A crawl space is one of the most overlooked areas in a home. While the majority of your utility lines will enter your home through the crawl space, they are often cramped and difficult to access. However, crawl spaces are also prone to water damage and mold problems for that very reason. The best way to prevent crawl space water damage is to check your crawl space seasonally if not once a month.
Common Causes of Crawl Space Water Damage
Crawl space water damage starts with a source of water.
Water and Sewer Lines
In most cases, your main water and sanitary sewer lines run through your crawl space. Due to their location, it’s easy to miss water damage in your crawl space until it’s too late. Additionally, your pipes are typically exposed to the elements. While this isn’t an issue in the summer, it may lead to a frozen or burst pipe in the winter.
Rain and Snow Melt
Any type of water that falls from the sky can also cause crawl space water damage. Clogged gutters or landscaping can cause excess water to pool around your foundation and enter your crawl space from above. Water can cause a crawl space flood by seeping over the foundation wall or through gaps or cracks in the mortar joints.
A saturated water table or flooding from a nearby water source can also allow water to enter your crawl space through the soil around or underneath your foundation. Water often comes through cracks in your foundation walls or along the seam between the walls and the floor. Water is also more likely to flood your crawl space if there is a dirt floor.
How to Prevent Water Damage in Your Crawl Space
Protecting your crawl space from a flood or water damage is very similar to preventing water from entering a full basement. While you can perform some of these on your own, some will require a professional to diagnosis or install.
Use Your Plumbing Fixtures Correctly
One of the best ways to prevent water damage in your crawl space and throughout your entire home is to properly use your plumbing. From your sinks to your toilets, avoid sending anything down the drain that isn’t intended to go down the drain.
Your garbage disposal isn’t a blender and is only designed to handle food particles smaller than a pea. Anything larger than a pea will get broken down, but not enough to prevent a clog down the line. Other things to avoid putting down the sink are fats, oils, starches, and coffee grounds.
In the bathroom, use a hair catcher to help prevent sink and bathtub clogs. Only flush waste and toilet paper down the toilet. Other types of paper products, hygiene items, and so-called flushable wipes shouldn’t be flushed, as they don’t break down the same way as toilet paper.
Clean Gutters and Downspouts
One of the easiest, most effective ways to prevent a flooded crawl space or another type of water damage is to clean your gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters and downspouts prevent water from flowing away from your foundation, increasing the chances of water pooling around your foundation.
Clean them seasonal or install a leaf guard to prevent clogs. If your downspouts connect to a drainage system, check it regularly to ensure it works properly. For downspouts that drain to the ground, add extensions to channel water away from your home.
Improve the Insulation Around Pipes
Homes in traditionally warmer climates often have little or no insulation on their pipes. While sub-freezing temperatures are rare in those areas, an arctic blast can cause pipes to freeze or burst. Adding insulation around your water supply line and sanitary sewer line protects you against crawl space water damage.
Check Your Landscaping
Your landscaping can also keep excess water around your foundation. Make sure that the soil around your home slopes away for at least three feet to prevent water damage in your crawl space. Avoid planting too close to your foundation as well.
Keep at least six inches of clear space between landscaping and foundation walls. Plant bushes no closer than two feet from your home. Trees should be at least three feet away. Remove or relocate plants that are closer to your foundation.
Repair Foundation Cracks and Gaps
Check your foundation regularly for cracks and other signs of damage. Look for cracks in the wall and missing mortar between bricks. Inspect the floor and the seam between the walls and floor for cracks and gaps.
Repair cracks and gaps with hydraulic cement or polyurethane caulk to prevent crawl space water damage. For the best seal, carve a v-shape into the crack with a chisel or an angle grinder with a masonry blade. Then use a trowel to firmly press the cement or caulk into the crack.
Fix Your Drain Tile
If you already have water issues in your crawl space, you may need to have your drain tile repaired. The drain tile follows the perimeter of your foundation and is made of perforated piping that helps with drainage. Other names for a drain tile are French drains, footing drains, perimeter tile, or weeping tile.
Over time your drain tile can get clogged or even collapse, allowing water to pool around your foundation. This increases the chance water will enter your crawl space through the seam between the wall and the floor or through floor cracks. Unfortunately, there is no way to check if your drain tile is damaged.
Install a Sump Pump or Curtain Drain
Another option to help prevent crawl space water damage is to install a drainage system like a sump pump or a curtain drain. Sump pumps are used to remove groundwater from around your foundation. A channel around the foundation allows water to flow into a well and a pump removes the water from the crawl space. A curtain drain is designed to remove surface water in a similar way.
Waterproof Your Foundation
You can protect your crawl space from water damage by waterproofing your foundation walls. This can be done from the outside and the inside. While waterproofing the inside is easier to do yourself, it still allows water through your foundation walls. This may cause walls and bricks to deteriorate over time. Exterior waterproofing is more effective but usually required professional application.
What to Do if You Already Have Crawl Space Water Damage
If you already have a crawl space flood or another type of crawl space water damage, the most important thing is to extract the standing water as soon as possible. If you can see water leaking from a water pipe, you should turn off your main water supply line to prevent further damage.
For a small amount of water, use towels or sponges to soak up the water. Wring them out in buckets or other containers and dump them far away from your foundation. For larger amounts of water, a pump is more effective.
Then use a wet/dry vacuum to remove as much of the remaining water as possible. Finish drying out the area with fans and dehumidifiers. Consumer-grade units will work but renting professional-grade air movers will decrease drying time.
Depending on the extent of the water damage in your crawl space, you may need to make repairs or even replace damaged materials. You should also spray the area with a disinfectant to prevent mold and odors from growing in the future.
What to do if the Water Damage in Your Crawl Space Contained Sewage
Unfortunately, sewage in a flooded crawl space complicates the cleanup process. Sewage will typically contain bacteria, viruses, parasites, and mold that pose a health risk. If you are cleaning up sewage, take extra precautions to protect yourself. Additionally, use a disinfectant to treat against pathogens in sewage during clean up.
Always wear long sleeves and pants, gloves, a face mask, and eye protection. Make sure all open wounds are cleaned, disinfected, and bandaged with waterproof materials. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth in-between hand washing.
What to do if You have Mold After Crawl Space Water Damage
Mold is a naturally occurring fungus that decomposes organic material in the presence of moisture. It is likely to grow on wood, walls, and flooring in a crawl space after a flood or water damage. The longer it remains, the more damage it will cause. While you can use a disinfectant to kill mold, it may return if there is another source of moisture.
Depending on the extent of the mold damage, it may be necessary to replace structural elements of your crawl space. Typically this includes wooden support beams, but it can also affect bricks, mortar, and insulation as well. Wear a face mask or ventilator to prevent inhaling mold spores during clean up.
Professional Crawl Space Flood or Water Damage Services
Unfortunately, even after taking preventative steps, crawl space water damage still happens. Restoration Local is a network of local contractors that can extract water and repair a crawl space after a water event.
We have partners across the country, so you will find a local water damage contractor in your area. They offer complete dry out and restoration services to restore your home to its original condition after a crawl space flood or another type of water damage.
If you need immediate assistance for crawl space water damage, call 1-888-443-3110 now to speak with the on-call water damage specialist in your area. Our on-call contractors always offer a free, no-obligation estimate, 24-hour emergency service, and 30-minute response time.