Return to the Blog Home Page

The Correct Way to Deal with Water Accumulating In the Crawl Space Under Your House

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

Water in the crawl space. Just thinking about it is something you’d probably prefer to avoid, if possible. However, that creepy, claustrophobic zone underneath your house may in fact conceal water accumulation from a variety of sources. Ignoring water in the crawl space won’t make it go away. Moreover, the consequences of hidden water down there can mean costly damage and even show up in a home dweller’s health issues.  

A properly maintained crawl space should ideally remain dry and dusty in normal conditions. When water intrusion is recurrent, however, the negative consequences associated with ongoing wetness in the crawl space include:

  • Rotting wood structural components such as floor joists and plywood subflooring.
  • Toxic mold growth contaminating living spaces above.
  • Elevated indoor humidity as water vapor migrates upwards into the house.
  • Disintegrating insulation and deteriorated electrical wiring.
  • Water intrusion into HVAC ductwork routed through the space.  
  • A friendly habitat for rats, snakes, insects and other vermin attracted to moisture.

Where’s The Water Coming From And How Do I Stop It?

Here’s how water in the crawl space can originate from interior or exterior sources and what’s required to resolve the issue: 

  • Leaking water supply lines. Leaks, dripping or seepage from plumbing pipes can gradually turn a crawl space into a swamp. An inspection by a qualified plumber is usually necessary to pinpoint and repair leakage.
  • Ground water rising. Whether continuously or seasonally, rising groundwater may affect the crawl space. Installation of a vapor barrier over the dirt floor can keep dampness in chronically moist soil from affecting the house. However, to effectively control actual water accumulation, the installation of a sump pump is usually required.
  • Improper landscape grading. Landscaping around the house perimeter should be graded to divert water away from the crawl space and out into the yard during rain.  
  • Clogged gutters. Water overflowing from blocked gutters may penetrate the crawl space below during heavy rain. Inspect gutters regularly for blockages. Also ensure that gutter downspouts extend far enough to discharge water at least three from the house to keep it out of the crawl space.

Preparing Your Home for Spring Mold Season

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

While mold growth can be an all-season event inside a home, spring is an especially mold-friendly time of year. Two of the three conditions that trigger mold growth—moisture and temperature—are common in spring, particularly in the most mold-prone areas of the house: the crawl space and the attic.

Active mold releases microscopic airborne spores that easily migrate from the source throughout the entire structure, spreading contamination and often producing physical symptoms such as allergic reactions and illness in certain individuals. Here are some things you can do to make this time of year less favorable to mold contamination in your home.

Check the crawl space.  After a long period of winter rains and/or melting snow, your crawl space may be chronically wet.  This ongoing moisture, plus darkness and warming spring temperatures, provides hospitable conditions for mold growth. To make it less accomodating, take these steps:

  • Make sure all crawl space vents are wide open and unobstructed to allow proper ventilation and promote drying.
  • If dampness persists, consider two additional options: A crawl space vent fan, designed for this purpose, can be installed to maintain constant outdoor air ventilation and keep the space dry. Dehumidifiers made for crawl space installation are also available where excess humidity in the crawl space is a problem.  

Inspect the attic. Roof leaks during seasonal spring rains can trigger attic mold growth. Exposed wooden structure inside the attic also provides cellulose that nourishes mold.  Roof leaks into the attic may not become evident in the living spaces below for some time, so visual inspection is required. For safety in the attic, wear a mask for breathing protection and step only on large wooden joists.

  • Look for signs of roof leakage such as dark spots or streaks on the sub-roof.
  • Check attic insulation for discoloration or other evidence indicating mold growth inside the insulation material.
  • Make sure all attic vents are open and unobstructed to provide adequate passive air ventilation. If wet or excessively humid conditions persist, a powered attic vent fan may be installed in the roof.

Controlling Moisture in Your Home’s Crawl Spaces

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Crawl space construction in a home offers several benefits over slab or basement. First, it’s less expensive. A crawl space also allows plumbing and HVAC ductwork to be more easily installed during construction as well as serviced later at a lower cost. In locales where termites thrive, a crawl space keeps wooden structural components off the ground to reduce potential damage.

However, a crawl space can also be an ongoing source of dampness in the form of actual moisture as well as accumulated water vapor that infiltrates the house. Crawl spaces provide a hospitable environment for toxic mold as temperature, darkness and moisture are friendly to fungal growth. Chronically wet conditions also inflict structural water damage, rotting wooden joists as well as the sub-floor.

