Many commercial property owners struggle with the problem of how to create an efficient and effective ‘crawl space’. Crawl spaces are not necessarily a bad thing – they provide a great deal of space for storage and utility provision – but they are often overlooked as an important part of any building’s design. With careful planning, a properly sized and utilised crawl space can have numerous benefits for any property owner.
A typical crawl space is usually an unoccupied, incomplete, dark, unenclosed space below the original ground level of a building. The word ‘crawl’ itself originally meant ‘dirt’ but has since been adopted to describe the wide, open area below ground level that can be used for storage, utilities, and more. The termites love to build their nests in these areas, creating huge holes and other structural damage that will continue to affect your building’s ventilation, heating, and electricity. The worst type of structural damage caused by termites is rotting wood, which will mean you need to replace all of your damaged wood with new, treated hardwood.
Unfortunately, the damage caused by termites isn’t the only thing you have to worry about. Mold, mildew and other kinds of fungi can also cause major problems if you don’t seal your crawl space. Mold and mildew can permeate the concrete slab on which your foundation is laid, and it will travel up through the concrete pipe on your outside wall. You may not notice it at first, but the longer it goes unnoticed, the harder it is to stop the spread of mold. In some severe cases, concrete can crack completely, allowing moisture, rain, and other conditions to get inside your home.
A good quality crawl space foundation should include a leak proof system for the main structure of the house, including your foundation footer drains. If there are any cracks or openings in the footers or the foundation footer drain system, this will allow rain and other weathering conditions to penetrate your home and build up in the crawl space. An unheated crawl space can also increase your home’s internal temperature, which will have an effect on your home’s heating costs as well as your overall health. A leaky foundation slab foundation allows rain and other weathering conditions to penetrate your house, potentially causing rotting floors, rusted metal foundations, and other structural damage.
The second thing you want to look at is your crawl space vent system. This includes your heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, as well as your plumbing. Many homes with crawl spaces do not have any type of plumbing system installed inside of them, so they must have plumbing vents in place. Leaks in your plumbing vents are a common problem and can cause unpleasant odors and water leaks.
Your third consideration in improving your crawl space foundation is to make sure there aren’t any structural integrity problems. One way to check for structural integrity issues is to note what kind of soil materials are used to fill in your crawl space. If the soil is packed hard, there may be no option other than to rip out the existing concrete and start from scratch. However, if the soil is loose, it may be possible to add some sand or gypsum to the soil, while also adding a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from getting inside. Adding a vapor barrier will also help keep mold from forming in your crawl space if mold has gotten in there through the cracks and crevices in the soil.