Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

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wabbajack
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Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by wabbajack » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:45 am

Over half a year into my first house. Many adventures along the way, and many dollars spent obviously... I find myself thinking about addressing my crawl space because it was one of the items in the inspection that was a major concern. House is in Midwest. Built in 1981. $150k market value.

Current issue is that there is standing water throughout my crawlspace. There is a pit and sump pump (which I will upgrade regardless), but no real drainage system and no vapor barrier. I've gotten a quote for installing these items, but have trouble justifying the cost compared to the value of the house. The quote was $6k for full drainage system (or $2k for partial) and $2k for vapor barrier. I would guess that the previous owners never worried about this sort of thing.

I'm trying to calculate the cost/benefit of doing this work, and here are my thoughts:
- I'm planning to sell in 4-6 years. All I care about is breaking even.
- If this has always been an issue but nothing was fixed... Then maybe there's nothing to worry about?
- What is the probability of running into structural issues or mold issues in the next 5 years if I do nothing?
- Keep in mind the previous owners did nothing and had no issues.
- Any money I throw into this area basically adds zero value to the property.

What are your experiences with crawl spaces? Should I be thinking differently about the issue?

GuySmiley
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by GuySmiley » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:33 am

I used to live in a house with a crawl space, built in 1948 in TX. I had two specific water issues related to broken plumbing, which I took care of to help keep the critters away, as they appreciated the standing water. I also had a generic drainage issue, and evidence of a high water mark in the past. Didn't do anything about that, and I never ran into structural issues with 10 years of ownership. If they don't exist already, properly installed gutters can help with drainage concerns. As for mold, ventilation would be my first area to address, make sure you can get an airflow from one side of the house to the other, and cut some holes for ventilation if needed.

Rupert
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by Rupert » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:37 am

I think standing water in a crawlspace is a big problem that needs to be fixed. It's such a big problem that I wouldn't have bought a house with standing water in the crawlspace. I doubt it's a problem that has always been there, or the house would have issues by now. Over time, the water can compromise the structural integrity of the home, not to mention the mold. Probably the old sump pump system worked at some point in time but has stopped working or has stopped working properly. Perhaps the water problem has grown, and the sump pump system can't handle it anymore. In either case, the sump pump is the first thing I would fix to see if it resolves the issue by itself. My approach to these things is to try the cheapest solution first.

You need a vapor barrier if your crawlspace is enclosed, but $2K is high. Installing a vapor barrier literally involves spreading plastic sheeting on the ground and making sure the different sheets overlap properly. The cost is almost all labor. Have you considered doing that work yourself? At the very least, get a couple of more quotes. Get quotes from insulation companies in addition to water remediation companies. Insulation companies often do that work too and may be cheaper.

What's the difference between the full drainage system and a partial drainage system that have been suggested to you?

MnD
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by MnD » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:52 am

Do you really want to be living a few feet over a lake of stagnant filthy water in a 100% humidity (and probably condensing) crawlspace whether or not this "lake" is covered in plastic?

Get a full drainage, ventilation and pump solution to completely dry it out and once it's been tested with a few big rainstorms install a high quality thick 12 or 20 mil professional vapor barrier, which is a very different product than generic plastic sheeting or cheap vapor barriers sold at big-box hardware places. How it's installed is critical - needs to be completely sealed against the foundation walls and all vertical intrusions.

Unless I was looking at bidding at a huge discount I wouldn't even consider making an offer on a house with standing water throughout the crawl space.

daheld
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by daheld » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:55 am

Standing water in a crawl space can be an enormous, serious issue. Never mind the potential health implications of mold, standing water can do serious structural damage. I personally would never buy a home with water standing in the crawl space, and I don't think a lot of people would. If I owned it, I'd absolutely make it right. I think there's a decent chance anyone who makes you an offer when you try to sell will do so with the requirement that you fix it. Do you want to pay for that now or when you're trying to sell the place?

mw1739
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by mw1739 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:28 pm

Is the current sump pump working? First step would be to do that. I installed a vapor barrier in my previous house. As someone else mentioned, once you get the area dry, the vapor barrier is a relatively easy and cheap DIY project. I would guess a couple hundred in materials and a few hours time.

ddurrett896
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by ddurrett896 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:57 pm

wabbajack wrote:
Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:45 am
$2k for vapor barrier. I would guess that the previous owners never worried about this sort of thing.

