In order to have complete crawl space encapsulation, it needs to be 100% CLOSED OFF. Sounds easy, right? Well, most companies that deal with crawl spaces only close them off without actually fixing the problems first. Sure, you can seal off a crawl space but without properly handling issues like drainage first, you’ll have problems only a few months after the work has been completed.
First and Foremost: Water Issues
While this is not necessary in every job, water issues may require a drainage system. This is done on a case-by-case basis and you need to make sure that the job is done correctly. Before signing on with a company to fix your crawl space, ask about how they will handle your water/moisture problems before closing off the area. If they don’t give you a comprehensive analysis of your current water problems (if you have any) and a clear example of how to fix it beforehand, you might want to start shopping the job to another company.
Longevity of Your Liners
There are many brands of plastic liners that claim to last for 15 years or more and if you search on Google, you’ll find many products that will make these claims. But I’m here to tell you firsthand that those claims are absolutely false – we replace these types of “professional liners” all the time. Other companies have told homeowners and contractors that they will last that long but the maximum lifespan of these plastic liners is about 6 years. Let me repeat that again: only 6 years. No one replaces Neutocrete with a plastic liner but we replace those all the time with Neutocrete.
And don’t even get me started on the 4, 6 or 10 mil plastic sheets from the hardware store. Those will last you a year, TOPS!
But let’s assume they tell you they’re using the “high end” plastic liners…if that’s the case, the question you have to ask yourself is this: do you want to keep redoing your crawl space encapsulation every six years? Unless you’re planning to move to Florida before that time is up, you’ll have to repeat this procedure 4 times in the next 20 years. And every time you do that, you’re allowing more and more chemicals and odors from the materials and work that they’re doing to waft up into your house while the job is being done.
Why Does This Happen?
Go put a plastic sheet on your lawn for a day and see what happens. Condensation will form on that sucker like nobody’s business. This moisture will begin to create mold, bacteria and other fungus that will start to affect the air quality in no time. Never mind that, you’ve now created a tiny ecosystem on that sheet of plastic which will lead a very common progression: mold > bacteria > insects > rodents. How do you think that’s all going to hold up on a single sheet of plastic? Not so well, right?
And that’s only the first part of it.
Companies that deal with crawl space encapsulation have to install separate sheets the plastic lining – there is never a plastic lining that will cover the whole crawl space in one shot. So remember when I mentioned that you’re letting more harmful chemicals into the air of your living space? That’s because the have to use glues and caulks and adhesive tapes to fit the plastic sheeting together to stick. Over time, these deteriorate, joints separate, rodents can also eat through the plastic which reverts us back to the original problem! Because it’s not one contiguous shield, the plastic lining becomes very susceptible to outside forces breaking through the weak spots. Not to mention what happens if the person applying the plastic misses a spot with his glue or makes a hole in the lining with his pliers. That whole, while invisible to the human eye (or not seen by him because he’s in a dark crawl space) will grow bigger and bigger and more moisture, bacteria and junk will begin to consume the plastic lining rendering totally useless over a short period of time.
The Best Options?
There are a couple of things you need to have in order to effectively encapsulate your crawl space:
- a sealant that is all in one piece
- no breaks in the shield due to glue, nails, etc.
- a product that is 100% waterproof
- a system that doesn’t have to be used in conjunction with the vapor barrier – it IS the vapor barrier