In the Lowcountry, basements are uncommon. Absent a need to dig the foundation beneath a frost line, which is standard procedure in other parts of the country, there isn’t much economic sense in building down into the ground. Plus, there are other considerations—the Lowcountry’s high water table and mold and mildew brought on by periodic flooding and high humidity.
As a result, many Lowcountry houses are built off the ground, a design that is less expensive and allows room for ductwork and plumbing. Here is the crawl space, the dark underbelly of the house, rarely ventured into or thought about. Yet it is your structure’s foundation. Crawl space problems can wreck your home—and your health.
The main problem affecting crawl spaces is moisture, the archenemy of home integrity. Moisture, entering from the ground and the air, can compromise the girders and beams that hold up the house. It can also attract wood-boring creatures, like termites and other pests.
If your roof springs a leak, you know it pretty quickly. But if wet conditions in your dark, unfinished crawl space start growing mold and mildew, attracting live pests, poisoning the air and undermining the structural integrity of your home, you may not know it until it’s too late, leading to costly repairs and potential health concerns.
What to do then? Call professionals who can address moisture issues, like Crawl Space Avengers, a local team led by Chauncey Vess and Lorna Raisbeck-Whetsell. Raisbeck- Whetsell is also an instructor in the Engineering and Construction Division at Trident Technical College.
Crawl Space Avengers specializes in encapsulations, a process that seals the crawl space against moisture with a high-grade airtight vapor barrier. Encapsulations are the best way to prevent moisture infiltration and the problems it causes.
Each crawl space is different, so encapsulation isn’t the only solution. Sometimes a simple vapor barrier is adequate. Crawl Space Avengers is certified in dehumidifying by Santa Fe Dehumidifier and has the knowledge to repair dehumidifiers, install sump pumps and French drains, and build custom PVC access doors. The company’s team includes specialists certified in mold remediation and water restoration by the IICRC (the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certificate).
Raisbeck-Whetsell knows firsthand the importance of a healthy crawl space. Her son was suffering from mold allergies until she had her own home’s crawl space mold remediated and encapsulated. His symptoms subsided as soon as the work was done.
“People don’t consider the crawl space part of their home, but issues here affect their homes’ air quality,” she says. “People spend a lot of time and money decorating the inside of their house but neglect the crawl space until there’s a problem.”
Over the last few years—between the snowstorm, the hurricanes and the 100-year flood— Crawl Space Avengers has answered hundreds of emergency calls. Unlike franchised crawl space companies, the owners of Crawl Space Avengers will personally examine your home, propose a solution and give you a fair estimate. And when the job is done, they inspect the work.
Of course, waiting for the next disaster is hardly a home repair strategy. If your crawl space is damp, you need to take preventative measures now to protect your home.
“A lot of people have problems in their crawl space and don’t know it. We’ve been to million-dollar-plus homes that are immaculate and beautiful, but their crawl space is a disaster,” says Raisbeck-Whetsell.
Consider encapsulation, which does more than ensure your home’s structural integrity. It protects the ductwork beneath the house by preventing sweating and condensation that eats away at the ducts. Encapsulation also lowers energy bills. Air conditioning is all about removing moisture from the air. Encapsulation lowers the humidity, easing the AC unit’s burden.
Whatever your crawl space needs, Crawl Space Avengers can do it. Says Raisbeck-Whetsell, “You don’t want to jeopardize a massive investment like your home by ignoring a few square feet underneath the house.”
Barry Waldman is principal of Big Fly Communications, a public relations and marketing firm for small businesses and nonprofits.