What are your experiences with crawl spaces? Should I be thinking differently about the issue?
Correct the issue but shop around. I'm in southern VA and get a yearly termite inspection which includes the crawl space. I don't have a vapor barrier and since everything looks good, they didn't recommend but I asked him what it would cost and he said $400.

Unless your vapor barrier quote include things other than a basic plastic lining on the floor, it's way high.

Irisheyes
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by Irisheyes » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:03 pm

We have a crawl space in our house in CA. Dry for the first 8 years of home ownership and then one Fall after heavy rains, it started filling up quickly.
Freaked me the heck out to see water 6-8 inches high in there.

Cracks had developed in the concrete driveway adjacent to the house, and water run off was flowing through those cracks and making its way into the crawlspace from there.

We fixed by adding a french drain system outside the house on the other side of the driveway, and re-routing the rain water around the house.

So I guess the fix would depend on where your water is coming from. But I would definitely get it addressed, wherever your water is coming from.

Nate79
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by Nate79 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:10 pm

For the vapor barrier I think you could buy the materials and hire a handyman for a few hrs of work if you don't want to do it yourself.

123
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by 123 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:21 pm

I've got to echo that standing water in the crawlspace is a serious issue. Eventually you will have mold and smell problems. The biggest concern is that your foundation settling and potential foundation cracking. Have you checked to see if the floors (as well as stove and kitchen counters) in your house are still level? When the foundation settles, not necessarily evenly, it put stress on other building components which can cause unexpected consequences like your roof splitting (it happened to a house in my childhood neighborhood). Of course it can really mess with your plumbing as sewer pipes get crushed and drainage pipe joints start to leak due to misalignment, all at a snail's pace so you may not notice it until it's too late.

If possible I would try to find a solution that doesn't involve a permanent sump pump. You really need things to stay dry. Is your soil/water table an issue or can you improve drainage away from the structure?

I have doubts about whether the pit and sump pump were original components in the construction of the house.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

chambers136
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by chambers136 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:26 pm

The vapor barrier cost really depends on what the material is. As others mentioned, you can get a 6 mil thick sheet of plastic, or a 20 mil thick strand reinforced sheet for the barrier. The costs will be significantly different for the material alone. It depends if this is truly a crawl space that will never have traffic through it, or if it's high enough for storage and you will be trekking through it on a regular basis. Either way, I'd address it.

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queso
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by queso » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:41 pm

Working on this now, but not in quite as bad a place as you are since the previous owner had already encapsulated the crawlspace and added a crawlspace dehumidifier. I don't have standing water, but am redoing everything myself since the barrier is showing its age and the prior contractor made some mistakes when the crawlspace was originally encapsulated. As others have pointed out, materials are around $200 or so depending on the barrier you choose. I am still deciding on how I want to attach it (drill with Christmas tree fasteners - slow, boring, cheap or a Ramset - fun, loud and I get to buy another tool, but not the best choice for all types of concrete). There is a lot of info out there on how to attach it, how much to overlap, etc. Here are a few good links.

https://www.americover.com/linecard_cra ... iners.html

https://www.proremodeler.com/how-instal ... crawlspace

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-YJR_gaD8U

bob60014
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by bob60014 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:42 pm

It may help to know, why is there water in that area? Are you on a hill, near a river/lake or other area with a high water table? Are gutters installed properly diverting water?

iamlucky13
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by iamlucky13 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 3:52 pm

Rupert wrote:
Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:37 am
I doubt it's a problem that has always been there, or the house would have issues by now. Over time, the water can compromise the structural integrity of the home, not to mention the mold.
Whether or not it causes problems also depends on the ventilation and resulting relative humidity in the crawlspace.
wabbajack wrote:
Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:45 am
- Any money I throw into this area basically adds zero value to the property.
It has added value if your prospective buyers react to their inspection reports the same way most of the contributors to this thread do.

If this only happens following heavy precipitation, it might be possible to address the standing water by extending your downspouts away from the foundation or improving your grading around the foundation. Otherwise, I think I would be interested in improving the drainage and getting the vapor barrier installed.

