4 Alternatives to Crawl Space Encapsulation


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Crawl spaces are vulnerable to moisture and humidity. If left unattended for a prolonged period, moisture causes a range of problems to home structure, air quality, and utility systems.

The process of encapsulation has pros and cons. It prevents moisture and humidity from settling in the crawl space, however, it doesn’t come cheap. So, a lot of homeowners opt for alternatives. Here, I discuss four of the best alternatives to crawl space encapsulation, their maintenance requirements, cost of installation, and why they are a good alternative to encapsulation. 

1. Vapor Barrier

A vapor barrier, or moisture barrier, is a thick plastic liner that is placed over the floor and walls of the crawl space. Its major purpose is to prevent moisture from infiltrating into your crawl space. A secondary function it performs is to block vapor from entering the crawl space through the wall cavity.

The installation of a vapor barrier coupled with effective cross-ventilation prevents moisture from settling in the crawl space. 

Crawl space with vapor barrier installation

Cost of Installation

Depending on the liner thickness and the size of your crawl space, the average cost of installing a vapor barrier is between $1,200 to $4,000. 

Based on the thickness of the material, the liner is priced at $0.15 to $0.50. 

Vapor barrier sealing tape costs between $120 to $200

The average cost of vapor barrier installation is $2 to $4 per square foot. 

In total, you might have to pay between $1,000 to $4,000.

Maintenance Requirements

To avoid premature damage to the lining, do not install light vapor barriers on rough places or surfaces that are subject to abrasion. Instead, make use of a thick low permeance material.

It is important to check the barrier regularly for cuts or holes. You can seal punctures from gravel and sharp objects with seam tape. However, if your liner is thin, let’s say 6 mm and you notice tears in different spots, then you might have to completely replace the material with a thicker membrane. 

Vapor barriers are warranted to last between 5-10 years, after that they might begin to wear off and might have to be replaced. 

Vapor Barrier vs Encapsulation

The installation of a moisture barrier is one of the steps involved in encapsulating a crawl space. 

Crawl space encapsulation is an extensive procedure, thus it costs a lot more than installing a vapor barrier.

Crawl space encapsulation is more effective in completely eliminating moisture and pollutants from various outlets, while vapor barriers are limited in their functions. 

Keep in mind that unless the crawl space is fully encapsulated, installing a dehumidifier will not be very effective.

Also, vapor barriers do not seal off every source of moisture, so they leave the space susceptible to mold, and humidity. 

I have published a whole article comparing vapor barriers and encapsulation, so if you are looking for more details, visit Difference Between Encapsulation and Vapor Barrier.

When Is It a Good Alternative?

For homeowners whose major issue is moisture penetration from the soil or wall cavity, then installing a vapor barrier is a prudent choice. 

A major deterrent to encapsulation is cost. While the average cost of installing a vapor barrier is between $1,000 to $4,000, you would have to spend between $1,500 to $15,000.

2. Drylok Masonry Waterproofer

Drylok masonry waterproofer is a paint that protects concrete and masonry surfaces from external moisture. When Drylok is applied to a surface, it penetrates into the pores and serves as a protective barrier against moisture trying to enter the space from the foundation or walls. 

Apply the waterproofer that’s specifically designed for the surface you’re using it on. Using a product that’s not ideal for application on floors makes it ineffectual and vice versa. 

Cement wall with masonry waterproofer

Cost of Waterproofing

You do not need a professional to apply Drylok. So, you can save on labor costs. 

Depending on the level of surface porosity, Drylok Original Masonry Waterproofer and Drylok Extreme Masonry Waterproofer cover 75-100 sq. ft per gallon. Drylok Floor & Wall Masonry Waterproofer covers 90 to 100 square feet per gallon. So, the amount of paint you use would be dependent on the size and porosity of your crawl space. 

A gallon of Drylok is priced between $30 to $40. 

Maintenance Requirements

After applying Drylok, you have to ensure that your crawl space is properly ventilated. If the ventilation in your crawl space is poor then humidity would cause moisture to settle on surfaces. 

Drylok is warrantied to last between 7 to 15 years. After that, it might start to peel. Cracking or peeling Drylok might have to be removed and repainted. 

Old Drylok that is still adhering to the surface can be painted over with a new coat of Drylok.

Drylok vs Encapsulation

Drylok only protects the crawl space from outside moisture. It does not account for dampness that comes from leaks, humidity, or condensation. So, moisture due to these can settle on surfaces and give your crawl space a damp smell. 

Worse, mold and mildew can grow on floors and walls, including those covered with Drylok. This can affect the air quality in your home and might lead to health challenges. 

Encapsulation, on the other hand, addresses moisture from both internal and external sources. 

When Is It a Good Alternative?

For minor moisture problems, Drylok might be all you need to keep your crawl space dry. For instance, if the major source of moisture in your crawl space is seepage from the soil and foundation, then Drylok might be the affordable solution you need.

