Properties across Missouri, especially older properties, often have exterior doors to access the crawl space. However, unsecured doors and access hatches that are not airtight can be the cause of damage, dampness, and humidity in a property.
If you buy a property these days, it is almost guaranteed that any crawl space access points will have a durable, waterproof door (usually made of a tough plastic like PVC). If your home does not have these types of doors, you should invest in them! Assuming you have crawl space doors in place, however, you should be aware of their health. A loose crawl space door is not just a problem sign, since it can lead to issues all on its own.
What Can Make a Crawl Space Door Loose?
If your property has a crawl space door, there are a number of things that can make these attachments loose enough to let humid air, dirt, water, and even pests into your home.
While most modern crawl space doors are made of thick, tough PVC (thanks to its water and weather-resistant properties), many are not infallible. They also have an average usable lifespan.
Repeated Freeze/Thaw Cycles
Extreme weather is one of the biggest challenges that any property faces, and repeated cycles of freezing and thawing are at the top of the list of potentially damaging occurrences. Repeated freezes and thaws can damage every part of your structure, especially if the property has pre-existing damage. While these covers are generally weather and temperature resistant, long-term exposure to extreme temperatures can make the plastic brittle and can lead to cracking or deformation. This is especially common in older crawl space doors.
Wear and Tear
Crawl space doors are designed to allow for access to your property’s crawl space as and when needed. This makes them incredibly useful, but also makes them subject to general wear and tear. The area most likely to be affected by general use is the sealant that prevents water from seeping beneath your doors. This can lead to many problems for your property.
Crawl space doors are subject to accidental damage. This is most likely to occur when someone needs to access your crawl space to implement repairs or perform regularly scheduled maintenance.
While a loose crawl space door may not seem like a huge issue, it can actually lead to many different problems within your home (some of them quite serious). As such, it is important that you are able to recognize the problem signs and fix your loose crawl space door before it causes real damage.
Problem Signs That Your Crawl Space Door is Loose
If you suspect that your crawl space door may be damaged or otherwise compromised, you may start to see certain signs around your home. Some are very generic and could be signs of general structural damage. This is why it is important to investigate as soon as you see warning signs around your home.
If your property is not retaining heat or cold as well as it used to, the reason may be that your crawl space door has been damaged. This is partly because of the fact that it lets cold (or heat) into your crawl space, but it has more to do with the way in which it impacts your home’s ability to maintain the conditions created by your HVAC system.
This will have many effects on your home, but the most noticeable is a spike in your energy bills (especially during humid seasons).
If you notice that there are drafts around your home or that doors slam when left ajar, it is likely that you are dealing with the stack effect. This refers to the way in which air behaves when there are entry and exit points for air in your home. As most properties have spaces for airflow near the roof, this is most likely being caused by the sudden opening of an entry point in your crawl space. As the warm air in your home rises and leaves your home, it will pull in air from the outside.
This can cause many different problems but is highly connected with fluctuations in temperature and humidity. This will impact your energy usage and cause your bills to increase quite sharply.
Most properties in Kansas City, Moberly, St. Louis, and Springfield, MO, will deal with humidity to some level. That’s because of the nature of the environment. Nonetheless, if the humidity in your property starts to increase with no obvious cause (for example, a broken dehumidifier), then it could well be a result of a loose crawl space door. Issues like mold and pest infestation are rife in homes that have consistently high levels of humidity.
If the humidity levels in your property reach a critical point, you may start to notice condensation forming on cool surfaces in your home. Seeing condensation on your windows, for example, is a concern, but it can also be explained by other factors. However, if you see condensation on your walls, this is an incredibly strong sign that you should not ignore for any reason. By the time condensation forms on your walls, you can be sure that you have a real issue with dampness in your home.
This could also display itself as bubbling or peeling wallpaper, stained drywall, and mildew in the grouting between tiles. The cosmetic damage that can occur as a result of humidity this high is incredibly varied. You could even see peeling paint or sagging plaster.
Pest infestations can take a number of forms and have many different warning signs associated with them. The most common infestations by far, though, are cockroach, spider, and rodent infestations. You will recognize these by droppings, webs, and other signs of animal presence in your home. Of course, pests can find many ways into your home, but unsecured crawl space doors or access points make it very easy for pests of all kinds.
