What Are Pros And Cons Of Crawl Space Encapsulation?

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

A crawl space is one of the coolest parts of a home if you’re a kid, but also if you’re a fan of efficient storage. Unfortunately, they also can be a pretty dangerous part of your home, especially if not well-maintained. If you’ve been thinking about crawl space encapsulation, there are a lot of pros and cons to consider before you call a construction crew.

Crawlspace encapsulation comes with a lot of pros and cons. On the good side, you can prevent pests from making your crawlspace home and can also reduce the chances of having gasses released by dirt. Some also enjoy lower utility bills. However, it’s extremely pricey and can lead to foul odors and moisture trapping.

Knowing what you can expect from getting your crawl space encapsulated can help you understand whether or not this is a good DIY project for you. So, let’s start talking about what it means for your home.

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What Is Crawl Space Encapsulation?

Before we start going into the pros and cons, let’s define what crawl space encapsulation is. Crawl spaces have a tendency of getting critters, dirt, and grime inside of them. This is a process that builds a barrier under your home that helps prevent moisture from infiltrating your crawlspace.

Encapsulation is done by coating the walls and floors of the crawl space with plastic that’s at least six millimeters thick. This blocks it off from the elements and reduces the chances of most pests being warded off.

What Are The Benefits Of Crawl Space Encapsulation?

Crawl space encapsulation might not be as glamorous as turning your crawl space into a basement, but it is becoming one of the most popular home improvement projects of its kind. You might be wondering why. It has a lot to do with the perks…

Less Pests

Most pests that live in crawl spaces do so because they love the access to dirt that’s shielded away from the sun. It makes it easier to dig holes, and at times, can also provide access to vegetation. By blocking off access to the ground itself, you are able to reduce the number of pests that decide to call your home theirs as well.

Lower Energy Bills

Most people don’t realize it, but it takes a lot of energy to heat up the bottom of a home. When you have no insulation down there, it takes even more. When your crawl space is lined with plastic, you get the insulation your home needs to stay warm during winter and cooler in the summer. This, in turn, translates to lower energy bills.

Less Gross Gas

Did you know that dirt can build up gasses as material under your crawl space decomposes? It’s true, and it can turn into a bit of a problem. Sometimes, the gas emissions can make it hard to reduce fire hazards. Other times, it can make storing certain items difficult. Even more times, it can make things feel stuffy or make it hazardous to breathe. Encapsulation fixes this issue.

It’s also worth noting that crawl space encapsulation is one of the first ways to help prevent radon gas from reaching the inside of your home. People who have radon alarms that regularly go off should consider getting encapsulation, simply because it can help them avoid cancer in the future.

What Are The Cons Of Crawl Space Encapsulation?

While crawl space encapsulation has a lot to offer people, it’s not a flawless project. Like other projects you could undertake, it has its own pitfalls. Wondering if it’s really worth it? These important aspects might change your mind about getting your area encapsulated…

Moisture Trapping

In some cases, the moisture that’s supposed to be locked out of your crawl space can end up trapped there after encapsulation. After all, it can be hard to find a place for all the moisture to go when all that plastic wrap is covering your crawlspace. While this can slightly increase the chance of mold, there are ways to remediate this issue.

The Price Is High

Here’s a big drawback to encapsulation that most people don’t want to talk about upfront: the price. If you DIY your encapsulation, you might be able to squeak by spending only $2,000. If you want to hire a professional team to do this, which is more recommended, the price climbs up to a shocking $5,000.

It’s a budget-heavy project, period. If you were hoping for a low-budget way to reduce electricity bills, this is not it. Might we suggest weather stripping or stapling insulation in instead?

Foul Odors

Because moisture tends to get trapped in encapsulated crawl spaces, there’s a good chance that you might end up getting trace amounts of mold from time to time. Many people note that encapsulated crawl spaces have a tendency of smelling slightly musty or acrid after rainfalls. If you have a sensitive nose, you might even be able to smell it faintly outside of your home.

This is more of an experiential issue than an issue regarding your home’s stability, so if you’re just worried about functionality, ignore this. Otherwise, it may be a somewhat smart idea to reconsider this project. It all depends on what you’re looking for and how bad you actually need this.

Is Encapsulating Your Crawl Space Worth It?

If you’re worried that you might be making the wrong decision, or if you aren’t sure whether your crawl space really needs encapsulation, you’re not alone. Lots of homeowners struggle with it. Truthfully, it’s not something that is easy to deduce on your own. Or, at least, it’s not something that you should just do at random.

It’s easy to feel divided on this home improvement project, especially since it’s not exactly the most inexpensive thing to do. People who notice these signs might be better candidates for this project than others:

  • Your utility bills are through the roof. If you have a hard time heating and cooling your home well, encapsulating your crawl space is a good move. This is why many wintery areas have encapsulated crawl spaces. It can help reduce the cost of living in areas like Texas.
  • The house’s radon alarm went off several times. Radon causes cancer, and it comes up through the ground. If you want to avoid getting lung cancer later on, you will take preventative steps to curb the radon from getting to your house. This includes encapsulation.
  • You don’t store much under your home. Admittedly, storing stuff in a crawl space is generally relegated to some lawn equipment—if even that. Though encapsulation can help with some things, it can make storing things a little bit annoying at times. It all depends on the crawl space, though!
  • There is a noted issue with pests in your area. Do you have a lot of creepy crawlies that seem to enjoy making a home underneath your house? Maybe it’s an issue of having snakes or perhaps a more burrowing-prone critter, like groundhogs? Animals tend to congregate in areas that are sheltered but still have some kind of access to dirt. Encapsulation can help here.
  • A handyman actually suggested it to you after checking out the area under your home. It’s very unusual to have someone check out your crawlspace and tell you that you should get something like encapsulation. That alone should make you hit the pause button and wonder what’s going on. If you find something worth your worries, it’s time to fix it.

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Related Questions

Does homeowner’s insurance cover crawl space encapsulation?

In most cases, your insurance will not cover encapsulating your crawl space preventatively, nor will it cover most damage done to it via wear and tear. The vast majority of policies might not even cover damage that was caused by perils, unless it’s something along the lines of a flood or an extreme storm.If you are not sure whether or not your policy covers the encapsulation’s damages, or aren’t sure what situations would cause a call to your insurer, give them a call. Your insurance agent is there to help you out.

Do home inspectors go into crawl spaces?

While you might never guess it right off the bat, home inspectors are required to go into crawl spaces. Inspectors need to have full access to your home. This means that you have to give them access to the inside, the outside, underneath your home (if applicable), and on top of the roof if necessary. It’s the only way for them to have a good look at your place.

Should I buy a home with water in the crawl space?

Probably not. Having water in the crawl space can lead to mold, mildew, and other forms of rot. That rot doesn’t just make your home smell bad, either. It also can lead to your home having foundational problems as a result of the rot that can occur. If you want to buy a house like this, take lots of precautions. It’s a big risk.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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