What Houston & Gulf Coast Homeowners Need to Know Know About Crawl Space Encapsulation
Homes with pier and beam foundations – also known as “crawl spaces” – are especially vulnerable to Houston’s tropical Gulf Coast climate. While the very real risk of flooding tends to grab headlines, crawl spaces are also exposed to more subtle (and persistent) dangers like high humidity, mold, wood rot, and pest problems.
While all these things can be a nuisance for Houston homeowners, it’s the combination of wood structural parts and unwanted moisture that can cause the most expensive damage. To protect the value of your home and extend its useful life, here are some basic things that every homeowner in the Gulf Coast region should know about crawl space protection and repair.
How crawl space problems start
Moisture can invade your home in a combination of ways depending on factors like weather, ground water conditions, soil composition, property location, and the year it was built. Anything from condensation to improper drainage to faulty interior pipes to worn out or poorly installed seals can let enough water into your crawl space to put your foundation at risk.
The wood parts of your pier and beam foundation may include everything from the sill plate up to your subfloor and all the supporting members in between. Threats like wood decay can start in small, hard to reach areas and spread quickly before you even know they’re down there. Over time, the wood gradually loses its bearing capacity and can eventually break down completely.
How to tell if you have crawl space problems
Fortunately, doing a visual check in your crawl space once or twice a year may be enough to keep you ahead of any serious moisture issues. You’ll want to look for white or brown discoloration on the wood parts of your foundation, especially in areas where surfaces meet (like joists and subflooring) or where the wood could be exposed to exterior or interior leaks.
You’ll also want to look around for signs of mineral deposits or “bloom” near open-air vents, utility pass-throughs, or on masonry and concrete surfaces. These could be traces of intermittent leaks that come and go when the weather changes.
Inside the house, you may find that parts of your floor start to feel soft or “spongy” when you walk on them. Floor creaks may start or worsen, indicating that the joists below are getting weaker, or that the piers supporting them have started to shift out of alignment. Musty odors can be a sign that unhealthy mold or spores are accumulating in chronically moist areas.
What to do if you suspect pier and beam foundation damage
The sooner you act on signs of crawl space trouble, the better. Usually there’s an affordable solution that can quickly restore the integrity of your home. The worst thing to do is wait and hope the problem goes away – this kind of damage only gets worse over time. Reputable crawl space restoration companies like Olshan will give you a free evaluation to let you know what’s going on, and help you make an informed choice about the options that fit your home and budget.
You can mix and match crawl space encapsulation remedies depending on your individual needs and the location and extent of the moisture damage.
- Drainage improvements. Sometimes a few simple changes to direct water away from your crawl space will get the job done with minimal intervention. A professional foundation repair partner can help you keep the soil stable and regulate the moisture around and underneath your home.
- Polymer wood sealing. If the wood is relatively new, or if damaged portions can be affordably replaced, polymer sealing products like Lumberkote™ can block moisture and keep all the structural elements in “like new” condition for years.
- Full crawl space encapsulation. Engineered moisture barrier materials can be installed throughout your entire crawl space to keep it dry and tight year-round. The barriers come in a range of thicknesses so you can adjust costs to fit your budget.
- Moisture control equipment. Sump pumps and dehumidifiers can work separately or together to permanently manage flood water and excess airborne moisture. Models can be sized and priced to fit your needs and can be upgraded for automated operation.
- Foundation monitoring systems. Digital technology has come a long way and there are now affordable systems that can monitor the soil moisture around your home. Sensors take the guesswork out of foundation protection and alert you when watering or maintenance is needed to keep soil conditions stable and ideal for your foundation.
- Home elevation services. If your home is in a high flood hazard area, modern elevation technology can safely raise your pier and beam foundation from 2 feet to 22 feet to get you above the flood danger. Home elevation services can give you peace of mind with protection from costly flood damage.
Contact us for a free evaluation
Olshan Foundation Repair has been serving Houston area homeowners since 1933. In addition to being experts at all kinds of foundation restoration and repair, we know all about the surrounding soil types and what remedies will work best for your home. We offer patented technology, personalized service, warranty protection, and affordable payment plans. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation crawl space evaluation.
Olshan Houston in the News
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- Houston Business Journal (Article): Cable Lock lays foundation for a new spin on its repair system
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- The Seattle Times (Article): More homes suffering from foundation problems
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- KPRC Houston 12 (Article): Companies open right now in Houston