The Beginners Guide to Crawlspace Encapsulation

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Just under one in six modern homes has a crawl space, and some regions take that number even higher. Depending on the construction, a crawl space can present real problems for a house’s safety and stability.

A crawl space can collect moisture, making it an attractive home for all kinds of unwanted visitors. Mold will often accumulate in a crawl space, and an insecure one can also play host to vermin.

Worried about your home? Wondering how to protect yourself from mold and pests without an expensive renovation? We’ll go over what crawlspace encapsulation is, how it works, and why it will protect your home without breaking the bank.

Crawlspace Encapsulation Basics

We’ll start with the basics: what is crawl space encapsulation? At its simplest, crawlspace encapsulation focuses on keeping water out. By cutting off the source of common crawlspace problems, encapsulation prevents them from getting worse.

The simplest encapsulation process involves installing a liner within the crawlspace that keeps water from reaching other parts of the home. Depending on the size, shape, and ventilation of the crawlspace, you may need to take additional steps.

In addition to crawl space waterproofing, encapsulation also helps stabilize home temperature. Homes with crawlspaces either spend energy heating and cooling them, or turn them into breeding grounds for other problems. An encapsulation helps stop that cycle.

Foot Traffic and Storage Considerations

Homeowners want to turn their crawlspaces into robust storage areas. A dirt floor crawlspace makes a poor candidate for storing most items, though, due to the moisture and insects. Encapsulation can help with this, but this desire brings some further considerations with it.

If you plan to be walking, scooting, or crawling in the crawlspace frequently, you’ll want a strong liner. The same goes for storing heavy boxes and crates in the space. A thinner liner can dent or tear under pressure.

Depending on what you want to store, you may consider installing a dehumidifier as well. Even with the reduction in humidity and insect access, the humid environment of a crawlspace can damage some items. A dehumidifier will prevent the damage.

Insulation vs Encapsulation

Some people throw crawl space insulation and crawl space encapsulation around as if they mean the same thing. The two processes differ, however, and choosing the wrong one for your situation can leave you unhappy with the results.

Crawl space insulation only prevents the floor above the crawl space from getting cold. An encapsulation won’t do the same unless you also insulate, but will reduce moisture and mold.

An encapsulation does stabilize the temperature within the crawlspace somewhat. This can help if you live in a colder climate, as it reduces the likelihood of pipes bursting.

Does Encapsulation Prevent Everything?

While they do work well in many climates, encapsulations can fail in areas prone to flooding. Some crawl spaces need to allow water to flow through them as part of dealing with the weather events that cause floods. In these areas, you won’t get the benefits of a conventional crawl space encapsulation.

In cases like these, you may still be able to encapsulate your crawl space, but will also need alternative solutions to flooding. Every home has different needs, so if flooding is a concern in your area, talk to your contractor about the best ways to insulate or encapsulate your crawlspace. Avoid getting fixated on specific solutions.

Considerations Before You Encapsulate

While you might see all these potential downsides to an open crawl space and want to start encapsulation now, you should take a moment to assess. Other issues need to be solved before you encapsulate.


How do you access your crawlspace? Do you want to change out an entry hatch or get rid of an old wooden door? While you can perform these changes after encapsulation, you’ll be better off doing them first.


A crawlspace with active pooling problems needs those addressed before (or as part of) encapsulation. No single solution will work. Your contractor should discuss ways to handle that level of moisture, such as drainage systems, before installation.

Foundation Damage

Depending on the amount of water that’s been allowed through your crawl space, your foundation can have some damage. You need to assess this before you encapsulate.

Fixing a damaged foundation can cost thousands of dollars. You may not want to spend it. Encapsulating without checking for foundation damage first, however, will add more costs to both processes in the long term.

Potential Health Problems

We’ve harped on mold a lot during this article, and mold does present a health and safety hazard in a crawlspace. Different types of mold require different solutions. If you notice strange discolorations or rotten wood, you will need to address those first.

Consider the possibility of carbon monoxide buildup in an encapsulated crawl space as well. Some appliances can vent monoxide into the crawl space, and encapsulation could cause a serious ventilation problem.

Call a Pro

All of these issues should be left to professionals. It can be tempting to buy mold killer and call it a day, but a professional will have a better sense of what you need to address mold and carbon monoxide buildup.

Protect Your Home

Crawlspace encapsulation reduces moisture, closes off an avenue of attack for insects, and reduces the likelihood of burst pipes. You can adjust the process according to your needs. In the long run, the process protects your home and health.

Looking to protect your basement or crawlspace? Want an honest opinion about the best way to keep your home healthy and dry? Contact us today to get an estimate on crawl space encapsulation cost and process.