Repairing A Sinking, Sagging Crawl Space

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 by Jacques Bouchard

Sagging, sinking crawl spaces are a housing epidemic that has been plauging homeowners for more than 50 years.  Deficieincies in crawl space construction methods, including too few supports, improperly designed supports, and designing crawl spaces that allow for the growth of mold, rot, and mildew have lead to thousands of damaged crawl spaces across the country

Why Install A Crawl Space Instead Of A Basement?

A contractor will choose to install a crawl space over a basement for one reason only:  to cut down on the total construction costs of the structure.  With this money-saving mentality in mind, they will look for inexpensive ways to build the home, while still following local building codes.

One easy way for them to cut corners is to install crawl space vents in the home.  These vents are accepted by local building code as a way to create a crosscurrent through the crawl space, theoretically keeping the crawl space dry.  When compared to sealing the crawl space and installing a dehumidifier, the vents are a great, easy way for the contractor to get the job done.

rotting vented crawl spaceWhy Crawl Space Vents Fail

The theory behind crawl space vents operates on two bad assumptions:

  1. The vents will create cross-ventilation in the crawl space.
  2. Outside air will dry the crawl space.

However, the natural movement of air that enters a crawl space through the vents is upwards, not sideways.  This is due to a phenomenon known as the stack effect, which pulls air upwards though the home it warms and rises.

Warm air will exit the home through the attic and upper levels, creating a vacuum that pulls air upwards from the first floor and below-grade spaces.  If there are odors, allergens, or humidity in the air, it will be pulled upwards as well.

Next, consider the air that's actually entering the crawl space.  How dry will your crawl space be if the weather outside is foggy, rainy, snowy, or just plain damp?

And on a humid day, the air will cool in a crawl space, leading to condensation on surfaces that encourages the growth of mold and rot.  Over time, this moisture, mold and humidity will ruin insulation, damage stored items, and eventually damage the structural wood, damaging your home.

Poorly desgined crawl space supports

Improperly Designed Support Systems

Vented, damp crawl spaces are not the only souce of crawl space structural damage. It's also common for crawl spaces to have too few supports installed, and for the supports to be poorly designed.

Even in cases where crawl space supports are installed in adequate numbers, the soil underneath them may not be strong enough to support the weight of the home.  In these cases, the supports sink into the earth, and the house sinks downward with them.

When a crawl space experiences structural issues, the floor upstairs will begin to sag downwards with it.  This will lead to jamming door operation, uneven floors, and cracks in the drywall surfaces.

If the sagging is due to mold and rot, the floor may become "springy" underfoot, and odors and allergens will seep into the home. Vented crawl spaces also lead to cold floors in the winter, damaged insulation, and increases in utilitiy bills as the cold environment cools furnaces, water heaters, air ducts, hot water pipes, and other utilities that are meant to be warm.

Crawl space support jacks installed in a sealed crawl space.Creating A Healthy Crawl Space

To permanently solve crawl space issues, you will need to ensure that all sources of moisture and flooding in the crawl space, and that enough crawl space supports are installed to support the weight of your home.

Sealing the crawl space with a vapor barrier system and installing a energy efficient dehumidifier will keep moisture out of the space.  Adding a sump pump and perimeter drain will aid in keeping the space free of flooding.

When adding crawl space supports, we recommend our SmartJack System.  This system is made from corrosion-resistant galvanized steel. An adjustable design allows you to lift your floor to its original position without damaging the structure -- now and in the future.

A special, excavated fill creates a solid base -- one that will not allow the structure to sink.

On top of all this, our 25-year, written, transferable warranty is just what you need to feel confident and secure in your investment. Contact CleanSpace® of the Carolinas today to schedule your free estimate for crawl space repair in South Carolina and North Carolina. They're the trusted NC crawl space expert in your area.

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