Pest infestations can have many different and damaging effects on your property and wellbeing. As well as leaving droppings everywhere, pests like cockroaches can spread very serious diseases and leave all kinds of bacteria in their wake.
If you see any of these warning signs, you should contact a professional immediately. There is no way to know if these issues are being caused by a loose crawl space door or something more serious, after all. Even something as simple as a loose crawl space door can lead to pretty serious issues if left alone.
What Problems Can a Loose Crawl Space Door Cause?
The biggest problem with having a loose crawl space door is all the ways it will allow dampness into your home and raise relative humidity levels. This will cause issues like mold formation and even attract pests, but there are many more serious issues that can start to form.
Drywall is a common construction material for properties in Missouri, and for very good reason. It’s tough and incredibly lightweight. However, drywall is incredibly vulnerable to water damage. If a loose crawl space door causes dampness and humidity to take root in your home, then drywall structures will soon begin to suffer. Damp drywall can quickly come to harbor mold, mildew, and pests, but it can also lose all structural integrity.
This is because of the center of gypsum paste. When wet, this filling becomes very soft and will crumble easily. Because of this, it is important that you dry out any drywall that becomes wet very quickly. You can imagine what trouble prolonged dampness can cause!
When a loose crawl space door causes dampness and humidity in your property, the first place that will be affected (and the place that will be most heavily affected) is the crawl space itself. When dampness is prolonged and serious, it can cause wooden supports and beams in your crawl space to start rotting. This can have many undesirable outcomes, but the most worrisome is how the floors above damaged joists can start to sag. Over time, this will even cause them to pull away from the walls they are connected to.
You will be able to recognize this process by a feeling of springiness underfoot when you walk on affected floorboards. Once the problem has been allowed to progress, however, the floorboards themselves could warp, become rotten, or even collapse entirely. This will not only cause damage to your home, but it could also result in serious injuries.
A loose or damaged crawl space door can lead to pipes under your home leaking or bursting. The most common way in which this can happen is through freezing. Even a small gap in your crawl space will allow the conditions outside your home to affect the climate inside. This means that a serious or prolonged winter could lower the temperatures in your crawl space below freezing and cause a pipe to burst.
The other possibility is that consistent humidity and dampness in your crawl space may cause corrosion to the pipes in your crawl space. This will lead to leaks, which will only make the dampness worse and could eventually lead to the pipes bursting.
As well as these issues, a loose crawl space door can allow your crawl space to flood entirely when the weather is severe enough. This brings its own problems, but it is the long-term consequences of occurrences like this that you should worry about. A property that experiences regular flooding in its crawl space is in real danger of seeing major damage to its foundation. This will cause many issues for a property and will only get worse over time!
A property in need of serious foundation repair is a home that can incur huge repair costs. As such, it is best that you contact a professional quickly when you see signs of dampness and damage in your crawl space. If you nip issues like these in the bud, you could avoid ever having to deal with problems like settlement and subsidence.
Loose Crawl Space
Have you noticed signs of dampness and humidity in your crawl space? If so, then it is time to consider your repair options. The source of moisture could either be internal or external. What that really means is that the issues in your home either will be found in your plumbing system and appliances or within the structure of your property.
Leaks in your property’s appliances and plumbing system are unique in that they are far more likely to cause substantial water damage and build-up in a home, but when they are caught quickly, they tend to be easier to fix and less likely to cause serious structural damage. This means that in the grand scheme of things, finding out that a plumbing or appliance leak is the main cause of dampness and humidity can be somewhat of a relief for homeowners. There are two exceptions to this, however.
A full-scale plumbing flood is far more likely to cause serious structural issues than any other form of internal leak as a result of the amount of water it releases and the pressure at which the water exits the system. Low-level leaks that take place over a prolonged period of time are far more likely to lead to serious issues like wood rot because they will have time to seriously increase humidity and facilitate the growth and spread of fungal issues. The most common internal leaks occur in the joints between pipes or the meeting point between pipes and appliances or faucets.
