About Crawl Spaces

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About Crawl Spaces
About Crawl Spaces (Image: CC by Jenny Cestnik (jcestnik) on Flickr.com)

Crawl spaces are used in many buildings, ranging from pier and beam home construction to mobile homes. Strictly defined a crawl space would be any space beneath the structure that allows enough room for a person to crawl under the structure for maintenance and repairs. While presenting many distinct advantages, crawl spaces also have some disadvantages as well. This article will examine a major disadvantage and solution to consider when using crawl spaces in building construction.

Function

A crawl space is the term given to a low and narrow space usually beneath the lower story of a building. This space, when necessary, can offer easier access to make repairs to homes such when dealing with the plumbing and plumbing fixtures along with cable and telephone lines. Cinder block is the material of choice when constructing a crawl space. These blocks are used for the foundation and are then covered with a brick facing for cosmetic appearances.

Benefits

There are several advantages that come with using a crawl space over a basement or a slab foundation. One of these advantages is that the crawl space elevates the house off the ground, helping to keep it out of reach of floods in areas of the country that are prone to rainy weather. A second advantage is that the crawl space also helps in reducing the risk of certain types of insect infestation such as termites. National building reports show that it is less expensive than building a basement, but about the same in price as a slab foundation. It is different from a slab foundation in that duct work, pipes and wiring can be run in the crawl space making them easy to get to for maintenance or if they need to be re-routed during a home makeover.

Considerations

There are at least three natural things that destroy organic materials such as wood. These natural destroyers are water, heat and ultra-violet radiation. Of these, water is the element that has caused the most damage throughout history. One problem that can be an issue with crawl spaces and basements is too much humidity caused by heavy rainfall. Crawl space moisture can produce mold and mildew which will thrive when it goes unnoticed for months or even years. This can negatively affect the floors directly above the crawl space. Depending on the severity it can also adversely affect the entire house, and of course, the home's market value.

Effects

Moisture can destroy a home because it provides the ideal living environment for the spread of mold, fungi, and particular types of insects that can destroy the wood framing of a house. With mold and fungi come allergies and other disease or conditions that effect human health. Properly sealing the crawl space from the outside elements can prevent this damage from taking hold from the start.

Prevention/Solution

During the construction process perforated pipe and gravel are used in a trench like set-up encircling the crawl space to route water away from the home. Another precaution is that the basement walls can be insulated with foam board and waterproofed before dirt is back-filled against the walls. However, this is not a perfect solution, because water and air can get through small cracks in door panels and cracks in the mortar. If your home still has moisture a crawl space vapor barrier system can help by sealing the crawl space completely off from the earth and outside air.

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