Protecting your property from dampness, seasonal changes, and pest invasion is easier said than done in many cases. In fact, for homes around Indianapolis, IN, a loose crawl space door or vent could cause a lot of damage over time, especially during the wettest seasons of the year. A loose or ill-fitting crawl space door or vent cover is a more common problem than many people realize. This is partly because of people who have tried to cover their crawl space vents and access hatches with store-bought covers and doors without getting a professional opinion.
The problem with doing this is that hardware store covers and doors are designed to fit as many different vents and hatches as possible. This lowers the chance that you will be able to get the proper, watertight fit needed to keep your crawl space safe and dry. While a wet crawl space may not seem like the worst issue you can deal with, you should keep in mind the fact that your crawl space has an impact on the health of your whole home! Dampness, humidity, and pest infestation in your crawl space will start to make their way into the rest of your property over time (especially if it has not been encapsulated).
Why We Need Crawl Space Doors and Vent Covers
There are many properties across Indianapolis, IN that have crawl space vents and access points because between the 1950s and 1990s it was considered best practice to install them. This was done, originally, because professionals believed that these vents would increase airflow and reduce the likelihood of serious dampness issues forming in a property. This was thought to be a good way to prevent avoidable damage to a property and create a healthy, stable environment inside the home.
While the vents were found to increase airflow, as intended, there were some unforeseen issues with them thanks to something called the ‘Stack Effect’. The stack effect refers to the channels of air that form when there are ventilation spots at the top and bottom of a property. This increases airflow hugely, but unfortunately, this is a damaging process in several ways.
You see, the stack effect causes dampness by allowing cool and warm air to clash in your crawl space, thereby causing condensation. This increases the relative humidity over time and can contribute to dampness and moisture-related damage. Furthermore, this increased airflow means that the warmth and cold created by your HVAC system are lost very quickly, lowering your property’s energy efficiency and putting strain on your HVAC system. Finally, crawl space vents and doors can let in pests when they are uncovered or their covers and doors are loose.
With all this in mind, many people wonder why they should keep their vents at all. Would it not be better to remove them from the crawl space altogether and invest in interior ventilation? The answer is yes, it probably would be more effective in the long term, but this is a costly and invasive process that requires altering the structure of a property. There is also the matter of crawl space access. Many homeowners like having a larger exterior access point for their crawl space as this allows work to be done with minimal disruption to their property.
The Damage Loose Crawl Space Doors Can Cause
Uncovered crawl space vents and doors can have many serious impacts upon your property as a whole. It can even affect your health and wellbeing. Here are just some of the damage that can result from a loose crawl space door:
A sagging or uneven floor is most commonly associated with foundation damage, of course, but other things can cause floors, particularly wooden floors, to sag or even collapse. Prolonged crawl space dampness, for example, can cause wood rot to take root in exposed wooden supports and joists.
This renders them soft and weak, causing the floors above to sag as they leave the weight of your furnishings unsupported. Over time this sag could lead to cracks and even the entire collapse of your floor.
Prolonged dampness and humidity can cause many issues, not least the formation of mold and mildew in your crawl space. These substances are generally benign, but they are incredibly unpleasant and can produce a horrid smell as well as lure in pests like cockroaches and mold mites.
However, there are some dangerous and toxic mold species. For example, black mold can cause headaches, dizziness, breathing troubles, skin irritation, ear, nose, and throat infection, and even bacterial infections. The people most at risk of this are, of course, those who are already vulnerable in some way.
Finally, there is a very real risk of cosmetic damage, both inside your crawl space and in your property at large, when your crawl space is exposed to the elements and struggling with dampness and humidity. This can include but is not limited to, staining, bubbling wallpaper, flaking concrete, and warped wooden floor or furnishings.
It is helpful to know what can damage crawl space doors, what the signs of damage are, and what you should do about them. Of course, once you have spotted an issue the hard part is over. All you need to do then is call a professional.
Problem Signs to Look For
If you are concerned about the health of your property and you think that you may have loose or damaged crawl space doors that are contributing to dampness, there are some problem signs that you should be aware of. The following warning signs are the most common, but they can relate to other issues too, so please seek an expert opinion.
