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Crawl Space Water Problems

This was a question sent to our install site by a local basement waterproofing contractor asking about our “Concept” regarding water control. This email followed an on-air radio interview we did for the “Hire it Done” home improvement show.


From: Mark ********
Sent: Saturday, May 03, 2008 8:02 AM

Most of the exterior of crawlspace walls were not purged, waterproofed and backfilled w/same soil that was excavated when built. So, the exterior of the blocks and joints have no protection against water moisture entry THROUGH the blocks, joints. Just wondering, I don’t see anything on your website which says you stop/prevent water, moisture, insects from entering.
I read (The Solution) where you apparently use an inside vapor barrier, a sump`n drain tile and a dehumidifier…right? So, how will any of this stop/prevent water, moisture, insects and even radon gas from entering through porous-unprotected exterior blocks and joints between blocks? And, cracks can-do occur on exterior crawlspace wall(s). What then?

Thanks, Mark ********

Thanks for the email.
I agree that most crawl space foundations are not properly waterproofed on the exterior and this causes some of the problems associated with crawl spaces. There are two major reasons that a home is built on a crawl space; cost and high water table. When a home is built on a crawl do to cost I agree that water management is not properly addressed in most of these issues. When water in a crawl space is caused by negative grade or poor water management then that issue is also addressed by our company with the customer and a plan is recommended. A water problem in this case is caused by rain rather than by the water table. An exterior drain system may be needed but most often a productive water management plan is more effective. A water management plan may include gutters, downspout extensions (5+ ft away from the home), creating a positive grade around the home, burying the downspouts in a drain system (French drain) to carry it away from the home and/or an exterior drain system around the foundation. If the water is coming from a high water table then an exterior drain system or exterior waterproofing will give the same results as an interior waterproofing system. The water comes up from the ground and not through the foundation. Unlike the rain water problem a high water table will produce water in the low laying first, which in this case will be the crawl space. By installing a sump the water can be controlled in this low area provided it is pumped far away from the home to prevent water cycling. Even in a high water table situation there may and probably will be a need to manage exterior rain water as well.
I understand the basis of your question, and I agree with you – It is never ok to allow water to move through the foundation. Every inspection we do involves outside water management as part of the recommendation. We are not like the franchise companies that sell a package and everyone gets the package no matter what. We do not believe this is best for the customer. We offer results not products, but with that said it is still the customer’s decision on how to spend their money on their problem. We have and will continue to refuse jobs if the customer decides to invest their money in a poorly thought out or purely budget driven concept. If we do the job it has to allow for a result that moves them and their family a step closer to what is best for their home or we won’t take their money.
For the record we recommend that the crawl space be brought into the current heating/cooling system before we recommend a dehumidifier. Both work well but the heating/cooling system works best for the home as a whole. We do not always recommend a sump and drainage or just a sump. It depends on what the customer needs.
The products we use stops/prevents water, moisture, insects and Radon Gas by the nature of the process we use to install them. I addressed the water issue in the first few paragraphs so I will move on to moisture. Moisture, insects and Radon Gas are all controlled with the same process. Our vapor barrier SilverBack® is also a Gas barrier and is rated for protection against Radon migration, even our sump basins are Radon Approved. We use a butyl seal tape around the top of the foundation that prevents moisture and Radon Gas penetration. When you control moisture you control insects. Most insects have a high humidity requirement to survive. Sealing the vents and the dirt gets us about 85% of the way there, and then the heating/cooling system or a dehumidifier handles the rest. With any foundation there are compromises around the perimeter that insects can enter, the object is to make the environment unsuitable for them to stay. Most often moisture control alone will handle most permanent insect residents.
Your final question is what about cracks in the block. If there are cracks in the foundation we do not cover them up or help a customer cover them up to sell a home. When there are foundation issues like that we recommend the customer get it repaired before we continue with creating a conditioned crawl space®. I personally have over 20 years in the building and remodeling field and I understand how a home is built because I have done the work with my own two hands, not from a desk like some other contractors. We do not use “professional” salesmen like the franchises do, which only parrot what they are told and what they are told is how to sell their system. I understand what it is like to be in a field with undereducated, overpaid crooks. It is frustration to say the least but all I can do is what I know is right and help as many people as I can. I get calls from all over the nation from homeowners that were given some wild out there sales pitch from a franchise waterproofing company that have no interest in doing what is right for the customer but rather for the salesmen’s wallet.

I hope I have answered your questions and concerns. If not please feel free to email me back. Just understand that I have many customers that expect my attention as well so don’t get frustrated if a few days go by before you hear a reply.

This customer emailed us from Canada. His questions range from product selection to shipping costs. There is also some information on a Franchise’s system.


From: Andy & Linda Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 8:59 PM To: Matt Leech

Subject: Re: Attention Customer Service

Hello Matt.

Sorry I didn’t get this to you before now.

