THE MOLDBUSTER GROUP LLC
SENSIBLE CRAWLSPACE SYSTEMS THAT WON'T BREAK THE BANK!
Dirty and Clean! The Space on the left is wet, dirty, rodent infested, mold infested, had leaks and collapsing insulation. It is not a nice place to be.
The space on the right had 8" of water in it, rodents, mold, collapsing insulation and was also not a nice place to be, until the owner turned us loose on it.
Now it is a nice
place to hang out!
Ahh, Crawlspaces...also known as "that place under the house where you REALLY don't want to go". Crawlspaces are common here in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, they are also one of the biggest contributors to bad indoor air, mold, rot, bugs and that "funky odor". It all stems from one irreconcilable fact...heat rises. The warm air in your house rises and works its' way thru and out the roof and attic. This creates low pressure in the house. Air tries to get in to fill that vacuum. Well...guess where the easiest place in the house is to draw from? The dampest, wettest, moldiest, smelliest place in your house...your Crawlspace. What is the solution? An encapsulated crawlspace system, the current state of the art in building science. We turn your wet, muddy, moldy, smelly crawlspace into a place that if you aren't careful, your kids might want to go hang out in!
Wet Crawlspace=Moldy Attic?!?
When we inspect attics and find mold, about 50% of the time we also find wet crawlspaces. Huh? Well...if you think about it, it makes sense. You see, fundamentally warm air rises. So...what does that have to do with it? Easy, during cold times of the year your house is heated. The warm air in the house rises and it will find its' way out. This creates lower pressure inside the house than outside the house...air will want to get in. Guess where the easiest place for air to get into your house is? You guessed it...the wettest, moldiest place in the house. So...your inside humidity rises...that air is heated and escapes into the attic where the moisture condenses on your attic sheathing and...TADA! Moldy attic.
Why Your Vapor Barrier Isn't a Barrier at All!
Building code calls for the builder to put down a layer of plastic, known as a vapor retarder or vapor barrier. Why? Because soil emits water vapor. In our wet area...a LOT of water vapor. This moisture builds up and will rot your house out if not properly contained. So, building code calls for builders to put down a layer plastic. Minimum code calls for 6 mil. Unfortunately, the code doesn't say what KIND of plastic. There in lies the problem. First, the plastic you'll find for "vapor barrier" at the hardware stores and construction supply stores is a product made from scraps of polyethylene melted together which is full of microscopic pinholes. These pinholes let thru a ton of water vapor. But wait...it gets even better....because of the way this material is constructed, it will actually break down when placed in contact with soil. That's right, the vapor barrier sold to put onto your dirt is NOT SOIL CONTACT RATED! The alkalinity in the soil breaks down the vapor barrier in as short as a year. THAT is smart! Then to make matters worse, they don't seal the seams nor do they seal the vapor barrier to the walls. The result is a ton of vapor and even straight water leakage coming into your crawlspace and into your home. In a dry area, this isn't a problem. But this is the Pacific Northwest. Is it dry here? Nope. No wonder nearly every crawlspace we go into smells musty!
Double Up Your Vapor Barrier, Double Your Mold.
What does that mean? Well, we see one common thing over and over again...contractors or homeowners put down new thin plastic vapor barrier over the old vapor barrier. BAD IDEA! REALLY REALLY REALLY BAD IDEA! Why? This creates pockets of moisture with organic materials trapped in them. This is a recipe tailor made for a TON of mold growth...particularly Penicillum mold here in the Pac Northwest. Got headaches? Penicillum is a common culprit. Some of the worst indoor air tests we've ever seen for mold were traced back to this problem. If you are going to replace you vapor barrier...REPLACE IT!
VAPOR BARRIERS DONE RIGHT
So, what is the solution? Well until recently the solutions were to either remove the cheap, thin plastic and put down another layer and do it every several years and hope the crawlspace doesn't get moldy...or to do a fully sealed system with an ultra thick multi-layer reinforced polyethylene barrier. The second option is known as a crawlspace encapsulation barrier and it is THE best thing you can do to your crawlspace. Problem is, an encapsulated crawlspace system, while really effective, was also REALLY expensive! Crawlspace Encapsulation vapor barrier costs cause severe sticker shock. We recently looked at a quote from one of our competitors given to one of our clients for their crawlspace. The vapor barrier alone cost as much as a used car....over $5000....JUST FOR THE VAPOR BARRIER! We knew there HAD to be an alternative. So...we did the research and discovered a reasonably priced crawlspace vapor barrier which is not only effective but it also won't break the bank. So what is the difference?
