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IBA Crew in Crawl space with PVC

Crawl Space Water

If you wouldn’t stand for flooding in your home, you shouldn’t stand for flooding in your crawl space. Learn about the problem signs to avoid future foundation damage.

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If a crawl space is not properly repaired or encapsulated, it’s often known to be humid and dirty. It’s very common for such crawl spaces to have problems with flooding, leaking, and dampness. With that said, just because it’s common, that doesn’t mean it should happen or that it should be ignored. 

crawl space water problem

As a homeowner, water in your crawl space should worry you for two reasons: It indicates problems in the way your foundation drains water and it leads to future foundation issues. 

Crawl space problems can sometimes be difficult to catch. Crawl spaces are usually an afterthought in the mind of many homeowners, and not a lot of people spend time down there. Some might not even be able to access their crawl space safely. 

There are multiple problem signs that indicate issues with crawl space water and flooding, so let’s explore the problem signs that will tip you off early before too much damage has set in. 

Crawl Space Water Problems 

Understanding the signs that point to crawl space water problems can save your home from experiencing terrible structural damage. Not all crawl spaces have water problems in the same way. It can either be full-on flooding with the water depth reaching a few inches to just condensation. Regardless of how much water gets in, most homes with wet crawl spaces display the same issues. 

High Humidity 

Not only does water make your crawl space humid, but it also increases the overall humidity in your home. If your crawl space frequently floods or leaks, it’s likely poorly insulated. Due to the stack effect, the humid, warm air in your crawl space rises and infiltrates the rest of your home. This can happen anytime your crawl space is flooded, but it’s more likely to happen during the summer. 

Fargo, ND, and Rush City, MN, both have extremely humid and hot summers. Coincidentally, June is the rainiest month for both of these cities. Because of all the rain, your crawl space is most likely to flood during this time. Since it’s all coming from your crawl space, opening the windows to air out the humidity won’t work as long as there is water down there. 

Wood Rot 

If there’s water anywhere in your crawl space, there will most likely also be wood rot. Wood rot is a result of fungi infesting wood. Fungi are microorganisms that live and grow by eating away at organic material. This means that your wood will slowly break down as the fungi grow. If your wood is decaying and is structurally unsound, it will no longer be able to support your floor. This will result in sagging floors. 

There are many types of fungi that can infest your wood, but the most common ones are brown rot and soft rot. Brown rot (also known as dry rot) is a type of fungus that is able to pull moisture from far away, so it’s a bit difficult to get rid of. It breaks wood apart in multiple little squares, resembling termite damage. Unlike other fungi, it doesn’t make the wood soft, but it does leave red, dusty spores. 

Soft rot is the kind of fungus that does leave wood with a spongy texture. They sometimes leave a pattern similar to brown rot. Brown rot can die when faced with extreme temperatures, be it hot or cold. Soft rot, however, is able to survive intense climates, making them hard to get rid of in their own way. 

Part of the reason it’s so important to get rid of water in your crawl space is due to wood rot. Rotten wood will never go back to its former strength and cannot support your home the way it used to. Once wood begins to rot, there’s a very slim window of opportunity for the wood to be saved, and unfortunately, many homeowners miss this chance. Replacing the wood can usually be avoided with professional help.

Mold 

Like wood rot, mold in your crawl space should not be ignored. Although it doesn’t seem like it, mold can actually live within concrete and destroy it. Concrete is partially made of organic materials, so mold also affects it. A moldy concrete wall or pillar eventually deteriorates, cracks, and breaks apart. These cracks create even more openings for water to seep through. 

Mold identifies itself through its color and smell. Often white, green, gray, or black in color, mold has a particular musty, old smell that almost anyone is able to identify. Still, it’s not recommended that you get up close and personal with the mold in your crawl space just to examine it due to health issues. If you’re unsure about the amount of mold you have in your crawl space, hire an expert for an inspection. 

Mold doesn’t only affect your crawl space. The stack effect makes it so that mold spores can also rise within your home. They not only cause mold growth, but they can also trigger allergies. If you feel like there’s more mold in your home than usual and like your nose has been itchier than usual, you might need to check your crawl space for water. 

