Maybe it’s a stretch to compare your crawlspace to a closet that opens up into a land where the King is a talking Lion, but there is no shortage of creativity around here. Either way, most people look at the access to their crawlspace as the entrance to a black hole with an unknown world just beyond the darkness. As a home inspector in the Seattle area who sees crawlspaces on a daily basis, I have learned to expect the unexpected when entering any crawlspace.
In actuality, the crawlspace plays an important role in the structure. It is where plumbing, ductwork and other equipment can be located so as not to take up living space in the house. The crawlspace also circulates air underneath the house, allowing the house to breathe. It is important that the crawlspace be in good condition and it should be inspected regularly.
If you dare enter the forbidden land of your very own crawlspace, here are three things to look for:
Water intrusion. There are a number of ways water can get in: ground water seeping up, rain water draining in through cracks in the foundation, leaking pipes, to name a few. Unless your house is built on piers over a lake or ocean, you don’t want water under it for a number of reasons. It attracts bugs, causes wood rot and the added humidity can be absorbed into the house itself.
Vapor barrier. This is the black plastic that should be laid on the floor of the crawlspace. Have you even walked into a really old house with and old musty smell? Chances are it didn’t have a vapor barrier. The vapor barrier, or Visqueen, will help prevent that musty smell from entering the house. It will also help prevent humidity in the crawlspace from seeping into the house and prevents the growth of plant life, fungus and mold. It will also help keep bugs away!
Proper ventilation. Remember how we just touched on not wanting moisture to seep into the house? The best way to keep that from happening is to keep good air flow in the crawlspace. This means several vents on all sides of the crawlspace that should not be blocked by landscaping, blocks, dirt and debris, so that air can move uninhibited through the space.
So the next time you feel adventurous, put on an old shirt and jeans (or a hazmat suit), and go see for yourself what lies beneath, where you sleep. Bwahahaha!