Your property’s crawl space is far from the most welcoming part of your home. This is generally true of any home. Of course, your crawl space should still present a healthy environment for you or anyone else who has to go down there to make repairs or do routine checks. Homes in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, that have crawl space water are not as healthy as they could be. As well as being a problem sign of damage, crawl space water can cause many issues.
Even a small amount of dampness in this enclosed space can create an environment that is unhealthy for anyone who enters it and for the property as a whole. Here’s what you need to know about crawl space water.
How Water Gets into a Crawl Space
If a recent inspection of your crawl space has brought pools of water to your attention, there are a few things you should be aware of. First and foremost, it is important to consider whether the water has come from inside or outside of your home.
Exterior Sources of Water
Water can enter your home from outside in a number of ways, not all of which are connected to damage of some kind. One of the most obvious and common ways that water can enter your crawl space from outside is via unsecured or open crawl space vents. Contractors installed these vents in properties between the 1950s and 1990s. They were put in as a part of construction best practice because they were believed to prevent dampness and humidity by increasing airflow.
Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Crawl space vents cause issues with dampness because of they create condensation and allow water to seep into a crawl space. Crawl space vents and access hatches can also allow larger pests into a home when they are uncovered.
Secondly, water can get into your home from outside as a result of a process known as seepage. This occurs because of the porous nature of concrete and is not actually a form of damage. As such, it is one of the most difficult water sources to deal with.
Finally, water can enter your crawl space from outside as a result of structural damage.
Interior Sources of Water
Interior sources of water are relatively easy to find once you notice water in your crawl space, but they can also be more damaging than exterior sources because of the likelihood that they will be small and consistent. Plumbing leaks that occur as a result of minor corrosion or weakness in the joints between pipes, for example, can be active for a long time before they are noticed. This can lead to the formation of many different secondary issues.
As well as small leaks from plumbing joints, there is the possibility that crawl space water is coming from cracks in some of the pipes, or even from areas of damage in appliances like water heaters and sump pumps. These leaks tend to be slightly larger and can lead to visible pools of water.
The most serious and immediately noticeable interior source of water in a crawl space is a burst pipe. A pipe can burst for many reasons, but they are most common in non-encapsulated crawl spaces because they are more likely to experience sudden fluctuations in temperature. A snap freeze is the most likely cause of a burst pipe because of the way in which water expands when it freezes.
Figuring out just where the water is coming from can often be fairly straightforward. Figuring out what underlying issues have caused sufficient damage to allow it to gather is often the tricky part (unless you’re dealing with a plumbing flood caused by a burst pipe, of course).
What Crawl Space Water Can Signify
So just what kind of damage can crawl space water be a problem sign of? There are a number of issues, internal and external, that could be at work. In fact, there could be more than one problem contributing to this issue.
The most obvious and common cause of water in a crawl space is some kind of damage to a property’s plumbing system. After all, the plumbing system is one of the largest and most frequently used in any home. A property’s pipes are like the arteries and veins in a body: vital, widespread, and because of their presence in every part of a structure, vulnerable in many different ways.
Plumbing damage can range from small leaks to a full-scale flood, but even the smallest crack in a pipe can lead to water pooling in a property’s crawl space over time. Of course, the larger the crack or area of damage in a pipe or appliance, the more water you are likely to see.
Seepage is a result of the natural porousness of concrete as a material. However, it is not guaranteed to affect every property. Generally speaking, seepage occurs when the ground around a property is incredibly saturated. The prolonged presence of large amounts of water in the soil around a property combined with the weight of that saturated soil (especially if it is an absorbent, expansive soil) is what generally triggers seepage.
When this pressure builds up, water will start to seep through concrete surfaces because they form the path of least resistance. This is why having good drainage options in place is incredibly important to the health of your property as a whole.
Poor drainage is a serious issue for any home, but if your foundation becomes entirely saturated, you will find that there is real trouble on the way. Foundation saturation will undoubtedly lead to there being large amounts of water in your crawl space, but that is the least of the potential issues.
