Crawl Space Concerns And Questions

Some of you likely have your own questions about local crawl space quotes, crawl space encapsulation products, crawl space encapsulation cost and other questions covering crawl space topics. We receive a wide range of crawl space questions throughout the month and felt you may get some value if we shared them with you. Today, we're discussing concerns over quotes to crawl space encapsulation installs by a local franchise.


Q.

Hello Matt,

Thank you for your reply. I didn’t receive the info on the dehumidifier’s you attached to your last e-mail.

After looking at your website and comparing a few things with the quote I just received, I wondered what you thought a fair estimate for the following would be:

975 sq. ft “Clean Space” I assume that to be the polyethylene

975 sq. ft Drainage Matting

Regrade for drainage

#7 Vent covers

Smart Pump Not sure if this is needed… there is standing water in the space when it rains hard for days

and I’m pretty sure it comes in through the vents in the crawl space. Will the covers stop

that flow? If so, no sump is needed.

Ice Guard

Dehumidifier

Our crawlspace is dirt and ledge. It’s clean and has had a layer of poly (very light) thats open on the edges for the past 10 yrs. We had a small issue with carpenter ants when we bought the home in 1991. Orkin Pest Control services our home and we have had no issues with the insects, however they were the ones that recommended the “moisture control” issue 10 yrs ago. They cut out 7 vents in our space. The floor is insulated with fiber insulation and 3 inches of Styrofoam over that.

I have someone coming out to inspect the underside of that this week. The condensation seemed contained on the outside of the Styrofoam and not everywhere in the space. Damn, I am going on here… What can I say, I’m learning and want to do the right thing for this home. We “thought” we were 10 yrs ago with venting it! So…. Thank you for any advise you could provide. I watched the installation video. We definitely want to hire this out! LOL Thank you again!

Another thought. Is it an option to fill the space with concrete at this point?

Lisa

A.

Lisa,

We have been hearing a lot about proposed drainage mats being installed in a crawl space. I have to tell you I am not sold on that being a necessary step in moisture and water control for a crawl space. As this field becomes more competitive each dealer or installer tries to find new ways to set themselves apart and I believe this may be the case.

The idea of a drainage mat is to separate a covering from a wet or damp area and allow the crawl space to drain. On paper this sounds good and it certainly can’t hurt, but in your case I would ask if it is needed. I say this based on the information you have given me. Water control is a big part of the solution and it has to be addressed in a manner that is the most productive for the problem. If water is coming in the vents then the source needs to be addressed not covered with “#7 vent covers”. The drainage mat as I understand it is to replace a drain tile system inside the crawl space. This idea is coming exclusively from the Basement Systems franchise network.

The simple truth is the clean space does not need protection from water or moisture. I know this because the products we sell are made by the same manufacture as the clean space brand and our products do not need such protection. The idea of using Clean Space or SilverBack™ is to use it as the protective layer between the home and the moisture or water. In order for the drainage mat to work in this application (as you stated) the crawl will need to be graded to a pump. I am sure this is not cheaper than a drain system (tile around the perimeter) which does not require grading in most cases. I am not sure if the salesman properly assessed your crawl space because you did not note any water management plan to handle the water source, this is critical because it is never good to allow water to move through, over or around a foundation.

The Smart Pump has a Zoeller brand pump (model M-53 usually) set in a mini basin with a drain in the lid. The Smart Pump works well when there is not a lot of water to control. I am not familiar with Ice Guard, but I would question the installation process of the encapsulation if there is a product needed that is called Ice Guard. If the crawl space is closed or “conditioned” using the guidelines set by the building code there will be no threat of conditions that require protection from ice. Please send me any information you have on this product and I will do some more research and let you know better my recommendation. I would like to know more about it just for my own knowledge as well and to be able to share that with other customers.

