What Is a Crawl Space? An Eye-Opening Peek Underneath Your Home (2024)

Home buyers—and even homeowners—rarely give much thought to what’s right under their feet when touring homes, but they should—particularly if they’re strolling on top of a crawl space. When you’re searching for a home, you may well see that phrase in the listings. But what exactly is a crawl space, and what do you need to know about it?

A crawl space is essentially a hollow area under the floors of some homes between the ground and the first floor. A creaky floor is often the first sign that you might be walking over a crawl space. It’s usually roughly 1 foot to 3 feet high—just high enough for someone to enter by crawling, as its name implies (low ceilings!).

Aside from elevating your home off the ground, a crawl space is a convenient and inconspicuous place to stow away some of the “guts” of a house that might normally be in a basem*nt, such as parts of the heating and cooling systems, duct work, insulation, plumbing, cables, and electrical wiring.

Crawl spaces also provide some benefits beyond the usual alternatives, which include a solid concrete foundation or a basem*nt. They also have a few drawbacks.

So whether you own a home with a crawl space or are considering buying or building one below your floors, here are thepros, cons, potential problems, prices, and more.

Benefits of a crawl space in your house

Typically, a crawl space is preferable to a concrete slab foundation, because it allows you unrestricted access to all the features we just mentioned: plumbing, electrical wiring, drywall, insulation and heating, and cooling systems.

This way, if there’s a problem in this space with insulation, moisture, mold, or your air systems, they can be accessed quickly to address the problem.

“Issues like pipe leaks that would have otherwise required an excavation are much easier to resolve with a crawl space,” saysLarry Greene, president of a home design and remodeling company in Indianapolis.

And while a basem*nt or unfinished basem*nt also gives you unrestricted accessto these air and heating systems and insulation—not to mention much more usable space—crawl spaces are a cheaper solution than basem*nts.

“When you’re building a home, a crawl space can cost as little as $8,000 to $25,000 for an average-size home,” says Greene. That’s much less than you’ll cough up for a basem*nt,which Greene tells us can range from $75,000 to $150,000.

Crawl spaces are also preferable to basem*nts if you live in a damp location that needs to be vented, that experiences a lot of rain, or that is prone to mold or termites. Your home’s insulation can also be damaged by wetness, which may produce mold or infestation.

“Crawl spaces are most suited forareas with high moisture or in coastal areas with sandy soil, where excessive water can build pressure against a full basem*nt and find its way into cracks,” saysScott Brown, owner of a home inspection company near Syracuse, NY.

Crawl space repair made easy

Keep in mind, however, that proper ventilation of a crawl space is essential to dry your home, fight mold, and protect the structural integrity of your house—not to mention your health.

Without a ventilation solution, crawl spaces can give way to the “stack effect,” a process where moisture moves from the ground up through cracks in the floor into the home.

A crawl space with excess moisture needs to vent out, lest it become a breeding ground for mold, fungi, termites, and potentially even rodents in the walls (eew!).

So if you’re becoming a homeowner, it’s important to have your home inspector check out the crawl space and basem*nt areas before yousign on the dotted line.

Crawl space repair may move to the top of your to-do list, especially if there’s an issue with humidity levels, standing water, or other water problems. You might also ask a contractor about an encapsulation system that can seal off the area and reduce crawl space issues.

To ventilate a crawl space, you have to install a vent to pump in air from your HVAC system, as well as an exhaust fan to move air from the crawl space and walls to the outside.

If your region is particularly wet, you can also install a dehumidifier to fight moisture in the house and help it dry. A dehumidifier can keep spores, mites, mold, moisture, and rot from taking hold in your home space.

Should you have a crawl space in your house?

If you’re building a home and wondering if you should have a crawl space, the climate in your area will be a major factor to consider.

“Natural conditions such as frost line, soil type, drainage, slope, and water-table depth usually lead construction best practices to one type over another,” says Brown.

When in doubt, consult an engineer to discover whether a crawl space is right for your house.

What Is a Crawl Space? An Eye-Opening Peek Underneath Your Home (2024)
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