Question

What is the best way to encapsulate a crawlspace that seems wet all the time?

Asked by Wallie
Clinton, TN

I just bought a house built in 2007 and I need to encapsulate the crawl space. major problem is that where the house was built the water table is at ground level , meaning there is standing water most of the time. I got a quote and my GC got a 2 quotes all from licensed Encapsulation Contractors and the space is 2700 sq ft. One says plastic against the ground , one says concrete against the ground, the other one said a Plastic and foam , They all said insulate the walls, two with foam and one in plastic , all said seal off vents and that I agree with!! I have read up on this for weeks now daily and probably could do a decent job doing it myself. However , I am not mechanical in anyway so I must leave it to a Pro. I will pay anyone a fair fee to tell me which is best and longest lasting solution, if you the qualifications to help me. My GC says he has never done a house with a crawl space encapsulated and he only doing the inside remodeling. Prices range from 31-40K and it shocked<

Answer

Sean Lintow Sr

Answered by Sean Lintow Sr

Naperville, IL

SLS Construction & Building Solutions

August 9, 2013

Wallie,

The quick answer is you don't encapsulate the crawlspace before you take care of the water issues first or you are just asking for some major issues.

Source of the water

One of the first things is you need to determine where the water is coming in. 

I would start with the outside making sure the ground is sloping away from the house, gutters are cleared and draining at least 5 feet away. If that is the issue then you will have to run dehumidifiers to help bring the moisture levels down.

Now if that isn't the issue or proves not to be all of it, then you will have to work on a way to drain the crawlspace either to daylight or to a sump pump especially if you have a high water table. After this is done, then you need to go back to a dehumidifier.

Common moisture sources

Some common issues I see:

  • leaky & uninsulated duct work,
  • condensate lines not draining outside,
  • uninsulated or leaky water lines,
  • dryer venting underneath instead of outside, and/or
  • other leaks (toilets, drain lines).

All of those would need to be dealt with.

Encapsulation

Whew, now that you have taken care of the water intrusion and everything has dried out, now you can really start discussing how to encapsulate or seal the crawl space.

There are numerous options and they are all good ones dependent on your budget and how you use it the space.

The walls. If you think water might still try to seep through, you could go with Closed Cell Foam directly sprayed to them. I generally would recommend using a product like Delta Dry that leads directly to a French drain so if any water manages to seep inside it drains away. 

  • Make sure that the top is sealed so vapor does not have a pathway directly upwards.
  • As for foam boards, while they can work it is can be difficult to get them installed properly in a confined space.

Plastic on the floor. Plastic is almost a given but no matter which way you go it needs to be cleaned out and the smoother the better. Six mil is the thinnest you can use, but I would recommend going thicker.

  • Make sure they follow the manufacturer's directions for sealing the seams and mounting it to the walls (it should wrap up the walls by at least 6 inches).
  • It should be under the foam but over the Delta Dry if you go that route.

Rat slab (concrete). This is a good alternative system especially if you store or need to be under there frequently. Trying to do it now that the house has been built is generally not a good idea due to the amount of moisture it will release. It is hard to do in many cases. With that I have heard of some companies that have managed to get around those issues, but I haven't seen or heard enough about them.

Foam on the ground. The final option is to spray closed cell directly on the ground. That can be a great solution but finding a company that can do it and do it properly though... I would highly recommend you find either an energy auditor that knows their stuff to verify work done / spot other issues or make sure the company(ies) you do hire, know their building science and can do it properly.

 

For more information:

Read "What can we do about water build up on our basement floor? We had a french drain put in and it worked for the first 3-4 years." a Q&A answered by Edward Wright.

Tagged In: basement moisture

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