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Director of Business Development
Basement Systems of West Virginia
Each year in America, homes are built with crawl spaces that almost guarantee rotting wood and unhealthy indoor air.
Clarksburg, WV - May 2, 2016
Each year in America, an estimated 250,000 homes are built with crawl spaces that almost guarantee the indoor air will be unhealthy and the wood in the home will rot long before it ever should. These new homes completed every year are in addition to the nearly 30 million existing homes built to standards that are more in line with the building sciences of the 1950s than what is known today.
“Almost every day, our specialists inspect crawl spaces with mold or mildew growing on floor joists, floor joists rotting, and excess moisture creating an environment that is more conducive to helping insects thrive than to creating healthy indoor air for families,” said Ricki Edwardson, President of Basement Systems of West Virginia. “In reality, this is a national epidemic that not only costs homeowners tens of thousands of dollars in the long run in home repairs, but also often creates an unhealthy environment for people living in the home above.”
According to Edwardson, most crawl spaces rely on a thin layer of cheap plastic on the ground, vents on foundation walls and French drains around the perimeter of the foundation walls to control moisture. The problem, she said, is that the plastic doesn’t completely seal out the moisture from the ground, foundation vents actually do more to wet the crawl space than dry it out in the summer, and French drains, which clog over time, cannot prevent all of the moisture from entering porous concrete block walls -- even when the home is new.
Edwardson said that the solution is to encapsulate the crawl space, completely sealing out the moisture from foundation walls and the ground below, and then control moisture and water that might enter the crawl space with dehumidifiers and/or sump pumps. By doing this, she said, water and moisture levels can be controlled, the indoor air will be significantly cleaner and healthier, and the wood in the home will not rot before its time. She explained that other benefits include creating a much cleaner and healthier environment that results in fewer pests and heating/cooling bills that are reduced by up to 20%.
“Studies have shown that between 1/3 and 1/2 of the air in a home comes from the crawl space below,” she said. “Because of the ‘stack’ effect of air rising in a home, the dirty air in your crawl space ends up being what you breathe in your home above. For someone with allergy or asthma problems, this dirty air with mold spores can trigger severe attacks.”
Edwardson said that her employees see problems in many crawl spaces across West Virginia – from water-laden fiberglass insulation to soaked floor joists that have rotted in two, and even sagging floors caused by excess moisture weakening the wood that supports a home. All of this could have been prevented, she explained, if only the home had been built according to the building sciences of today, rather than what was recommended in the 1950s.
“Building codes across the nation are just now starting to catch up with the known science about crawl spaces,” Edwardson said. “Although a home may have been built to ‘code’ at the time, the extensive scientific knowledge gained the past 50 years is beginning to change those building codes. Even the Environmental Protection Agency now says that foundation vents in most cases do more to wet a crawl space than dry it out, yet most homes with crawl spaces continue to be built with foundation vents.”
Edwardson said that a lot of resources are available online to help homeowners understand the science behind crawl spaces. She said that using remote weather stations, homeowners can check their crawl space’s temperature and humidity levels, then can assess the risk for wood rot and mold growth by using an online calculator at: http://www.dpcalc.org/. She said that doing an internet search for “controlling moisture in crawl space” can also produce a wealth of information for homeowners. In addition, she said that her company’s website, www.basementsystemswv.com, has dozens of useful articles, blogs and even case studies that explain more about the science behind crawl spaces.
“We want to educate homeowners so that they not only know what should be done with their crawl space, but also so that they can be knowledgeable enough to demand the crawl spaces in their new homes are built to the standards of today,” she explained. “Imagine building a brand new home and then having a washer fall through a rotted floor 16 years later. This is what happens when your crawl space has excess moisture. Sadly, we see and hear these types of horror stories all the time in homes all across West Virginia.”