A crawl space is often the least used space in any home. As such, water damage and pests are likely to go unnoticed for an extended period of time. Often, the first sign of an issue is a crawl space odor. From musty to extremely foul, a crawl space smell can seep up through the floor to the room above. If you have a crawl space odor, we look at the most common causes. Plus, we address how to remove a crawl space smell.
Causes of Crawl Space Smells
Although there are many causes, these are the most common reasons for crawl space odors.
- Water Leaks – A leaky water pipe will consistently leave water in your crawl space. Leaks usually result in mold, but can also result in bacteria and parasites.
- Floods – A flood can leave a large amount of water in your crawl space in a short time. Floods are more likely to cause bacteria and parasites in the short-term.
- Sewage Backups – A sewage backup will introduce mold, bacteria, and parasites immediately, which can result in more severe crawl space odors.
- Poor Ventilation – Without proper ventilation, your crawl space will retain excess moisture that can result in odors and mold.
- Animal Infestation – Animals can also cause crawl space smells. Excrement, bedding, food waste, and other materials will produce smells.
Why Does My Crawl Space Smell?
Most crawl space odors are the result of some source of water. Even clean water will eventually start to smell if it remains stagnant. The mold, bacteria, and parasites that grow in water are likely to cause crawl space odors.
As the water evaporates, it can produce high levels of humidity that saturates wood joists and other building materials in your crawl space. It can also mix with other dirt and debris in your crawl space to cause odors.
Since it usually serves as the foundation for part of your house, crawl space smells can come up through the floor. Depending on the conditions, odors may not be apparent for weeks or even months after the water appeared.
The floor of your crawl space affects the rate that the water will naturally disappear. Dirt floor crawl spaces will eventually allow water to soak into the soil. However, poured concrete flooring will retain the water for a much longer period of time.
How to Remove Crawl Space Smells
To get rid of your crawl space odor, you need to identify and resolve the cause of the smell. The process will vary depending on the source of the odor. Unfortunately, this can be difficult because most crawl spaces are cramped and confined. This makes getting equipment, as well as manpower, in and out of the area troublesome.
Regardless of whether the crawl space odor is the result of water or pests, wear personal protective equipment to keep yourself safe. Wear boots, pants, long sleeves, thick rubber gloves, goggles, and a ventilator during cleanup. Clean and bandage all existing wounds prior to cleanup. If you injure yourself during the cleanup, clean and bandage the wound immediately to prevent infection and disease.
Removing Crawl Space Odors Caused by Water
For a crawl space smell caused by water or sewage, you need to remove the standing water and dry out the area. Begin by pumping out the standing water. Then use a wet-dry shop-style vacuum to suck up remaining water, dirt, and debris. Also, use the vacuum on porous materials like wood and drywall to remove excess water that soaked into them.
Place fans and dehumidifiers throughout the area to efficiently dry your crawl space. Ideally, you should use commercial-grade air movers and dehumidifiers. They are available for rent at most local equipment rental companies. Consumer-grade units will work but expect them to take longer to dry out the area.
Once your crawl space is dry, clean every surface with a mild detergent. Then apply a sanitizing agent to prevent mold, bacteria, and parasites from returning. When using bleach to disinfect, use ¾ of a cup of bleach to a gallon of water. Instead of wiping surfaces with a rag, use a sprayer for better coverage and easier application.
Finally, you need to repair the issue that resulted in the water. For a leaky or burst water pipe or drain line, make repairs before drying. If you had a flood, take steps to improve your crawl space waterproofing. Also, address ventilation issues to prevent humidity and condensation that can lead to crawl space odors in the future.
Getting Rid of Crawl Space Smells Caused by Animal Infestation
If the crawl space odor is the result of an animal infestation, you need to remove the animals before doing anything else. For your own safety, we recommend contacting an exterminator or animal control specialist. Also, determine the point of entry for the animals and make repairs to prevent them from returning.
Once the animals are gone, use a shop vac to remove dirt and debris. Then clean with mild detergent and dry the area thoroughly. Sanitize with a solution of bleach and water to kill bacteria, parasites, and diseases commonly carried by animals. Use ¾ cup of bleach to water and apply it with a sprayer for the best coverage.
Remove a Crawl Space Odor Permanently
If you have a persistent crawl space smell or you don’t have the time or equipment to clean up crawl space water damage, Restoration Local® will help. We’re the largest network of restoration contractors, with water damage companies in your area. From independent companies to the most popular chains like AdvantaClean and Rainbow International, find a water damage company near you now. For immediate service, call 1-888-443-3110 now for a free, no-obligation estimate from our on-call water damage specialist in your area.