An illuminated crawl space under a home

Every decision we make has pros and cons, and crawl space encapsulation is no different. Weighing the pros and cons is the best way to make any decision, especially regarding your home. 

Encapsulating your crawl space can be a big undertaking, so you should carefully consider its benefits and downsides before deciding to proceed.

So, if you’re thinking about encapsulating your crawl space, this article will provide you with the pros and cons of this home improvement project so you can make an informed decision.

What Are the Biggest Pros and Cons of Encapsulating Your Crawl Space?

The most significant pro of crawl space encapsulation is that it can help prevent moisture and mold problems. It also keeps pests out and your energy bills down. But, on the flip side, encapsulating your crawl space can be expensive, and you can end up with a nasty odor.

What Is Crawl Space Encapsulation?

Crawl space encapsulation is sealing off your crawl space from the outside environment. This process usually involves installing a vapor barrier on the ground and walls and adding insulation. 

The goal is to create a space isolated from the rest of your home, which can help prevent moisture and mold problems.

The two ways to encapsulate a crawl space include:

  • Double encapsulation – this method is an alarming trend we’ve seen with rogue waterproofing contractors. They’ll put a new vapor barrier on top of old plastic that’s already falling apart, which is usually cheaper and faster than removing the old plastic, but you could end up with odor problems.
  • Single encapsulation – this route is the best way to do it, and it’s how we do it. You’ll first remove the old plastic (if there is any) and install a new vapor barrier adequately anchored to the walls and floor. This installation will last longer, prevent odors, and keep your crawl space dry.
A serviceman installs a vapor barrier on the ceiling in a basement

Why Should You Encapsulate Your Crawl Space?

You might want to consider crawl space encapsulation for several reasons. Moisture issues is the most common reason, but there are other pros and cons. 

Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons to encapsulate your crawl space.

Prevention of Moisture and Mold Problems

One of the most significant benefits of crawl space encapsulation is that it can help prevent moisture and mold problems. A damp crawl space is a perfect environment for mold to grow, and sealing it off creates a less hospitable environment for mold growth.

However, there is the issue of ventilation. You must ensure that your crawl space is adequately ventilated so that moisture can escape. Otherwise, you could end up with condensation inside your vapor barrier, which can lead to mold growth.

We have seen countless crawl spaces encapsulated but not correctly ventilated, and the result is always the same—mold. So, do it correctly if you decide to encapsulate your crawl space.

Reduced Energy Bills

One of the less apparent benefits of crawl space encapsulation is that it can help reduce your utility costs. When you have an un-encapsulated crawl space, cold air can seep through the foundation and make your home colder. This leakage causes your furnace to work harder to keep your home warm, which drives your energy bills.

By sealing off your crawl space, you’re preventing cold air from seeping in and making your heating system work harder than it should. This measure will reduce your system’s workload and help lower your energy bills.

More Storage Space

One of the lesser-known benefits of crawl space encapsulation is that it can create more storage space. You get rid of all the dirt, debris, and pests taking up space, so you now have a clean, dry area that you can use for storage.

An immaculate crawl space in a home

This is an excellent benefit because it allows you to declutter your home and eliminate some of the junk you don’t need. And, if you ever do decide to sell your house, the added storage space will be a selling point for potential buyers.

You only need sizable access to the crawl space, so you’ll want to ensure there’s a door or some other way to get in. After that, you can use the space for storage however you see fit.

Keeping Pests Out

Another benefit of crawl space encapsulation is that it can help to keep pests at bay. If you have an un-encapsulated crawl space, it’s easy for mice and other critters to get in and make themselves at home. Sealing off the crawl space makes it much more difficult for pests to get in.

Many homeowners must fight a constant battle with termites, roaches, and rodents. These pests can cause a lot of damage to your home, and they can be challenging to get rid of once they’ve established themselves. 

By encapsulating your crawl space, you’re making it less likely that these pests will be able to get in and infest your home.

The issue with pests is that they can also bring disease into your family. Mice, in particular, are known to carry a variety of conditions, so it’s essential to keep them out of your home. If you have an un-encapsulated crawl space, it’s much easier for pests to get in and put your family at risk.

