Underneath most homes in the basement is a dark crawl space that often goes unnoticed. If left ignored for too long, youmight be overlooking potential standing water in the crawl space from heavy rain or undetectable leaks. Unfinished crawl spaces typically have a soil ground as well as pipes and electrical wires running through them. Water can seep up into the small space through the ground and pipes carrying water can also leak or even burst. These issues can lead to damp crawl space problems.
There are many questions concerning standing water in crawl spaces, the causes of this happening, and ultimately what can be done about the problem. We have answered the most common questions in regard to water in a crawl space. StayDry® is Michigan’s leading expert for crawl space repair. Call us at 1-800-StayDry for a free consultation.
Is Water In a Crawl Space Normal?
It depends on what you mean by “water.” All crawl spaces are going to have some moisture in them, especially homes in humid climates. While moisture control is important, it’s completely normal to have some moisture as we see heavy rainfall each year. When this water becomes standing water, however, that’s when water in a crawl space is a problem.
Finding standing water in your crawl space can lead to a lot of issues. The crawl space sits right in the area of your foundation. Water will damage concrete foundation and wooden supports, and decrease your foundation’s durability and life expectancy. Water will eventually decrease the structural integrity of your home, making it dangerous to inhabit.
Why is Standing Water in a Crawl Space Bad?
This question has a lot of answers to it, because standing water in a crawl space leads to a lot of negative impacts on your home.
Let’s start with the walls. Think of concrete like a sponge. Many concrete structures, both new and old, are porous, especially basement and crawl space walls and foundation supports. Concrete can also become “soft” as it ages, allowing water to seep into crawl spaces. The water passing through concrete will cause expansion and contraction of the block walls, and eventually lead to cracks. StayDry® specializes in repairing foundation cracks that may appear in your crawl space.
Additionally, your foundation supports can be found in your crawl space and if these sit in waterlogged soil for too long, they will warp, twist, turn, and even worse, eventually lose their structural integrity.
Next, think: bugs. Nothing attracts pests more than small, dark spaces, but water is their best friend. Standing water will attract pests and small animals and sometimes, even microscopic plant life. Termites are likely to welcome themselves into your home through a damp crawl space, swiftly aiding in the structural damage of your home.
Mold and mildew. Prolonged periods of moisture in a crawl space will promote the growth of mold andmildew. The difference between the two are in their intensities, but they are both equally as unsafe if gone unnoticed. Mildew is a surface fungi, while mold is the sign of a larger infestation of fungi. This will not only damage the wood in your crawl space, but also have adverse effects on a person’s health.
What Causes Water in Crawl Spaces?
Standing water in a crawl space is usually the result of heavy rainfall or a sloped ground in which water pools around your foundation walls and slowly makes its way into your home.
After a heavy rainfall, water can also pool around the house before the ground eventually absorbs it. Once the ground has become saturated with water, it doesn’t entirely go away—the water can find its way into your crawl space through damaged foundation and cracks in the concrete walls.
Water can enter a crawl space in a variety of ways, though there are some common causes to be aware of. Some common causes include:
- Cracks in the walls, floors, or mortar joints
- Sweating walls (condensation)
- A bursting pipe or leak
- A high water table
- Surface water flooding
Some less common problems include:
- Broken water heater
- Sewer backup
Cracks in your walls or floors could be the reason water is seeping into your crawl space. Mortar joints are areas between brick or concrete blocks, and if these are damaged or cracked, water could also find its way into a crawl space.
Condensation under the house is a problem for some homeowners. It can be a result of leaking ductwork or poor ventilation in the crawl space, or, sometimes outside air coming in through the vent. How is this possible? Warm air can hold more water than cold air, so naturally, when warm air is cooled, humidity reaches its dew point—the temperature at which atmospheric moisture reaches saturation. Air outside is cooler than the air inside your crawl space. If low temperatures are entering the crawl space through a vent, the warm air is being cooled—therefore posing a problem.
A high water table can also contribute to crawl space water and damp soil in the crawl space. Water can easily move its way up through the soil of a crawl space that is unprotected if a water table is simply too high for the foundation.
Water in a crawl space after heavy rainfall is also a common problem if ignored. Sometimes the ground becomes so saturated, it can’t hold water anymore. Water will pool around your home if this is the case, and water could flood into the surrounding areas—your basement, and your crawl space.
Additionally, surface water flooding is a result of heavy rainfall, but could be a problem if downspouts are not turned away from the house. Water from heavy rainfall should be directed away from the foundation of your home.
How Can I Determine the Source of the Problem?
First, determine that there is standing water. If you see pools of water, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed. There are a few ways you can check out your crawl space to determine where the water is coming from. Even if you do not see standing water in the crawl space, an excess of moisture could also lead to problems down the road.