Foundation saturation can also lead to the structure of your property experiencing lateral movement. This is not only dangerous to the health of your home, it is incredibly expensive and difficult to rectify. It pays to ensure you have good drainage systems in place.
Saturation, unstable soil, and snap freezes all add up to one thing for most Ohio homes: foundation damage. There are a number of ways that a foundation can become damaged, and all of them are likely to let water into your crawl space. Of course, some are more concerning than others.
Subsidence and settlement, for example, are incredibly serious and will lead to widespread structural issues throughout your home. Both are forms of sinking that can cause floor and wall cracks to spread while letting water seep into your home.
Foundation heave, by contrast, is slightly different. This can be caused by repetitive freezing and thawing, or even by invading tree roots. Either way, it will result in a visible upward bulge and allow water into your home.
Bowing foundation walls are a sign of extreme hydrostatic pressure on a home and are a common cause of dampness and flooding in many properties. Of course, that is not the only issue that bowing walls can cause. In fact, it is the very least of the issues that can come about as a result of bowing walls.
As well as affecting your property’s flooring, bowing foundation walls can collapse if left untreated for long periods of time.
Finding water in your crawl space can also be a sign that the humidity in your crawl space frequently reaches a peak and causes condensation. Spikes in humidity can be caused by small leaks and seepage. As such, this is as much a problem sign as it is a potential cause of crawl space water.
These are just some of the underlying causes of damage that could be causing water to pool in your crawl space. Diagnosing the precise issues at work can be hard unless you have experience, which is why it pays to be aware of other problem signs.
Other Problem Signs You Should be Aware Of
Learning to recognize other problem signs can help you to understand the likely causes of your crawl space water a little better. The other problem signs that you should be aware of include, but are not limited to:
You will be able to recognize mold formations as patches of discoloration that form in clusters around areas of dampness. These can vary in color from greyish pink to black and may give off a musty smell.
Cracks that are actively growing and spreading are a sign of serious issues in your home. If these are accompanied by crawl space water it is very likely that there is some form of foundational or structural damage at work.
Bad smells in your crawl space can be a sign of many things from mold and mildew to pest infestation. When accompanied by water and dampness, it is very likely that at least part of the smell is being caused by the stagnation of water, fungal formations, and the buildup of debris (which may be starting to rot).
Wood rot is very common in crawl spaces that are struggling with dampness and humidity. There are many different kinds of wood rot, of course, but the kind of rot that comes with dampness and humidity is very noticeable. As well as being soft and crumbly, wood that is dealing with wet rot will be covered with a white sheen.
Sagging floors are a sign of structural instability and damage that you should not ignore. . Just because there’s water in your crawl space, however, doesn’t mean that your sagging floors are being caused by water damage. There could be many other issues at work.
Sticking Windows and Doors
If windows and doors in one part of your home start to stick suddenly, there is a good chance that foundation damage is the underlying cause (especially if all the windows and doors in one area start to jam). Structural movement can warpt your home, causing sticking windows and doors.
Of course, even with these problem signs in place, it can be hard for non-professionals to properly and fully identify the causes of crawl space water. As such, it is best to allow a professional to assess your home and identify the best possible solutions.
Crawl Space Water
If you have noticed water pooling or building up in your crawl space, there are a number of potential causes. These are the issues most likely to be at work in your home:
Damage and Deterioration
The first possibility is that there is some form of damage, internal or external, which is allowing water to pool in your crawl space. This damage can permit water to seep in from outside or cause it to leak from internal plumbing systems, but the results of excessive dampness in a crawl space are generally the same no matter where the water comes from.
Broadly speaking, the most common kinds of interior damage that can result in crawl space water are leaking pipes, burst pipes, and damaged plumbing appliances (for example water heaters, sump pumps, or dishwashers). The damage most likely to allow water in from outside a property is structural in nature. Foundation settlement, subsidence, and bowing foundation walls can all cause cracks and let water enter a home.
Your Crawl Space Is Non-Encapsulated
One of the most benign potential causes of water in a property’s crawl space is the presence of uncovered crawl space vents or a lack of waterproofing measures in a crawl space. Open vents will not only let rain and water pass through when the weather is bad. They can actually contribute to higher relative humidity without flooding.
