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What is Crawl Space Encapsulation?

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  • Written By: Norma Jean Howland
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2016
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Crawl space encapsulation is a type of vapor barrier installed in a raw, unfinished space underneath a home to prevent, mold, mildew and dampness from entering the upstairs space. These barriers are made out of different materials, from basic plastic sheeting to much thicker, multi-layered reinforced polyester which needs to be professionally installed. If a homeowner has a severe problem, such as a very wet crawl space or if there is a mold issue, they often turn to installing a barrier to prevent further decay and protect the upstairs home environment. A professionally installed, multi-layered crawl space vapor barrier can be quite costly when compared to some of the do-it-yourself plastic sheeting methods found at hardware stores.

Some of the more expensive professional crawl-space encapsulation systems offer heavy-duty, multi-layer polyester reinforced material similar to a pool liner. This high density liner is usually white. It is spread across the entire floor area and attached to the side walls. It gets sealed around pipes and piers, fully encapsulating the entire crawl space. After this kind of installation, the space is quite often a better place to crawl around in since there is usually no exposed dirt or mess to contend with. Usually this type of material is puncture resistant, water proof, anti-microbial, and fire retardant.

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If price is an issue, homeowners may try to fix their crawl space problems with a less expensive crawl space encapsulation or what is often referred to as a flat-lay barrier. This material is usually carried in hardware outlet stores and comes in plastic sheets that are rolled out over the surface, overlapped, and taped down. Depending on the thickness of the plastic sheets, this barrier system may or may not stand up to wear and tear without ripping. It is sometimes laid in layers to add more protection and form a more secure crawl space encapsulation.

When properly installed, crawl space encapsulation may also cut down on heating and cooling bills while providing a clean, dry storage space. If a home is in a humid area, an encapsulation system is sometimes installed with a crawl space dehumidifier to help keep the area dry. If the property is located in an area that may flood, some systems come with drains, sump pumps and water alarms, which operate in a similar manner as smoke alarms.

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