Get Thee Into The Crawlspace!

Where Your Home’s Most Intimate Secrets Await!

By Trish Holder

Sealed Crawlspace InspectionI don’t like feeling “out of control” in any situation that directly impacts my health and wellbeing or that of my family’s. Now that my son has his driver’s permit, I get to experience that horrid feeling enough as it is.

What does this have to do with crawlspaces you ask? It’s quite simple. If you have a relatively intimate relationship with your crawlspace then you are more likely to get the first clue that something is amiss with your home – whether it is a minor piping leak or more serious moisture intrusion. Clues lead to knowledge. Knowledge leads to control.

What is a Sealed Crawlspace?
I have a sealed crawlspace in my home, which means in the simplest of terms, that there are no vents to the outside. In addition, the space is conditioned (cooled in summer and heated in winter) almost to the same extent as the rest of the home. I say “almost” because there are only a couple of vents down there and we certainly don’t control it with a thermostat. It gets what it gets when the heat pump and fan are running, which helps lower the humidity down there. Sealed crawlspaces are also thoroughly insulated and sealed from the outside and have a nice thick plastic liner that covers the entire ground so that when you’re down there you’re not crawling on bare earth.

For the most part (and I say “most part” because home construction professionals can argue virtually any point to the death) sealed or closed crawlspaces are considered to be better for controlling moisture intrusion into the home and improve the home’s overall energy efficiency. Properly installed, I believe they do both these things.

They also help keep the bugs out.

The Less Creepy the Better
This returns me to my earlier point – something I feel that the closed crawlspace advocates don’t harp on enough when trying to sell homeowners on the concept. A sealed crawlspace is a lot less “icky” than a standard vented crawlspace. They are dry, clean, and far less likely to attract creepy crawlies. In fact, companies that specialize in crawlspace installation frequently include pest management as a part of the overall crawlspace care package. So when my crawlspace care guy comes once a year to inspect for termites, moisture, mold, etc. I happily crawl right in there with him. I like to see what he sees. It gives me a sense of – you guessed it—CONTROL.

(Plus, it’s always fun to see the look on his face when I tell him I’m going in with him.)

Your Early Detection Program

Sealed Crawlspace

A sealed crawlspace is a lot less creepy.

The crawlspace is the underbelly of the home. It’s where nearly all of the plumbing lines and a good part of the ductwork are exposed. Think of a crawlspace inspection as the most intimate of medical examinations. It’s not something we want to do every day, but there are certain things it will reveal that simply living in a home will not, at least not until a little problem becomes a big problem. Think of it as an “early detection” program.


Now, all that said, I could not physically bring myself to crawl around in a dimly lit crevice beneath my home unless it was clean and dry and had some sort of underlayment. I would have to trust others to tell me what is going on down there and I would have to take their word for it as I’m writing the check. That is the opposite of control, and quite frankly, I’d just as soon be riding shotgun with my son on a curvy single lane road during a rainstorm.

So – there’s my pitch for closed crawlspaces. It doesn’t begin to cover all the rationale or benefits, but I think it touches on something that is very, very important. You own a home with a crawlspace? You need to feel comfortable visiting that crawlspace every so often. To me, this is one of the great benefits to having a closed crawlspace.

4 Responses »

  1. Wow, I never thought about different types of crawlspaces and yes, I have crawled around in the dirt and it’s not much fun. The worst though is my handyman guys crawling under mobile homes and getting zapped because someone didn’t install electrical lines correctly.

  2. Tina,

    Almost immediately after I posted this blog on Linkedin someone wrote me to tell of a contractor who was recently electrocuted because he leaned against a bare wire. (A rodent had chewed off the covering). Just like that, he was dead. I wondered about the homeowner liability in all this. I also wondered how the rodent faired…. Not so well I guess.

    Terrible, sad story for everyone.

    • Sealed crawlspaces like the one(s) you show are a beautiful site, so long as they don’t fill up with water when a pipe bursts!

      A note to owners of existing homes – be careful when adding a sealed system to a home that was designed with airflow from the bottom to the top of the house as a moisture control system. A large number of our customers who have added a sealed system to their 10 to 20-year-old home begin to have odor issues in the home that can be quite nasty. Be sure to use a contractor with experience encapsulating an existing home (as opposed to new construction).

      My favorite aspect of a properly sealed crawl is no snakes to worry about. Still a phobia after inspecting several hundred crawls.

  3. Crawlspaces have certainly improved over thirty years, but most are disasterously neglected. A good quick look once or twice each year will keep everything in better shape.

    Having a sealed basement greatly decreases the odds of a pipe leak and makes it still easier to clean up than all the water soaking into mud and laying there.

    The benefits in colder cllimates FAR outweigh the drawbacks, but it is only as good as the person installing it. Any spots not done properly will nullify most of the gain.

    Thanks for a great article!

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