crawl space cleaning

The Impact of Crawl Space Cleanup on Energy Efficiency

When homeowners seek to improve energy efficiency, they may naturally focus on insulation, efficient appliances, and sealing air leaks in windows and doors. However, there’s one area that often goes overlooked – and that is crawl space cleaning. Neglected crawl space issues can have a significant impact on energy efficiency and ultimately, the overall comfort of a home.

What are Crawl Spaces Exactly?

Crawl spaces are typically found in homes with raised foundations. They provide access to plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems, as well as serve as a buffer between the ground and the home’s structure. Unfortunately, they are prone to issues such as moisture intrusion, mold growth, pest infestations, and poor insulation. Crawl spaces, even those with a dirt floor, should also be considered for encapsulation.

How Can I Make My Crawl Space More Energy Efficient

Making your crawl space more energy efficient (also referred to as encapsulation) involves several key steps.

Seal Air Leaks: Identify and seal any air leaks. Use caulking or weather stripping to seal gaps around pipes, vents, and electrical conduits. Also, seal gaps or cracks in the walls and floor.

Insulate: Insulating your crawl space is a crucial step toward energy efficiency. Insulate the walls, floor, and even the ceiling if it’s an unconditioned space below the living area. Use insulation materials suitable for crawl spaces like rigid foam boards, spray foam or fiberglass batts.

Install a Vapor Barrier: A vapor barrier is a plastic or foil sheet that prevents moisture from entering the crawl space. It helps control humidity levels and prevents moisture-related problems. Install the vapor barrier on the crawl space floor, extending it up the walls a few inches. Overlap and seal the seams properly to create an effective barrier.

Improve Drainage: Be certain that the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation, so that water is directed away. Consider installing gutters and downspouts.

Ventilation: Depending on your climate and local building codes, you may need to address ventilation. In some cases, sealing the crawl space and using a dehumidifier may be more effective than relying on ventilation.

Control Moisture: Keep moisture levels in check to prevent mold growth and wood rot. Address any water leaks or plumbing issues right away. Consider installing a dehumidifier or a moisture control system to maintain optimal humidity levels.

Maintain Pest Control: Seal any openings that pests could use to enter your home. Regularly inspect and treat for pests as needed.

Regular Inspections and Maintenance: Schedule regular inspections of your crawl space to identify and address any issues promptly. Monitor moisture levels, check for leaks, and ensure insulation and vapor barriers remain in good condition.

Ways Mold Can Grow in a Crawl Space

While encapsulating a crawl space can significantly reduce the risk of mold growth, it is still possible for mold to develop under certain conditions.

Moisture Intrusion: If moisture finds its way into the encapsulated crawl space due to plumbing leaks, water seepage or condensation, it can encourage mold growth. Address potential moisture sources and ensure proper drainage and waterproofing measures are in place.

Inadequate Ventilation: In some climates, crawl spaces may require ventilation to prevent excessive moisture buildup.

Poor Installation or Maintenance: If the encapsulation system is installed incorrectly, it can compromise the effectiveness of moisture control. Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial to identify and address any issues.

Pre-existing Mold: If mold was present before encapsulation and wasn’t effectively remediated, it may continue to grow, even after encapsulation.

Should I Clean My Crawl Space?

There are a number of good reasons to regularly clean your crawl space even if it is encapsulated. In addition to moisture control, mold prevention, and energy efficiency, cleaning this often overlooked area will help you optimize:

Pest Management: Neglected crawl spaces often attract pests like rodents, insects, and termites. These pests can cause damage to the structure and insulation, leading to compromised energy efficiency. Cleaning the crawl space involves removing pest debris, sealing entry points, and implementing pest control measures.

Odor Control: A dirty crawl space can produce unpleasant odors that can permeate into your living spaces. The presence of mold, pests or stagnant water contributes to these odors.

Indoor Air Quality: The air in your crawl space can affect the overall indoor air quality of your home. If the crawl space contains mold, pests or other contaminants, they can release airborne particles and allergens that circulate throughout your living spaces. Cleaning the crawl space reduces these contaminants, improving indoor air quality.

Structural Integrity: A neglected crawl space can have detrimental effects on the structural integrity of your home. Excessive moisture, mold growth, and pest infestations can weaken floor joists, support beams, and other structural components. Regular cleaning and maintenance help preserve the integrity of your home’s foundation and prevent costly repairs.

Should I Keep My Crawl Space Vents Open or Closed?

The decision to keep crawl space vents open or closed depends on several factors including your climate, local building codes, and the specific conditions of your crawl space. Consulting with the professionals at Attic Construction can help you determine what is best for your home.

Climate: In regions with hot and humid climates, such as in the southern parts of the United States, it is generally recommended to keep crawl space vents closed. Closed vents help prevent hot and humid outdoor air from entering the crawl space, which can lead to increased moisture levels and potential issues like mold growth and wood rot.

Moisture Control: If your crawl space is prone to moisture problems it is advisable to keep the vents closed. Closed vents help maintain controlled moisture levels and prevent moisture-related issues.

Energy Efficiency: Keeping crawl space vents closed can contribute to improved energy efficiency in certain climates. Closed vents reduce the exchange of outdoor air with conditioned indoor air, which helps minimize heat loss during the winter and heat gain during the summer.

