While traditionally a dirt crawlspace is seen as a barrier between your home’s living spaces and the earth, you ought to be able to benefit from all that extra space it could provide! This is especially important whether you’re looking to have additional space in your home, or if you’re looking to start a homesteading life where the additional storage space can be useful for your seasonal items, gardening tools, craft supplies, and much more.
But not so fast! A dirt crawlspace on its own is not the best place to store things. Moisture from the soil as well as the humidity that gets carried in through crawlspace vents can wreak havoc on anything within the crawlspace. Dirt crawlspaces can also become swamped with water when it rains if the water table should rise too high. To make full use of your dirt crawlspace, you’ll need to take some steps to preparing it. Here are the six ways to make your crawlspace storage-ready…
- Check your plumbing for any leaks
- Inspect your crawlspace foundation
- Search your crawlspace for mold or wood rot
- Account for all crawlspace vents and gaps where your pipes meet the outside wall
- Remove any debris from your crawlspace
- Encapsulate your crawlspace
By following these steps, you can make sure your crawlspace is properly setup to be used as a safe storage space. Here are just some of the benefits that a storage-ready crawlspace can provide…
- Storage for gardening tools and supplies
- Storing construction and carpentry tools that you may use for your homesteading projects
- For keeping seasonal items like lawn chairs and yard tables
- Dry storage for supplies like soil, seeds, and more
- A safe space to setup and manage an indoor garden
Let’s take a closer look at those steps in preparing your crawlspace, so that you can maximize the use of all the space you have!
1. Checking Your Plumbing
Any plumbing lines that you may in your crawlspace should be inspected for any leaks. Plumbing leaks can increase the level of moisture in your crawlspace, which can lead to increased humidity, mold growth, and even damage to the wooden structures of your crawlspace.
2. Inspecting Your Crawlspace Foundation
Before you can work on turning your crawlspace into useful storage space, it is important to inspect your crawlspace foundation walls for any damage. This typically happens because of the effects of moisture. Whenever it rains, the water table rises until it starts to press against the concrete walls of your foundation—that hydrostatic pressure can become immense, able to create cracks in your foundation, which can cause that same water to begin leaking through. That same moisture can also affect the structural integrity of the concrete itself, eventually leading to crumbling.
Should you find any foundation damage, repairs will need to be done before your crawlspace will be ready for use as a storage space.
3. Searching for Mold or Wood Rot
Have you ever noticed strange discoloration in your crawlspace floor joists or wooden support beams? Does your crawlspace have a musty smell that sometimes even wafts up into your living spaces? You might have a mold problem or wood rot that’s affecting your wooden structures. It’s important to search your crawlspace for any signs of mold or wood rot, and have those problems taken care of before turning your crawlspace into storage space. Mold and wood rot love moisture, but in a typical dry home environment their spores will remain inactive.
But if your crawlspace tends to be humid, or you have a problem of water getting into the crawlspace on a regular basis, there’s a chance that those spores are getting the moisture they need to begin their life cycle. Mold spores can agitate allergies as well as agitate the symptoms of those living with asthma. Meanwhile, wood rot can damage and weaken a wooden structure, causing sagging floors and even crumbling of the affected wood depending on the type of wood rot. Address any mold or wood rot problems in a prompt manner to prevent further damage and to prepare your crawlspace for use.
4. Find Your Crawlspace Vents and Wall Gaps
Crawlspace vents were supposed to help keep your crawlspace dry with the help of some air circulation. But those designs fail because moisture in the air can still get trapped in the crawlspace, and if the weather should be humid, the air quality in the crawlspace won’t get any drier. There may also be gaps in your foundation wall because of pipes needing a way to the outside. Get a full count of these openings for when you encapsulate and seal your crawlspace.
5. Removing Debris from Your Crawlspace
If you have a dirt crawlspace, chances are there may be sticks, leaves, rocks, and other sorts of debris laying around on the ground. Debris can not only get in your way, but it can also get in the way of you trying to safely store anything. Organic debris can also become a draw for pests, so cleaning up your crawlspace is a must before you convert it into a storage area.
6. Encapsulating Your Crawlspace
If you’ve accomplished all the above steps, your crawlspace should be ready for encapsulation. This is the process of sealing your crawlspace and controlling the moisture levels within. The typical components that go into a crawlspace encapsulation include…
- Vapor barrier linings
- Vent blocks
- Crawlspace dehumidifier
Your unique crawlspace situation may require other solutions to be used as well, but these will typically be what’s in your encapsulated crawlspace to ensure that outside moisture doesn’t find a way in to affect your crawlspace and home.
Going Further with Crawlspace Waterproofing
Your encapsulated crawlspace is now ready to be used for storage, but just because it’s encapsulated against moisture doesn’t mean that it will prevent water from seeping out of the soil if crawlspace flooding is a common occurrence for you. Common DIY vapor barrier linings don’t usually last for long, and if your crawlspace is prone to pooling because of a rising water table, you risk eventual moisture intrusion should that vapor barrier begin to fail.
With the additional support of a crawlspace waterproofing system, you can relieve hydrostatic pressure on your foundation walls and redirect that rising water coming up into your crawlspace so that it goes out and away from your home instead of building up beneath your vapor barrier lining. For this kind of job, it’s recommended to look for an experienced company that specializes in crawlspace encapsulation and crawlspace waterproofing. One company that fulfills those requirements is ’58 Foundations!