For properties in Missouri with crawl spaces, dampness and pest infestation are persistent and ever-present threats. After all, a property’s crawl space is one of the most exposed areas in the structure. Being vulnerable to temperature changes and extreme weather seriously increases the risk of damage and deterioration within a crawl space. Condensation is just one sign that the elements are starting to work on your property.
If you see condensation in your crawl space or anywhere around your property, you should investigate immediately to ascertain the cause and the best possible solutions. This is the best way to ensure your property is adequately protected at all times.
Why You Should Worry About Crawl Space Condensation
We understand that your property’s crawl space is one of the least appealing areas of your home. This dark, cramped, and often dirty space is the stuff of nightmares for many people. Nonetheless, we urge you to keep an eye on this area of your property and be aware of signs of damage like cracks, infestation, and condensation.
Condensation might not seem like the most serious of issues when compared to things like bowing walls or sagging floors, but you should not discount it. You see, condensation is a serious problem sign for many different problems because of its connection to dampness and humidity.
Condensation in your crawl space, in particular, can be a sign of serious damage to your property’s structure and foundation. Condensation also tends to be a sign that an issue is advanced. Only incredibly high levels of relative humidity in a property will cause condensation to form.
How Condensation Forms
Condensation is a process by which water vapor returns to liquid form, essentially a reverse of the process of evaporation. Cold air is far more arid than (most) warm air for a simple reason: Warm air has more capacity to hold moisture. This is why you are most likely to find condensation on warm days.
As the warm, humid air comes into contact with cold surfaces, it loses some of its capacity to hold moisture. As such, there are a number of ways in which condensation can form in your crawl space.
Problem Signs: What Condensation in Your Crawl Space Means
The problem with crawl space condensation is that it is hard to know, as a non-professional, just what the root cause is without a thorough and in-depth investigation. Of course, crawl space condensation is a symptom of high humidity, but it can be a problem sign for many different issues with a property. This is why it is imperative to seek professional advice as quickly as possible.
Damage to Your Plumbing System
When levels of dampness and humidity in your property rise sufficiently to cause crawl space condensation, it can be a sign of plumbing system problems. The types of internal leaks and damage that are most likely to cause humidity to increase to this level are corrosion, weak joints between pipes, and damaged seals between pipes and sinks or appliances.
While sudden and severe plumbing floods can cause a lot of damage, they are less likely to lead to condensation in the long term. Instead, condensation is usually a sign of persistent, low-level leaks.
Seepage is a process that affects concrete surfaces and can resemble condensation in many ways. You see, concrete is porous in nature and will start to absorb water if it is consistently exposed to serious dampness or saturated soil. This will eventually lead to the water seeping through the surface entirely. This can lead to many issues in a concrete surface, including but not limited to staining, pitting, flaking, and scaling.
In addition to this, seepage will cause an increase in levels of relative humidity in your property. This can lead to condensation. However, it will be hard to tell if condensation is the cause of damp walls in a property where seepage is at work.
Your property’s foundation is one of the most important parts of your home; the entire structure of your property relies on it for stability. Unfortunately, foundation damage is fairly common in properties that rest on wet or expansive soil. Foundation damage of any kind is incredibly severe, and as such, the dampness and humidity that it tends to lead to is often the last thing on a homeowner’s mind.
Uncovered Crawl Space Vents
Crawl space vents were once thought to minimize the likelihood of dampness and humidity in a property by increasing ventilation. Of course, these days we know that they actually increase the chances of serious issues with dampness. In fact, uncovered crawl space vents are one of the easiest to fix (and most direct) causes of condensation in a crawl space. This is because they let humid air into your crawl space. When it comes into contact with the cool surfaces inside, the moisture will liquefy once more.
Inadequate drainage systems around your home can cause a lot of damage to your property over time, especially to your foundation. As such, there is a number of ways in which poor drainage can contribute to or cause dampness, humidity, and condensation within your crawl space. If you have an unencapsulated crawl space with uncovered vents, it can even lead to flooding in that area.
These are just some of the things that condensation in your crawl space can signify. In some cases, there may be more than one underlying issue at work. In fact, it is incredibly common for there to be multiple causes of dampness and damage in a property’s crawl space. This makes it incredibly complex to diagnose the problems at work and can also lead to serious damage forming throughout your property. Most homeowners will not be able to effectively identify all the underlying causes of crawl space condensation.
