Mold In Your Crawlspace
Mold problems in the crawl space, is a problem seen in many pier and beam homes. Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint a mold problem in a crawls space, because people rarely go down into their crawlspace and even if they do, they don’t always recognize they have a problem.
Crawl spaces typically have higher concentrations of mold than you would find in the habitable part of the home. However, when mold spore counts grow, the contaminated air will migrate into the living space. When contaminated air migrates into the living space you may or may not smell it. If you smell that musty odor often associated with older homes, it is generally an indication of mold. Sometimes, the occupants may begin to experience allergy-like symptoms such as congestion, watery eyes and itchy throat. While an allergic response can come from many causes, those symptoms are also indications of elevated mold levels in your home.
Crawl spaces are susceptible to mold growth because they often suffer from a combination of water intrusion and poor ventilation. A leaky pipe in the crawl space can provide a water source for mold to grow directly or indirectly because a leak can increase the humidity in the crawl space.
Moreover, water can get into your crawl space from the outside. The lot your home is built on is supposed to be graded to move water away from the structure. However, the grading and water run off control can change over the years either due to environmental factors, landscaping or other changes. When water gets under your house it can sink into the soil and increase the humidity and provide the moisture required for mold growth in your crawl space.
Additionally, many crawl spaces suffer from poor ventilation. Without a vapor barrier, a crawl space should have a minimum of a 1 square foot ventilation opening for each 150 square feet of under–floor space area. Sometimes ventilation openings become covered during a remodel or there were simply not enough openings when the house was originally constructed.
If you think you may have mold under your home, take a look at the conditions around your house. Do you have roof gutters? Are they working? Is the ground sloped toward your home? Are your sprinklers pointed away from the home? Do you find pooling water that doesn’t drain quickly? Can you see ventilation openings around the foundation of your house? Are they blocked?
There are corrective actions you can take such as increasing the ventilation in your crawl space. You may need to add more openings. Sometimes, mechanical ventilation is required to solve a humidity problem. You can add a vapor barrier if you don’t have one. Vapor barriers block moisture transfer from the ground into the crawl space. You can also improve the drainage. Often, you can control water intrusion by adjusting the grading or installing a French drain. Even the installation of rain gutters and down spouts can help to move water away from your foundation.
If all else fails you may want to consider crawl space encapsulation. Encapsulation is the process where your crawl space is transformed into a conditioned space trough the addition of sealing elements, vapor barriers and ventilation. The idea is to block the crawl space from exposure to the elements in order to control the environment, keeping it dry.
Don’t forget, if you have a mold problem in your crawl space you may need professional remediation to clean the existing problem, in addition to taking corrective action to improve the environmental conditions inside your crawls space.