If you haven’t looked inside your home’s crawl space in a while, it might be time to give it a thorough inspection—especially if your floors are feeling cold even when your furnace is running. While your crawl space isn’t the most inviting place to visit, spotting damp, soggy fiberglass batts hanging from your floor joists (or no insulation at all) is a telltale sign that your crawl space needs to be reconfigured to ensure adequate insulation and minimal moisture.

With this guide, we will walk you through the best steps to take when re-configuring your crawl space—including the downfalls of traditional crawl space insulation methods, as well as more modern and efficient crawl space encapsulation processes and how you can apply them to your home.

The downfalls of traditional crawl space insulation methods

animated graphic depicting what condensation from moist air can do to a crawl space

For many homes with crawl spaces, it is common for builders to place fiberglass insulation in the subfloor above the crawl space while leaving wall vents open. The thought behind this is that any moisture build-up in the crawl space would be expelled out of the vents.

Unfortunately, this design does not live up to its intended purpose, especially in areas of the country that deal with higher humidity. Climates with high humidity levels cause moist air to find its way into crawl spaces—and as it comes into contact with the cool surfaces within these spaces, it creates condensation that could lead to insulation degradation and mold growth.

How to properly insulate a crawl space

Rather than taking the traditional approach to crawl space insulation, the most effective way to ensure your crawl space stays condensation-free and insulated all year long is to enclose it entirely—no matter what climate you live in. Not only does crawl space encapsulation reduce the chance of moisture build-up and promote better energy retention during temperature fluctuations, but it also provides a complete solution for crawl space mold and pest prevention. Additionally, it creates an overall cleaner crawl space in your home that you could use for additional storage.

Below, we’ve detailed four steps you can take to encapsulate your home’s crawl space.

an infographic depicting four steps that you can take to insulate a crawl space

1. Eliminate moisture

The first step to encapsulating your crawl space is to eliminate sources that could be causing moisture build-up. This could include clearing a clogged gutter system, installing downspout extenders, re-grading your lawn to slope away from your foundation, or removing landscaping or garden beds that are too close to your foundation. If your crawl space has standing water, water elimination strategies such as an interior drain system with a sump pump and an industrial-strength dehumidifier might be necessary to completely dry out the space before the encapsulation process can begin.

2. Seal crawl space vents, airways, or access doors

Once you have eliminated potential water sources and completely dried out your crawl space, the next step in the encapsulation process is to seal crawl space vents, airways, or access doors. Many manufactured crawl space vent covers help to create an airtight bond—but if you happen to create your own DIY vent covers, be sure to use non-organic materials and caulk them in place to keep moisture out. Then, using a foam sealant, seal off any gaps, airways, or cracks—including between plumbing, drain line, or wiring routes—that remain in your crawl space. For access doors, be sure to install heavy-duty weatherstripping around their frames to keep air from flowing into your crawl space.

3. Insulate crawl space walls

Rather than installing batts between your subfloor’s joists (paper-backed batt insulation in a crawl space with high humidity can become food for mold, especially if it is hanging), the encapsulation process utilizes rolled foam insulation across your crawl space’s walls. Unlike fiberglass batts, these types of insulation resist damage caused by moisture, and deliver more thermal resistance than many other insulating materials of the same thickness.

Be sure to select insulation with the appropriate R-value (the measurement used to determine thermal resistance) for your area and climate. Before applying your insulation, read through any manufacturer specifications or installation guides, as each type of insulation features its own installation process.

4. Add a vapor barrier

With your insulation in place, it’s time to add a vapor barrier across both the floor and walls of your crawl space. Not only does this keep moisture from being expelled from the floor in your crawl space and add an additional layer of protection for your insulation boards, but it also makes the space healthier—which means it has the potential to become an additional usable area in your home. Vapor barriers are available in a wide range of thicknesses, but be sure to choose one that will, at minimum, withstand foot traffic or the dragging of tools or equipment—especially if your HVAC, ducting, or other appliances are housed in your crawl space.

Professional crawl space encapsulation services from ’58 Foundations

Encapsulating your crawl space on your own can be a time-consuming and challenging process, especially if you’re also dealing with moisture or mold problems. Fortunately, at ‘58 Foundations, we can help you solve your crawl space issues for good.

If you’re dealing with severe moisture issues or standing water in your crawl space, our basement waterproofing solution—which includes encapsulation, dehumidifier, and sump pump options—will work to keep your crawl space dry and free of mold. Additionally, our heavy-duty commercial crawlspace dehumidifier will work to dry out any moisture collected in your joists, subflooring, posts, and other porous materials, stopping further rot and mold growth.

After your crawl space is dry, our comprehensive crawl space encapsulation process includes sealing all vents to prevent moisture from finding its way in, and then sealing the floor and walls with a 20-millimeter-thick vapor barrier that is nearly impervious to rips or tears. (We mechanically fasten our liners to the walls to keep them firmly in place.) We then caulk around the top edge to prevent moisture from rising behind the vapor barrier and into the crawlspace. We will also wrap any concrete or block columns with our vapor barrier.

If you’re ready to install a permanent crawl space solution that keeps moisture out and your home energy efficient, call ‘58 Foundations today to schedule your free inspection.