Check your crawl space insulation
Wet Crawl Space Insulation 

Certain kinds of insulation materials work terribly in crawl spaces. Crawl spaces are usually the most humid part of any home, and any absorbent material will take in all that moisture and fall apart with time. A material like fiberglass, which is commonly used for insulation, stops functioning when it suffers water damage. The best kind of insulation material for a crawl space would be reflective insulation, which bounces the heat around in a space. Reflective insulation is usually impermeable and does not lose its insulation properties due to moisture, so it lasts longer and is more effective. 

Without proper insulation, there will be less thermal control in your crawl space. This can lead to higher energy bills, cold floors, and even more moisture. 

Foundation Damage 

Water can damage your foundation in a number of ways, primarily by breaking apart the materials that make up your crawl space. This kind of damage does not cause isolated problems and does affect the structure of your home. Signs that water in your crawl space has been going on for too long include jammed windows and doors, wall cracks, and sagging floors. These signs point to foundation damage, which indicates long-standing water issues. 

The biggest problem with crawl space water is that it creates a bit of a vicious cycle. Water comes in and causes foundation damage, which only worsens the leaking. This is why it’s so important to check for water in your crawl space as soon as you notice foundation damage. 

Burst Pipes 

Your crawl space harbors a lot of your home’s pipes. Wet pipes are troublesome during the winter because of the freeze-thaw effect. When water freezes, it expands considerably and creates micro-tears within the material it saturates. Over time, these tears become bigger until the pipes burst open. 

Leaking Vents 

Crawl spaces are commonly built with vents. This is due to old building methods that believed air vents helped with airing out and reducing crawl space humidity. Now we know that this isn’t the case and vents actually let water and moisture through. When checking for crawl space water, always look toward the vent. If you notice that the area around the vent has water stains, then that’s where the water is coming from. If you’re unable to take a close look to confirm, try pointing a flashlight toward the vent to see if you can spot the discoloration. You can also typically see droplets form or feel with your hand any excess condensation or moisture.

Why Aren’t Crawl Spaces Built to Be Waterproof? 

Crawl spaces that are ventilated or made of dirt are problematic. It’s very easy for water to get in and ruin your foundation. You might be wondering: If having water and moisture in your crawl space is so bad for a home, why aren’t crawl spaces built to be waterproof? It’s unfortunate that such an important thing that can be done while the house is being built has to be taken care of by the homeowner after problems arise. The answer lies in traditions and building codes. 

Tradition 

It was traditionally believed that in order for an enclosed space to stay dry, it needed to be ventilated. While this is true for spaces above ground, this is not true for crawl spaces, which are partially underground. For one, crawl spaces are surrounded by moist soil, so there’s always some sort of water or water vapor permeating through the space. Given a crawl space’s closeness to the ground, it’s very easy for rainwater to get in through the yard. 

For decades, construction companies have been building crawl spaces a certain way. Even after understanding more about crawl space water problems, it’s simply more convenient for crews to build crawl spaces the way it’s always been done. Unless it’s required of them, contractors will not spend extra resources on building a waterproof crawl space. 

Building Codes 

In some states, building codes have yet to be updated to include waterproofing solutions. Contractors see these outdated codes and prefer to follow them to a T instead of implementing new building methods. A lot of these codes actively encourage ventilated crawl spaces, some contractors will not go against those codes. 

Even if the contractor did want to waterproof a crawl space, because of the codes, it can be time-consuming to get the permits required to make the necessary installations. Sometimes, it takes a long time for building codes to be updated, and because of this, crawl spaces continue to be constructed without any waterproofing measures. 

Crawl Space Water

FAQs

If you understand the importance of having a dry crawl space, you’ll understand how difficult it can sometimes be to keep that area clear of water. Is there anything that can be done to make sure you never have to deal with crawl space water again? Luckily for you, there is. 

