Condo Crawl Space Insulation

Condo Crawl Space Insulation - if you were asked to find out the best way to update and upgrade the insulation for a condo complex where you live, would you know where to start?

Doug from Winnipeg has written in with this very same dilema, except that, even if he doesn't realise it yet, Doug is probably well on the way to finding the best solution for the building where he lives through all the dedicated research that he is doing.

Please read his letter which is highlighted below, to see the vastly different solutions and budgets that have been offered... my question to other visitors reading this article is that if you have sucessfully resolved crawl space insulation issues in your home recently - please tell us what worked for you...

Doug writes...

"Thank you for your excellent article. I live in condo complex which has 5 other units. The building was constructed in 1980. My unit is directly above the crawl space,and I can access it thru a trap door.

Winnipeg is located in a very cold winter climate with usually heavy rains in the spring. I have been asked by the condo board to research and recommend the kind of insulation to upgrade the crawl space present status, which is:

  • -plastic sheeting covering bare earth,and the sheeting is torn in places,
  • -the sheeting is covered by an uneven layer of sand
  • -the sheeting and sand is not present in some areas because some major construction occured in the crawl spacee, that is, a number of teleposts were replaced. I have seen small puddles of water in the uncovered areas, particularly in the spring.
  • -batting is between the floor joists. However the batting is at least 20 years old,some have fallen off from between the floor joists, and most are partially blackened.
  • -there is a ventilation system.

To rectify the problems, two proposals have been submitted to me by insulation contracters.


First Condo Crawl Space Insulation Proposal

The FIRST is a very expensive proposal submitted by a firm called "xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx". The proposal consists of a type of vinyl/plastic sheeting that completely covers the crawl space floor and up the foundation wall to a height of 4 feet.

The system also includes a sump pump and a dehumdifier.

Total cost is about $10,000.

The vinyl is apparently tough enough to allow storage items being placed on it. No sand is placed on the sheeting.


Second Condo Crawl Space Insulation Proposal

The SECOND proposal costs about $2500 and obviously much more affordable.

The proposal consists of replacing the batting with 10 inch thick fiberglass insulation,with an R 30 value, between the floor joists, joints caulked and sealed,and the plastic sheeting and sand replaced.

I have not yet checked with the city,to determine what if any building code applies.

In the meantime your comments would be most appreciated. I apologize for the length of my article.

Thank you,
Doug

phew!, what a wonderful letter Doug, and thank you for taking the time to write in to www.home-improvement-and-financing.com.

As requested here are my comments to help you on your way to a dry condo crawl space.

picture of an uninsulated crawl space (no sorry it's not Doug's)

Probably the first thing that I want to say is that your planning and research into condo crawl space insulation is as important as doing the work itself - my hat goes off to you and I hope that your diligence is appreciated.

What is clear to me as I re-read your message is that basically at the moment your crawl space does not really have any protection at all and hasn't had since work was done down there replacing a number of teleposts, or prehaps even dating from before then - whenever the sheeting was first torn.

It is also clear that the batting is too old, damp and weather rotten to be doing you or your building any good, thankfully a lot has changed and improved since the 1980's.

It was a mistake not to have repaired the damage done my the major works at the time and that has left your condo crawl space unprotected on foor, walls and crawl space roof. (the sand on the floor is only to help the sheeting settle and give it some protection - lack of sand in any given area merely shows that someone at one time or another was probably working in that area and is more a sign that the sheeting there may well be torn.)

Now, as your unit is directly over the condo crawl space and easily accessed by a trap door, I have no doubt that a lot of musty, damp mold spore filled air is seeping up into your apartment filling your home with poor air quality.

There is no doubt about this when you understand how warm air rises and air moves up and continues on throughout a building. The quality of the air in the building and especially those units directly over the crawl space will be affected by poor air - this is quite worrying when I read how you are living in a climate that is so wet and damp throughout long winter months - the crawl space just doesn't get a chance to dry out.

Another point that stands out is that you have seen puddles of water on the condo crawl space floor - it will be important to find out where that water is coming from and resolve the problem before adopt an insulating solution for your condo crawl space.

It is quite difficult to get a totally clear idea of the extent of the dampness in your crawl space and if any timbers may be affected.

The first proposal does not mention replacing missing or rotten and blackened batting? - I am sure, especially as you reside directly above this space, that you would prefer this problem to be addressed now.

And finally you have written that your condo crawl space has a ventilation system - I don't know what type of ventilation system you have but this can make a lot of difference to the type of solution you choose or are allowed by building regulations to choose.

  • If you live in a dry climate when you know that the dampness of any wet winter months will dry out over the spring, summer and even during the Autumn, then it makes sense to give the warm and sometimes hot outside air access into a crawl space to help it to dry out and stay dry for most of the year.

  • If you live in a cold, wet and damp climate then your outside air isn't going to be a whole lot of help in drying out a damp crawl space.

    Only recently professionals have been coming to the conclusion that in some areas due to the location of the building - and factors like how the house sits on the land, drainage, etc. some homes do better without ventilation to their crawl space areas. Some homes are totally sealing up ventilation to the crawl space.

    Not everyone is in agreement and I believe that all housing situations are different, but whatever I believe, the answer still lies with your local building office and what they recommend and allow.

    It is important to find out if building regulations in your state allow you to completely seal your condo crawl space.

    Of course you would need to ensure that all batting and timbers are dry and sound before sealing them in.

  • Any improvement or maintenance you spend money on now should be certified and contribute towards the improved value of your home

Doug, I suspect that you may have to live with your condo crawl space ventilation system and adapt your condo crawl space insulation to the individual circumstances of your building.

So, onto possible solutions.