So with all that said here is my recommendation:

  • Vents – Covering them may work but I would recommend taking out the vents completely and replacing them with a concrete block. The new block will fit in the vent opening nicely. This is how we handle the vents with our install process here in Michigan, it simply out performs just covering them. Seal the edges of the block with a concrete sealer on the inside and the outside to help prevent water from entering. The sealant is similar to a caulk but a bit thicker and will last much longer, don’t price shop on this product get a good one and make sure it is a polyurethane base. Take a look at where the water may be coming from and make corrections. Maybe a down spout extension in that area or maybe you need gutters. Look at the grade around the home to see of it slopes back towards the home, if it does bring in some dirt and raise it so the water runs away from the home. By sealing the vent openings with a concrete block you will be able to raise the grade without worry if a plastic cover will last under the dirt. These things will need to be done even if you purchase the Clean Space system as proposed to protect your foundation. If water is coming in at the vents the chances are very good that water is filling the hollow cavities of the block which will deteriorate the foundation prematurely.
  • Drainage mat- I do not believe you need water or moisture control in this manner. If water is a problem or has a potential to be a problem then I would suggest a sump to protect your investment and make sure your crawl stays dry. A drain system may be needed but it sounds like you can stop most if not all of the water by closing the vents properly using concrete block. Pump yes, drain mat no.
  • Ice Guard – Unknown
  • A fair price, well I can only help with averages because I have not seen your crawl space. For 975 sq ft assuming the crawl is over 2’ high we would charge $3850 for encapsulating, installing a sump, installing concrete block in the vent opening, and insulating the rim joist. This price would include some cleaning and haul away (about a half hour). Just a note, per code in most areas the insulation in the floor joist cavities would have to come out in order to close the crawl space. To do this there would be an additional charge of $360 which would include removing it from the property.
  • Concrete is always an option, but it does not address the moisture that comes in from the walls, and it adds a lot of moisture to the crawl while the concrete is drying.

Well I hope I answered your questions but if I did not please feel free to email me back. I look forward to any information you can supply about the Ice Guard.

Matt Leech

CrawlSpace Concepts

Another Question From Lisa

Q.

From: ICEDOG
Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 10:48 AM
To: Matt
Subject: Re: Website

Hello Again,

Wow, I’m so impressed with your e-mail! Thank you for taking the time in thinking this through with me. You’ve given me much more to think about. Matt, is the “encapsulation” really the best way to treat this issue? I’ve talked to some people that try and get around the expense of all of this with just setting a dehumidifier in the crawl space, closing off the vents and not much else. I agree with the science of the air flow and vapors that come from the ground and want to do this right. I’m influenced by many options here as this is so not an area I’m educated on. What did you mean about the insulation in the floor joist cavities would have to come out? And I must say I was not clear about the area that you service. Do you service Maine or recommend someone other than the “Clean Space” approach? Thank you again for all the advise.

Lisa

A.

Lisa,

I want to tell you a little about me (just a little), I have been in the construction field for over 20 years. I have done everything from pouring footings to roofing a house and everything in between. I am no stranger to how a home is built and more importantly how it works. Our mission at CrawlSpace Concepts is to help educated homeowner with the truth. Just to be clear we don’t require you to buy anything from us to get the help you need. We offer the products we do because they are the best solution for a dirt crawl space.

