Let's face it. No one actually wants to enter the area underneath the house. Many people either never go in the crawl space or only enter it when there is a problem. This area is usually difficult to get into and once you actually do get in there it is very small and dark. This area can also be damp and smelly at times. It's no wonder no one wants to go in there! But if you own investment property, this is a job that has to be done. You don’t want any nasty surprises five or ten years down the road when you decide to sell the house.
Here are 5 things you need to keep in mind.
1. Inspect the crawl space regularly. The crawl space is a very important part of your home. Just as it is necessary to visit your physician every year, it is just as important to check your crawl space at least twice a year. When problems do occur in this area, it is important to identify them quickly and make necessary repairs. The most common culprits in a crawl space are water penetration and pest infestation. When left unchecked, they can lead to large and costly repairs that could have been avoided if routine inspections had been performed.
If you have insulation in this area, be sure that none of it has fallen down. You should also make sure the insulation is properly installed. When installing insulation remember that the paper should always be against the heated portion of the home. If you have insulation in this area and it has gotten wet, it may need to be pulled out and replaced.
2. Run the water in the house. Before you enter the crawl space, you should turn on the water at all of the faucets in your home and let the water run for a few minutes. Then, while you are in the crawl space area, you can check your plumbing for any leaking. By letting the water run for a while before doing your inspection, any small leaks will have time to appear. Plumbing leaks can cause excessive moisture in the crawl space and can damage the joists and sub-floor in the affected area. We recommend contacting a qualified plumber to repair any leaks.
3. Inspect the area after heavy rains. After periods of heavy rain, it is a good idea to check the entire area for excessive moisture and standing water. Standing water or overly damp conditions in this area can lead to wood deterioration, mold and mildew and other moisture related problems. Many times, water intrusion is a result of improper grade around the foundation. Keep a close eye on the grade and add dirt when you notice low areas or improperly sloped areas. If you find excessive moisture in this area and cannot determine a specific cause, you should consider contacting a water proofing company to help alleviate this problem.
4. Check for pest damage or critters. While you are down there, look for evidence of wood destroying pests or critters (raccoons, cats, snakes, etc.) that have made this area their new home. Some animals can do a great deal of damage in a relatively short amount of time if they are allowed to remain in this area. Make sure that the crawl space access door and the screens in your vents are in place at all times. If you find evidence that critters are living under your home, contact an appropriate pest removal professional. We also recommend keeping this area free of debris, like old lumber, at all times. Leaving old lumber laying around can be an open invitation to termites to “move on in”.
5. Ventilation is essential. Proper ventilation of this area is essential and will alleviate many moisture related problems. Screened openings in this area should be opened in the summer and then closed in the winter. Closing the vents in the winter will help keep the floors from becoming so cold during the winter months. For convenience, you can also purchase temperature controlled vents that open and close on their own.
Doing simple, regular maintenance will keep you from having to make costly repairs later on and will help assure that your homes’ value will not decline due to its condition. One way to do this is to have a seasonal maintenance checklist and follow it every year.