Crawl Space FAQ: Part One – Why is My Crawl Space Wet?

For anyone who owns a home with a crawl space, you understand the fear. Every time it rains, your heart rate ticks up a few notches. “Is a crawl space supposed to smell like that?” you keep asking yourself. You stay up late at night, desperately looking up pictures of what efflorescence is. Okay, well, maybe you don’t. However, there aren’t too many things more annoying than crawling through a muddy crawl space – or worse – finding all of your belongings you’ve stored in your crawl space have become a breeding ground for mold spores.

So, how does water get into a crawl space? It might seem like a simple question with an obvious answer, your crawl space can be wet for a number of reasons.

Let’s start with the obvious reasons for a damp crawl space. The first major culprit is groundwater. After periods of heavy rain or snow, groundwater can seep into the crawl space from the dirt floor. Another major cause of wet crawl spaces exists outside your house; how close are your downspouts to your foundation wall? If all the water from your gutters is running too close to your foundation, this water can then intrude into your crawl space. To add to that, leaky irrigation systems for lawns can also bring water too close to your foundation wall, and into your crawl space. Finally, your wet crawl space could be a problem inside the home. A leaky or broken pipe can be the reason for all of the moisture under your home.

Now, the not-so-obvious. Water is the most abundant molecular compound on earth, existing in solid, liquid, and gaseous forms. In one form or another, you’ll find H2O just about everywhere, including the soil underneath your home. As this water evaporates, it turns into water vapor, which then comes up through the soil and into your crawl space. Water vapor, rather than liquid water, is definitely the most common cause of a damp crawl space.

Yes, I know. You’re thinking to yourself, “But Colorado isn’t humid at all! There just isn’t a lot of water vapor in the air!” And you’re exactly right. However, a crawl space environment is very different from the environment outside. As the water in the ground evaporates, the resulting water vapor gets trapped in your crawl space, creating an environment that can be as much as ten times as humid as the air outside. Yikes.

Knowing where the moisture in your crawl space is coming from is important to finding a solution. If your moisture issues seem to be concentrated around one particular area of your crawl space,  check any pipes that hang over that area for leaks. Then, check your foundation wall for efflorescence. Efflorescence is a chalky, crystalline deposit of water-soluble salts found commonly found on concrete, masonry, or stucco. The deposits are left behind when water evaporates, making the presence of efflorescence a definite sign of water intrusion. Finally, condensation on wood, pipes, or foundation walls is the calling card of a high-humidity environment. This means you have quite a bit of water vapor coming up from the soil into your home.

Feeling concerned about your crawl space? Give Complete Basement Systems a call today to set up an appointment for us to come out and provide a thorough inspection.

In our next segment of Crawl Space FAQ, we will talk about the option of digging your crawl space into a full basement. Don’t miss it!

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