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What Is the Stack Effect?

stack effect in action

It’s not uncommon for homeowners in Michigan to have a crawl space. Moreover, this type of lower-grade area is so popular that you can find it all over North America. The reason why we love it so much is its main pro. You can use it as additional storage space. However, like everything else, crawl spaces have their negatives too. 

The most common issue with crawl spaces is the stack effect. Namely, this phenomenon refers to the movement of air throughout your home. It affects both temperature and moisture levels, which in turn disrupts the air quality and energy efficiency of your home. Air quality is in a direct link with your health while energy efficiency will mean higher utility costs. Both are bad, as no one wants to compromise their health or use their hard-earned money for unnecessary bills. 

The unfortunate thing about the stack effect is that not many homeowners understand how dangerous it is, even if builders and home designers constantly talk about it. This leads to an unpleasant realization once you begin to have health issues or your bills skyrocket.  

Here, we’ll lead you through the ins and outs of the stack effect, covering what it is in detail and how to prevent it. 

What Is the Stack Effect? 

The stack effect diagram

Figuring out air movement and heat flow around your home can be a bit tricky. One of the reasons for the confusion is unclear information that some home repair professionals can provide you with. They often say that warm air rises while heat doesn’t. But how so? Isn’t it logical for heat to follow warm air? 

Scientifically speaking, warm air rises to fill the void left behind by cool air at the top of your home. As it goes up, the pressure at the bottom of your home begins to drop. This means that warm air acts like it wants to escape from your home and the low pressure in the crawl space. 

The Stack Effect and the Seasons 

The stack effect brings about two major problems for homeowners depending on the seasons. Like we already mentioned, during winter, this phenomenon causes heat to rise alongside warm air because it’s less dense than the cold outside air surrounding it. The other problem occurs in the summer when the heat goes down into the below-grade areas of your home, following the cold air. Both scenarios are the opposite of what you want for your home. 

When it’s cold outside, it makes sense to heat your home. However, the heat will go out through even the slightest of gaps at the top and the bottom of your structure as cold air replaces it. The opposite of that will happen in the summer when you want to cool down your home. All the little cracks and fractures in your crawl space and attic will allow temperature loss. As such, you’ll have to use more energy to supply your heater and AC system. 

How Does the Stack Effect Affect Me? 

The main thing about the stack effect is that it doesn’t only disrupt the temperature in your home. It also affects health. 

  • Health issues: As we’ve said, the stack effect will take its toll on your health. Allergens, dust mites, and various other microorganisms traveling up from your crawl space will affect your respiratory system. These health problems will either manifest through a runny nose or some other more serious form of infection. Therefore, it’s essential to prevent this from happening. 
  • Mold and mildew: Besides health issues, the cold air from the crawl space can bring tiny mold spores into your home. Their small size allows them to float in the air without any problem and even pass through the slightest of cracks. And once they do, they will attach to damp walls and begin to spread around. 
  • High utility costs: The stack effect isn’t too kind on your wallet either. It will cause you to use more energy both in the summer and winter. As you try to heat your place or cool it down, your bills will increase. This will only further lead to higher utility costs. 
  • Costly repairs: Another problem you’ll have with this phenomenon is that it can create serious structural damage which you’ll need to repair afterward. However, the repairs won’t be cheap as the stack effect will up the humidity levels in your home and allow rot to occur. If this happens, it’s best to immediately contact professional help. 

How Can You Resolve These Problems? 

In case you’re having trouble with the stack effect, you should encapsulate your crawl space. Luckily, you can do so with professional help at FSM. Our team will visit your home and offer a free inspection of the situation. After that, they’ll present you with a series of solutions that will fit both your requirements and wallet. It’s key to point out once more that you should act fast before anything serious happens.


Absolutely, routine checks help identify potential problems early, preventing widespread mold or other complications. With Foundation Systems of Michigan’s crawl space encapsulation, our annual maintenance plans are beneficial. We revisit annually to ensure your crawl space remains secure. Learn more and arrange a free inspection with us. 

Definitely! The advantages of crawl space encapsulation are immediate and long-lasting. It’s an investment that safeguards your home’s structure, boosts energy efficiency, and potentially enhances indoor air quality. 

The cost varies based on crawl space size, damage level, and the solutions implemented. Foundation Systems of Michigan provides free inspections and clear pricing, including no-obligation quotes and financing options to fit your budget. 

Improvements in indoor conditions are often immediate following crawl space encapsulation, with many homeowners observing reduced energy bills in the following billing cycle. Contact Foundation Systems of Michigan now to set up a free crawl space inspection and receive a no-obligation repair quote. 

Leah Leitow

Leah Leitow

Content Writer

Leah is a Content Writer for Groundworks with nearly ten years of experience working in the foundation repair industry. Her experience ranges from working with homeowners to find the right solution to training inspectors and staff. In her background as a Michigan journalist, she gained invaluable insight into people's lives throughout our state. Leah lives in metro Detroit with her husband and two sons.

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