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Why is My Crawl Space Wet?

Here are the answers to some of the most important questions about wet crawl spaces.

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A wet crawl space can be indicative of a variety of problems. Many homeowners know the fear of worrying whether or not there’s water in their crawl space. However, some homeowners just don’t know how to understand wet crawl spaces and make sure they don’t cause more damage now and in the future. 

When you have a wet crawl space, there are probably a lot of questions on your mind. Here are the answers to some of the most important questions about wet crawl spaces.

How Does Water Get into the Crawl Space? 

Even if you don’t have a leak directly into the crawl space, you can still have water in and on the crawl space. What happens to cause water in your home’s crawl space?  

  • Groundwater from a Dirt Floor 

Possibly the least destructive reason you may experience water in your crawl space is because of groundwater. In fact, if you have a dirt crawl space, you should expect that you’re going to experience water in your crawl space due to groundwater. That’s because in a dirt crawl space, there’s nothing separating your crawl space from the ground, which makes it very easy for water to pool up in the crawl space. 

Standing water is always a problem because of the potential for destruction that it has. Anything that stays underwater can become rotted and start to crumble. Anything that has water on it can grow mold, mildew, and even wood rot. Plus, with the standing water in the crawl space, you’ll see evaporation, which can raise the crawl space humidity in the crawl space itself and the rest of your home. 

  • Leaking Water Coming Through the Walls 

Water can also come through the walls of a crawl space. This tends to be a much bigger problem; when this is happening, you have to ask why. Waterproofing can be helpful to avoid water problems in the crawl space if you’re experiencing them from a dirt floor, but it may not be as effective if you’re experiencing water overflow from the walls. 

That’s because these water problems typically come from a leak or a drainage problem. If you’re experiencing issues with water coming in from the walls, it may be because water isn’t draining around your foundation properly, which may mean you need better downspouts. If you’re experiencing issues with water coming from the floor above, you probably have water in your home, which you should fix first.  

  • Condensation from Humidity 

The last reason you might have water in your crawl space is because of condensation. Unfortunately, condensation is a huge problem, especially in dirt crawl spaces. There’s no way for you to completely dry out the dirt; even if you dry out the top layer of the dirt, you’re still going to end up with moisture that comes up through the ground from far underneath. Condensation can cause issues similar to standing water as a whole. That’s because condensation allows for mold and mildew growth in areas that wouldn’t otherwise have it. Additionally, the humidity in your crawl space isn’t healthy for your home as a whole. It’s common for that humidity to move into the rest of the home and cause serious concerns.

What’s the Issue with a Wet Crawl Space? 

A wet crawl space might not seem like such a bad thing at first. After all, crawl spaces are just supposed to kind of smell damp and musty, right? Here are just a few of the problems you might experience with a wet crawl space. 

  • Mold and Mildew 

Possibly the most obvious problem you’ll run into with a wet crawl space is mold and mildew. If you’ve ever had moisture problems in your home, which may include things like condensation concerns and high humidity levels, you know that mold and mildew can grow anywhere there’s even a small opening. This makes it easy for your crawl space to have serious mold and mildew problems, especially if you don’t tackle the reason for the moisture. 

  • Foundational Concerns 

Mold and mildew aren’t just annoying and bad smelling. They can also lead to genuine foundational concerns. For example, crawl spaces often support the floor joists underneath your home. Additional moisture can weaken those floor joists, leading to “bouncy” floors and even fungal infestations. That can wreak havoc on your foundation as a whole. It’s important to handle a wet crawl space before it turns into a broken crawl space. 

  • Uncomfortable Living Space  

When you have water in your crawl space, that will always turn into humidity. Your living space may just become uncomfortable from the humidity in the crawl space. Obviously, humidity isn’t going to just stay in the crawl space; the crawl space functions sort of like a short basement, which means you’ll share air between the crawl space and the rest of your home. No one likes high levels of humidity, which means your living space as a whole may end up with some discomfort. 

  • High Energy Bills 

The more humid the home’s air, the more difficult it is for the air conditioner to process it. You may actually end up with seriously high energy bills just from trying to run your HVAC system at a level that will make the air comfortable to you. Especially if your energy bills have been ridiculously high recently for seemingly no reason, you may want to investigate your crawl space. It may have an impact on the reason for those high bills. 

How Do I Know Where the Water in My Crawl Space Is Coming From? 

Finding the source of the water in your crawl space is an important part of making the problem right. You can use these tips and tricks to discover where water is entering the crawl space.  

  • Check the Pipes 

First off, it’s a good idea to check your home’s pipes. These pipes carry water from the water heater or cold water source all the way through the house. If you have a leak that’s pumping water into your crawl space, it’s probably going to go through one of the pipes. These pipes may be in the crawl space itself or may even be in some other area of your home, creating home flooding problems that are impacting your crawl space. 

Checking throughout the home is the best way to find the source of a leak. If you believe that a leak is at fault for your crawl space water problems, you may want to get a professional crawl space repair expert or plumber in to check things out. They can help take a look through all your pipes to look for leaks, then fix any leaks they do end up discovering. 

  • Look for Efflorescence 

Efflorescence can be a great indicator of where water is coming in if you don’t have copious amounts of it flowing into your crawl space. This white appearance on a concrete surface happens when the salts in the concrete come to the surface and crystallize. That only happens in instances where there’s some sort of water coming through the concrete or flowing onto the concrete. 

