What's really in your crawl space? - AmericaNowNews.com

What's in your crawl space?

A home crawl space may be too small for you to completely stand up, but they are far too important to ignore.

Without proper maintenance, accumulating debris from a loose dryer vent could pose a fire hazard and other things commonly found under a home could affect your indoor air quality.

The "stack effect" is a term used to describe when air flows through a crawl space or basement and up through each floor.

"About 40 percent of the air you breathe comes through the crawl space, up through, and exhausts out the attic," says Sean Gist with AdvantaClean of Charlotte.

This means you are taking a big whiff of whatever is lurking inside that little space, whether it's mold, mildew, animal or insect droppings.

"If you have high humidity and a crawl space, mold can start growing in a day," Gist adds.

The thin plastic liners that most crawl space homes are built over just won't cut it as a moisture barrier.

Instead, Gist recommends completely sealing your crawl space and using a dehumidifier.

This can reduce your air conditioning costs and prevent some allergy and asthma issues.

Inspecting, cleaning and sealing a crawl space is a job best left to the professionals, who say they often have to remove gobs of lint before starting.

If it takes a long time for a load of clothes to dry, that could be a sign you have a clogged dryer vent tube or it may have come undone.

When this occurs, lint can accumulate in your crawl space or basement.

Over time, this will cause these highly combustible fibers to build up inside the walls and beneath your home.

"One spark, that lint is very dry, it can easily go up [in flames]," Gist warns.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nearly 3,000 dryer fires occur every year in the US and they cause approximately $35 million in damage.

While it may be easy to neglect examining these hard to reach places, maintaining a dry, clean crawl space will not only make your home safer, but it can also help those living inside breathe much easier.

If you have mold in your crawl space, be sure to pay attention the next time it rains to see where the water collected in the gutters winds up when it reaches the ground.

If your gutters are gushing water right next to the house, chances are it's leaking into your crawl space or basement giving mold a warm, wet place to grow.

Run-off from your roof should flush out at least six to eight feet away from your foundation.

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Additional Information:

The following information is from News-Record.com in an article entitled "Improve indoor air quality by reducing stack effect" (Source: http://triadhomes.news-record.com/content/2009/09/04/article/improve_indoor_air_quality_by_reducing_stack_effect).

  • The "stack effect" occurs when warm air rises through air leaks between a home's upper floor and attic, and draws outside air into the home through leaks between the floor and crawlspace or basement. This happens in summer and winter and is similar to the way a chimney operates.
  • In addition to mold spores, mildew, insects and rodent droppings, the stack effect can also increase radon levels inside your home in areas prone to increased radon levels.
  • If your home is not properly sealed, these particulates will enter your home and can lead to a variety of respiratory problems including asthma and allergies.
  • Up to 40 percent of the air we breathe on the first floor of our home comes from the crawlspace.
  • Air leaks are common where plumbing and electrical penetrations exist along exterior walls, ceilings and floors.
  • Baseboards, stairways and recessed lights can be sources of leaks.
  • Discolored carpet around baseboards are an indication of air movement.
  • Extra insulation does not stop air leaks since it only acts as a filter.
  • Foaming or caulking around plumbing and under sinks, in laundry rooms, ceiling fixtures and through floor framing can help.
  • Close your crawlspace.
  • Replace recessed lights with insulation contact air tight lights.
  • Install gaskets on electrical outlets.
  • Install an "attic tent or insulated cover over the attic hatch.

The following information is from the U.S. Fire Administration in an article entitled "Statistical Reports: Residential Structure Fires" (Source: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/statistics/reports/residential_structures.shtm).

  • An estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire
    departments each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in
    property loss.
  • Failure to clean (34 percent) was the leading factor contributing to the ignition of clothes
    dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • Dust, fiber, and lint (28 percent) and clothing not on a person (27 percent) were, by far, the leading items first ignited in clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • It is possible for a full load of wet clothes to contain as much as one and a half gallons of water.
  • Lint is a highly combustible material that can accumulate both in the dryer and in the dryer vent.
  • In addition to the accumulation of lint, blockage in dryer exhaust vents also can occur from the nests of small birds or other animals or from damages to the venting system itself.
  • Overheating may occur and a fire may ensue.

The following information is from Adrian Environmental LLC in an article entitled "Top 10 Mistakes Homeowners Make" (Source: http://www.adrianenvironmental.com/tenMistakesHomeownersMake.html).

  • If looking to purchase a home, a buyer should also have the crawl space inspected by a certified mold inspector.
  • In addition to encapsulating a crawl space, other steps should be taken to reduce the amount of water potentially entering the crawl space. Ensure that run-off from the roof is discharged 6 to 8 feet away from the home's foundation for homes on a basement or crawl space.
  • Often 6 mil black plastic is installed as a "vapor barrier" in a crawl space. This becomes brittle over time and has only a minimal impact on keeping out moisture, mold and odor.
  • Adding additional vents will only worsen the condition. Humid outside air entering the crawl space will condense on the cooler wood and duct work, worsening the moisture problem.
  • Dryer vents, bathroom vents, or kitchen vent should be exhausted to the outside of the building. Venting into a crawl space adds moisture and raises the relative humidity, facilitating the growth of mold.


 

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