Crawlspace Encapsulation to Reduce Mold… Worth it? Effective?

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Dr. Aaron Hartman

October 22, 2021


Did you know that 30% of the air in your home comes through the crawl space?

Airstacking occurs when air rises in your house and becomes heated. This puts a draw on your crawl space and pulls the air from in the space up into your house. If your crawl space is clean and has low humidity, low particulates and low mold, this isn’t an issue at all! However, if your crawl space isn’t clean…well…you may have a problem.

Outdoor humidity is the perfect set-up for mold. So, if your crawl space is exposed, you’re allowing this sticky air to sneak inside. Think about how much time you spend inside of your home – Do you really want to be breathing in contaminated air on a daily basis?

My air handler is located in my crawl space. An air handler “handles” the air inside your home and delivers warm or cool indoor air throughout the entirety of your house. Most air handlers are located in the attic, basement or a dedicated closet, but mine’s located in my crawl space (which isn’t the best idea!).

Air handlers leak 20 – 40% of the air that’s entered into its system, and pulls air from the surrounding environment. In my case with it being located in my crawl space, the air handler is pulling in air from the surrounding space. If I had mold and particulates invading that area, the contaminated air would find its way into the handler and spread throughout the entirety of my home. Once mold particulates get into the air handler, you’ll need to change out the entire system (which gets pricey!).

To avoid the spread of toxic air and maintain a clean crawl space, I decided to encapsulate it. What does that mean? Crawl space encapsulation allows you to install vapor barriers between your crawl space and the outside world. These vapor barriers entirely cover the walls and floor of your crawl space, serving as a visible barrier.

I used 20ml thick material as a barrier to cover the entirety of his crawl space, as well as spray foam. A successful encapsulation means that no dirt or gravel can be seen when looking into the crawl space. Instead, it’s completely covered with thick, white material. I also added in a couple of dehumidifiers and air conditioners to make sure the space felt like any other room in my house.

A successfully encapsulated crawl space means that it’s completely sealed off from the outside world. Air cannot sneak in from doorways or from the ground. I made sure of this by utilizing tape and rubber seals on entryways and any other spots where he felt air escaping. Remember: humidity entering your crawl space is a recipe for mold!

To show the success of my encapsulation, I pulled out a bunch of devices that measure the amount of toxins in the surrounding air. The first particulate air meter measured the amount of CO2, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and formaldehyde in his crawl space. The other air meter measured particulates specific to mold.

These meters gave us hard evidence that supports the success of an encapsulated crawl space! The levels of CO2, VOCs, formaldehyde and particulate matter was extremely low. Because the air in the crawl space was healthy to breathe, I knew the air handler was filtering healthy air throughout his home.

You could have a million-dollar house, but if the crawl space isn’t encapsulated, you know that the air in other areas of your home is potentially being filled with toxic, moldy particulates. Yuck!

Since I enjoying learning new processes and doing things myself, I decided to encapsulate my crawl space and an additional closet in my house that has another air handler. However, I strongly recommend hiring an indoor air expert or building biologist to check out the air quality in your crawl space and air handler to ensure the safety of your surrounding environment.

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