake crawl space waterproofing, you are not only guaranteed a successful process, but the overall cost of your repairs can actually be lower. This is because the chance of having to redo certain tasks, deal with recurring damage, or replace damaged products is minimal.
Problem Signs That You Should Be Aware Of
Even a small amount of water in your crawl space can do damage to your wider home and even your health. This is because of how your crawl space directly affects the air quality, temperature, and climate of your home. These issues are problem signs of dampness and humidity in a property. If you see them, do not hesitate to call a professional.
Condensation is one of the strongest signs of dampness and humidity in any space. Caused by the gradual increase of humidity until it reaches 100%, condensation is most often found on cool surfaces. This is because cool air has a lower capacity for moisture than warm air. The air around a cool surface will start to chill, leading moisture to form on the surface.
This will lead to small pools of water, the formation of moisture-reliant bacterial species, and even damage to the surface on which condensation is forming (if it is organic).
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew are almost unavoidable when dealing with a damp, humid environment. These growths will spread through a property with alarming speed when the conditions are right. In fact, there are many different species of mold that thrive in different environments, from wood and textiles to tiles, and even in HVAC vents.
As well as eating away at organic structures and surfaces, mold and mildew can damage your skin, eyes, nose, and throat. Those most at risk from mold formations are those who already have respiratory, auto immune, or skin conditions. Mold can cause:
- Eye irritation
- Shortness of breath
For those who have conditions like emphysema, bronchitis, dermatitis, eczema, and those who are undergoing treatments that undermine the immune system, like chemotherapy, there is a risk of hospitalization after prolonged exposure to mold.
Wood rot is seriously damaging to both the wood it takes root in and the rest of a property. Caused by continuous moisture and the presence of certain fungal organisms, rot can cause wooden beams and surfaces to lose their structural integrity, buckle, and eventually collapse entirely. This will affect any floors or walls that are supported by the joists and make your home environment unhealthy.
Wood rot can be recognized either by a white sheen and a soft texture to the wood, a honeycomb-like appearance in the wood, or by the wood shrinking to become hard, brittle, and flaky.
Staining may be a predominantly cosmetic form of damage, but if you catch the problem while the biggest issues it has caused are cosmetic, you will save yourself a lot of time, stress, and money. Staining as a result of water can look different depending on the location and surface in question. Wallpaper, for example, may become yellowed or start bubbling.
Concrete surfaces, by contrast, may start to spall, flake, and pit, as well as taking on an orange stain in some places.
Sagging floors can be a sign of many different issues within a home. From dampness, mold formation, and wood rot, to bowing walls and a settling or sinking foundation, your floors can begin to bend for many reasons. When they do, you should act quickly.
Whether the floors are sagging because dampness has damaged the boards and joists or because the foundation has shifted and left a gap between the supports and the floor, this issue will only get worse. In fact, the floor could even collapse if you leave it to grow unchecked.
Pest infestation is a very general problem sign, as well as a problem in its own right, which can signify a variety of issues. Most pests prefer dark, secluded, and damp areas that are not frequented by animals or people. Over time, however, they can spread through a whole property and cause damage, as well as spreading bacteria and bad smells.
The most common causes of pest infestation are uncovered vents, large cracks in crawl space walls, or an uncovered dirt floor in a crawl space.
Each of these problem signs can signify several causes. This is why it is so important that you call in a professional as soon as possible. There is no other way to be certain that you have identified all the underlying causes and co-occurring problems. The right professional will not only be able to do this but will also formulate a unique solution that is tailored for your home and situation.
Quality Crawl Space Repair from Ohio Basement Authority
When your crawl space starts to show signs of dampness, damage, and deterioration, there is only one firm to which you should turn—Ohio Basement Authority. We have been helping homeowners across Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, to return their homes to peak condition since 2009 and have built a reputation for excellence. No matter what the damage to your home looks like, no matter how far it has spread, our team is here to help.
All you need to do is contact us to schedule a free inspection and repair quote. This will help us to get an idea of what exactly is going on in your home and just what you need to do in order to get your home back into working order. These appointments come with a written estimate for all suggested work and without any obligation to book repairs or services with us.