Many homeowners in East Tennessee have had to deal with their crawl spaces causing foundation damage and costly mold growth. In many cases dehumidification has been an option, but often this will not be enough to control the moisture levels in the crawl spaces. In some cases the walls are just beginning to crack or the wood framing is buckling due to water getting in. These types of damages can occur before any other problems show up on the exterior of your home, or they may appear later once the outside problem has already been addressed. There are some simple steps you can take to address these issues and prevent future problems.
Before addressing exterior foundation problems many homeowners in East Tennessee have been seeking services from a Crawl Space ninja to find out what steps to take for foundation piers. Foundation piers are cracks in the soil around foundation walls, which allow water to get into the basement and surrounding areas. By sealing and stabilizing the piers with a dirt sealant the foundation holes can be closed, preventing additional foundation damage. Most Crawl Spaces are sealed at the bottom and sides, but the baseboard may also need to be sealed to keep out excess moisture.
A Crawl Space Ninja will also recommend that you fill in all drainage holes to prevent mold from growing in damp areas. Improper waterproofing practices, such as improper excavation for walls and building foundations, will contribute to foundation repair needs. The pros agree that in most cases it is more cost effective to fill in these holes than to attempt to correct the problem through other means. Other methods of encapsulation may be less effective in the long run and also cost money.
In crawl spaces other methods of foundation repair may be needed. For example, cracked or missing piers may require digging and new pier foundations to fill in the holes. It is important that any pier foundation repair be done only after other cracks in the foundation are treated, since small cracks can propagate into larger cracks once they weaken. The pros recognize that there are many other methods than mere piers that can be used to treat small cracks, but they prefer to use them in conjunction with other methods of waterproofing.
Some in the industry also recommend encapsulating to prevent basement dampness, but the pros will not touch this suggestion. Surrounding walls, floors, ceilings, basement walls, and crawl spaces are typically covered with a rigid, impermeable membrane. The membrane is applied over the top of the concrete, and then a thick exterior coating is applied. This roofing system is relatively inexpensive, but the coating has to be replaced periodically, which can be inconvenient and costly.
Crawl spaces are considered to be part of the exterior structure when they slope toward the house and have a higher slope than grade. If this slab is not graded properly, it will trap rainwater runoff from the roof and force it to run downward instead of draining away to the ground. Cementitious or concrete-based waterproofing systems are used to stop run-offs and prevent moisture from seeping into the foundation. These systems work by applying an exterior coating to the slabs and sealing the seams between the slabs using a silicone-based adhesive. These systems are more economical than alternative waterproofing methods like piers, because they do not require the demolition of interior concrete walls and the replacement of windows, flooring, and ceilings. Yet, they are highly effective at preventing rainwater from entering through porous materials like crawl spaces and basement walls and at preventing humidity from entering the interior of the house.
Standing on a piece of plywood, placed diagonally across the perimeter of the space will create a sagging area, which can be filled with concrete, sand, or rebar. This is a temporary fix for structural problems that can cause dampness or damage to the entire foundation. If the building does not have a concrete floor, the plywood should be anchored to the soil with steel rebar. This method of sagging concrete has the advantage of making it impervious to water and other liquids, although it may sag if the surrounding conditions are not stable.
A non-sudgy type of wood is a good foundation medium for crawl spaces, as long as the wood rot resistant material is sealed properly and does not accumulate organic matter like sawdust. Pre-milled hardwood chips are good materials for foundation construction in crawl spaces, as long as they are sealed and insect-proofed. Wood rot stops the development of mildew, mold, and bacteria, and kills any pests that try to eat them. A wood rot solution like wood vinegar is also a good way of controlling mould and pests.