There is no doubt you can improve the crawl space situation by applying other methods besides encapsulating it, but I do believe it is the best solution. By closing the vents and running a dehumidifier you can get the moisture under control. The dehumidifier will run most of the time due to no protection from and endless supply of moisture from the dirt (impacting your electric bill in the neighborhood of $60 – $80 a month) and you will need a pump of some sort to eject the water. All manufactures recommend and some require a vapor barrier to guarantee performance. The dehumidifier will not eliminate all of the odor in the rainy season. But it will be cheaper initially. Look at it this way, a $900 dehumidifier plus $60 electric a month for say 12 months = $720. Under these conditions (with no vapor barrier) the dehumidifier will last about 5 or 6 years, so $720 x 6 yrs= $4320. Then you buy a new dehumidifier (this is hypothetic it may last longer or not as long) at $900, so $4320 + $900 = $5520 and you start over. OR you encapsulate your crawlspace yourself or hire a local contractor (which should still be less expensive than the quote you got and we can help you or him on how to install it properly) $748.95 for materials + $900 dehumidifier = $1648.95. The dehumidifier runs a few times a week for a half hour or so and impacts your electric bill about $5 a month – $5 x 6months = $30 x 6 yrs = $180. 1648.95 + $180 = $1825.95 and you have about 5 more years or so left on the life of your dehumidifier. These are obviously not hard numbers but a pretty close estimate from my experience. I used $900 for the dehumidifier as a medium price. What I am trying to get at is going cheaper now may cost you more in the long run.

On another note-

Most of the big franchise companies sell a “package” and everyone gets the package. The biggest reason for this is they use professional salesmen to sell their products. The salesmen are trained how to sell the products and may or may not have any building experience to actually give you the best advice. So they sell everyone the “package”. Most do not do any homework on the actual affects of there recommendations or have the knowledge to back them up. With that said I want to make sure you caught the part where I said most of the big franchise companies. I am curious what your quote was, would you mind sharing that figure with me?

The insulation in the floor joist cavity needs to come out when you close your crawl space because it holds moisture and could cause mold to grow. The moisture does not have to come from the crawl space it can come from the living area above it. Even with a dehumidifier running in the crawl moisture can get trapped between the insulation’s vapor barrier and the wood floor. It is best practice to insulate the walls of the crawl space for all block that is above grade and install insulation in the rim joist.

Your other question was about our service area. We service all of Michigan, northern Ohio and northern Indiana with respect to installing our products. We sell our products to the rest of the country and Canada. We have been asked to travel to other states to install our products and we are willing to do this. There is however a cost associated with the travel. We do not recommend any company that has not been trained by us and currently we do not have anyone in Maine. We are working on a certification course that will be taught online by a training facility in California but we are about 6 -8 week away from that program going live. The hope is to be able to reach more contractors while keeping the cost down.

If you have any more questions please feel free to email me.

Matt Leech

CrawlSpace Concepts

Her Final Email

Q.

Hello Matt,

I can’t thank you enough for your time and experience with this matter. I’m happy to pass on the quote from “TC Hafford.” Just to give you more specifics with our issue, (hoping you don’t mind the actual consult on line)… LOL Like you haven’t already done that!

The biggest reason I noticed this problem was seeing droplets of water accumulating on part of the 2 inch Styrofoam that covers the insulation under the floor, in the crawlspace. Like I said, it’s mostly ledge and dirt. Standing water is only noticeable in a couple places in the space, but at the low end, when it rains very hard for a day or two there is standing water there. I like the idea about the cinder blocks and sealant to see if that detracts the water flow into the space. Yes, gutters would be a good idea too on a couple areas that drain to the foundation. That was why I asked if a sump pump was really necessary. That standing water from a heavy rain usually absorbs overnight. I don’t have the soggy hanging wet insulation that some of the pictures I’ve seen indicate, but I have a person coming to take that down in the worst parts to inspect the floor. I have not noticed any odor, (and I am a bit of a bloodhound) LOL but have noticed areas where the floor has warped a bit. There are a few steel supports under sections of the house and one of those on the worse end has started to sink into the wood a bit. There was a bit of should I say, fungus on that end. We scraped it off and it seemed the wood underneath was still in tact and strong, so I’m hoping that means I caught this issue early in it’s destruction. (I’m hoping… We’ll know more when the insulation is taken out.)

Damn, this is worse than having bloodwork done! I tend to get a wee bit too anxious about repairs to our home. Hence all the e-mails. So, with that in mind, I’m thinking I’ll take your advice by, covering the vents with cinder blocks and sealant, hire the encapsulation out and purchase the dehumidifier you recommended.