Can I Put A Dehumidifier in a Crawl Space without Encapsulation? 

Yes, you can put a dehumidifier in your unencapsulated crawl space. While a dehumidifier alone may not fully resolve all of the moisture issues, it can help reduce humidity levels and mitigate some of the moisture-related problems.

Limitations: A dehumidifier in an unencapsulated crawl space may not be as effective as in an encapsulated crawl space. Without proper sealing and moisture barriers, outside air and moisture can still enter the crawl space, making it more challenging for the dehumidifier to control humidity levels.

Size and Capacity: Choose a dehumidifier with an appropriate size and capacity for your crawl space. Consider the square footage and the moisture conditions in the area. A dehumidifier with a built-in humidity control feature can be beneficial as it allows you to set a desired humidity level for the crawl space.

Drainage: Make sure that the dehumidifier has a suitable drainage system. It should be able to effectively remove the collected moisture from the crawl space. You can use a drainage hose connected to a nearby drain or install a condensate pump to remove the water.

Regular Maintenance: Proper maintenance of the dehumidifier is crucial for optimal performance. Clean the filters regularly and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and care.

Consider Encapsulation: While it’s true that a dehumidifier can help manage humidity in an unencapsulated crawl space to some extent, it is worth considering encapsulation for more comprehensive moisture control. Encapsulation, which includes the installation of moisture barriers and insulation, can significantly reduce moisture intrusion and create a more controlled environment.

How Do I Clean My Crawl Space?

Cleaning your crawl space can be a challenging task so be sure to properly prepare and take appropriate safety precautions.

Safety Precautions:

   – Wear protective clothing including gloves, goggles, a mask, and coveralls, to shield yourself from potential hazards.
    – Ensure proper ventilation in the crawl space by opening windows or using fans to release stale air.
    – Use a portable light source or a headlamp for proper illumination.

Clear Debris:

   – Remove any large debris such as rocks, branches or trash from the crawl space using a rake or gloved hands.

Inspect for Mold and Mildew:

   – Examine the space for signs of mold and mildew growth including discoloration, musty odors or visible mold patches.
Remove Standing Water:

   – If you encounter a wet crawl space, identify the source and address any plumbing leaks or water seepage issues immediately.
    – Use a submersible pump, wet-dry vacuum or buckets to remove the standing water.
    – Dry out the area using fans or dehumidifiers to prevent further moisture buildup.

Clean and Disinfect:

   – Sweep or vacuum the crawl space to remove loose dirt, dust, and cobwebs.
    – Use a mild detergent or a mixture of water and vinegar to clean surfaces including walls, floor, and support beams.
    – Scrub any stubborn stains or mold spots with a brush or sponge.
    – Rinse the surfaces thoroughly with clean water.

Address Pest Infestations:

   – If you notice signs of pests like droppings, nests or damaged insulation, take necessary pest control measures.
    – Seal any openings or cracks to prevent pests from reentering.

Insulation Inspection and Repair:

   – Check the condition of the crawl space insulation.
    – Replace damaged or deteriorated insulation with new insulation materials suitable for crawl spaces.
    – Make sure there is proper coverage and sealing to maintain energy efficiency.

Maintain Cleanliness:

   – Regularly inspect the space for signs of moisture, mold, pests or any other issues.
    – Perform routine maintenance tasks such as checking for leaks, maintaining proper ventilation, and monitoring humidity levels.
    – Keep your clean crawl space free of debris by periodically removing any accumulated dirt or debris.

Crawl Space Cleaning Costs

The cost of crawl space cleaning can vary depending on several factors including the size of the crawl space, the extent of cleaning required, the presence of mold or pest infestations, and the location. Other factors taken into account include crawl space insulation repair or replacement and possible encapsulation.

If you find significant mold growth, extensive pest infestations or other complex issues, it may be best to hire crawl space cleaners such as the professionals at Attic Construction. We have been serving the American Southwest for over a decade, and can help you with challenging situations such as crawl space encapsulation and cleaning your crawl space. 

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Written By Joseph Sheiner

Joseph Sheiner is a construction industry professional with over 15 years of experience. He began his career in the insulation industry in 2012, and co-founded Attic Construction Inc in 2013. As CEO of the company, Joe oversees all operations and is in charge of training and product knowledge.

Under Joe’s leadership, Attic Construction has become the largest leading Attic Restoration Company in San Diego, Orange County and Phoenix. He has personally performed and supervised insulation work in over 7000 homes. He is certified by Owens Corning as a CEE (Certified Energy Expert) and is a licensed contractor by the CSLB.
Most recently, Joe has helped expand Attic Construction to two additional locations – Orange County and Phoenix. He is currently working on expanding to additional locations in the near future.

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Great work! Our attic went from totally disgusting to pristine.  They are courteous and professional and clean up after themselves.

-Karen L. Santee, CA

Andrew was very informative and helpful during the whole process. Excellent communication and his team did a great job. He came on Sunday and the work was done and completed by Tuesday. Highly recommend to anyone who is looking for a fair prices and great service.

– Joey E. San Diego, CA