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Crawl Space Insulation vs Encapsulation - Pros & Cons

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019


Are you worried that the weather in Cleveland, OH, may cause your crawl space to flood? Never fear. You can encapsulate or insulate your crawl space to keep it safe from the Midwest rains. What do these processes involve, though, and how do they differ?

difference between insulation and encapsulation in your crawl space

Why Should You Insulate Your Crawl Space?

When you insulate your crawl space, you do more than make the space seem cozier. Insulation helps you lower your heating and cooling bills. It also helps you waterproof your crawl space and keep your belongings safe.

Sound like something you need? Then let’s dive into the insulating process. Typically, you’ll need to do the following to insulate your crawl space:

  1. Dry up the water – You can’t insulate a damp crawl space. If you do, you risk prematurely damaging the new insulation you’re bringing into your home. Before you get started, then, be sure to clear the water out of your crawl space. This could mean installing a dehumidifier to clear out the air. Alternatively, it may mean using a temporary pump to remove water from your home. Work with your contractor to determine which water removal method will serve you best.
  2. Find the water’s source – Once the water’s been removed from your crawl space, you’ll need to learn how it made its way into your home in the first place. This means finding the source of a leak. Go through your crawl space and see if you can find cracks in your joints or walls. If you can, fill them with the help of your contractor. If you can’t find a source, your leak may have started in your foundation. In these situations, talk with your contractor to see what kind of solutions are available to you. Note that you’ll need to have all of your leaks sealed, regardless of where they originate, before moving forward with the insulating process.
  3. Remove damaged insulation – With your crawl space sealed off, you can start removing any old or damaged insulation. You’ll need to dispose of this insulation instead of reusing it for the health of your home. Water-damaged insulation provides mold an ideal environment in which to grow.
  4. Replace with waterproof insulation – With the old insulation gone, you can start installing new waterproof insulation. Talk with your contractor to determine what kind of insulation will suit your budget and home needs best.
  5. Keep your surroundings in mind – As you work, be sure to keep an eye out for pipes and electrical circuits. You’re going to want to put a little extra insulation around any exposed pipes in your crawl space. This protection will keep your pipes from bursting in the wintertime. Comparatively, you’ll want to avoid putting insulation near any electrical outlets so as to avoid starting a fire.
  6. (Optional) Use additional waterproofing measures – If you’re still concerned about leaks, once the insulating process is over, you can talk to your contractor about the different waterproofing solutions available to you. These include but are not limited to the installation of a French drain, drainage mats, temporary sealants, and a sump pump.

    As mentioned, the insulating process will keep your crawl space leak-free, so long as your leaks originate in your crawl space’s joints or walls. Unfortunately, insulation will not be able to help you combat a foundation leak unless that leak has already been sealed.

Why Should You Encapsulate Your Crawl Space?

On the other hand, you may find the encapsulation process more to your liking. The encapsulation process protects your crawl space from the worst of Cleveland’s rains.

In general, the process will consist of the following steps:

  1. Dry up the water – As was the case with the insulating process, you’re going to need to dry out your crawl space before getting started.
  2. Find the leak’s source – You’re also going to need to plug any visible leaks in your crawl space so as not to ruin your work. Again, if your contractor discovers that your leak originates in your foundation, you’re going to need to undergo that waterproofing process before moving forward.
  3. Remove damaged insulation – Once again, you’ll need to dispose of any damaged insulation that’s made a home in your crawl space so as to keep your home mold-free.
  4. Install a vapor barrier – From here, the processes differ. A vapor barrier is most often a large white plastic-like sheet that a contractor will install in your crawl space. This sheet prevents moisture intrusion. Coupled with a perimeter drainage and sump pump system, it also can help direct water away from your belongings. You’ll need to cut holes for pipes and electrical circuits accordingly.
  5. (Optional) Install a dehumidifier – If you’re still worried about your crawl space’s moisture levels, then consider asking your contractor to install a dehumidifier in your crawl space. A dehumidifier will pull excess dampness from the air, allowing you to dispose of it as you see fit.
  6. (Optional) Use additional waterproofing solutions – Finally, you can talk to your contractor about additional waterproofing solutions that’ll allow your encapsulation process to work more effectively.

Which Process Better Protects Your Home?

Now that you know a little more about how each process works, which one is the best for your home?

That depends on what kind of water damage you see. If your crawl space floods frequently, consider encapsulating it so as to better protect your belongings. Alternatively, if your crawl space only becomes damp after it rains, the insulation process will serve you well.

Don’t let Cleveland’s weather get you down. There are several ways for you to protect your crawl space and your belongings. All you have to do to get started is speak with a local contractor. Reach out to the professional team at Ohio Basement Systems today for a free crawl space inspection and repair estimate.