It’s always soggy under your pier and beam or crawl space foundation home. You are concerned about how excess moisture can affect your foundation structure and want to remedy it. You just need a little help here: What are the best ways to increase and improve the ventilation under your home?
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we know better than most how a home’s foundation can be affected when there’s too much moisture in the crawl space. After 35+ years in business, we know that good air flow is very important to the health of your pier and beam home – you might even say we’re a *fan* of proper ventilation. Bad puns aside, we can certainly make some suggestions for you to try.
This article will reinforce why ventilation is important. We will then review ways to improve and increase the effectiveness of your under-home ventilation to help keep it dry as a way to prevent foundation (and other) problems in the future. Let’s check it out!
Why Is Proper Ventilation Important Under Your Home?
You’re right to be concerned about excess moisture under your home. It can affect your foundation structure. Swampy conditions in your crawl space create the perfect environment for wood rot, mold, and even termites. The complex wooden structure of your pier and beam home is easily compromised by wood decay of any kind.
On top of encouraging wood decay, a home that is poorly ventilated underneath and has standing water can also experience effects from expansive clay soils. There’s also erosion to contend with if water flows under the home. In other words, there is a lot to be worried about if your crawl space foundation is not kept reasonably dry.
It’s not that no moisture or water can ever get under your home, but it must have the opportunity to dry out thoroughly and stay as dry as possible. Keeping the humidity at bay (if that’s possible in Texas) through good ventilation is also important to prevent moisture decay from developing.
So let’s list these out here to make it clear. A poorly ventilated pier and beam or block and base crawl space can result in problems like:
- Wood rot,
- Foundation issues, and
- Foundation problem signs inside your home
I know it sounds like the last two are the same thing, but what I’m trying to say here is that you risk having foundation issues UNDER your home where you can’t see them. But you also might end up with foundation problem signs INSIDE your home where you *and everyone else* can see them too.
Eventually, the problem of poor ventilation isn’t just going to be an *out of sight* problem that only affects the underside of your home.
When the foundational structure of your home is compromised by moisture, you also begin to see it inside. You get doors that don’t work right, diagonal cracks in walls, gaps in doors and window issues, shaky or spongy floors, and all sorts of *unpleasantries* that you don’t want to deal with inside your house.
Not to mention the fact that you then have to pay to get all this stuff fixed.
How to Increase Air Flow and Keep It Dry Under Your Home
Here’s a quick list of different ways to try and increase the airflow under your home.
- Improve Exterior Drainage
- Change or Add Vents
- Upgrade to Mechanical Ventilation
- Change or Remove Skirting
- Add a Sump Pump
- Elevate the Whole Home
This is kind of an incremental list where you might try the first thing on the list and see if that works for you. Then if more ventilation is needed, move to the next step. The list is also organized from less to more complex and costly. The first ideas are easier and less costly and then it goes up from there.
Some steps do not apply to all types of crawl space foundations, so you can just skip any that are not for your home type. For example, the skirting idea is only for block and base type homes but we will get into the details in the next section to detail everything.
6 Best Ways to Improve Crawl Space Foundation Ventilation
Now let’s cover each of these incremental ideas in more detail so that you have more information to work with. Without further ado . . . the 6 best ways to try and improve ventilation under your home.
1. Improve Exterior Drainage
This isn’t really a way to improve ventilation, but it’s absolutely the first step of improving the moisture levels under your home. If it doesn’t get wet under there in the first place, it doesn’t have to dry out. So if you haven’t already addressed drainage issues around your home, you need to optimize your drainage first.
Honestly, this is a whole other topic of discussion with its own set of steps to try in incremental order. Solutions range from gutters and downspouts to surface and underground drainage applications. If you’ve already handled drainage the best you can, then skip to the next section.
If your drainage situation hasn’t been addressed yet, then all the fabulous ventilation ideas in the world won’t help very much. To get started with the best foot forward, check out our article on ways to fix poor drainage around your home and make sure you have done all you can in this department first.
2. Change or Add Vents
One of the telltale signs that you have a crawl space foundation is visible vents between the ground and the floor structure of your home. These vents can just be holes every so often on the perimeter of your home. Vents might be framed out with a removable screen or covered with a fancy grate. A vent can even be created out of bricks that have been placed with space between them.
Change Vent Cover Style
It is good to have a vent cover on vent cut-outs to keep critters away. There is a fine balance between keeping the vent holes small enough to keep out pests, but large enough to let in enough air. It’s tough to keep the vents nice looking AND doing a good job of ventilating and keeping out the bad stuff.
Too often, vent styles are chosen for reasons of beauty over functionality. The result is poor ventilation and too much moisture. Then issues develop because the vent cover was *pretty* but didn’t do the best job of keeping the crawl space dry. Oops! It happens all the time.