Increased Home Value

The final significant benefit of crawl space encapsulation is that it can increase the value of your home. 

Many buyers are hesitant to purchase a home with an un-encapsulated crawl space because they know the potential problems that come with it. By sealing off your crawl space, you make your home more attractive to potential buyers and increase its resale value.

However, not every homeowner is looking to sell their home, so the increased value may not be a concern for you. But it’s still a nice perk to have.

The Cons of Encapsulating Your Crawl Space

There are also some potential drawbacks to crawl space encapsulation. 

Things you’ll want to consider before making a decision include:

The Cost

One of the most significant potential drawbacks of encapsulation is the cost. It can be a relatively expensive project, and it’s not something most homeowners can do on their own, regardless of their zeal. You’ll likely need to hire a professional to do the job, which can add to the cost.

Expect to pay several thousand dollars to have your crawl space encapsulated. The exact cost will depend on the size of your crawl space and the job’s complexity.

For example, encapsulating a small, simple crawl space may only cost a few hundred dollars. But a larger, more complex area could cost several thousand.

More Maintenance

Now that you are not ignoring your crawlspace, you will be required to do more maintenance. This includes regularly checking for moisture, leaks, and pests.

A homeowner laying on his side inspects his crawl space with a flashlight

Usually, this means adding your crawl space to your regular inspection routines around the house. But it’s critical to ensure you don’t forget about it, or you could have serious problems.

Not a Do-It-Yourself Project

Here’s the thing—crawl space encapsulation is not a do-it-yourself project. It’s something that should be done by a professional.

There are a lot of potential problems that can occur if you try to DIY it. For example, if you don’t seal the space properly, you could end up with moisture and mold problems.

Also, professionals are better positioned to see other potential issues you may not be aware of. So, while it may cost more to have a professional do it, it’s worth the peace of mind of knowing it’s being done right.

Potential HVAC Upgrade

After encapsulating your crawl space, your current HVAC system may not be up to the task. Depending on the size of your crawl space, you may need to upgrade to a more extensive system.

A puddle of standing water in a crawl space
Courtesy of JES Foundation Repair

However, you’ll want to discuss this with a professional before deciding. They’ll be able to help you determine if your current system is adequate or if you need an upgrade.

How to Decide If Crawl Space Encapsulation is Right For You

So, how do you decide if crawl space encapsulation suits you? 

Here are a few things to consider:

Your Budget

As mentioned, crawl space encapsulation can be a relatively expensive project. So, you’ll need to ensure you have the budget. If you don’t think you can afford it, it’s probably not the right choice.

It would help if you also considered the long-term cost. For example, if you’re hoping to sell your home in the future, you may be able to recoup the encapsulation cost through increased value. But if you’re not planning on selling any time soon, it’s probably not worth the investment.

The Condition of Your Crawl Space

Another thing to consider is the condition of your crawl space. If it’s already in good shape, there’s no need to encapsulate it. But if you see mold or condensation in the crawl space, you may want to consider replacing the vapor barrier.

The idea is that encapsulation will help to improve the condition of your crawl space. So, if it’s in bad shape, it may be worth the investment.

The Size of Your Crawl Space

The size of your crawl space is another crucial factor to consider. 

If the distance between the joist and the foundation floor is too tight, a professional might take longer to complete the job, which translates to a higher installation fee. Also, an ample crawl space will need more material than a smaller one, so the overall cost can be a bit high.

An illuminated crawl space with a vapor barrier installed on the ground

Your Climate

Your climate is another important consideration. Crawl space encapsulation can be a must if you live in an area with high humidity. But it might be a good thing to have if you live in a dry climate.

You are only keeping out pests, moisture, and mold. So, if you don’t have those problems in your area, you might not need to encapsulate your crawl space.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are both pros and cons to crawl space encapsulation; you’ll need to decide based on your specific situation. 

However, if you do decide to encapsulate your crawl space, make sure you hire a professional to do it. It’s not a job for amateurs!

We hope this article has helped you understand the basics of crawl space encapsulation so you can make an informed decision.


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