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What Is a Crawl Space?: A Common Foundation Type in the U.S.

clean crawl space

Almost 15% of homes in the U.S. have crawl space foundations. The reason why is simple. A crawl space is much cheaper to build than a full basement.

However, its low cost doesn’t make it easier and less time-consuming to construct.

Here, we’ll discuss all the necessary details about crawl space foundations.

What Are Crawl Spaces?

encapsulated crawl space

The name for these substructure areas comes from how they can be accessed. Unlike a basement, you can’t stand in a crawl space or make it into a living space. Nevertheless, you can still use them as storage space if you need one. Even if they seem like a cheaper, less effective solution for some homeowners, crawl spaces have numerous benefits just like basements and slab foundations. For example, they offer lots of space for electric panels and utility lines.

Crawl Spaces and Building Code Requirements

dirt floor crawl space

If you have a vented crawl space, you should check whether it meets building code requirements in Michigan. According to regulations, every home with crawl space vents in the state needs to have 500 square feet of crawl space area. However, the rules are different if you have a thick vapor barrier covering the ground of your crawl space. Aside from that, the building code requires that the space between the joists and the ground needs to have outside ventilation.

Regulations also require homeowners to install Class I vapor barriers on the ground and up the vertical wall a minimum of six inches in unvented crawl spaces. Furthermore, it’s essential to make sure that this area has a conditioned air supply. The code recognizes several mechanical drying methods such as permanent dehumidifiers, air from an HVAC system, exhaust fans, or conditioned air from the living space above.

How Crawl Spaces Are Built

Essentially, crawl spaces are constructed in a similar way as basements. The construction crew will first dig out a space for the foundation and then they will pour the footing. Afterward, they will construct the foundation walls and the rest of the home on top of it.

Crawl spaces are pretty much empty aside from electric wires and other utilities that run through them. But this doesn’t have to be the case if you want to insulate yours and turn it into storage space. However, many homeowners decide to skip on the potential storage space and leave the ground beneath the crawl space empty because it’s much cheaper than pouring concrete.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Crawl Space?

Crawl spaces are much cheaper to build than basements. This is one of the reasons why they’re so popular. But the cost will depend on the size of the crawl space and the quality of the materials you’re looking to use. On average, the construction cost can range from $10,000 to $20,000 for a regular family home.

Benefits of a Crawl Space?

Even if they might not be the easiest of structures to construct and you can’t renovate them into living areas, crawl spaces do have their benefits. Here are some of them:

  • Durability: If you have a crawl space, you don’t have to worry whether the foundation will take any damage during an earthquake. Crawl spaces are durable and remain stable in all sorts of situations.
  • Level ground: The chances that you’ll find a perfectly level piece of land to build your home on are pretty low nowadays. However, how level your land is does not matter if you’re building a crawl space foundation. You can build it on a sloped piece of land by varying the length of piers.
  • Flexibility: If you’re looking to build a home on expansive soil, a crawl space will be a great solution. Also, these foundations respond much better to hydrostatic pressure than basements or slabs.
  • Storage: Although you can’t turn it into a full hobby area or guest room, you can still use your crawl space for storage. You can place items you rarely use down there and not worry about the lack of space in your living area. Also, crawl spaces offer you a chance to run your plumbing lines and electrical wires through them.

The Cons of Crawl Spaces

dirty crawl space with water

Just like any other man-made structure, a crawl space will have its downsides. Here are some of these cons that any homeowner should be aware of:

  • Poor energy efficiency: During winter, an open crawl space will lower the energy efficiency of your home. The best way to deal with this problem is to cover open vents and encapsulate and insulate the area to lower your heating bills.
  • Pest infestation: Crawl spaces are usually dark and humid areas, making them a perfect place for rodents and other pests to gather. If they do end up in there, pests will nest, breed, and live carefree. Unfortunately, they can damage your structure along the way.
  • Moisture problems: Crawl spaces are prone to moisture. Air goes through them freely, making the interior humid. This can, in turn, lead to rot, mold, and numerous other problems.

If you’re having any of these problems in your crawl space, we recommend that you contact the professionals at FSM. Our expert team provides services to residents in the Detroit area, Traverse City, Grand Rapids, and surrounding areas in Michigan. Contact us today to schedule a free estimate and have a team of professionals repair and encapsulate your crawl space in no time.

Crawl Space FAQs

The price for crawl space repairs can vary based on damage severity, the size of the crawl space, and the specifics of the repair work required. Foundation Systems of Michigan will offer a detailed price breakdown during a free inspection. We pride ourselves on providing obligation-free repair quotes, straightforward pricing, and various payment plans

The price varies depending on the size of the crawl space, the extent of repairs, and customization. Receive a no-obligation estimate with a detailed cost breakdown following a free inspection by a Foundation Systems of Michigan expert. We also provide various financing options.

Costs vary based on crawl space condition, size, and required repairs. Following a free inspection, our experts will provide a no-obligation estimate with detailed costs and financing options. 

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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