If you have a crawl space, there's some special maintenance you need to perform

The Lowdown On Your Crawl Space

by Debra Karplus

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According to EyeOnHousing.org - the site of the National Associal of Homebuilders - in their Survey of Construction (SOC) report, in 2013, 54% of new homes were built on slabs, 30% had full or partial basements, and 15% only had a crawl space. Building a home with a basement is most costly in time and materials, and building on a slab is quick, cheap and easy. Construction of a home or townhouse with a crawl space is somewhere in between.

If your house has a crawl space rather than a basement, there are some things you'll need to know to maintain your home and your own health, especially pertaining to mold. Your main concern should be to keep your crawl space as dry as possible. You don't want damage from water, but perhaps more important, you don't want vapors in the air that transform into mold. After buying a new property, a home inspector will check the crawl space. Be sure to scrutinize the inspector's report and ask lots of questions.

Keep water from getting into the house by tweaking some conditions outside. If you have a patio or porch or other concrete surfaces around your house, be sure there are no cracks or gaps where rain water can ooze into the foundation of the house. With a caulk gun and elastic concrete caulk (approximately $5 per tube), you can easily eliminate places where water can get in. Go to your local hardware store or home improvement center and talk to the expert there about additional products that can help tighten up these paved areas around your home. If your patio appears to slope toward the house, you may need to hire someone to 'mud jack' it. This process involves making a small hole in the patio concrete and pouring in mud to raise it.

Check the grading of the soil around your property. Soil and grass must slope away from the home so rainwater will flow away from the house, not into it. But don't overdo the slope. Too much slope isn't good either. Calculate the square footage of the area needing more soil to fix grading problems and find an online calculator to determine the amount of topsoil needed. If you only need a very little bit of topsoil, most any hardware store will have it for $1 - $2 per 40# bag. But more likely you'll need more soil than that. Expect to pay about $25 per cubic yard. If you cannot pick it up in your own truck, figure in the delivery cost. If you must hire someone to spread the topsoil, there'll be an additional charge.

The Lowdown On Your Crawl Space

Gutter downspouts must point away from the house and be directed several feet away from the house. Start by cleaning each of your downspouts then assess your need for downspout extensions (approximately $8 each).

Foundation vents are controversial. Some professionals say you need them. Others say to remove them. It's recommendended to keep them closed during winter to keep pipes from freezing and to keep your downstairs floors from getting too cold, but keep vents open during summer months. The logic is that the open vents help with air circulation in the crawl space. But the vent controversy comes into play in places where there is rain or high levels of humidity; do open vents help the crawl space stay drier, or do they in fact let in more moisture?

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Keep the crawl space area as vapor-free as possible from the inside. A vapor barrier is a large piece of 6 mil heavy-duty plastic intended to keep moisture and vapor below the house, keeping inside air dry. When selecting material for the vapor barrier, don't take short cuts; this isn't the time for frugality or you won't get the desired results. The vapor barrier must be carefully spread across the entire crawl space bottom to all edges, and should go up all walls about 6 to 12 inches. It's okay if the pea gravel beneath the vapor barrier is damp. The vapor barrier, if installed properly, will prevent dangerous mold-producing vapors from getting into the house.

Do you need a sump pump, dehumidifier or fan? A sump pump will pump standing water out, but can't eliminate dampness, so don't be in a hurry to have a pump installed in a crawl space that's simply damp. A dehumidifier will take moisture out of the area and may be beneficial. Fans can help circulate air.

Assess your crawl space and determine what's needed to keep it as dry as possible.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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