Many people assume the roof and walls provide temperature protection in a home. However, the reality is that protection comes from the insulation. And it needs to be on all sides, including the walls, the roof and even the floor where there is a crawlspace involved.
Unlike the West coast newer homes, where a house is literally attached to a cement foundation pad as the base, many older homes and those further east are homes based on supports instead. This allows moisture underneath both to flow through and evaporate without flooding the house itself. However, that space underneath is otherwise open to the air and cold temperatures if just flooring alone. So, the crawl space underneath also needs to be insulated to protect from losing heat below and cold rising. It makes a huge difference to the flooring support structure, temperature coming through the flooring, water lines and, of course, the heating costs for the home in general.
With old insulation that may be present, the first step is an evaluation of the home’s current crawlspace condition. Prior to winter and moisture on the ground becoming present, an in-person inspection is applied to look for multiple issues that are signs of problems. The most obvious is sitting water or moisture under the house. That’s typically a sign of a plumbing leak. Mold presence may signal the same too. The status of vapor barriers and other moisture blockages are checked as well to see if they need replacing. Ventilation is key in a crawl space for evaporation, so good airflow is a must, even if there is humidity on a given day outside. And the last but most notorious aspect is the presence of rodents or pests.
If a skunk, rats, cats and other feral animals are underneath a home, they have to be cleared out. Otherwise, their activity is going to create a lot of damage to insulation, wiring and everything else chewed on or scratched.
Sealants are then applied to all apparent cracking or gaping to help close up areas where air would travel through into the subfloor and above.
Piping, wiring and uninsulated plumbing are all at risk in crawl spaces. A solid treatment of pipe-wrapping is very affordable and does wonders, not just for protecting the pipes from freezing but by keeping them warmer as well. The surrounding area should be insulated as well. This can be done through both foam layer insulation or spray-application. Rigid foam works very well for installation as well as layering thickness to capture temperature protection.
Encapsulation Protects Entry
The general crawl space area should be blocked off. That means installing side walls and similar to block any kind of access underneath the home from animals or similar, as well as applying vapor barriers behind those walls to block moisture and draft transfer. Both keep the area dryer than the outside and also reduce the risk of mold growth.
If a crawl space area still has a bad habit of flooding and getting saturated during the wet months, then drainage and a sump pump are in order. By regularly drawing the water out of a crawl space and depositing it into a municipal drain, water build up doesn’t happen in the first place.
Monitoring On An Ongoing Basis
A crawl space insulation treatment on its own helps tremendously, but it doesn’t automatically protect a home continuously. Homeowners should be prepared to regularly monitor their crawlspace conditions during the winter and wet months. Checking at least monthly is a good idea. It might be a bit of dirty business, but getting underneath and seeing first hand if everything is working properly is a very good idea. If not doable in person, hire a service for the same. The few dollars spent on inspection can be worth hundreds or thousands in damage repair after the fact if a problem is not discovered early.