A crawl space encapsulation can be an asset to your home. However, some considerations need to be made for those who live in hot and humid climates. While there are a lot of benefits to having your crawl space encapsulated, there are some downsides as well.
Some of the biggest pros for crawl space encapsulation are that it aids in pest control, helps with moisture control, and will ultimately increase the efficiency of your home. It does come at a cost, though–literally. These systems can be quite expensive, and they do require additional maintenance. At the end of the day, you have to weigh all of the considerations and make the best decision for your home.
This article will list many of the pros and cons for crawl space encapsulation for Florida’s hot, humid weather. We hope it helps you decide whether or not crawl space encapsulation is right for your home.
What Is Crawl Space Encapsulation?
Crawl space encapsulation is a form of moisture control using a physical barrier. This vapor barrier is usually 10 or 20 millimeters thick, depending on your home’s specific needs. The thicker the barrier, the more protection it provides. Thicker barriers are more expensive, though.
The barrier itself typically includes three layers: reinforcement cord, antimicrobial additive, and a top layer, typically white, that is made from pure polyethylene resin. A full encapsulation could also include some foundation work, if necessary.
There are four major steps to crawl space encapsulation: stopping any current water intrusion, preventing additional moisture from entering (vapor barrier), finding and sealing any remaining air leaks, and conditioning the air within the crawl space.
Here’s a video by Crawl Space Ninja (we’re big fans) on Youtube that shows the whole process of this kind of project.
There are a number of pros and cons when it comes to crawl space encapsulation, and you’ll want to take them all into account before you decide. Let’s break them down.
This is one of the biggest pros of crawl space encapsulation, especially in hot, humid climates like Florida. Crawl spaces are notorious for being hot and humid, especially in a warm and moist climate. The presence of a vapor barrier alone can significantly reduce the moisture within the crawl space which, in effect, can aid in the moisture control of the entire house.
Reducing moisture also reduces the risk of mold, mildew, or fungus growing in the crawlspace. This can be a major issue in warm, humid climates.
In many cases, it’s best to install a dehumidifier that operates automatically. It turns on when the moisture level reaches a certain humidity level, which will always keep your new encapsulated crawl space dry, or at least dryer.
The vapor barriers utilized in crawl space encapsulation are incredibly durable, at any thickness. A major benefit of the vapor barrier is that it helps prevent pests from getting into your crawl space (or into your home through your crawl space). Crawl space encapsulation is airtight meaning ants, termites, or other critters can no longer get into the crawl space.
These benefits all come back to the air-tight design of the vapor barrier. If air cannot actively flow through the crawlspace, then it cannot get into your home. This helps with energy efficiency in the home itself.
Increasing the energy efficiency of any home has a plethora of benefits including reduced energy bills and a more comfortable living space. Studies have shown that homes with crawl space encapsulation installed see an energy usage reduction of 20%.
As we’ve written in other articles on air sealing, stopping the air from flowing completely is one of the first things you tackle when going for net-zero or energy efficient projects.
The Home Performance channel on Youtube is great as well, and offers a lot of tips and info on the energy efficient aspects of crawl space encapsulation:
As you will read below, there are some maintenance costs associated with crawl space encapsulation. For Floridians, is it is almost always well worth the time and cost. In some climates, homeowners may lose money on maintenance. But because Florida has consistent high heat and humidity, the value of the system is much more than the combined upfront cost and maintenance costs. It’s a proverbial ounce of prevention against costly damage to the home or foundation over time.
You’ve probably realized by now that we’re definitely in favor of crawl space encapsulation in Florida if you’re able to do it. But it’s still important to consider the downsides before you decide what’s right for your situation.
Cost is probably the biggest con of crawlspace encapsulation. It depends on the size of the crawl space and the thickness of the vapor barrier needed, but some sources recommend expecting to pay around $10,000. Other estimates range from about $1,500 to $15,000. Either way, putting in crawl space encapsulation takes a significant amount of money. In theory, you could DIY. But to make sure it’s done correctly and without errors, it’s better to have a professional do the installation, even if it costs more money.
Some maintenance costs need to be figured in as well. A crawl space encapsulation cannot just be installed and then left to its own devices. It must be maintained. The specific maintenance tasks depend on what you purchase and if there are any additional features such as air dehumidification. But every system, at minimum, will require regular inspections (and repairs, when necessary) of all the different elements that keep the crawl space sealed up tight.
In some climates, the maintenance costs actually can exceed the amount of money you save. But, because Florida is so humid and vapor barriers have such a large impact, Floridians will see a positive return on investment on the maintenance of the system.
Weighing Pros & Cons
The biggest con is the cost, and there’s really no way around it. However, you have to remember that moisture or pest damage to your home or foundation through your crawlspace could quickly exceed the upfront cost of installing a vapor barrier. Moisture, mold, mildew, fungus, and pests can all do significant damage to the foundation and the home itself.
Crawl space encapsulation prevents damage while also increasing the energy efficiency of the home. So while there is a large cost to install and maintain the system, the damage prevention and energy savings could far outweigh those initial costs.
It all comes down to what is best for you and your home. But in a warm, humid environment, you’re going to protect your home from pests and damage. Plus, you’re going to feel more comfortable indoors while you spend less on air conditioning.
The Florida climate pretty much guarantees a good return on investment for a crawl space encapsulation system and its maintenance.