If there are no signs of internal leaks and plumbing damage in your home and the amount of water is small and persistent, then it is far more likely that it is entering your property from outside through areas of structural damage. The most common forms of damage that can lead to dampness and humidity in a crawl space are foundation damage, cracking, or fragmentation. Any cracks in your property’s structure will let water in, but cracks that are situated below ground level represent a particularly strong risk of allowing water to seep in.
There also are structural factors that cannot be classed as damage, however. Seepage, for example, is a process that occurs because of the porous nature of concrete as a building material. When a home has unsealed concrete surfaces at or below ground level, seepage can produce significant moisture. In an area like St. Louis, MO, where the climate is humid and the soil is heavily clay-based, this process is exacerbated further. Secondly, there is the matter of crawl space vents–these features are outdated, but there are still homes that have uncovered vents. If your home has exposed vents, then this could be the source of your dampness and high relative humidity.
In order to properly protect your property, a crawl space door needs to fit well and create a watertight seal. This is imperative if you are to help prevent water, dirt, and pests from encroaching into your home. Unfortunately, crawl space doors are also subject to damage and deterioration in many ways.
Prevent the Stack Effect
The stack effect is one of the most subtly damaging issues that your home can deal with on a day-to-day basis. Created by the presence of ventilation points at the top and bottom of a home, the stack effect causes moist air to be drawn into a home from outside and creates a channel of moving air through a home. This destabilizes the climate inside your home dramatically.
When the airflow in your home is so dramatically increased, it can cause so many different things to go wrong in your home. This ranges from increased humidity and dampness to the spread of mold and airborne allergens, as well as undermining your home’s energy efficiency. This will make your property less comfortable in general.
Stabilize the Climate of Your Home
Fixing your crawl space door will, of course, stabilize the climate in your home, prevent temperature and humidity fluctuation, and generally keep the interior spaces of your home safe, clean, and dry. More than this, fixing your crawl space door will ensure that you prevent avoidable damage.
By lowering levels of dampness and humidity, fixing your crawl space door will prevent mold formation, wood rot, and the many different problems that they can cause. This will protect your home from uneven or sagging floors, spreading cracks, and the unpleasant odors which come with rot and fungal growth.
The problem with damage to your crawl space door is that it is merely a symptom of greater problems deeper in your home. While you can replace damaged doors and frames, this will only fix the superficial issues in your home.
Learning to spot damage is one of the most important things that you can do as a homeowner. The most common signs of damage to the frame of your crawl space door, or the door itself, are: bad odors, visible rot to the wooden frame, pooling water, high humidity, spreading cracks, worn sealant, and fluctuating temperatures.
Most worrying of all, of course, is water damage that seriously undermines the structural integrity and cosmetic appeal of any surface or structure that it affects. In concrete surfaces, for example, water damage can appear as spalling, staining, pitting, and flaking, but in serious cases, it can also cause spreading cracks.
Don’t Try DIY
While it may seem very easy to simply replace a damaged crawl space door, and DIY can certainly save you time and money now and then, we urge you to call a professional. Water damage in particular requires professional attention because of the complexity of the issues that can arise as a result of this issue.
If you simply buy a new crawl space door from the hardware store and fit it, you may cause a temporary decrease in humidity and dampness in your crawl space. It could make things worse in the long-term. Trapped water and humidity will create an incubator-like environment for mold spores and condensation to spread and thrive. Professionals will be able to identify all of the issues that need to be addressed. As such, it is really best to engage an expert in these situations.
Foundation Recovery Systems is Here to Help
If you have noticed issues in your crawl space, checking your crawl space door should be at the top of your list. A loose or damaged crawl space door can cause huge problems in your home, but it is also fairly easy to fix. Our team of competent professionals will not only be able to provide you with a replacement door or effective repairs but deal with any other issues that the ill-fitting door may have caused.
All you need to do is reach out to us for a free inspection and repair quote. We will first arrange an inspection to determine the extent and precise nature of the damage in your crawl space. This inspection is entirely free and will come with a written estimate for all our suggested repairs and solutions. This will allow you to make the right choice for yourself.