How does that help you? It can help you discover where to look for water when the water problem is more about humidity and less about a steady flow of water. For example, if water is coming through one of your crawl space walls and manifesting as high amounts of humidity, efflorescence on that wall may show you where to look first and foremost. It’s a great starting point at the very least, although an expert will probably have to help you move forward. 

  • Discover Condensation  

If there’s condensation in your crawl space, it’s a sign that there’s an entry for water you’re not noticing. Most commonly in dirt crawl spaces, this entry is just the ground. However, there are other openings for water, which may include the walls and even the ceiling if there’s a leak you haven’t discovered in the general home area. 

It’s important to remember that there shouldn’t be condensation in your crawl space. Ideally, your humidity should be somewhere around 50%, which is far less than a humidity level that would lead to condensation. If you’re seeing condensation, there’s a problem, even if the problem has to do with issues like open crawl space vents instead of direct moisture impact.

Water in Your Crawl Space

FAQ's

Sometimes, people wonder whether there’s some amount of water that can be normal in the crawl space. What if you’re only noticing a very small amount of water in the crawl space? As you might expect, water is always a problem regardless of how “intense” it is. 

  • Flooding  

Obviously, active flooding is a huge problem in a crawl space. If you’re having huge amounts of flooding to the extent where water is all across your crawl space, you’re going to need to remove it in some way. This is the most obvious example of serious concerns that can come along with water. 

  • Standing Water Puddles  

Unfortunately, some people believe that it’s normal to have puddles of standing water in your crawl space. This is definitely a huge problem—standing water will always turn into high humidity in the area, which can cause its own problems outside of standing water puddles. Plus, the standing water can itself waterlog the area. 

  • Issues with Condensation 

When your crawl space is too humid, you might end up with condensation problems. This is especially true if you have open crawl space vents or similar crawl space venting issues, but it can occur even if you have an enclosed crawl space. Condensation is itself a form of water, which means you need to reduce the crawl space humidity levels.

Many people wonder why homes have dirt crawl spaces if they’re not good for the home. This is a great question. There are actually a few reasons that homes might have dirt crawl spaces rather than encapsulated crawl spaces.  

  • Tradition 

Unfortunately, for many years, it was just extremely common for homes to have dirt crawl spaces. This was essentially the way that many people initially got their training in home building, which means that it’s continued as one of the most common ways to build crawl spaces. Even if it’s not as effective as other methods of building crawl spaces, the tradition has become entrenched for many people. 

  • Saving Money 

It’s more expensive to build an encapsulated crawl space rather than an unencapsulated crawl space. Although an unencapsulated crawl space isn’t as effective as an encapsulated one, the money the builders might save from building an unencapsulated crawl space could be enough for them to just choose to avoid the encapsulation process. 

  • Building Code Requirements 

In many areas, it’s still more difficult to encapsulate a crawl space than it is to have an unencapsulated one. Encapsulated crawl spaces often have many more code requirements than unencapsulated crawl spaces, which means they can be more difficult to build. That can turn some building companies away from encapsulated crawl spaces.

What level of humidity do you need in your crawl space? You might not know the ideal level of humidity for crawl spaces, which is very common. There is a level you can have your crawl space humidity so it’s neither too low nor too high.  

  • High Humidity Problems 

High humidity is what people typically think of when it comes to humidity problems in a crawl space. That’s because it’s the most common type of problem. High humidity can lead to mold and mildew issues, growth of wood rot, health concerns, and a lowering of structural stability. If your humidity is high enough, you can even end up with condensation and standing water. 

  • Low Humidity Problems 

Although high humidity is the most common type of humidity to find problems with, you can actually end up with concerns if your humidity is too low as well. Very low levels of humidity can be uncomfortable for your skin and can draw moisture out from the wood in your crawl space, leading to brittle, easily breakable wood. 

  • Finding and Applying the Right Level 

For most homes, the perfect level of humidity is around 55-60%. Of course, this may vary slightly depending on your home, your starting level of humidity, and where you live. If your crawl space tends toward a higher level of humidity, you can help remove that excess humidity with a crawl space dehumidifier, although you need to make sure you have an encapsulated crawl space first.

Some people wonder whether they might be able to install a crawl space dehumidifier instead of doing anything dramatic to reduce the water problems in their crawl space. The fact is that a crawl space dehumidifier won’t necessarily work by itself.  

  • The Usefulness of a Crawl Space Dehumidifier 

It’s true that a crawl space dehumidifier can be extremely useful in a crawl space. Once you’ve already managed your crawl space’s issues through encapsulation, it’s actually a good idea to install a crawl space dehumidifier because it can allow you to maintain a very specific level of humidity in the crawl space. 

  • Tackling the Underlying Cause 

At the same time, it’s not a great idea to use just a crawl space dehumidifier without considering the potential underlying causes of crawl space moisture problems. Crawl space moisture problems have all sorts of defining characteristics, and they often come from concerns with crawl space encapsulation, which is the most important thing to handle.

Keep Your Crawl Space Healthy with Some Help from the Professionals 

A healthy crawl space is absolutely important, but it can also be very difficult to manage on your own. Most homeowners don’t know what their crawl space needs for health, much less how to get into the crawl space and fix it. This can lead to a lot of problems, including generalized crawl space concerns. That’s exactly why many people look to a crawl space professional to help them with their crawl space concerns. Crawl space professionals like the team at Complete Basement Systems can help you diagnose your crawl space concerns and help you fix them as well. With a healthy crawl space, you’ll be less likely to have issues throughout your home. Get in touch with our experts today for a free crawl space inspection and repair estimate, as well as guidance for creating a safer and healthier home.