What the competition offers is a 20 mil reinforced virgin polyethylene product. Now, don't get us wrong, it is VERY effective. It is also heinously expensive...I mean really really expensive! Actually, we CAN install the same 20 mil vapor barrier at about 1/2 the price they do. But what we discovered was a heavy string-reinforced virgin polyethylene vapor barrier. Essentially a lightly thinner version which turns out to be WAY more cost effective. When the technical specifications were compared, we were shocked! It is within 5% of the 20 mil vapor barrier at less than 1/5 the cost! The 20 mil product is great, but lets face it, for the difference in price, we can install a full encapsulated vapor barrier system AND a crawlspace dehumidifier AND a Sump Pump...and you'll still be money ahead! That 5% difference? A crawlspace dehumidifier can handle it...really! Oh, and to answer the inevitable question...why do I need a dehumidifier if I have a fully sealed crawlspace? Simple. Because there will always be a small amount of moisture which will come into the crawlspace from tiny gaps. Plus, you get moisture which will come in from the house above. The dehumidifier keeps the air and structure in the crawlspace nice and dry.
We are constantly searching for a better mousetrap. Better and more cost effective technology for our clients. We not only discovered a GREAT crawlspace dehumidifier, but it turn out it is made right here in our back yard in Washington! Made by a company who specializes in Dehumidification systems in extreme environments. What is even better, it is actually reasonably priced! We maintain our crawlspace dehumidifer is BETTER than the competition's crawlspace dehumidifier and ours costs 40% less money. The only maintainance involved is to check the filter once a year and change it if necessary...which is super easy. At a mere 14" x 10" x 24", it is compact enough to fit into even the most cramped crawlspace. It also has selectable output ducting, making it super flexible. We've installed lots of them for out clients and we are thrilled with the results!
If your crawlspace has standing water, you will need a sump pump system. And if you do, once again, we save you some money. We looked at the competition...they tout a 1/3 HP Zoeller Sump Pump on their website to which we say Bravo! Zoeller is one of THE BEST pumps out there! That happens to be the same pump we use! They also have a nice sump basin with a cover on it...well, so do we! They charge $1500 for their pump and basin and cover! Um...we don't. We charge less than 1/3rd of that. Hmmm.
First things first...if your structure is extremely wet, we will dry it out using our BioDry system. Once your structure is nice and dry, we take out the nasty old vapor barrier. Then we assess the crawlspace. Will it need a sump pump and drainage system? If it does, we install it which entails digging trenches and installing filter cloth, gravel and french drains if needed. A licensed electrician installs the electrical circuit to run the sump and dehumidifier. We encourage you to put in lights at the same time (really...we love lights!). A sump pit is dug and installed along with the sump pump and sump discharge drain system. Following this, we install your new crawlspace encapsulation vapor barrier. It is taped at the seams with a special waterproof tape. If the soil is extremely wet, we may use a second waterproof butyl rubber tape for additional water sealing. If your concrete walls are extremely wet, we recommend sealing them with Kevin's Killer Koncrete Koating to cut down on the moisture transmission into the space. Then our guys go to work with a roto hammer, drilling a ton of little holes in your concrete wall (they are 1/4", so not to worry!). Those holes are for the mechanical fasteners we use to hold up the barrier along with a special butyl caulk or tape which seals the vapor barrier to the walls. Then we clean out any mold, fix your insulation and do any other repairs necessary. Last but not least, our guys clean up (which we don't charge $1000 for...no really, that is what a competitor quoted!), install your Dehumidifier and VOILA! Your crawlspace is now transformed into a clean, healthy space.
To Insulate Or Not...That is the Question
One thing we noticed our competition saying....If you opt for a fully encapsulated crawlspace with a crawlspace dehumidifier, you can remove the insulation in your crawlspace because it isn't needed. Well, there we disagree. Yes, your crawlspace WILL definitely be warmer. Without the exterior cold air blowing in through the vents, it means your crawlspace will not get as cold. BUT...it may still get cold! Why? Because your ground temperature is cold (soil temperature in the winter averages about 45-50 degrees in our area) and your exterior crawlspace walls are uninsulated. These two factors keep your crawlspace at a cool temperature nearly year around. While the crawlspace dehumidifier and your HVAC ducting does add a bit of heat, it may not be enough to overcome the cold from the earth. If your house is 65-70 degrees and your crawlspace is 45-55 degrees and your remove the insulation, you may have a cold floor. If your insulation is bad and budget dictates choosing between insulation and the crawlspace Dehumidifier, we'll always recommend the crawlspace Dehumidifier because the benefits outweigh wearing a pair of slippers. Save your pennies and get it insulated when you can. If the current insulation is servicable and the crawlspace wasn't moldy or rodent infested, our recommendation will always be to leave and repair the existing insulation. Makes sense to us!
Cleaner, drier indoor air...a LOT cleaner indoor air. No more mold or rot in your crawlspace. Fewer bugs and rodents (the bugs need the water, the rodents need the water and the bugs). And even some energy savings. Yeah, now we've got your attention! Yes...doing a crawlspace system like this can save you money on heating costs. Because it is harder for the air to get into the house from down below, it is conversely harder for the nice heated warm air to escape the house during the heating season. Technically, this limits the stack effect draw from the crawlspace. More warm air stays inside. Last but not least, less moisture in your attic which often migrates from the crawlspace.