This is not just a matter of experience and education; there are some issues that will require in-depth investigation and testing. This means that professionals are in the best possible position to undertake a full assessment of the damage and the underlying causes. We understand that it might seem unnecessary to bring in an expert just because your crawl space is damp, but you could protect your home from a lot of damage by doing so.
Crawl Space Condensation
Condensation is caused by excessive relative humidity and the difference in temperature between the air and certain surfaces. This is why glass and metal surfaces are more likely to show condensation, even in a relatively arid environment.
If your property has an unencapsulated crawl space with uncovered vents, this is the most likely cause of condensation. Crawl space vents were originally installed into properties because they were believed to increase airflow and prevent dampness and humidity. This has since been shown to be a false assumption. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite; crawl space vents are far more likely to increase dampness in your home.
This is partly because of the way that uncovered vents leave your crawl space open to the weather (which can lead to flooding in serious cases). Uncovered crawl space vents can increase humidity in your home even when the weather is mild. They do this by allowing warm, humid air to circulate in your crawl space. When this warm, humid air comes into contact with cool surfaces in the crawl space, condensation will form.
If your crawl space vents are covered, or you do not have crawl space vents, the most likely source of humidity, moisture, and condensation in your crawl space is either seepage or some form of structural damage. Seepage is the process by which water seeps through porous concrete when exposed to extreme saturation. Damage is more varied. Cracks in your property’s foundation or crawl space walls, for example, can let water seep into your crawl space from the ground around your property. This damage can be caused in a number of ways, from excessive hydrostatic pressure to loose, weak, or expansive soil causing movement and cracks in your property’s foundation. Finally, damage to plumbing and appliances in your home could cause humidity to increase sufficiently to cause condensation.
Preventing crawl space condensation is all about moisture management. It’s that easy and that complicated. For many homes, this is as simple as crawl space encapsulation, but for others, it may require an overhaul of foundation drainage systems.
Exterior Moisture Management
Managing the moisture in the soil around your home is one of the best things that you can do to prevent avoidable damage to your foundation and condensation in your crawl space. There are a number of things that you can do to improve foundation drainage and prevent your property perimeter from becoming saturated. First and foremost, you can make sure that your exterior gutters and drains are clean and clear from blockages.
Doing this will ensure that your existing systems work as well as they possibly can. However, if the soil around your home is expansive or there is an underground water source nearby, you may need more help. Specialist perimeter drains and extended downspouts, for example, can help to minimize the likelihood of foundation flooding and crawl space condensation. Likewise, undertaking grading and improvement work within your yard can help increase the soil’s natural ability to absorb and distribute water.
Crawl Space Encapsulation
Whether the condensation in your crawl space is being caused by seepage, foundation damage, or uncovered vents, a professional is likely to suggest waterproofing or encapsulation with a vapor barrier as a follow-up to any repairs undertaken. This will not only prevent the recurrence of water damage and increased humidity around your home but also offer additional benefits.
Waterproofing and encapsulation are some of the best protective measures a homeowner can take when it comes to keeping a property stable and dry. Of course, the precise nature of the waterproofing work that a professional is likely to undertake in your home depends on the state of your crawl space. Assuming your crawl space is entirely unencapsulated, however, waterproofing will most likely entail the installation of insulation and vent covers as well as an interior drainage system and a sump pump or dehumidifier if needed.
If you are having problems with humidity and condensation in your property’s crawl space, waterproofing is a viable option. However, we do not recommend that you try to do it alone. There are a number of things that could go wrong.
DIY Waterproofing Could Cover Up Damage
There are certain circumstances in which waterproofing will address the root cause of crawl space condensation. Of course, there are just as many (if not more) cases where installing waterproofing measures without a professional investigation and guidance could result in you covering up underlying damage. This would allow it to percolate over time, or even exacerbate it.
Covering up damage with a vapor barrier or insulation, for example, could allow structural damage to grow and spread, undermining the stability of your property. There is also the danger that covering up damage will lead to your waterproofing measures being damaged. This will allow water into the encapsulated space and actually cause more damage over time by trapping the moisture in.