Visibly Loose Doors/Vent Covers
Of course, the most obvious sign of damage to your property’s crawl space door or vent covers is visible unevenness in your crawl space vent covers, visible gaps between the vent and door or cover, and visible deformation or damage to your vent cover.
Wet rot in organic surfaces around your property can take many different forms. In insulation, for example, wet rot causes discoloration and structure breakdown and you may find your insulation starting to yellow or brown. It may also harbor mold and mildew. Wood, by contrast, will become slimy and take on a white-ish sheen. This is caused by dampness which can have many sources (including internal leaks) so be sure to investigate fully.
Like wet rot, mold is a general warning sign for dampness in your property and crawl space. A loose or damaged crawl space door is just one potential cause of this dampness. If you see mold in your home please do not touch it as there is a chance that it could be toxic.
Gaps in Sealant
The sealant around your property’s windows, utility lines, and vents play a huge part in protecting it from dampness and damage. Sealant can deteriorate in condition with age and exposure to the elements, of course, but it can also be broken if the structure of your property is shifting dramatically.
Your crawl space is not an overly pleasant place (few are), but it should not have a strong, unpleasant smell. A musty smell is a sign of mold formation while a sharp vinegary smell is indicative of cockroach infestation. If the space smells like urine or feces, you either have a minor leak in your sewage line or a rodent infestation. In any case, bad odors are not a good sign.
Pests are surprisingly ingenious when it comes to getting into your property, but things like loose or unsecured crawl space doors can cause a lot of damage to your crawl space and property as a whole. The most common kinds of infestation in Indianapolis, IN, are cockroaches, bedbugs, rodents, spiders, and mold mite infestations. Each of these has specific signs and issues, but you should look for droppings, carcasses, or shed exoskeletons, and chew or bite marks as well as visible pests.
Spreading cracks are a sign of serious underlying damage and instability in your property. Unlike hairline cracks, which are very small and stable, spreading cracks can be very deep and actively grow in size. These cracks can let water into your property and are often a sign of active foundation movement and damage in your home.
Pools of standing water in your crawl space are a serious problem sign of damage to your home. This damage can either be structural or connected to damage to your property’s plumbing system (or its connected appliances). Either way, they will spread to many other problems in your home and should not be ignored.
If you see any of these problem signs, please act quickly as they can relate to several issues beyond a loose crawl space door or vent. Undertaking a preliminary investigation alone can be a good thing, of course, but we recommend that you also call in a professional to make sure that all underlying causes and co-occurring issues have been accounted for.
Loose Crawl Space Door
If you have noticed that your crawl space door or vent covers are loose, many issues could be at work. However, the problems can broadly be split into the categories of damage or defects. Either way, it is best to replace the damaged vent cover or door.
Your crawl space door or vent covers can easily become loose as a result of damage to your property or the vent cover itself. The structural damage that is most likely to cause your crawl space door or vent covers to come loose is foundational problems that cause the full structure of a home to shift. Issues like foundation settlement and subsidence, for example, can cause the walls of a property to shift quite dramatically. This can deform the door and window frames in your home as well.
Damage to the crawl space vent cover or door itself can also cause it to become loose. These days crawl space vent covers and doors are made of tough, weatherproof PVC plastic, so damage to them tends to require an accident involving some kind of force. However, damage to older doors and vent covers is more common because they were often made of treated wood. Over time, these covers can be impacted by extreme weather and temperatures.
Another possibility is defects in the design or installation of the crawl space door or vent covers. First and foremost, using the wrong materials in making the doors or vent covers can be disastrous to their ability to protect a property’s crawl space. For example, using very heat-reactive materials can cause the door to swell and shrink with the seasons. This will eventually impact the seal that it offers and let water into your property.
More likely, however, is the possibility that the vent covers or crawl space door were poorly installed. This can either happen because the measurements of the cover or door were taken incorrectly or because the door or covers were not sealed properly after installation. Either way, the result will be dampness in your property’s crawl space and all the damage that can bring.
The damage that a loose crawl space vent does is usually indirect – the mere presence of a loose door or vent cover will not cause damage, but it allows damaging conditions to form within your crawl space and impact your home as a whole.
