The crawlspace is easily among the most ignored area of the entire house, but that oversight could be costly down the road.
Homeownership offers many benefits, but it’s not without its share of essential projects if you and your family want to stay dry, comfortable and protected from the elements. So, if it’s been a while since you’ve peeked under your home, make this the summer you get an up-close look at the crawlspace.
“Crawlspaces hold some of the home’s most critical systems. We’re talking plumbing, insulation, ventilation and often ductwork or electrical,” said Clark Public Utilities Energy Services Supervisor DuWayne Dunham. “If any of those are starting to fail, they can affect the entire home structure and the living conditions of the people above.”
The Pacific Northwest is a humid region. When the rain soaks into the ground, it wants to move into the dirt beneath your home. If that moisture becomes trapped, it can cause mold and rot issues in your home.
The vents in your foundation are there to help prevent that from happening. Start your crawlspace review there. Make sure the vents aren’t blocked by debris or manmade obstacles. The screens should be sturdy so animals can’t get in. If you have a habit of blocking your foundation vents in the winter, make this the last time you do. That was common practice before homes had floor insulation, but it’s an outdated and even harmful habit for the reasons described above.
With that inspection done, grab a flashlight and crawl in the crawlspace. Look at the plastic on the ground. That vapor barrier should cover the entirety of the ground beneath it. If necessary, spread it around farther or add more later.
Look at the insulation next. Homes should have at least R-19 insulation in the floors, but more is always better. Inspect yours for deterioration, damage by animals or sagging. Gaps are the biggest enemy of good insulation. Even small gaps around insulation or where facilities enter the floor can make a room feel cold and drafty in the winter or unusually warm in the summer, and allow bugs inside. Expanding foam is great for sealing gaps between facilities and wood. Adding or replacing insulation between the joists is easy.
“Thick and consistent insulation is among the top cost-effective energy-saving products a home can have. That should be near the top of every homeowner’s must-have list,” Dunham said. “Clark Public Utilities even offers incentives to our customers with electrically heated homes when they want to improve their insulation.”
Where you can, peek through the insulation to look at the wood beneath your floors. If you spot rot or damage, it may be time to call a contractor.
If your home has a radon mitigation system, make sure it’s in good condition as well.
On the way out, look at the crawlspace access door and make sure it’s insulated, weather stripped and fits with a tight seal.
For information about crawlspaces and prioritizing energy efficiency projects, call the Clark Public Utilities energy counselor of the day anytime during business hours at 360-992-3355 or visit clarkpublicutilities.com.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to email@example.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.