This happens because of the way that warm and cool air clash in a non-sealed crawl space, leading to the formation of condensation. Likewise, if you have not insulated or waterproofed your crawl space, you may find that it becomes damp because of issues like seepage. Crawl spaces with dirt flooring are particularly vulnerable to groundwater and soil saturation.
You could be forgiven for thinking that a small amount of water in your property’s crawl space is not the end of the world. While it is certainly not an insurmountable issue, crawl space water can be dangerous to you and your home.
Health and Well-Being
Dampness and humidity are undeniably bad for your health and well-being. As well as creating a generally unpleasant, sticky environment, they can lead to the formation of harmful substances. Fungal growth, mold, and mildew, for example, can all cause problems for your health if you come into prolonged contact with them. While not all species of mold are harmful, certain ones (like black mold) can be very dangerous.
The most common health issues connected to this kinds of growth are skin infections and rashes, eye irritation, nose, ear, and throat irritation, headaches and migraines, nausea, lightheadedness, and even trouble breathing. Those at most risk of serious side effects are those who have underlying health conditions that affect the immune system or lungs.
Crawl space water can be dangerous to your home in a number of ways. First and foremost, any serious flooding will present a risk to all of your home’s utility systems, most of which pass through your crawl space in some way or another. Even low-level dampness and humidity can impact your pipes and electrical wires over time, however.
If you have wooden supports or the underside of your floorboards is exposed to your crawl space, there is a strong chance that the wood will start to warp when exposed to large amounts of water. If the issue is more one of persistent humidity or small amounts of water, however, wood rot is a far more pressing danger that can lead to sagging floors, or even the collapse of flooring (if left unaddressed for a long time).
If you have noticed water in your crawl space, it can be tempting to try to fix it as soon as possible at the lowest possible cost. While we understand trying to save time and money, we urge you not to address this issue alone.
The Underlying Causes of Crawl Space Water are Complex
One of the biggest issues with trying to address these issues alone is that you have to correctly identify all causes and co-occurring issues before you can formulate an effective solution. This is a lot harder than it sounds, even for a skilled DIY enthusiast. This is because so many warning signs can hide in the environment that a crawl space provides.
If you fail to account for and deal with all of the underlying causes, any solution you implement will fail or deteriorate at an accelerated rate. This is inconvenient, to say the least, and can actually lead to you spending more money on DIY repairs than you would on a professional service. What’s worse, those causes and symptoms that you don’t treat will simply be covered up and allowed to grow.
DIY Work Can Go Wrong Very Easily
Even if you are entirely certain of what is going wrong in your home, we urge you not to attempt DIY repairs, especially if the damage is structural in nature. Assuming you do identify the issues and required solutions correctly, you will still need to implement them successfully. If it’s as simple as fitting a vent cover, you might be okay. However, if you need to undertake foundation repairs or full encapsulation of the crawl space, you should call in an expert without delay.
Foundation repair in particular is dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is because you have to excavate the affected areas to implement a repair. The heavy equipment required is dangerous enough, but there is also the fact that you are destabilizing an already damaged property to perform these repairs. Poorly planned excavations can result in collapsing walls or floors if you are not careful. Likewise, many of the products and tools are very specialist. You’re not likely to have all you need to hand, whereas a professional will. As you can see, there are good reasons to hire an expert.
Quality Crawl Space Encapsulation in Ohio
Have you noticed pooling water in your crawl space? Is your home becoming increasingly damp and humid for seemingly no reason? If so, you could be dealing with serious structural damage in your crawl space. This means that acting quickly is imperative, especially if you aim to get the best possible result at the lowest possible cost. We at Ohio Basement Systems have been helping homeowners across the state since 1999.
We offer free inspection appointments to all homeowners in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, without the obligation to book an encapsulation. All you have to do to arrange one is contact our team, tell them what you’re worried about, and set a time and date that suits you best for an inspector to attend your home and assess the damage. Once they have completed their assessment, our inspector will provide you with a written estimate for all costs, so that you can make an informed decision about what is best for you.