First of all, I would recommend that you get more proposals so that you have more to compare with - and also if anything is missing from either of the original two proposals, like replacing and batting - finding out where water was leaking into the crawl space etc., then you should follow up with those companies to make sure that nothing is missed out.

Secondly, you can't wait any longer before talking with your local building regulations office, the information that they give you may very well narrow down the playing field so that your improvements follow your ever changing local building codes.

And thirdly, I would recommend research into any possible rebates or grants or incentive programs in your area, like the Weatherization Program - you are doing important works that will help seal and protect the envelope of your building and one of the results of this other than a safer home and healthier living is that your energy bills may well be reduced due to the sealing and added insulation you are planning in your condo crawl space project - making this a "Green Project" - which is the most popular type of project you can undertake this year.


Comments on 1st Condo Crawl Space Proposal

$10,000.

Well, it would have been very easy to have written two lines recommending this solution as it is just about "no va mas" - the best of the best!!! - but sometimes throwing the best at a building and having to put together a big budget for the work - the manpower and the equipment - is not always the only solution.

This company will seal your condo crawl space with very thick sheeting - I believe that it is an extra heavy reinforced 20 mil polyethylene sheeting, sounds good and it is - but only you and your condo board know how bad the damp and water seepage is in your basement - does it really need such thick expensive sheeting (I ask you... if the original thinner sheeting and insulation was intact would you still have such a problem down there?.)

They also recommend a sump pump - and I notice that this company uses really good quality equipment.

A sump pump is necessary if an amount of water is found to be sitting on the crawl space floor, or better said, if your crawl space is prone to getting wet everytime it rains.

- the pump is there to remove the water and keep the floor puddle free - on the other hand... if you locate how water entered the area and caused the puddles that you saw in the spring, and if that problem was resolved, you shouldn't have great amounts of water getting into your condo crawl space anymore.

But, if the dampness is coming up from the ground soil or if the location of your building regarding climate and how the land lies around your building - means that it would be totally difficult to resolve the water issue - please get a pump.

TOP TIP: I know a couple who have a rather steep drive down into their garage, they had a pump installed to expell the water before it could enter down into the dry space - unfortunately every time it rained heavily the electricity went off and there was no power to work the pump, this installation was useless until power returned and of course their basement garage flooded - so a backup battery is essential or it would be a waste of money and installation effort.

And the final piece of equipment from the first proposal is the crawl space dehumidifier - your batting is just too old anyway but with it being rotten and darkened it sounds like you have a dampness problem should install one of these anyway - but do you really need to buy one...

- an option may be that if your basement was repaired and properly chalked and sealed etc. would it prove more economical to hire a dehumidifier for the time it takes to fully dry and air out the space - (or purchase a professionally reconditioned model for a fraction of the price - I fully believe in recycling.)

What is missing from this proposal:

If you have a water problem in your condo crawl space or in your basement where is it coming from, how is it getting in, it is vital to find out where problems lie and fix them first before going onto install whatever solution you decide on.

If problems are just covered up and then equipment is installed to work continually at drying out a damp space then it would seem that the problem has not been resolved but just covered up.

It is not clear in your letter but these measures may well be included in the first proposal, sealing, chalking, replacing batting etc.

I would also like to add that this company has a really wonder Web site - I am always encouraged when a contractor takes the time to explain their methods and products.


Comments on 2nd Condo Crawl Space Proposal

$2,500.

This proposal is easier to imagine isn't it, after all it is basically to turn back the clock and replace the original condo crawl space sealing and insulation that was set up in the 1980's before works were done over time that destroyed the crawl space protection.

There is little to say about this proposal as it is all fairly standard, however please keep in mind a couple of points.

The condo crawl space has to be totally sealed, all the outer shell and the upper crawl space ceiling before any fibreglass insulation should be installed - because if this type of insulation gets wet it dramatically reduces it's R value and even when dried out again it doesn't recuperate well.

The insulation should be protected by a good quality upward facing vapor barrier which helps protect the insulation material from any future dampness emanating from the space below.

I wonder what type of "Plastic" sheeting they are going to use (They should install a polyethylene vapor retarder over the ground)and if they are going to tape and seal all of the seams - I have heard of companies who have quickly covered with a layer of sand instead of taping and sealing first, can you imagine... the ground therefore wasn't sealed off at all!, what a waste.

If all problems have been fixed, the ground sealed off, the insulation replaced and all sealed and chalked etc - what about installing a dehumidifier then when all work has been completed to your satisfaction, would that make sense to you! even if for a short time - until you see the area drying out, until it feels less damp and smells drier.


Condo Crawl Space Insulation Summary

Doug, those are my thoughts, it can be important to take the best ideas from different proposals to create the best solution for your building that will also be in line with your local building codes and supercede the minimum insulation recommendations.

It may be interesting to get a few quotations soley for the intallation of a Sump Pump incase you decided to leave it as an option for a later date.

I hope my ideas are of some help to you, now I have to get back to my own project, but I would love to hear from you on how you and the rest of your condo board decided to resolve your condo crawl space insulation problems.

Your solutions may help pass on your knowledge and experiences to others in a similar situation and location and to help them to find the best way to plan their own project.

Best building wishes

www.home-improvement-and-financing.com


Other Web sites that may be of Interest...

  • 1. The U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy on
    Crawl Space Insulation
  • 2. Manitoba Hydro Web site - here is their home insulation program page which talks about a Poly Moisture Barrier and full double vapour barriers Home Insulation Tips
  • 3. Here is another example of a Web site explaining well the CleanSpace Crawl Space Encapsulation System
  • 4. Another very imformative crawlspace site - although it is aimed at Southeastern area of the United States Crawlspaces
  • 5. sump pump prices (just as an example of many similar sites that sell nationwide - thought it was worth looking up prices though - always good to compare!) USA Hardware


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