Crawl Space Damage
The most immediate effects of a loose or damaged crawl space vent cover or door are the recurrence of the stack effect and an increase in humidity. Dampness is sure to follow and if the issue is prolonged, your crawl space can suffer many problems. From wood rot and deteriorating insulation to damaged or rotting insulation and pest infestation, the issues that this can cause are diverse and incredibly damaging.
The main problem, is that these issues will not only make your crawl spaces’ internal climate unhealthy and unpleasant but that they will start to damage the structure of your home, warping floorboards and rotting joists. When this happens, the damage in your crawl space will start to spill over into your property as a whole. This can impact everything from your property’s structure but also your health and well-being.
Whole Property Issues
The environment in your crawl space and home as a whole are intimately connected. When mold and mildew form in your crawl space or the joists succumb to wood rot, the consequences will be felt throughout your home. Mold can spread at an alarming rate, after all, and will ruin your soft furnishings as well as create a serious smell. This odor can be incredibly difficult to shift without professional intervention.
Wood rot, by contrast, can start to impact your property’s structure – the first area to be impacted, of course, will be your floors. Damaged joists will cause the flooring to start sagging, pulling away from the walls, and even collapse if they are left without support for a long period. This can, in turn, cause damage to walls that are attached to the flooring. This is a costly issue to fix, as you can no doubt imagine, so it is better to avoid damage where possible.
Preventing dampness, humidity, and damage to your crawl space requires several measures to be taken. Proper maintenance and full waterproofing are your best bet if you want to ensure the long-term health and wellbeing of your property.
As is often the case, maintenance is crucial to ensuring the health of your property’s crawl space doors and vent covers, and of course the space as a whole. The seasons that are most likely to cause damage to your crawl space vent covers or doors are fall and spring. This may seem strange, but you must remember that it is rapid change that is most often responsible for damage to any surface. Rapid freeze-thaw cycles, for example, can wreak havoc on any home by causing the soil around it to expand and contract repeatedly.
Catching the first signs of this damage can be tough when it comes to your crawl space – this area is so rarely traversed. However, if you make just a few changes to your property maintenance schedule you could have a hugely positive impact on your property. Checking all of your crawl space vent covers and doors when you walk the perimeter of your property to clear the gutters, for example, is all it takes to notice a damaged or loose door. If possible, you should also check the inside of your crawl space for damage on a seasonal basis. Check the health of your joists, the state of your insulation, and the condition of your vent covers. You should also look for signs of wood rot, mold formation, and damage to your wires and pipes.
If you have to deal with structural damage in your property’s crawl space at some point, waterproofing really should be a part of the repair process, even if you have undertaken it the space in the past. After all, structural damage is very likely to cause damage to your insulation, drains, and moisture barriers. This can cause a huge amount of damage to your wider home as the partially intact waterproofing measures are likely to create a hothouse atmosphere that amplifies dampness and humidity, thereby exacerbating the issues at work. Dealing with your loose or damaged crawl space door or vent covers will likely require replacing them altogether; we recommend that you also invest in waterproofing measures.
Replacing, upgrading, or installing crawl space waterproofing for the first time will have a hugely beneficial impact on your crawl space and property as a whole. Waterproofing will not only prevent mold formation and pest infestation but it will improve the climate of your whole property very quickly. The decrease in humidity will ensure that your HVAC systems work more efficiently, that the temperatures in your home are more stable, and the cost of your energy bills drops in the future. This makes waterproofing an excellent investment in the future of your home.
Call Indiana Foundation Service for Crawl Space Door Repair
The team here at Indiana Foundation Service has been helping homeowners in and around Indianapolis, IN, to restore their crawl spaces and foundations to full health since 1993. As such, we have a wealth of experience to bring to bear when we are called upon. So, if you have concerns about the health of your home or crawl space, please do not hesitate to reach out to us! We offer free inspection appointments to everyone in our service area.
These appointments come without obligation to book repairs on the day and our friendly team members will talk you through the issues that they find. Once they have identified the problem at work, they will formulate a tailored repair plan for your home and provide you with a written estimate for all costs so that you can make an informed decision as to what is best for you!