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What Is Crawl Space Encapsulation? (And Is It Necessary?)

What Is Crawl Space Encapsulation? (And Is It Necessary?)

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Although your crawl space may be the least habitable area in your home, it doesn’t mean you should neglect it.

That said, encapsulation is one way to care for and maintain your home’s crawl space. But what is crawl space encapsulation?

Encapsulating a crawl space involves covering the space’s walls and flooring with a vapor barrier. The vapor barrier is often made with hard-wearing plastic material, keeping the crawl space dry and odor-free.

Scroll through to find more information regarding the crawl space encapsulation process, how much it can cost, and its benefits.

Is Encapsulation of Crawl Space Necessary?

Even though crawl space encapsulation isn’t compulsory, it’s essential in preventing or solving problems that may originate from poor crawl space maintenance or moisture.

That said, crawl space encapsulation may benefit those living in areas with high humidity levels.

Aside from poor maintenance and increased humidity, crawl space problems may emerge from pipe leaks or groundwater seepage.

When you have these problems, addressing the source first is necessary before installing vapor barriers.

Due to these factors, you encounter mold growth, damage in foundations or beams, pest infestations, and more.

These consequences pose a risk to your family’s health, too.

When to Encapsulate a Crawl Space?

A telltale sign to get your crawl space encapsulated is once you start experiencing crawl space odors, mold build-up, and rodent infestation, among others.

Often, moisture build-up is the root of various crawl space issues.

Additionally, your crawl space is the one area in your home most prone to pest infestation and foul smells, so do-it-yourself solutions alone may not suffice.

Thus, seeking professional help to get rid of the problem is crucial.

Let’s discuss common crawl space issues encapsulation may help resolve or control:

Infestation by Rodents or Pests

Your crawl space is a paradise for insects and rodents that leave behind droppings that cause your space to smell. These animals are drawn to moisture that’s inherent to non-encapsulated crawl spaces.

Besides moisture, a poorly-maintained and dirty crawl space attracts pests, especially cockroaches.

Moreover, insects like termites ruin wooden structures that may compromise the structural integrity of your crawl space.

On the other hand, rodents like rats and raccoons love housing in crawl spaces. Sometimes, they’re the culprit of a musty or pee-like odor that may permeate through the floors and into your living space.

Worse, these droppings can be a source of harmful diseases like leptospirosis.

Aside from leaving nasty droppings behind, these critters may create holes in your walls or nibble wooden structures.

Bad Odors

Aside from rodents, the source of the cat pee-like smell may be moisture build-up and minerals present in the soil (if you have a dirt floor crawl space).

The growth of mold may be a significant cause as well.

Mold Build-Up

Molds occur due to the accumulation of moisture or poor ventilation. The build-up of these elements may result in disgusting smells that may cause discomfort.

Another downside of having mold build up in your crawl space is its negative impact on respiratory health.

Since around 40 to 50% of circulating indoor air comes from your crawl space, the mold particles infiltrate the air and are carried into your living space.

Furthermore, mold can result in wood rots that weaken wooden structures.

How Long Can the Encapsulation Process Take?

Encapsulation projects may take one to five days, depending on how large the area is and the condition of the crawl space.

Why Encapsulate a Crawl Space?

Crawl space encapsulation is an effective preventive measure against problems brought on by moisture build-up.

Meanwhile, another reason to encapsulate your crawl space is to improve air quality. The bad odors and build-up of molds in your crawl space affect your health and cause discomfort.

At the same time, crawl space encapsulation helps improve energy efficiency.

What Should the Humidity Be in an Encapsulated Crawl Space?

One of the major goals of encapsulating a crawl space is keeping the humidity levels at a certain point to keep the area dry and sustainable.

That said, ideal humidity levels on encapsulated crawl spaces should be between 50 to 55%, with some sources saying 30 to 60%.

Levels beyond 60% favor mold growth and attract pests.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Crawl Space Encapsulation?

Is crawl space encapsulation worth it? Let’s evaluate some advantages and disadvantages of encapsulating your crawl space.


Here are some perks of having crawl space encapsulation installed in your home:

1 – Energy Efficiency

If you want to save on energy costs, crawl space encapsulation is a genuine solution.

Since encapsulation involves airtight sealing, warm or cool air from underneath will not permeate your flooring. Therefore, your HVAC system won’t have to work twice as hard.

2 – Pest or Rodent Control

Effective crawl space encapsulation prevents entry of these critters. Apart from that, a clean and dry crawl space isn’t a good breeding ground for insects or rodents.

3 – Moisture-Free Space

We always talk about moisture being the major cause of cascading issues in your crawl space area.

With effective crawl space encapsulation, you won’t have to deal with mold growth, structural problems, and other problems that moisture build-up promotes.

4 – Odor Elimination

Unless you’re comfortable living with constant sewage-like or urine-like smells, you can choose not to invest in crawl space encapsulations.

By solving moisture issues and preventing pests from breeding in your crawl space through encapsulation, you’re breaking free from disgusting smells that arise from these issues.

5 – Improved Indoor Air Quality

A healthy environment allows you to function well and helps eliminate stress. Now that your home is free from smells or molds that may be harmful once inhaled, you’re free to live your best life.

6 – Protection From Structural Damage

With zero water, molds, and pests penetrating your walls and wooden structures, you can sleep soundly at night, knowing that your home’s foundation is well-maintained and free from damage.


Despite seeming like the perfect solution for common crawl space problems, encapsulation may have several downsides:

1 – Expensive

The major downside of crawl space encapsulation is the fact that it’s a bit pricey.

Crawl space encapsulation is a tedious process that requires special equipment and expert touch. In effect, encapsulating your crawl space may cost thousands of dollars.

Opting for do-it-yourself solutions may not save you from breaking the bank, too. Materials can be costly and inappropriate installation may lead to expensive repair costs in the long run.

2 – Additional Maintenance or Upgrade Costs

After encapsulation, you can’t ignore your crawl space and expect it to stay efficient forever.

You may need to spend extra on regular checkups, repairs, and maintenance to ensure your home remains intact and well-insulated.

Meanwhile, there’s a possibility that you’ll need to upgrade your HVAC system because encapsulating restricts air circulation in your home.

How to Prepare a Crawl Space for Encapsulation

The first step to preparing your crawl space for insulation is inspecting the area for significant damages that may need repair or a professional solution.

Consequently, you should address drainage problems, pipe leaks, and other moisture problems firsthand.

Not doing so makes encapsulation less efficient, and it’s a serious hazard for workers at the same time.

Next, intensive cleaning and clearing are important. You must remove all debris, dirt, and trash accumulating in your crawl space. Electrical sources should be cleared, too.

At the same time, pest control may be necessary, and any vents or openings must be sealed completely.

How Much Does It Cost to Encapsulate a Crawl Space?

Spoiler alert! Crawl space encapsulation isn’t cheap. It can cost around $1,500 to $15,000 and may go up to $30,000.

Considering the fact that it helps prevent major health and structural problems, it’s a pretty good investment if you’d ask me.

Does Crawl Space Encapsulation Stop Radon?

Yes, effective encapsulation helps reduce radon levels. The barrier system stops radon that seeps from the soil to infiltrate the air.

Radon is a radioactive substance that can damage healthy lung tissues once inhaled.

Final Thoughts

Encapsulation is a type of home renovation that seals your crawl space walls and flooring with vapor barriers made of heavy-duty polyethylene.

Its benefits include improved air quality, protection from pests or molds, and lower energy costs.

At the same time, crawl space encapsulation helps stop radon, a major health hazard that comes from the soil.

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