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Crawl Space Insulation vs Encapsulation – The Pros & Cons

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What can you do when your crawl space starts to flood? There are a plethora of waterproofing solutions available to you. The best way is to have a perimeter drainage system and sump pump installed to intercept any seeping water and pump it out of the crawl space and away from your home. 

But what are other ways you can help keep water and moisture out of the crawl space? Two methods stand above the rest: encapsulation and insulation. Let’s dive into the steps each of these processes require and see which of them will suit your Missouri home best.


Let’s take a look at the less familiar of the two processes: encapsulation. When you encapsulate your crawl space, you install a vapor barrier – a large, frequently white and plastic-like sheet – throughout the whole of the space.

Before you get to that installation, though, you need to ensure your crawl space is prepared. Typically, encapsulating your crawl space requires that you take the following steps:

  • Remove the water from your crawl space – The encapsulation process won’t be effective if you don’t clear the water out of your crawl space before you get started. Depending on the severity of your leaks, this process may take some time. Ask your contractor if they have the tools you’ll need like a sump pump to remove bulk water from your crawl space. Alternatively, if you’re only dealing with dampness or minor leaks, install a dehumidifier to remove the moisture from the air.
  • Plug the source of any leaks – With the bulk of the leaked water out of the way, you’ll need to learn how it was making its way into your crawl space in the first place. Examine your crawl space for signs of a leak. Leaks in your walls and joints should be easy to find and equally easy to plug, so long as they’re of a reasonable size. However, if you can’t determine where a leak is coming from, you may have to have a contractor take a look at your foundation. In this case, a contractor will need to seal your foundation before moving forward or the encapsulation process won’t be as effective.
  • Remove old or damaged insulation – Once all of the leaks in your crawl space have been plugged, you’ll need to remove the insulation the water has damaged. If you don’t remove this insulation, you’re providing mold particles a place to grow, even as the dampness in your crawl space recedes.
  • Install a vapor barrier – Instead of replacing your old insulation with new insulation (although you can do just that while also encapsulating your space), you’re going to install a vapor barrier throughout your crawl space. Coupled with a perimeter drainage and sump pump system, this white plastic-like material will help redirect water away from your stored belongings. Be sure to cut appropriate holes for your pipes and electrical circuits, as necessary.
  • Use a dehumidifier – If you’re still worried about excess dampness in your crawl space, you can talk with your contractor and see if you can install a dehumidifier. As mentioned, these dehumidifiers will keep dampness from settling in your crawl space, improving the health of your home as they do.
  • Further waterproof your crawl space – You can also seek out additional waterproofing solutions, depending on the methods your contractor recommends. These solutions can include a French drain, sump pump, various sealants and more. 


Alternatively, you may choose to insulate your crawl space. The insulation process bears many similarities to the encapsulation process. Even the end results are similar, as both processes lower your energy bills and keep your crawl space dryer.

When insulating your crawl space, prepare to take the following steps: 

  • Remove the water from your crawl space – As with the encapsulation process, you’re going to need to remove any standing water or dampness from your home before you get started. If you leave either, you compromise the integrity of your new insulation.
  • Plug the source of any leaks – You’ll also need to locate and plug the leaks you find within your crawl space. Again, if you can’t, talk to your contractor. It’s possible water is getting into your home via your foundation and you’ll need to undertake more extensive waterproofing measures before continuing.
  • Remove old or damaged insulation – Remove the old or otherwise damaged insulation for your crawl space. Why do this instead of reuse it? Because the water-damaged insulation serves as a perfect home for mold particles and may allow them to fester if it remains in your crawl space.
  • Replace with new waterproof insulation – From here, the two processes differ. Instead of installing a vapor barrier, you’re going to replace your old insulation with new, waterproof insulation.
  • Protect your pipes (and avoid your electrical outlets) – As you’re installing your insulation, be sure to layer it around any exposed pipes. You want to protect your pipes to keep them from cracking open in the winter.
  • Further waterproof your crawl space – Once you’ve finished installing the new insulation, talk to your contractor about the other waterproofing solutions you have available to you. You can have these measures installed if you don’t think insulation will keep your crawl space as water-free as you’d like.

The insulating process will protect your crawl space from leaks that originate in the walls and joints. However, this process will not keep your belongings safe from any leaks coming up through the foundation of your home.


With all that in mind, which of these two processes will protect your crawl space best? That depends entirely on the amount of water flow you see over the course of a year. If Missouri rains frequently flood your crawl space, you’ll want to invest in the encapsulation process. If you only see a bit of dampness or a minor leak, then the insulation process will serve you well.

Above all else, don’t let the weather keep you from using your space. Talk to a contractor today to start reclaiming your home.  

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