The term “crawl space encapsulation” has been around for more than a century. Interpretations of the term have varied over the years, but the accepted definition of an encapsulated crawl space is one that uses a white vapor barrier to cover the crawl space’s floor and walls, and protect the space from moisture.
An open, non-encapsulated crawl space poses a few problems, the biggest of which is the fact that it’s an uncontrolled environment. This means that the temperature and humidity level can change daily, sometimes hourly, depending on external factors (i.e. weather). By encapsulating your crawl space, you’re gaining control of its environment and thus converting it into an area that benefits your home and family in terms of better health and cleanliness.
Creating an encapsulated crawl space involves installing a durable horizontal vapor barrier on the crawl space “floor”, along with vertical vapor barriers that extend up the foundation walls. These vapor barriers are composed of top-quality polyethylene with a polyester mesh reinforcement. The vertical barriers are sealed (taped) to the horizontal barrier. Everything in the area is also sealed: namely, any supports, as well as plumbing coming through the walls and dirt. Next, a two-sided foundation tape or polyurethane caulk is applied between the crawl space vapor barrier and the foundation wall. This ensures that the moisture under the barrier is sealed. The barrier’s superior materials ensure that it can sustain crawl space traffic without tearing like normal plastic.
- When you encapsulate your crawl space, 100% of the ground is covered in a white plastic.
- All the seams, junctions and crawl space vents in your crawl space are totally sealed.
- Encapsulation usually comes with insulated foundation walls and band joist.
- With encapsulation you are required to have one of the three air conditioning methods: (i) dehumidifier (this is what is normally used) (ii) small amount of air supply from HVAC system, or (iii) small exhaust fan
Having an encapsulated crawl space comes with many benefits, the greatest one (in our opinion) being, better air quality. Studies show that you share 40%-60% of the air you breathe, with your crawl space. So you want a clean crawl space. With encapsulating your crawl space you save money on your energy bill! The Advanced Energy studies have found nearly 20% reduction in energy use in homes with a conditioned crawl space. Having an encapsulated crawl space will reduce the humidity in your crawl space as well, decreasing your potential for mold problems exponentially.
A vapor barrier installation is the process of laying down 6mm black plastic throughout your entire crawl space floor. The vents to your crawl space are not sealed, therefore you are not required to have a dehumidifier installed. A vapor barrier installation does not require a sump pump to be installed either. Sometimes your home may need a sump pump as well, but that’s dependent on your crawl space.
Facts about Vapor Barrier:
- With a Vapor Barrier installment, we use 6mm black plastic, also known as visqueen. The reason for that specific type is because that is what building code requires.
- Vapor barrier installations average a quarter of the price of a full encapsulation
- Does not require sump pump or any air conditioning methods.
Benefits of Vapor Barrier:
The benefits of installing a vapor barrier are the exact same as encapsulation, minus the storage. With a vapor barrier install you can still store things in your crawl space, it’s just not as ‘pretty’ as encapsulation. Vapor Barrier benefits you and your home with better air quality, saving you money on your energy bill (the same 20% that the Advanced Energy studies found), and reduction in humidity decreasing your potential for mold problems exponentially.