I didn’t realize there was so much that I’d forgotten to, or think to ask

about in the previous e-mail.

I don’t expect to have an answer to all these questions tomorrow (thurs),

sometime fri / before the weekend would be nice though, if possible.

It might actually be about 550 sq ft extra cause our crawl is weirdly

configured with 2 foundations put together and the perimiter measures around

220' I think, plus the 6 piers/pillars……but I’ll figure that exactly


1 *** How much is it for the 20 mil ? (1,750 sq ft) I believe is what we

need for the floor, walls and piers/pillars.

2 *** No matter what thickness I want, are they all shipped from texas ?

3 *** Is that why the range in shipping costs? $200/$275, because of the

difference in the weight of the 2 different thickness’ ?

4 *** Does this white plastic have a blue side to it?….and if so…..

4a *** ……is it some sort of “Anti-Mold”, Mold resistant?, some how

treated to be mold resistant?

I ask because we have seen the 20 mil stuff and apparently it’s “mold


Maybe he just said this as a sales tactic, I don’t know.

Maybe all it really does is not allow mold to penetrate??, but can still

grow on it?

5 *** How many feet are in a roll of the waterproof seam tape ?, and the

foundation seal tape?

6 ***And how wide is each tape ?

Sump Basins & Pump

The one picture I saw of your finished sump pump looks like it’s sealed so

no odors/bugs can enter into the house.

Obviously I would prefer a sealed one but……

7 *** ….is there one that has a sealed lid with a floor drain type water

entry in the lid ?? but this drain would somehow be able to let the water in

and no odors/bugs escape…….because if we had another water leak in the

crawl, like we had this past dec, then obviously I’d want the water to enter

the sump…….but if it’s a sealed lid how is this possible unless someone

has devised a one-way floor drain I described that’s put in the lid of the


7a *** does your basin lids have venting capabilities?

8 *** How much for the kit……basin, 1/3 hp pump, lid and high water alarm


9 *** ?? $$ for shipping for above ?

10 *** How much extra for the 1/2 hp pump

11 *** How much $ for vent covers ? assuming that they’re the same size, or

a bit bigger than a 8×16 block (vent)…….our vents, like most I guess are

the same size as the block.

12 *** I assume those foundation pins you were talking about are white?.

I may/may not use them because I have tons of mushroom pins which will do

same job …..but asked about color because may spend the $10 to keep it

same color as the plastic.

13 *** Last question I hope….Can you give me a very close estimate, Assume

it’s 20mil……on shipping for the plastic, pins, 6 rolls tape (3 each),

sump basin, pump and 10 vent covers……assuming that everything will come

from same location?

Thanks very much for answering these questions for us Matt.

realize it’s not the quickest thing to do.

Hear from you soon.




Is your crawl space 550 or 1550 sq ft. The reason I ask is because you state the perimeter is 220' which is pretty difficult to get on a 550 sq ft home.

Before I answer the questions you have asked in your email I want to point out a few things (I am sure that along the way I will answer most of your questions). It sounds like you have been educated by a ******** Systems dealer. Their product is called Cleanspace. They tell their customers it is a 20 Mil but it is really a 16 Mil. They measure it at the thread instead of the actual vapor barrier itself. I have attached both product sheets that shows this, ours and theirs. We do however sell an actual 20 Mil product, mostly because they sell their product (a 16 Mil) as a 20 Mil, but a true 20 Mil is harder to work with. We install the same product they do, which is our 16 Mil but it has a black back instead of a blue one. ********Systems had the blue back put on their product to set it apart from ours. Both vapor barriers come from the same plant made by the same manufacture. As for the “Anti-Mold”, this product is made from polyethylene. What that means is Mold can not grow on it. Mold needs an organic food source in order to grow, polyethylene is as non-organic as it gets. ******** Systems home office claims there is an antimicrobial added to their product that protects against Mold and Mildew. The product they claim they use is called Ultra-Fresh (link). I have personally, as well as several of my customers, asked for documentation on the antimicrobial they use and how effective it is on a polymer but they have not been able to provide anything but their word. The simple truth is the Ultra-Fresh name is another great smoke and mirrors marketing game played out by the company. We have heard from our customers that the local ******** Systems dealer’s salesman tell the customer that it will kill all the mold in the crawl space. We KNOW that mold only grows on organic material like wood, paint and caulk. Under the vapor barrier is dirt, rocks and more dirt and rocks. This is part of preparing the crawl space to be encapsulated, remove all organic material, sharp objects and insulation from the ground. No organic material =no food source =no Mold. If they do have an antimicrobial, in my opinion, it is not needed if the job is done correctly.

