First – what is a crawl space? As the name implies, it’s a space in your home where you need to crawl, no being high enough to walk in. This can be both under the floors instead of a basement, or it can be in the attic. In both areas there are important pieces of the building’s infrastructure that need to be watched and sometimes maintained.
Let’s talk about the foundation crawl space. Have you ever been there? It’s not usually the nicest space in the home. Most of the time, the floor of the crawl space is a concrete slab, but sometimes (usually in older homes) it’s a dirt floor. Crawl spaces are typically 2-34 feet in height.
Starting from the bottom, you should have a vapor barrier. This keeps moisture from rising from the ground, which can create mold and other nasty growths.
Above you is insulation. This should be installed between every joist or beam, giving a solid barrier of insulation material to conserve heat. Watch out for the tricky thing called gravity. It tends to pull the insulation down from its intended location.
Often you’ll find ductwork for the heat and cooling systems. These can also fall victim to gravity. The ductwork ideally should be insulated to conserve energy.
You’ll also find plumbing supply and drain lines. The supply lines should be above the insulation and protected from the cold weather.
You’ll also find electrical wires. Sometimes unwanted critters enter the crawl space and they have been known to chew on electrical wiring, which could possibly cause a fire.
Various items at times need to go to the outside of the home. Such as wires for outdoor electrical receptacles and lighting, plumbing for outside hose faucets, incoming plumbing and gas supply lines, clothes dryer exhaust vents. The holes made in the foundation or the supporting beams above the foundation are quite often larger than necessary. This can lead to energy loss or can be a doorway for unwanted critters to enter.
You should also find foundation vents. These are grills which should be opened in the summer to allow air to blow through the crawl space. These should be closed in the winter to conserve heat. Vents are available that automatically open and close at the appropriate temperature.
In the attic the insulation is below you, directly above the ceiling of the rooms below. Most older homes had 4” of insulation installed originally. Installing additional insulation will help keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. The attic also requires ventilation to allow hot air to escape in the summer, which will prolong the life of the roof. Many of the items in the lower crawl also apply to the attic.
Be proactive and maintain these important areas of your home that most people ignore.