To reduce moisture in a crawl space and avoid issues related to it, here are some suggestions:

  • Control drainage. Outdoor water sources may enter the crawl space if the ground around the perimeter of the house isn’t graded properly. The grade should slant away from the house at a rate of at least 0.5 inch per foot.
  • Maintain gutters. Water cascading from clogged overflowing gutters during rain penetrates deeply. Saturated soil spreads moisture into the crawl space.
  • Resolve plumbing issues. Drips from pinhole leaks in pipes, as well as seepage around pipe joints, keep the crawl space wet, 24/7/365. No leak, no matter how small, is “normal.” Schedule an inspection by a plumber and have necessary repairs made.
  • Install a vapor barrier. Water vapor rising from the soil often creates chronically moist conditions inside the crawl space. It also infiltrates through cracks and gaps into living spaces above. Excess moisture may be due to a naturally high water table in the area. A vapor barrier is usually heavy duty plastic that covers the entire floor of the crawl space to retain moisture in the soil.
  • Increase ventilation. Original crawl space vents may be too small to allow proper air circulation to dry out moisture inside the space. Wider vents can be installed to augment passive ventilation and can be closed when necessary during high humidity days.

How to Detect and Remove Mold in a Crawl Space

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

mold in crawl spaceWhen mold remediation professionals search for the origin of contamination inside a house, the crawl space is usually a prime suspect. Cool temperatures, moisture, absence of ultraviolet sunlight and ample food sources like cellulose in exposed wooden structure make that cramped space beneath your floor a perfect breeding ground.

Microscopic airborne spores released by active mold growth may continuously infiltrate living spaces above through tiny cracks and gaps. When inhaled, toxic spores may cause allergic reactions and other chronic physical symptoms.

Is The Crawl Space Contaminated?

Thriving mold growth in the crawl space is often unnoticed by residents. Even when it’s suspected, the signs may be ambiguous:

  • A chronic musty odor emanating from below. It’s hard to miss, but it may be dismissed as simply common mildew or moisture-related issues.
  • Splotchy growth visible on wooden surfaces in the crawl space such as trusses and subflooring. The growth may be fuzzy or flat. Coloration is typically white or black, but may vary into greenish or purplish hues, too.

Because not everything that looks like mold is mold and not all mold types produce mycotoxins that trigger reactions in humans, inspection, air sampling and testing by a qualified mold remediation specialist is critical to confirm presence of mold and determine the type of growth.

How Is Mold Eliminated?

Successful mold remediation incorporates a two-fold approach:

  • All active mold growth must be located and physically removed. Then, contaminated surfaces are sterilized with EPA-approved disinfectants specially formulated for the type of mold. Where growing mold has penetrated the surface of wooden building materials, those components may need to be replaced.
  • To prevent recurrence, conditions that promote mold growth in the crawl space must be addressed. Moisture sources such as water intrusion during rain and plumbing leaks should be eliminated. The dirt floor may require a plastic vapor barrier to keep out rising soil moisture. In dry climates, addition of vents to increase crawl space cross-ventilation may discourage mold. Conversely, in humid climates, sealing the crawl space entirely and making it a conditioned zone of the house may be preferable.

3 Tips For Detecting Black Mold In Crawlspaces

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

black mold
Do you suspect black mold symptoms and growth in your home but can’t pinpoint the source? It may be under your feet. The crawl space beneath a house often provides the most mold-friendly conditions in the entire structure—moisture, darkness and ample food supply. As crawl spaces are also pretty creepy and most people avoid venturing there, mold may thrive undetected for years.

Black mold symptoms and growth originating in the crawl space typically aren’t contained there indefinitely, however. Airborne reproductive spores as small as 1 micron migrate through through tiny structural gaps, spreading contamination up into living spaces. Though certainly not all fungal growth turns out to be toxic black mold, here are three tips for detecting suspect contamination under your house:

  1. Trust your nose. Active mold growth releases pungent musty odors. As crawl space air carrying microscopic spores infiltrates rooms above, the air exchange also conveys those telltale smells. If a persistent mold-like scent cannot be traced to any obvious source inside the house, it’s time to call professional help to check the crawl space for mold growth.
  2. Follow the moisture. A crawl space affected by chronic water infiltration often harbors thriving mold. Sources of crawl space moisture may be inundation during heavy rains or leaks from household plumbing typically routed there. In locales with a high natural water table, moisture may exude from the dirt floor of the crawl space. Also, in humid climates, warm outdoor air entering the cool crawl space creates sufficient condensation on surfaces to trigger mold.
  3. Search for signs. Visual clues to mold growth in the crawl space are most conspicuous on its favorite food source—cellulose provided by raw wooden joists and beams. Exposed in the crawl space, wooden understructure and subflooring may appear conspicuously discolored, usually mottled gray or black, where mold grows. Decay is another side-effect of the same wet conditions that support mold growth, so wooden structure that appears rotted and deteriorated often harbors active mold, as well.

Black mold symptoms and growth patterns require professional expertise to accurately identify and effectively treat.

How To Detect Basement And Crawl Space Water Damage Before It’s Too Late!

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

basement water damage
Basement and crawl space water damage can continue unnoticed for some time. In many homes, these areas are infrequently visited and even less frequently carefully inspected. However, because household water supply lines as well as drain pipes are often routed through that part of the structure, basement and crawl space water damage is an all too common event.

Even minor seepage from water supply lines is important to know about and correct. No amount of leakage from these pipes is acceptable because it’s often an early warning of internal corrosion that may cause a major pipe rupture at any time, releasing hundreds of gallons of water per hour. However, you don’t need a catastrophic event to experience problems: even small drips can create an environment that supports growth of toxic mold. When this occurs in a remote part of the house like a basement or crawl space, mold contamination may be extensive.

