Crawl Space Moisture Problems- An Email From Brian

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Water DamageOpen Crawl Space

Matt,

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you so much for your website. It is extremely informative and helpful to the DIYer like myself–I’ve read every single page you have on your site. I have a fairly serious moisture problem in my crawlspace at my home in Virginia Beach. My washer machine plumbing had a small leak that I didn’t notice for many months. This has led to some pretty nasty mold growth under the crawlspace. I crawled down to check it last week and while I’m fairly certain it's structurally sound the things growing down there are horrid.

I also noticed while I was down there that I have had significant pooling of rain/ground water near the front of my house. I had every intention of buying your products and doing the vapor barrier/sump/dehumidifier install myself, however after looking at my situation closely, I don’t think you could pay me enough to do it. I only have about 18 inches of height and 24 individual pilings that would need wrapped. Not gonna happen. So I called a well respected local company, JES basement systems. All they do is crawlspaces and basements.

They use the Clean Space line of products mentioned in some of the emails you posted on your website. I have a little over 1200 sq ft of crawspace (their estimate, which includes the walls and pilings), they will also install the 57 linear feet of drain piping, connected to the smart sump and also includes the sani dry dehumidifier. Total for the Cleanspace install. with removal of some debris, was $5k, drain piping and sump was another $2k or so, the Everseal crawspace door was $400, then another $1500 for the crawlspace dehumidifier. All total it was just over $9k but they gave me a military discount which reduced it to $8510. I drank the Kool-ade and signed the contract to have them do it. It comes with a transferrable 25yr warranty on the cleanspace–maybe a gimmick, but this is a well respected local company and I believe they will stand by it.

I do have a couple of concerns, however, that I hope you can shed some light on. I asked them about cleaning the mold and they said once the humidity drops (mine is currently around 75%) to below 50%, the mold will die. This is fine, but can the dead spores still “infect” my living space? Does your company do anything to kill/remove the mold growth prior to install of the vapor barrier?

Second, once the vapor barrier is installed, it seems to me that the concrete blocks of the perimeteter wall and pilings would be subject to increased moisture levels. What is the long term effect on them? I may have a much improved crawl space, but if my house collapses, its all moot. Is this a valid concern or am I worrying about nothing?

Thank You,

Brian *****

Response-

Brian,

Thanks for the email! And thanks for the compliment, we work very hard to make good information available.

I want to get your questions answered first. The mold will not just die if the humidity goes below 50%, it will go dormant waiting for the moisture to return. The health effects, whatever they are with the type of mold you have, is still there and yes it will still infect your home. This is going to need to be dealt with.

Yes, the foundation walls will be subject to increased moisture levels, but the concrete is suited to handle that environment. Think about the footing of the home, it is buried in the ground with moisture on nearly all sides and piers that hold up bridges over rivers are under water. The foundation will not be harmed while exposed to the moisture. This said, it is important that there is no “moving” water passing through the foundation. Did the basement systems dealer give an outside water management plan (grade, gutters etc.)? If they did then make sure you put that in motion before they install the Clean Space.

I have heard about JES, mostly that they are expensive, and I have looked them up on the BBB. They have only one complaint; a warranty issue oddly enough. I respect that you are comfortable with them and that is important. I do however, have a concern with some of the things they are selling you. You said you have 1200 sq ft but they are only putting in 57 feet of drain tile; why are they not going all the way around the foundation? Other basement systems dealers do not charge for up to 100' of drain tile when you buy the cleanspace and a sump pump together.

The smart pump is a “mini basin” (here is a pic and sales pitch -http://www.crawlspacesouthcarolina.com/crawl-space-sump.php ) sump pump system. It comes with a Zoeller M-53 pump which is very good, we use the same one, but it is put into a shortened basin which will cause the sump motor to short cycle. In other words there will not be enough water in the basin for the pump to run a full pumping cycle. This shortens the life of the pump because of the quick on and quick off pumping. They probably did not tell you (it will be in your warranty after the job is done and paid for) that the pump motor is not covered by them and has a 1 yr manufacture warranty against manufactures defects, not cycle burn out. This is a case of you getting what is easy for them, meaning the height of the crawl space is too small to easily put in a regular basin (which we do on every job), instead of earning their $2000.

My point is, their warranty will only be good provided the pump has power and is working properly. If the crawl space floods and it is because the pump failed then it is not covered by warranty. Sneaky huh? Another concern is when the pump fails the drain in the top of the smart pump will allow water to freely enter the crawl space. The basement systems dealers promote this drain as a good thing, but it works both ways. The ping pong ball that sits over the opening allows water to enter the basin by floating away from the actual opening. This design will also allow water to past back up into the crawl if and when the pump fails. Besides this being an obvious problem, the water will bring with it dirt and mud from under the Clean Space making the clean up a much larger job.

You also stated that the crawl is only 18? high, their santa-dri dehumidifier is 19? high-( Crawl Space Dehumidifier Comparison ) and it concerns me that it may not fit and if they can get it to fit; will it be located properly to do the an effective job?

Brian, I am not trying to talk you out of working with this company, I just think you should know some problems you will be faced with after you pay your $8500. It is possible that when you call them they will come out with no problem and fix the issue but for $8500 it should work without issue and I think that is what you are expecting, as you should.

I am glad to hear you received a discount because you are/were in the military. That shows great respect which you have rightly earned. I think you should also know, I talk to people all over the country and it seems very common for the basement systems dealers to give discounts. Some of the more common are: senior, single parent, first time home buyer, and “I like you, let me call my manager”. If you would have held out they would have come down even more, that is the game.

If you are still within your right to cancel the contract I would suggest you do that and renegotiate the scope of work for the price you are paying. Get a full perimeter drain system with a full size sump basin (they sell those too), get exact details on where the dehumidifier will be located and how it will drain ( it needs to be located in the center of the crawl). Ask to see the warranty that you will receive and get the details that concern you changed and written on a separate “non-service agreement” form. Note that on the back of your contract it will state something to the effect – “There is no warranty of merchantability or warranty that contractor’s services will be fit for a particular purpose or any other warranty under this service contract other than expressly stated in the separated, written warranty”. This means, if you ask or they offer to hand write on the contract any modifications to the “separate warranty” it will be void. They (the franchise) has spent a lot of time making sure they have the upper hand in the contract, this is your chance (if not to late) to make your own modifications to insure you get what the salesmen promised.

I hope I have not dashed your hopes of a successful transaction. I do, however, want you to get what you expect and get your money’s worth.

Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help,

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