Some homeowners might choose to take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach when it comes to their crawl space. However, it can be very costly to ignore the hazards that may be lurking down there, like mold, pests, and structural damage. Don’t overlook the repairs that might be needed in your crawl space. Depending on the condition of your crawl space, it may even be worthwhile to invest in a complete overhaul, especially if you’d like to utilize hundreds of square feet of unused space in your home’s current footprint.

Any pollutants, like mold, in the crawl space air can leak into the living areas above, and when the heating and air conditioning system is in the crawl space, that contaminated air is even more readily circulated throughout the home. That’s one reason why it’s important to minimize moisture, and current research shows that a sealed crawl space is superior to a vented crawl space in controlling moisture as well as deterring pests and improving energy efficiency. For further information on the benefits of a sealed crawl space, check out this blog.

It’s not advisable to store items in a vented crawl space due to the high risk of damage to belongings from humidity, mold, and pests, but since a closed crawl space keeps moisture and pests out, it’s suitable for storage. More extensive crawl space conversions can even make the space livable. Here are two possible ways to renovate your crawl space and turn it into usable space:

Crawl Space Encapsulation

Encapsulation involves completely sealing the crawl space. Important preliminary steps should be taken, including repairing any cracks or instability in the foundation as well as eliminating the risk of water entering the space. Crawl space waterproofing is often achieved through proper grading and a perimeter drainage system that includes a sump pump. Another possible initial step is to opt for insulation to be installed on the walls and/or floors.

After the space is properly prepared, the perimeter walls, doors, and vents are sealed, and the floor and walls, if not insulated, are lined with a vapor retarder—often sheets of heavy-duty polyethylene. High-quality tape is used to make all seams airtight. If desired, a concrete slab may also be poured over the vapor retarder. Finally, to regulate the air and keep the space dry, a dehumidifier is installed, or the current heating and air system is used to condition the space. In the end, an encapsulated crawl space resembles a large, covered pool because the white liner spreads out over almost everything.

Crawl Space to Basement Conversion

The most extensive crawl space renovation is converting it into a basement to add more living space. This is a major undertaking, so it’s critical to have a careful plan designed and executed by professionals.

Crawl spaces are named as such for a reason, so vertical height must be added to make the space habitable and up to code. This typically means that the foundation of the house must be altered; the crawl space floor is dug deeper; additional footings, posts, and beams are installed; and new concrete foundation walls and floors are poured. Once the new form is set, utilities, access points, and stairs will need to be built; then, the basement will still need to be finished with flooring, wall panels, and ceilings. The end result is a brand-new, livable space—perhaps complete with your dream workspace or entertainment room—that can dramatically increase the square footage and value of your house.

Encapsulation and basement conversion are complex projects, so they’re best left to contractors specializing in crawl space work. A Best Pick waterproofing and foundation repair expert can evaluate your home’s crawl space and provide renovation recommendations suitable for your budget and needs.

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Sources: Aquaguard Foundation Solutions; Building Science; Daily Herald; Engineered Solutions of Georgia; EPA.

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