Crawl spaces are often neglected places in the house because of their limited height. They’re usually left unfinished—since usually, crawl spaces aren’t intended to be habitable. Plus, finishing them comes with extra cost.
However, it’s vital to take care of this space; so you don’t have to deal with future problems like pest infestation or sagging floors. All these problems will probably cost you more to fix and might even decrease your property value.
That’s why it’s wise to invest in encapsulating your crawl space to avoid unwanted problems. Continue reading this article to find out how to finish a crawl space, and learn about three finished crawl space ideas that’ll help you make the most out of your crawl space. Stick around!
Finished Crawl Space Ideas
Although a crawl space doesn’t offer much space like a basement, you can still make use of it like any other part of your house, especially after encapsulating it.
Here are a few crawl space renovation projects:
1 – Storage
Probably the most common use of this pint-sized basement is storage. You could keep unwanted boxes, decorations, pool supplies, detergents, paint, and more.
Just make sure to maintain low humidity and cool temperature, especially if you’ll store chemicals, as they can be flammable. You can also wrap the stored items with weatherproof plastic to keep the moisture out.
That said, unless you’re sure it’s safe, you shouldn’t use laundry appliances or other electronics in a crawl space.
2 – Turn It Into a Root Cellar
Since you can control the temperature and humidity in finished crawl spaces, they can make a handy root cellar.
All you need to do is add in a few shelves and storage bins, and you’re ready to store food in the crawl space.
However, you might want to steer clear of wooden shelves, especially if you’ve had mold before finishing your crawl space. Metal or plastic shelves are better options to keep away mold.
3 – Turn It Into a Gameroom
While unconventional, some crawl spaces are 6 to 7 feet tall. With colorful paintings, bean bags, lava lamps, and all sorts of board games, you can simply turn the crawl space into a game room for the kids to enjoy.
However, that’s only possible if you install a proper ventilation system. You might also use door alarm systems in case someone gets trapped.
Can You Finish a Crawl Space?
Yes, you can finish a crawl space to get the most out of it. In fact, it’s necessary to insulate your crawl space to prevent extra air and rain moisture from creeping into your house.
High moisture favors the growth of mold, which can cause allergies and other respiratory problems.
Not to mention, your HVAC system will definitely thank you when you insulate the crawl space, as it’ll reduce humid air, improving your HVAC system efficiency. It might also help reduce your heating and cooling bills.
How to Encapsulate a Crawl Space
Now that we’ve known the importance of insulating crawl spaces, let’s take a closer look at the steps to encapsulate a crawl space.
Step 1: Assessment
Before beginning to encapsulate your crawl space, you first need to inspect and identify any present problems.
If you’ve insulated your crawl space with loose fiberglass, chances are you’ll find many issues in the crawl space as a result of excessive ventilation. Some of the problems are milder than others, and you can deal with them yourself, including:
- Wood debris
- Torn insulation and vapor barriers
On the other hand, if you’ve left the crawl space with poor insulation for a long time, you might face more troublesome issues like:
- Mildew and rot
- Groundwater leakage
- Rodents and pests
- Gas leaks
These problems require a professional’s help as they may damage not only the crawl space but also your house. A professional will help remove the creeping mold to prevent spreading and install a drainage system and sump pump to deal with groundwater leakage.
Step 2: Repair
After cleaning the crawl space and removing mold and debris, your crawl space may need additional repairing, depending on the damage.
You may need to replace rotten wood in ceiling joists and subfloors. Also, check for any damage to piping and wiring systems.
Step 3: Seal the Vents and Doors
You’ll want to seal any open vents since they bring in a great deal of outdoor air that causes all the mentioned problems earlier.
Using fiberglass won’t do the trick of preventing air from creeping in. Instead, seal vents using solid insulation boards covered with spray foam.
Spray foam helps create an air and temperature barrier, protecting your house from problems associated with excess moisture.
It’s worth mentioning that spray foam is hazardous and can produce harmful aerosols.
So, make sure to take necessary safety precautions like wearing protective goggles, a respirator, and chemical-resistant gloves and clothes to ensure your safety. You can also consult a professional instead.
For access doors, you’ll want to attach weatherproof plastic to them so that you ensure the corners are tightly sealed. The plastic will also keep bugs and mold from reaching the wood, protecting the door from infestation and rot.
Step 4: Insulate the Ceiling
Similar to vents, you should spray foam the crawl space ceiling to prevent air, humidity, heat, and soil gases from entering the living area above the crawl space.
Spray foaming the ceiling may help prevent squeaking floorboards, thanks to the thermal and humidity barrier. It’ll also save around 15% on cooling and heating bills.
Step 5: Install Wall Insulators
Walls can potentially allow the entrance of outdoor air into the crawl space and also leak any underground water to the floor of your living space.
Plus, humid air can come into your crawl space through sill plates, which can be tricky to seal. The sill plates are where the wood framework of your house sits on top of the concrete foundation blocks.
Typically, you can insulate the walls either by foam spraying or installing foam insulation boards. Both of these options act as barriers to air, moisture, and heat.
After attaching wall insulators, you should seal the sill plate gap using caulk to prevent outdoor leakage.
Step 6: Matting the Floor
Insulating the crawl space floors with vapor barriers comes with many benefits. For starters, it’ll prevent your house from drawing moisture from the soil, which can damage your house structure over time.
It’ll also reduce the leak of soil gases like radon and other gases into your living space. Prolonged exposure to a large amount of radon can cause many adverse health effects, like cancer.
What’s more, matting crawl space floors will come in handy in protecting stored items from gravel when dragged.
Step 7: Install a Ventilation System
Despite your best efforts to keep air from leaking into the crawl space; still, air particles are small and can get in through HVAC ducts or other small openings.
The problem with outdoor air is that it’s usually cooler than the crawl space. So, when the hot air enters your crawl space, it condenses because of the temperature difference, increasing the moisture.
For that reason, you should install a dehumidifier to prevent condensation from happening and maintain low humidity all year round.
In addition, the IRC (section 408.3) requires you to ventilate encapsulated crawl spaces at a rate of one cubic foot per minute for every 50 square feet. You could achieve that by installing a foundation ventilation fan.
A finished crawl space could be a great way to add more living space to your home. You can turn it into a root cellar, a game room, or a storage space.
However, all these finished crawl space ideas are only possible when you install a proper ventilation system and dehumidifier to control the temperature and moisture. That way, you can enjoy your crawl space like any other space in your house!
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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