3. Interior Drainage Systems

An interior drainage system removes moisture trying to seep in from the foundation as well as those inside the crawl space. Unlike an exterior drainage system, an interior unit features holes along the drain pipe so that it can absorb moisture from both sides. 

Interior drainage system for crawl space

To install an interior drainage system, the perimeters of the crawl space are jack hammered, to create room for the drain pipe. 

It’s general practice to connect an interior drainage system to a sump pump.

Cost of Installation

Factors like the size of the crawl space and the type of drainage system used to determine the cost.

Drainage systems are priced at $20 to $30 per foot. Sump pumps averages from $600 to $2000.

To install an interior drainage system you would have to spend between $3,000 to $6,000.                                                                                                                                           

Maintenance Requirements

Interior drainage systems do not require a lot of maintenance. However, it is important to conduct a routine check at least twice a year. 

Most interior drainage systems are resistant to clogging. So, ensure yours is properly installed to block the passage of debris. 

To ensure the longevity of the system, it is important that you clean the drainage at least once a year. This ensures that it is free of debris and that it is channeling moisture away from your foundation. 

Cleaning the system involves snaking it mechanically. If you do not have the necessary skills, it’s best to employ the services of a professional. 

Interior Drainage System vs Encapsulation

Like encapsulation, interior drainage systems target both internal and external moisture. However, like the other alternatives discussed, it doesn’t solve the problem of humidity and the entry of unwanted elements. 

When Is It a Good Alternative?   

An interior drainage is a good alternative for homes suffering from crawl space flooding, moisture seepage, and leaks. It is quite inexpensive and does a good job removing moisture from inside the space as well as preventing the penetration of outside moisture.

4. Crawl Space Dehumidifier and Sump Pump

If you are not familiar with crawl space dehumidifiers, you might erroneously assume that they are the same as regular dehumidifiers. However, that’s not the case. Crawl space dehumidifiers are engineered for continuous operation and are strong enough to combat the high humidity level in crawl spaces. 

A sump pump is a mechanical appliance that moves crawl space moisture to an outside location. A sump, which is a naturally constructed pit is dug below the basement floor and serves as a basin that holds the sump pump. 

crawl space with sump pump and dehumidifier

Cost of Unit and Installation

The average cost of a dedicated crawl space dehumidifier (amazon link) is between $700 -$1800. Price is dependent on the model and capacity of the device.

Installation cost varies based on the city, the contractor, and installation requirements. However, the price of installing a crawl space dehumidifier usually ranges between $300 and $800.

The cost of sump pumps (amazon link) vary based on brands. You can get one for as little as $60 and as high as $400. Installing the pump will incur an additional fee of $50 to $200. 

Maintenance Requirements

If your dehumidifier cannot self-drain, you must empty the buckets regularly, to ensure optimal performance. You should also clean it at least once each month.

If you notice that your dehumidifier isn’t performing as well as before, then you might have to run it at a lower humidistat setting. 

You would have to inspect the sump pump at least twice a year to determine that it’s not clogged and that the check valve, as well as the discharge line, are in perfect condition. 

You should clean the sump pump at least once a year. The process involves disconnecting the pump from the power source and then removing it from the hole. After that, you’d remove debris and dirt by thoroughly flushing the pump with clean water. 

It is advised that sump pumps be connected to a GFCI outlet

You might have to replace the battery every two to three years. 

Crawl Space Dehumidifier and Sump Pump vs Encapsulation

Crawl space dehumidifier eliminates humidity from the crawl space. However, it can’t do anything if the space is flooded or if a large amount of water settles on the floor. 

On the other hand, sump pumps can remove moisture from basement floors but cannot reduce humidity.

However, unless there is an internal leak, encapsulation addresses all these issues. 

When Is It a Good Alternative?

Sump pumps are great for houses built in regions that are prone to flooding or heavy rainfall. If you’ve experienced water problems in the past, then you might have to install a sump pump. 

Dehumidifiers are a great asset in every crawl space and even more in a crawl space with high humidity levels. 

Alternatives Can Be Combined

You can combine all or even just some of the methods stated above for maximum moisture and humidity protection in your crawl space. 

Sources

https://acculevel.com/crawl-space-need-vapor-barrier/

https://www.wrmeadows.com/blog/crawl-space-vapor-barrier/

https://homeguide.com/costs/crawl-space-encapsulation-cost#:

https://www.completebasementsystems.net/services/crawl-space-repair/solutions/crawl-space-drain/

https://www.basementsystems.com/crawl-space/crawl-space-products/crawl-space-drainage-system.html

https://www.jeswork.com/resources/crawl-space-repair/crawl-space-sump-pump/

https://lentheplumber.com/blog/whats-a-sump-pump-and-why-do-i-need-one

https://www.jeswork.com/resources/crawl-space-repair/the-care-and-keeping-of-your-dehumidifier/

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