To avoid basement and crawl space water damage, here are some steps you can take:

  • Visually inspect the area a few times per year. Look for any signs of leakage from plumbing pipes. If you notice any suspicious areas, contact a professional plumbing service for repair ASAP.
  • Utilize your sense of smell, too. A persistent pungent musty odor in a basement or crawl space often means mold growth. Mold is usually the result of undetected water leakage or other moisture infiltrating the zone.
  • In the basement, also look for ground water seepage through walls or floor. Sealing cracks and gaps in walls can help reduce ground water intrusion. If seepage up through the floor is noted, consider having a sump pump installed in the basement floor to reduce hydrostatic pressure and automatically remove water from the basement.
  • Water leak detectors strategically placed near water supply lines in the crawl space or basement can alert you with a loud alarm if a major pipe rupture occurs. These devices are battery-powered or plug into an AC outlet.


Landscaping Problems that Lead to Basement and Crawl Space Water Damage

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Basement and crawl space water damage can originate from both indoor and outdoor sources. Because they’re the lowest point in the house, basements and crawl spaces are often the final destination of water that leaks anywhere else inside the home. Rising groundwater from the soil beneath the house provides another source of basement and crawl space water damage. One of the major outdoor factors that promotes water intrusion at these lowest levels, however, is the landscaping surrounding the home. Water runs downhill and always follows the path of least resistance. These two facts dictate that the landscaping around your house either helps keep your basement and crawl space dry—or greatly contributes to water damage in those areas. Here are some things to do to make sure your landscaping isn’t working against you:

  • The grade of the landscape surrounding your home should be sloped away from the house so that water flows away from the foundation or crawl space. For the first four feet, the soil should slope downward about six inches to form a mini-berm that diverts water away and prevents pooling near the foundation or basement walls. Extending out into the yard, the slope can be more gentle, but there should be no areas of ground that slope toward the house.
  • If you are altering the landscape, always use clean, dense fill dirt for the area adjacent to the house—not topsoil. Porous topsoil provides little resistance to water soaking into the ground around the foundation, which then infiltrates through cracks in basement walls.
  • Flower beds next to the house may also promote basement and crawl space water damage. Beds generally comprise a large surface area of exposed, porous soil, readily absorbing water that then flows downward along the basement wall. Edgings around flower beds also cause water to pool, increasing ground absorption and infiltration into the house. Instead of flower beds immediately beside the house, landscaping with grass or other dense ground cover is recommended.

For more advice about preventing basement and crawl space water damage—or professional damage recovery services if it’s already a problem—contact Rytech, Inc.

4 Common Moisture Myths and the Facts You Need to Know

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

moisture mythsHousehold moisture myths abound, no matter what climate you may live in. Excess moisture may be an acute problem that results from obvious short-term events—or it may be an ongoing, chronic condition. No matter the cause, moisture spawns an array of damaging consequences inside a home. Dealing with it effectively means recognizing longstanding moisture myths, and taking steps based on facts instead. Here are four common misconceptions that just won’t go away:

Myth: Household water intrusion is usually a dramatic, acute event like flooding.

Fact: Significant moisture problems result from an accumulation of often insignificant sources: small, nagging plumbing leaks that go unaddressed, ongoing condensation that originates in the home’s HVAC system, external issues like landscape grading that directs rainwater toward the home, etc.

Myth: Moisture problems are always conspicuous and readily apparent to homeowners.

Fact: Actually, residents of a moisture-damaged home may be totally unaware of the developing problem. Longstanding moisture problems often go unnoticed because they tend to occur in areas of the house that are seldom visited or even glimpsed by occupants of the home. These include the crawl space, attic and interior wall voids.

Myth: Once the water is removed, the moisture problem is over.

Fact: The after-effects of severe moisture may not become apparent until much later. The growth of toxic mold, deterioration of wooden structural components and effects on electrical wiring and other components tend to be a delayed consequence of excess household moisture. These typically require professional treatment by a water damage specialist.

Myth: Residential building codes include many requirements that help protect against moisture problems.

Fact: Building codes typically only advise the installation of vapor barriers and ventilation of the attic as adequate moisture control. Intrusion of moisture due to rain leaks, rising ground water, basement seepage and other common sources are not addressed by most codes and may present far more troublesome moisture damage issues.

For professional help in separating moisture myths from reality, contact Rytech, Inc.

Before Restoration Comes Classification — The 4 Classes of Water Loss

Friday, April 4th, 2014

water damageBecause all water damage inside a home is not equal, effective water restoration services must be adaptable also. According to the specifics of the individual event, water inundation and the damage it wreaks can vary widely. To assess this variety of circumstances, water restoration specialists have developed a standardized rating system divided into four classes to quantify the water loss that caused the damage. This enables professionals to evaluate the particular requirements of the situation in advance and implement a proven plan of action to restore the healthy environment in your home. (more…)