The sump that you are asking about is called a smart pump also marketed by ******** Systems. The advantage of the ball drain initially seems clever and useful. There are different thoughts on this design. Of course there is the one you have already heard, which allows water to drain into the smart pump if there is a water line break. The other is the ball valve that allows water into the small sump also allows water out of it. If the crawl space is encapsulated properly there will not be anymore frozen pipes. However, if something does happen that causes a water line to break the vapor barrier can be cut with small slits to allow the water into the drain system and the sump will discharge the water. After it has drained the slits can be taped over and the seal will be as good as before the cut. The concept of our design is to solve most if not all of the problems in your crawl space. If the power goes out the sump stops working and water begins to build up under the vapor barrier. If the sump is not sealed, the ground water will quickly flood the crawl space via the ball drain design. It is true that once the power comes back on it can be pumped out in the same manner that it arrived with one exception, the dirt from the ground water. When a pipe breaks it is clean water, when the water enters from the ground it is not. With all that said both are unforeseen issues but the least of the two evils is clean water and much easier to clean up. Again if the crawl space is encapsulated properly there should not be anymore frozen pipes. Above that the shallow sump basin causes the sump pump to short cycle which is not good for the motor. There is a reason every basement has a “full size” sump basin and there is also a reason for that size.******** Systems created a new design so that it could fit through the crawl space access, but if you are burning up pumps the only one that wins with this design is the installer. Note – ******** Systems does not warranty the sump motor, the manufacture does for a year. The sump basins we use are full size with a sealed lid and can be vented if needed, the smart pump is not. If it does not fit into the access it can be cut and reassembled, we do it all the time. One more note, there is no need for a ½ hp sump in a crawl space. The reason is this, a 1/3 hp sump will pump 45 gallons a minute, that’s a lot of water 9 – 5 gallon buckets every minute. This is more than sufficient even in the worst cases. To be sold a ½ hp sump, in almost all cases, is an unnecessary upgrade. But if you are wondering they run about $349.00(I think. I will have to call the supplier to be sure).

I am not sure we have fully solved your product selection to give you an accurate price. In my opinion I think you would be best off with our 14 Mil, white front black back, vapor barrier. It is only 2 Mil’s thinner than the ******** Systems 20 Mil (actual 16) and is very cost effective and easier to install than the (actual) 20 Mil. It comes in 12 x 100’ rolls so you would need 2 rolls to do your job. Currently it is $660 for a 1200 sq ft roll so $1320 for 2 rolls. The actual 20 Mil is on sale right now for $1680 for a 24 x 100’ (2400sq ft), white front/ white back. The Waterproof Pro Seam Tape™ is 4” x 180’ and the Foundation Seal Tape™ is 1.5” x 100’. We have 3 warehouses one is in Texas, one is in South Dakota and the other one is in Ohio. Depending on the product you choose will determine which warehouse we ship from. The range in shipping is only for estimated purposes, we shop every order to make sure we get you the most cost effective shipping quote. We are here to save you money and give you options, so it only makes sense to stay on top of this side of our business. Once you place your order either online (best option) or by calling our office (we may have to call you back to take your order) we call at least two, most times three, carriers and get the best shipping price then we call you with the cost. This way you know what everything will cost before we process your card. I can not give you an accurate cost on shipping until I know what you want to order. Size, weight, distance and the area the material will be delivered (residential or commercial) all play into the cost.

The sump pump kit is called the InstaDry® Kit it runs $289.99 and the water alarm is $24.99. We currently do not sell vent covers. We close them off from the inside. Most often you can remove the vent and insert a block in the cavity. A new block cost about $1 and a bag of mortar mix is $3-$4. If you have 6 vents it will cost you about $10 and a little work to close them off. Make sure you seal the block off good with the new mortar or as an alternative you can use a mortar caulk which is much easier.

The Foundation Pins™ are white.

In case you did not get my last email our store link is crawl space vapor barrier

I hope I answered all of your questions. Let me know if I can do anything else for you.

This Customer had a few questions about moisture control and sealing the joist with paint.


Is it a good idea to put Dry-Lok Waterproofing paint on the cement blocks before installing the 8 mil liner? Will the liner black tack-up strip stick to the Dry-Lok? (probably a dumb question)

How about painting the joists and sub-floor underside with Zinsser primer?? I have fungus in some places and some of it is supposed to be bad stuff. I can send pictures (actually, I intend to). I need to get the dimension drawings to the inspector person so he can tell me what kind of funguses are there. He says you can’t kill them but I know there are companies that “contain, kill, remove, and protect”… blah blah blah. I’m thinking of shaving my beard and putting a respirator on and spraying with bleach…. Then spraying with that Glycol/Borax/Boric Acid mix I used before. Then I’d want to paint the joists and sub-floor with Zinsser.

What do you think?





No, do not paint the walls. Most paints have an organic base which in turn will allow Mold to grow under the vapor barrier. On top of that the Foundation Seal Tape™ will only bond as well as the paint is bonded to the block. As far as painting the joist, I would lean on the inspector that identified the fungus. That is a big job to paint the joist and floor. But if it is necessary then I would do it but if it is not save your time for something else.