When I had the vapor barrier replaced in my home at my lender's insistence (minimal overlap and a few holes, but no signs of mold, rot, or water over the vapor barrier), it was $700 for labor and materials. That was recession-pricing by a contractor hungry for work, with a 40' x 25' crawlspace partially divided by a center footing. It was probably mid-level difficulty to work in as far as crawlspaces go.

carolinaman
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by carolinaman » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:25 am

I agree with others that this problem needs to be fixed. A vapor barrier and fixing the sump pump are both good things to do, but the first thing is to stop the water from getting into the crawl if possible. Routing gutters away from the house is a relatively easy fix. A french drain is much more expensive, but may be necessary to divert the water away from the crawl. Also, you may need to dig a trench in your crawl to enable water to flow to the sump pump.

Water is enemy number 1 for homeowners. It can cause damage to your structure (framing and foundation), create mold and other unhealthy situations, and cause a musty odor in your home. Even if this problem does not get worse, which in time it will, people will not buy your home unless it is steeply discounted.

Having said all this, I am not a fan of encapsulation which many companies will pitch as the solution to your problem. This is an oversold product that is often not necessary. I suggest you do some research to figure out the most sensible fix to this problem, but beware of the encapsulation sales people. They are akin to financial advisers.

mike77308
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by mike77308 » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:21 am

Going into marriage got me a house with a crawlspace and a moisture problem. The insulation applied to the underside of the floor was moldy and the ventilation grates in the foundation walls had been covered over (no doubt to address the massive heating bills generated by electric baseboard heating). First order of business was to remove the insulation and restore the ventilation. There was a low spot in the dirt that was always wet and digging around I found that there was a spring bubbling up there. The neighborhood was named Springdale for a reason. I took about 6 months of work for me to install a drainage system under the house and outside of the foundation as well as re-contour the property to channel surface water away from the house (FIL had a backhoe that he let me use). The humidity in both the crawlspace and in the house improved dramatically and I installed new insulation under the floor and a vapor barrier over the dirt. The humidity problem never came back during the 20 years that we lived there.

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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by forgeblast » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:45 am

We passed on houses that had drainage issues. They were really nice, but I did not want to deal with sump pumps that had to run constantly. It also made the house feel colder. 6k to have it fixed seems like a decent price, what was the cost break down?

megabad
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by megabad » Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:05 pm

How much standing water? Are we talking a few puddles after a heavy multi day downpour or are we talking 2 ft high flood every week? If it is just the usual small amount of water intrusion, I would replace sump pump, drop some new plastic myself if it needed it, install very long gutter drains and call it a day. If there were just a few low spots around the house, I might get a load of soil dumped and regrade a little too. This is a few hundred bucks. The fact that you have a sump pump in a crawl tells me that the home site was probably not graded properly which is very difficult to fix after the fact, but I've seen it all the time. I have seen 5000 sq ft mansions with "damp" crawl spaces. Honestly, I have never heard of anyone stop a home purchase by claiming the crawl was damp. Now if the house was floating or the foundation was completely eroded away, than that is a different story.

daheld
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by daheld » Tue Dec 04, 2018 3:55 pm

mike77308 wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:21 am
Going into marriage got me a house with a crawlspace and a moisture problem. The insulation applied to the underside of the floor was moldy and the ventilation grates in the foundation walls had been covered over (no doubt to address the massive heating bills generated by electric baseboard heating). First order of business was to remove the insulation and restore the ventilation. There was a low spot in the dirt that was always wet and digging around I found that there was a spring bubbling up there. The neighborhood was named Springdale for a reason. I took about 6 months of work for me to install a drainage system under the house and outside of the foundation as well as re-contour the property to channel surface water away from the house (FIL had a backhoe that he let me use). The humidity in both the crawlspace and in the house improved dramatically and I installed new insulation under the floor and a vapor barrier over the dirt. The humidity problem never came back during the 20 years that we lived there.
Care to share the drain system worked? I know how, say, a French drain outside of a home works. But I'm curious what you did to remedy a spring bubbling under your home.

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Sandtrap
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by Sandtrap » Tue Dec 04, 2018 3:58 pm

1. Repairs adequate to eliminate standing water.
2. Sell

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gasdoc
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Re: Crawl Space Fixin's - Do you really need it?

Post by gasdoc » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:27 am

When we have shopped for homes, I categorically dismissed homes with a musty crawlspace. Air from the crawlspace makes its way into the house (airflow rises in the house).

gasdoc

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