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Reclaiming Spaces: Crawl Space Insulation vs. Encapsulation

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019


Crawl spaces are part and parcel of living in an established home in Denver, CO. That said, residents don’t always know how to keep these spaces safe. Insulating or encapsulating your crawl space does more than just protect the belongings you have stored there. Both processes work to make your home more secure and eliminate excess flooding.

That said, what’s the difference between insulation and encapsulation? A few letters, sure, but if the processes have the same result, should they be considered different?

In short, yes. If you’re trying to understand what the differences are between these two processes, we can help. Whether you choose to stack these processes while securing your crawl space or merely go with one, it’ll be better to know what you’re getting into before you start.

crawl space insulating or encapsulating

Insulation: The Process

Thermal insulation works to keep your crawl space warm and protected from excess precipitation. However, if you’ve never had a crawl space before, you may not realize you need that extra layer of protection. It’s not until you’ve crawled into a freezing cold space that it may occur to you, “This would be much nicer if it was warm!”

There’s more need for insulation than just a more comfortable crawl space. If you don’t insulate these spaces, you could find yourself paying more for your heat and A/C over the course of a year. Uninsulated crawl spaces let the air escape from your home. If you leave these spaces insulation-free, then you’re heating – or cooling – your lawn as well as your home.

Insulation prevents the escape of air by creating a barrier between the outdoors and the indoors. Whether it’s spray foam or something more traditional, insulation will protect your pipes, reduce air leakage, and keep moisture from gathering around the foundation of your home. That lack of moisture will then kill any mold that may have been thriving, making your home healthier to live in.

With all the benefits out of the way, what does the process of insulating your home look like? Generally speaking, contractors will take the following steps to better secure your crawl spaces.

  1. Identify any leaking spots within your crawl space – If you frequently have to pump water out of your crawl space, your contractor will need to install a drainage system before insulating it.
  2. Remove the old insulation – If your crawl space was previously treated, your contractor may have to remove fiberglass insulation from your space. Whether it’s this material or another, the removal process will clean up your walls, improve the health of your home, and reduce the allergens floating up into the rest of your house.
  3. Insulate the walls and ceiling – You can work with your contractor of choice to determine what kind of material and method you want to use when re-insulating your crawl space. Ideally, this insulation will be mold-resistant and allergen-free.
  4. Seal off any vents or other openings – Openings that lead outdoors within your crawl space will compromise its integrity and potentially lead to more flooding.
  5. Install moisture barriers – Though the insulation will do most of the protective work for you, some contractors will opt to install a moisture barrier into your crawl space to keep it as dry as possible.

Encapsulation: The Process

From insulation, we move to encapsulation. The process of encapsulating a crawl space is fairly similar to insulating a crawl space. However, encapsulation is ideal for crawl spaces that have to endure more precipitation than most. If your crawl space has fallen victim to Denver, CO, snow melt before, then you may prefer encapsulation over insulation.

The process of encapsulating your crawl space typically goes as follows:

  1. Identify the source of a leak – As with insulating your crawl space, you’ll need to find the spot that’s letting water in before you close off the rest of the space. Your contractor will likely be able to trace the flow of water back to the leak and seal it appropriately, as well as install perimeter drainage and sump pump systems.
  2. Remove previous insulation – Like before, the encapsulation process will require a contractor to remove the insulation from your crawl space to limit the flow of allergens or established mold to the rest of your home.
  3. Install a vapor barrier – Moisture and vapor barriers are essential to the encapsulation process. Your contractor will install this barrier liner that surrounds the whole of your crawl space so that water can no longer get in. This barrier will need to be fitted to any pipes or mechanical outcroppings your crawl space has.
  4. Dehumidifier installation – While an optional step, some contractors recommend that you install a dehumidifier into your sealed crawl space. While not essential, a dehumidifier will reduce the amount of water in the air and keep your belongings safer in the long run.

Benefits of Installation

With the different processes and purposes in mind, which of these two crawl space cleanliness solutions should you work with? That depends entirely on your needs.

The pros of insulating your crawl space include:

  • Improved temperature control and lower heating bills
  • Safer belongings

Comparatively, the pros of encapsulating your crawl space include:

  • Less dampness inside your home
  • Safer belongings
  • No more pumping water out of the space yourself

That said, neither process is perfect. To encapsulate your crawl space, you’re going to have to undertake many of the same steps you’d need to if you decided to insulate the space. Both processes typically take a day or two, depending on the size of your crawl space, but their costs will vary based on the protective lengths you want to go to.

With that in mind, consider your crawl space with care. Above all else, though, don’t let dampness, cooler temperatures, or Denver’s snowy precipitation keep you from using the space that’s come with your home. Contact a local crawl space repair expert for a free inspection and estimate to learn more today!