Does a sump pump need to be installed at that time? I’m just not sure if it’s needed. What’s the deal with the “float factor” of water, if thats the right term… under the encapsulation without a sump pump? Make sense? And how soon should I be acting on this? NOW? I realize it has to be done and again thank you for all your assistance. I tried to find the “drainage mat” on line that they offered, but no luck. I would be happy to send you a sample of it. It seems it’s priced at $1.00 per sq ft. per my estimate. Maybe for their comfort! LOL

Also from the “Reports” Eric has sent me, and if I did it right, LOL it looks like 14 pints of water would be the calculation for the dehumidifier. I think the one TC Hafford recommended was the Sani Dry CSB. (90 pints a day) No mention as to a smaller size and it does have the air filters that may hinder its performance, I think you mentioned.

Again, happy to send you that sample of the drainage mat. Here is the quote. Sitting down? LOL

975 sq ft Clean space 2925.00

975 sq ft Drainage Mat 975.00 perhaps for the ease on their knees during installation and if I want to have a gathering in the crawl space later! LOL

Seven Vent Covers 175.00

Regrade for drainage 450.00 raking?

Smart Pump 900.00

Ice Guard 25.00 No note of it on the site either. It’s a plastic cover that goes over the

drainage hose to the sump pump outside. LOL

Sani Dry CSB System 1500.00

Total 6900.00

Thanks Again, Lisa

A.

Lisa,

How are you? I took some time off for the holiday, so that is why you have not heard from me.

Ice guard, yes I know what it is now. They called it Flo-Gaurd a few years ago and it did not pass code so they must have redesigned it to work properly.

It is easier to install a pump before you encapsulate and before you discover you need one. It is your call, if there has never been water in the crawl space and you feel confident that is the case then of course you will not need one at this time. No, LOL “float factor” is not the right term…you would be referring to the ability of the SilverBack™ to handle water pressure. The vapor barrier part of the products will have no problem with water pressure, it’s the tape that will complain. Even though it is a waterproof tape that does not mean it is pressure proof. If water pressure builds up under the SilverBack™ you will see leaks where the water will push the tape off in order to equalize the pressure. Water must be addressed (if it is present) before you seal the SilverBack™. When it comes to moisture damage it is always better to fix it sooner than later, later always brings new challenges that must be addressed.

The drainage mat they use is not called a drainage mat in the industry. It goes by different brand names like Super Seal or Newton Membranes and you can usually find it by searching drainage membrane. It is used mostly as an aid to help drain the exterior of foundation walls to the drain system. It would do nothing more (in my opinion) than make the job more profitable.

The price for encapsulating your crawl space is fair, all the extras are not. The vent covers that they want to charge you ($25 each) for are nothing more than Tupperware lids and $24 more than doing it right. I think we are on the same page with the drainage mat and the re-grade. Both will only improve their margin. The smart pump ……(I’m shaking my head) $900? It’s a $160 pump with a $25 mini basin.

Well that is my opinion. I hope to be able to assist you with an order. Also be prepared for the shipping cost of the OscarAir. It will cost approx. $150 to have it shipped to your home, maybe a bit more. If you can swing it have it delivered to a commercial address where a semi truck can pull in. It will save you about $50 or $60.

OH! One more thing, we extended the free shipping offer for the month of May. That will save you a $100 or so. (No pressure just thought you would like to know).

Matt Leech

CrawlSpace Concepts

Q.

Matt,

Your site is nicely laid out and is a welcome sight after all of the research I have done regarding crawlspace encapsulation. I was just getting ready to order some material ….. for my crawlspace (and for my neighbors). We have roughly 5000 SF total to cover! We are located in the Puget Sound area of Washington State.

I actually had “Clean-Crawls” out to give me an estimate…..YIKES! They wanted over $15,000.00 to do a 2500 foot crawlspace. Not happening any time soon! ……..

Thank-you in advance for your assistance!

Sincerely,

John T.