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Crawlspace Ventilation Vs. Crawlspace Encapsulation


These are two separate projects performed by Crawlspace Solutions NJ.


The image to the left depicts a crawlspace with a cement ground floor that is relatively dry throughout the year. The crawlspace to the right suffered from elevated moisture with signs of organic decay fungi forming.


Revolutionizing Crawl Space Construction at the Jersey Shore: Embracing Innovation for Long-Term Home Health


In the realm of home construction, the conventional treatment of crawl spaces has experienced a significant evolution, particularly in coastal communities, where groundwater is an ongoing issue for homeowners. The pronounced disparity between the antiquated ventilated crawl space and modern encapsulation techniques is becoming more apparent, illuminating the enduring advantages of adopting innovative practices.

 

The Old Way: Ventilated Crawl Spaces

 

Ventilated crawl spaces were once the norm, with temperature differentials, high humidity levels, and moisture-related challenges being accepted as inherent drawbacks. The Jersey Shore's climate, marked by varying temperatures and proximity to bodies of water, exacerbated the issues associated with traditional construction practices. Crawl space temperatures during summer months could be significantly cooler—15 to 20°F—than the external environment, creating an environment ripe for excessive moisture and condensation.

 

The stack effect, driven by pressure differentials, allowed air from the exterior environment to infiltrate the crawl space, mingling with moisture, mold spores, and soil gases. This compromised indoor air quality, leading to potential health issues for inhabitants.


According to a study provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, unvented and insulated crawlspaces remain drier in humid climate zones. Additionally, the study reveals that the newer innovations in building infrastructure that focus on encapsulating the crawlspace and insulating it save up to 20% in heating and cooling costs and substantially reduce the risk of moisture problems. (2013, Building America Top Innovations)

 

Pros and Cons of Ventilated Crawl Spaces at the Jersey Shore:

 

Pros:

  • Initial construction costs may be lower.

  • Historically accepted construction practice.

 

Cons:

  • Increased humidity levels.

  • Compromised indoor air quality.

  • Potential for mold growth.

  • Corrosion of HVAC equipment.

  • Decreased efficiency of HVAC systems over time.

 

The New Way: Crawlspace Encapsulation

 

In response to the shortcomings of traditional crawl space construction, the concept of encapsulation emerged as a game-changer. This innovative approach involves a comprehensive strategy to eliminate moisture sources and actively control humidity levels. The benefits of crawlspace encapsulation extend beyond short-term fixes, providing long-term advantages for homeowners.

 

Long-Term Benefits of Crawlspace Encapsulation:

 

1. Moisture Prevention: A full-coverage vapor barrier on the ground, sealed and waterproof-taped, prevents soil moisture from entering the crawl space.

 

2. Mitigated Moisture on Walls: Vapor barriers on foundation walls and/or sidewall insulation act as moisture blockers, enhancing insulation and energy efficiency.

 

3. Sealed Foundation Vents: The encapsulation process involves sealing foundation vents, maintaining controlled humidity levels, and preventing external air infiltration.

 

4. Insulation Strategies: Proper insulation serves as an effective moisture barrier and enhances energy efficiency.

 

5. Water Intrusion Management: An interior drainage system, coupled with a sump pump (if needed), addresses rainwater and groundwater intrusion, protecting against potential moisture-related issues*.

 

6. Active Humidity Control: Installation of a commercial-grade dehumidifier (if needed) actively manages humidity, ensuring a consistently dry and healthy crawl space environment*.

 

*Water remediation becomes necessary when the property experiences persistent water intrusion. The implementation depends on the specific water issues present in the crawlspace. After properly sealing the crawlspace envelope, adding a dehumidifier should be the final step. Installing a dehumidifier before encapsulation can lead to constant operation, increasing energy costs and burning out the unit. We recommend this only in areas with high moisture content and ongoing issues post-sealing. Note that township and building code restrictions apply to the last two options.

 

Pros and Cons of Crawlspace Encapsulation at the Jersey Shore:

 

Pros:

  • Long-term cost savings.

  • Improved indoor air quality.

  • Prevention of moisture-related damages.

  • Enhanced energy efficiency.

 

Cons:

  • Higher initial construction costs.

 

Conclusion: Investing in Home Health

 

As the construction landscape evolves, homeowners at the Jersey Shore face a choice between the conventional and the transformative. While the upfront costs of crawlspace encapsulation may be higher, the evidence from studies by the U.S. Department of Energy suggests that the long-term benefits far outweigh the investment. By opting for encapsulation, homeowners protect against moisture-related damages and secure a healthier, more energy-efficient future for their homes.

 

To embark on this journey of innovation and ensure the well-being of your home, schedule an inspection today with Crawlspace Solutions NJ. Our experts can assess the current state of your crawl space and provide personalized recommendations for moisture control and encapsulation, ultimately contributing to the longevity and health of your cherished home.

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