Crawl Space Encapsulation Pros and Cons

Perhaps you are considering crawlspace encapsulation and wondering whether it is a good idea.

Maybe you are curious what the differences are between vapor barriers and crawlspace encapsulation, in which case there is plenty of information available to help you make up your mind.

Nobody wants a wet or smelly basement or crawl space as this can lead to mold and mildew.

There are various options to consider if you want to safeguard your crawlspace from these issues, including vapor barrier installation as well as crawlspace installation.

Even if you aren’t experiencing these issues, it might still be the case that your house has excess moisture and maybe the start of mold, which means the following crawlspace encapsulation pros and cons should be helpful.

Now let’s take a look at the most important advantages and disadvantages of crawl space encapsulation, although to be honest there aren’t really many issues besides additional maintenance.

A lot of houses without a basement still have a crawlspace under the ground floor. This is true of large homes without a full-size basement as well as ranch style and mobile homes.

These areas are often neglected because they are not seen or used on a regular basis. Encapsulating the crawlspace would work for pretty much any of those and also a basement with a ground floor.

Crawlspaces can cause various health and safety issues if birds, rodents and bugs decide to move it.

Bad ventilation can cause mold while bad insulation can result in heat loss. Allergens and dust can also accumulate in the parts of your home which aren’t used much or at all.

Pros of Crawl Space Encapsulation

Here are some pros of crawl space encapsulation:

#1 Can eliminate or reduce moisture in your crawlspace

Every house faces humidity. Whether you have a lot or a little, crawlspace encapsulation can get rid of these moisture issues.

Protecting your house from mildew and mold and also promoting a long life for your house’s structure.

#2 Can prevent pests in the future

Areas suffering from high humidity are notorious for pest issues.

Crawl space insulation, when well installed, will offer protection from pests such as rodents and termites.

#3 Lowers heating costs overall

You can count on lower heating costs over the lifetime of the encapsulation because you won’t be losing air to the crawlspace any more.

As long as the space is encapsulated professionally you can expect reduced utility bills as a result.

#4 Cuts down on bad smells

The crawlspace can be one of the largest contributors to bad smells in the house.

Encapsulating the crawlspace includes cleaning this area and prepping the space. After professional sealing, the house won’t have those nasty odors from mildew or mold.

#5 Extra storage space

After encapsulating the area you will have a sanitary and dry environment.

If the crawlspace is easy to access via a door you can use it as an additional storage space.

Cons of Crawl Space Encapsulation

Main cons are:

#1 It requires an upfront investment

It costs an average of $5500 to install crawlspace encapsulation, according to Home Advisor.

#2 Foundation wall insulation costs

When the contractor is giving you an estimate for crawlspace encapsulation, he might also recommend adding foundation wall insulation for an even better result.

This type of insulation is usually made of spray foam and will cost between $0.50 and $2 for each board foot.

Batting prices are either $300 for a large area or $3 per roll. The insulation will be R-value board according to your local building codes.

#3 Extra maintenance

After having the crawlspace encapsulation fitted, you are going to need extra inspections and maintenance throughout the year.

The maintenance cost depends which features you want to choose during installation.

If you live somewhere without much moisture or rainfall, the sealing advantages offered by encapsulation might not give you any return on your investment.

#4 You might have to upgrade the HVAC system

Because encapsulating your crawlspace is going to limit how much air movement you get through the house, this can cause issues.

Although it does increase your home’s efficiency, it might not let sufficient oxygen through to run an older heater or furnace that is combustion-based.

This would mean you would have to upgrade the whole HVAC system to make sure your home stays at consistent, comfortable temperatures.

Crawlspace Encapsulation vs Vapor Barrier

Perhaps you are curious which one to choose, so let’s compare the options. A vapor barrier’s purpose is to limit ground water evaporating in the crawlspace.

To effectively get rid of all the moisture though, you would need to go with crawlspace encapsulation.

The main differences between the two options are a sealed interior and thickness.

A vapor barrier’s purpose is the lessen groundwater from evaporating in the crawlspace. This means a thin sheet (of between 4 and 6mm) will cover the floor.

Vapor barriers aren’t sealed systems and they usually only extend to the interior walls. For this reason, some water can get past the vapor barrier and into the crawlspace.

Getting the crawlspace encapsulated would cost more but it would be a more comprehensive approach to guarantee not just reduction of moisture but complete elimination.

After prepping your crawlspace and removing all the water, a plastic lining is fitted and any vents, cracks or holes which can let air in are sealed completely.

This plastic layer is typically between 12 and 22mm in thickness and has a polyester-cored reinforcement.

This makes it more durable than having a vapor barrier instead.

Also, when choosing crawlspace encapsulation, the seams will be sealed and the liner attached to the floor plus all the way up the columns and walls to complete your encapsulation.

With a vapor barrier only, the protection stops just short of the interior wall so it is less effective.

How to Regularly Inspect Your Encapsulation

Even the best barriers might result in damage so it’s best to do an inspection every 6 months or so.

Check the moisture level and make sure there is no water present.

Examine the barrier for any damage, then check that no joists or supports are loose or showing signs of mold.

Also look for signs of pest activity such as chew marks or droppings. You might also see termite damage. Any of these can mean a damaged barrier.