To determine where the issue may be, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. Are the crawl space walls damp? Do you hear or see any water leaks from hanging pipes? Check upstairs. What do your floors look like? Are there water spots on the carpet or wood? Check your downspouts and gutters outside. Are they broken, missing, or defective?
If you do not have standing water in your crawl space, but suspect a problem, ask yourself if you smell anything out of the ordinary. If there is a musty smell, mildew or mold could be present. Observe any wood in the space—is it damp or covered in a grey, green or black, fuzzy coating?
To fully understand what the issue is, your best strategy will be a home inspection, specifically for the crawl space. An expert will be able to tell you exactly what the problem is.
What Solutions Are There for Water in Crawl Spaces?
If you are looking to attempt a DIY fix for standing water or moisture in your crawl space, there are few wet crawl space solutions you can try to slow the process or prevent it from happening again.
Clean the Wet Crawl Space
Invest in a wet-dry vacuum. If your wet crawl space is a minor issue, meaning there’s not much water present, use a wet-dry vacuum to remove the water. A hose draws the water into the vacuum compartment to be discarded outside.
Don’t allow your crawl space to air dry after this step. Concrete is much cooler than other materials, so it holds moisture longer, and wood absorbs water almost as easily as sponge. Even if you have the pools of water cleared out, moisture will be left behind.
Simply cleaning out crawl space water, however, will not prevent any issues from resurfacing in the future. There are some other problem areas to check and possibly fix in order to prevent water in a crawl space.
Check That Your Sump Pump is Working
At times, a sump pump may fail which won’t do you any good if your crawl space floods. This is a submersible pump in a hole with a float arm that will drain the water if water raises the float to a certain height. It’s important to take the necessary steps to troubleshoot the sump pump if you believe this is an issue. If you don’t have a sump pump or some form of draining system, it’s recommended to have one installed.
While most crawl spaces have some sort of ventilation, if your homes is one of the select few with a poor ventilation system or none at all, this could help with moisture build-up. Most of the moisture found in crawl spaces comes from damp soil. Vents will allow this moisture to escape and allow fresh air inside.
As mentioned previously in this article, some vents carry cool air in from outside—thus raising the possibility of water forming as temperature drops. Make sure you have a reliable ventilation system—one that does not reverse what it’s meant to do.
Waterproof and Encapsulate the Crawl Space
Your best option to avoid a wet crawl space altogether is the waterproofing method. Waterproofing also includes encapsulation, which is the processing of sealing the area off from outside hazards making their way inside. Waterproofing experts will assess the crawl space and determine where the water is coming from. If necessary, technicians may drain concrete walls holding water, dig drain trenches, and install a crock with a sump pump for water to run to.
Encapsulation includes installing a vapor barrier and drain mat to protect the crawl space from water or moisture.
What Long Term Benefits Does Waterproofing Have?
Waterproofing and encapsulation will clearly solve the problem of water making its way into your crawl space, but it also have some other positive long term effects.
Encapsulation will improve the structural integrity of your home because it is working to keep the soil dry. Dry soil supports a house compared to damp or wet soil that could shift and damage foundation supports overtime.
Moisture in the air is usually due to hot, humid conditions, and this makes it very difficult to cool your home in the summer. If humid air sits below your floors in the crawl space, cooling the rest of your home takes more energy, therefore more money. Encapsulation along with waterproofing will decrease the humidity level beneath your home, creating a significant difference in your energy bills.
No More Mold, No More Pests
Waterproofing will reduce the chances of mold in your crawl space significantly. Mold and bugs thrive in wet places and can spread throughout the home, increasing chances of wood rot and other potentially hazardous effects.
How Much Does Repairing a Crawl Space Cost?
If water in your crawl space has done some considerable damage to the foundation or supports, repair expenses will ultimately correlate to the problem you have in your crawl space. Standing water in a crawl space could cost you several hundred dollars to a couple thousand, but there is no assured answer to what the cost might amount to.
Repairs for water in a crawl space include removing the water, as well as repairing the source at which the water entered, mending any damaged wood or foundation, and removing mold and mildew growth caused by the moisture.
These negative impacts from standing water in a crawl space can be avoided altogether with the solution of waterproofing, which will avoid standing water in your crawl space.
Crawl Space Insulation and What You Should Know
If you are considering having your crawl space renovated, you should consider adequate ventilation. Ventilation is ideal because it helps get rid of moisture. Fiberglass insulation then is easily installed under the subfloor. Secure insulation, covered with a vapor barrier, is essential to prevent moisture and the mold that follows. If the crawl space is not ventilated, insulation will need to be added to the walls of the crawl space rather than the subfloor of the room above.