Professional Products Last Longer
There is also the matter of the quality of the products used and the work being undertaken. For example, if foundation damage is found to be at the root of your crawl space moisture and humidity, it will be almost impossible for you to address this alone. Not only will the products needed be hard to get for a non-professional but using them effectively will be far more difficult.
Professionals, however, will be able to undertake the required work quickly and effectively while having access to industry-grade tools, products, and equipment that guarantee a long-lasting solution. A more effective solution will also lower your overall repair costs in the long run by ensuring that you get the best possible results the first-time repairs and waterproofing service are undertaken.
The Damage That Condensation Can Cause
If you see condensation or other signs of dampness in your crawl space or your property as a whole, it is important that you contact a professional as quickly as possible. If you don’t the issues could snowball and cause a lot of damage to your property. This will lead to higher repair costs and even cosmetic damage throughout your property. The types of damage that are most commonly associated with crawl space condensation include:
Mold formation in your crawl space is one of the most insidious issues that can be caused by crawl space condensation. While it may seem harmless, mold formation can be damaging to your property and your health. Certain species of mold can eat away at wood and textiles, causing costly damage to any surface that it takes root in.
Other species of mold, by contrast, can cause skin irritation, migraines, headaches, and even trouble breathing. If you have underlying skin or respiratory conditions, mold in your crawl space can exacerbate these issues.
As a sign of humidity and dampness, crawl space condensation can lead to damage to the drywall in your home (albeit indirectly). Drywall is incredibly vulnerable to dampness and water damage. When it becomes saturated, it is prone to rotting and crumbling. This is not only unhygienic, but it can be incredibly costly to repair. In fact, if the water damage is serious enough you could find yourself needing to replace affected drywall panels entirely.
This will lead to a much higher repair bill than you might have faced if you instead nipped dampness and humidity in the bud.
Peeling Paint or Wallpaper
Cosmetic damage may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but when you are proud of your home, it can be understandably upsetting. Crawl space condensation can have a surprising impact on paint and wallpaper throughout your property. This is partly because of the way in which it impacts levels of humidity in your property, but also because of the way dampness can seep up through the structure of a property over time.
Once cosmetic damage has taken root, it will be hard to deal with. Unless you deal with the underlying causes of this damage, it will inevitably re-occur at intervals, costing you more and more money. While there are some types of paint and paper that are mold and moisture resistant, these will not supersede the humidity.
If left unchecked, dampness and condensation in your crawl space can cause extensive and severe damage to the support joists that hold up your floor. Wooden joists in particular will be vulnerable to rotting and mold formation. These issues will undermine the structural integrity of the beams in question and have an effect on your property. At first, affected floors will start to bounce and sag.
Eventually, however, the floors that have been impacted by rotting support joists could pull away from the walls that they are connected to. If left to grow unchecked, this problem will eventually lead to the collapse of impacted floors and could even start to damage walls in your home. This is not just damaging to your home but could cause injury to you or anyone else in your home.
These forms of damage can be very mild or incredibly severe. It all depends on how prolonged and consistent the humidity and condensation in your home are. If you pay attention to the warning signs of dampness and humidity when you see them, you could nip the issue in the bud and prevent some of these forms of damage from taking root in the first place. This could save your home from serious, avoidable damage and even prevent you from suffering health problems as a result of dampness and humidity.
It is important, however, that you do not try to tackle these issues alone. While we understand the allure of DIY solutions, they are very rarely as efficient and cost-effective as professional services. DIY approaches can cover up underlying causes of damage and dampness, make problems worse, or even create entirely new problems. As a result, the true cost of repairs will often be higher when a homeowner tries DIY as a first option. Professional crawl space repair, however, is cost-effective, efficient, and provides high-quality results by using industry-standard products that are generally not available in hardware stores.
Choose Foundation Recovery Systems for Crawl Space Repair
Since 1992, Foundation Recovery Systems has been helping homeowners in Kansas City, Moberly, St. Louis, and Springfield, MO, to prevent and reduce crawl space condensation, as well as repair the damage it may have caused. In our decades within the industry, we have helped thousands of property owners and built a team of specialists and inspectors who are equipped to deal with almost any problem.
If you feel that your home could benefit from our services, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. We offer free inspection appointments to all homeowners in our service area. This appointment can be scheduled for a day and time that best suits you. It will come with a written estimate for all our suggested repairs. This will leave you in the perfect position to make an informed choice about how you wish to proceed.
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