  • Crawl Space Waterproofing 

Crawl spaces can be fully waterproofed if you invest in the following measures: interior drainage, a sump pump, a vapor barrier, insulation, and a dehumidifier. Interior drainage collects water that leaks inside and direct it to a sump pump system. The sump pump then pumps this water out of and away from the crawl space. Insulation panels help control airflow and deter humid air from entering or exiting the crawl space. A durable vapor barrier is used on the walls and floor to encapsulate the crawl space and stop water vapor from entering the space. A dehumidifier helps clean and filter the crawl space air, as well as keep the humidity levels low. 

You might think that this is all too much for a crawl space, but if you live in Rush City, MN, and Fargo, ND, it’s all necessary. The soil in these two cities has a lot of clay in them, which means they are able to retain water well. North Dakota and Minnesota both have continental climates, so the summers are very humid. You’ll need all the help you can get to keep your crawl space dry. 

  • Foundation Repairs 

Even with waterproofing measures in place, it’s still important that you do everything you can to keep water away from your foundation. This will keep the sump pump and dehumidifiers from overworking and slows down soil shrinking and expansion. Consulting a landscaping company to grade your yard and re-grade if needed will help rainwater flow away from your crawl space. 

The most important thing is that you keep water away from your home. Even simple alterations, like extended downspouts and interior drain systems, all help your crawl space stay as dry as possible. If you would like to know what other home improvement measures you can take, contact a crawl space waterproofing expert for an inspection. 

To many homeowners, water in a crawl space is little more than a nuisance. After all, a crawl space is meant to protect your ground floor from soil, snow, water, and whatever else might ruin a home’s structure. What many may not realize, however, is that a crawl space is the most important part of a home’s structure. If you wouldn’t want water in your home, you don’t want it in your crawl space. 

Water is a damaging element that can destroy your crawl space. The problems that come with a water-damaged crawl space are many and they end up costing you a lot of money in the long run. 

  • Structural Problems 

Water in your crawl space has the potential to damage your foundation in multiple ways. Wood rot is a common problem in water-damaged spaces and it’s one of the leading causes of sagging floors. Due to frost damage, water also damages the surface of your concrete, making large cracks and gaps more likely and allowing for further leaking. 

Too much damage to your home’s foundation causes settling. Having your home sink to one side is the worst thing that can happen to it because the entire house is eventually affected as things begin to break apart. A settling foundation means warped window and door frames, more leaking problems, more humidity, and higher energy bills. The more the house is allowed to settle, the more severe the problems will be and the more you will have to pay to repair. 

  • Health Problems 

Where there is standing water, there is humidity. Water in your crawl space increases the overall humidity levels of both the crawl space and your home. This leads to mold growth. Mold is more than just an ugly stain on your walls—it’s a microorganism that eats away at organic matter. Being exposed to mold triggers allergies and irritates your nose, eyes, throat, skin, and lungs. 

Due to the stack effect, the air that’s in your uninsulated crawl space is the same air you breathe in your home. Long-term exposure to mold can cause permanent damage to your respiratory system. Chronic allergic rhinitis and mycotoxicosis (mold poisoning) are just two of the many health issues you can struggle with if you allow water and mold in your crawl space. 

Call Innovative Basement Authority for Crawl Space Repair 

If your crawl space keeps flooding with water, it’s time for you to call Innovative Basement Authority. We’re a crawl space waterproofing and foundation repair company that services Minneapolis and Rush City, MN, Fargo, ND, Sioux Falls, SD, and the surrounding areas. Since 2005, we’ve been helping homeowners maintain a dry, functional crawl space.

With Innovative Basement Authority, everything is easy. All you have to do is contact us for a free inspection and we’ll send a field expert to inspect your home in no time at all. During this free, no-commitment inspection, our expert will point out the problems, give you solutions, and give you an estimate of what it will all cost. So don’t hesitate. A water-free crawl space is just a phone call away.

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Innovative Basement Authority Service Map

We service Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Eastern Montana for basement waterproofing and crawl space repair.

Fargo, ND

1330 41st St. N
Fargo, ND 58102

Minneapolis, MN

6265 Carmen Ave.
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

Rush City, MN

1325 S Frandsen Ave
Rush City, MN 55069

Sioux Falls, SD

101 S. Reid Street, Suite 307
Sioux Falls, SD 57103