Crawl Space Encapsulation vs. Vapor Barrier: What’s the Difference?

It’s important for an Alabama homeowner to understand the difference between crawl space encapsulations and vapor barriers. One solution is a permanent fix for moisture problems, while the other is only a temporary bandage for an underlying issue. Only one system will get you a dry crawl space and help protect your home foundation for good. Here we explain the ins and outs of both systems so you can see the difference for yourself.

Crawl Space Encapsulation vs. Vapor Barrier: What’s the Difference?

The crawl space is a hollow area under your house between the ground and the first floor. It can be anywhere from 1 to 3 feet high, but some crawl spaces are tall enough to stand up in. The crawl space might be an area of the home that you rarely, if ever, visit. However, the state of your crawl space can have a major impact on your home and physical health.

Crawl space encapsulation is the process of cleaning and sealing this area with thick plastic so that air can’t travel from the crawl space into your home, and to control the moisture level in the crawl space. All vents, holes, cracks, and areas where air can penetrate the crawl space are sealed.

Most importantly, crawl space encapsulation can help preserve the integrity of a home’s foundation. An encapsulation transforms an otherwise wet, potentially moldy, space into a clean one where mold can’t run amuck. With relative humidity levels averaging 71.6% in Alabama, crawl space encapsulation is practically essential!

Crawl Space Encapsulation vs. Vapor Barrier: What’s the Difference?

Your crawl space isn’t the only thing that benefits from an encapsulation! Your home and your health can benefit, too.

Benefits for Your Home

  • Prevent problems with hardwood floors. Moisture from underneath the house can cause floors to buckle and warp. It can also cause floors to feel cold.
  • Reduce energy bills. Crawl space encapsulation helps optimize your home’s airflow and improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems, thereby lowering your energy bills.
  • Help heating and cooling ducts last longer. Crawl space moisture can lead to mold growth, rust, and damage in duct work, which means you may have to replace ductwork sooner if you have an open, unsealed crawl space.
  • Improve resale value. An encapsulated crawl space is an attractive feature when trying to sell a home! It tells potential homeowners that there aren’t any outstanding moisture problems they need to be taken care of, the home’s air quality is good, and that the foundation is being properly maintained.
  • Avoid pests and infestations. An open, unsealed crawl space is an attractive environment for all sorts of pests and critters! Encapsulation helps ensure that no creepy-crawlies make your home their “home sweet home.”

Benefits for Your Health

  • Breathe better air. Encapsulation curbs mold growth and improves the air quality in your crawl space and home. After an encapsulation, many people notice reduced allergy and asthma symptoms.
  • Enjoy a better smelling home. Rampant moisture and mold in a crawl space can lead to your whole home smelling musty and mildew-y. The encapsulation process cleans things up and helps keep them that way!
  • Gain peace of mind. Crawl space encapsulation can either be used to treat existing moisture problems, or prevent moisture damage in the future. Either way, it can help maintain your home’s foundation, floors, walls, and ceilings. That knowledge is priceless peace of mind.

What Is a Vapor Barrier?

Like encapsulation, a vapor barrier is designed to address moisture problems. Proper installation of a vapor barrier lowers the chances that groundwater will evaporate in the crawl space and seep into your home.

During the vapor barrier installation process, a thin sheet of plastic is spread across the crawl space floor. The plastic stops at the walls and columns of the crawl space. Unlike encapsulation, vapor barriers do not create a sealed space.

Vapor Barrier Benefits

Vapor barriers share many of the same benefits as crawl space encapsulation, but lessened. Because a vapor barrier doesn’t create a sealed space, moisture is still able to enter the crawl space and your home. So, while you might enjoy some moisture control and some improved energy efficiency with a vapor barrier, you’ll enjoy a higher degree of each with encapsulation.

Which One Is Best for Me?

A vapor barrier isn’t the best long-term solution for moisture problems in an Alabama crawl space. Having a sealed crawl space is the only way you can truly help prevent mold growth, pest infestations, and moisture-related foundation problems. Call or email Alabama Foundations Repair for a free onsite consultation and get a quote for crawl space encapsulation today. We service most of Alabama, from Selma to Montgomery and up to Decatur!