Some covers encourage airflow better than others. So the first thing you can try with your vents is to change the vent covering to something that has bigger or more holes and allows more air to flow.
If you have restrictive vent covers, try changing to something more open. Even though they are not the most beautiful vent cover on the planet, framed screens are great. Screens let in the most air and have the smallest holes to keep out pests.
Changing the vent cover style is a good option for a pier and beam home. The perimeter beam supporting your home’s structure is solid and made from concrete, cinder blocks, or bricks. Changing to a more open vent cover style might be your only option with vents as the next couple of ideas might not be possible for true pier and beam homes.
Increase the Size of Vents
I’ve seen vents that are so small, that they hardly pass as something that allows airflow. You could increase the physical dimensions of the vent holes you have. If it’s a 3” x 8” area, for example, increase the size of vent openings as much as you can while maintaining the ability to cover it with a screen or cover.
Increasing the size of vent holes might be easy or harder depending on your foundation type. If you have a block and base home with skirting, it might be easy to simply cut larger holes in the skirting material. If you have a pier and beam home with a solid perimeter made from concrete or brick, it might be a challenge or not a viable option.
Increase the Quantity of Vents
You might be very happy with the size and appearance of your vent holes and covers already, but you could just add more of them. Instead of having vents every 6 feet, make it every 3 feet. Double your vent quantity and double your ventilation capacity.
Again, this might be a better option for a block and base home than a true pier and beam home that has a solid perimeter beam.
3. Upgrade to Mechanical Ventilation
So far, I have been talking about vents that work passively, meaning that airflow just happens without any help. But there are also mechanical vents that use electricity to blow and circulate air with the use of a fan. So you can change your vents from passive to active by upgrading to a mechanical fan in place of some of your vents.
Mechanical vents are not super common around here in Central Texas, but we have seen them a few times. What you want to do with a mechanical vent fan is to place them in the right locations under your home to best facilitate airflow.
You don’t put a mechanical vent on every single vent hole that you have. Otherwise, you can create problems with air pressure as vent fans are quite powerful at moving air even though we humans barely detect their effects.
The strategic placement of a mechanical vent fan is important. You want to create a *path* for the air to flow along that allows a clear direction for air to circulate in and out and goes naturally with typical wind patterns.
We recommend that you get help with installing mechanical ventilation as it can certainly be done wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. They sell specialized vent fan products that work under homes, but you need to be careful that you don’t get something TOO powerful for the size of your crawl space (and you don’t want anything too weak either).
*Ugh* I feel like another article might be needed to explain all this mechanical airflow stuff but we don’t have one. We aren’t experts in this area so it’s probably best to consult with a professional in the airflow business or a general contractor if you are interested in exploring this option further.
4. Change or Remove Skirting
Skirting is specific to block and base homes since there is no perimeter beam. Skirting is a cosmetic material placed around the perimeter of the crawl space ideally to 1.) keep out pests, 2.) make the home look nicer, and 3.) should facilitate ventilation – kinda sounds like a vent if you ask me.
Some people use lattice, louvered wood, or metal sheeting for skirting around their homes. Many times, skirting is chosen for appearance purposes, and the ventilation purpose ends up being secondary. While the right skirting choice can certainly increase ventilation, the wrong choice can also diminish ventilation and cause problems for your home.
If you are needing more ventilation under your block and base home, consider changing your skirting to something with bigger and/or more holes in it. You could even remove the skirting altogether for a while to let things dry out. Then think about changing to something that encourages natural airflow better than what you had before.
You know what, we’ve got a whole article on the world of skirting choices that you can pick from if you’re thinking of making a change.
5. Add a Sump Pump
Sump pumps are commonly used in basements, but can also help with under-home drainage issues in the case of crawl space foundations. They are capable of moving many gallons of water out from under your home.
If you have so much water in your crawl space that all the normal drainage and ventilation techniques don’t cut it, a sump pump might be your last line of defense. We don’t see sump pumps too often around here but it’s certainly an option if you’ve tried everything else.
A sump pump is a mechanical pump and basin that catches the water and pumps it out of your home or out from under your home. The pumps are electrical machines so they depend on power. Installing a sump pump is something you probably shouldn’t do on your own, so we suggest getting help from an experienced contractor.
6. Elevate the Whole Home
Some homes are simply built too close to the ground in the first place. We’ve been called in to repair many homes that were not built with enough ground clearance. What happens is the ground under your home holds ambient moisture. When you enclose the crawl space too tightly and it’s close to the ground it just stays damp all the time.
So excess moisture is created by a home without proper crawl space clearance. Homes built too close to the ground can end up with recurring foundation issues and wood decay. So when we see a home too close to the ground, sometimes we suggest elevating the whole thing to give it proper clearance and ventilation.
For the right kind of foundation and the right kind of home, elevating the entire house has many benefits, especially if you’re already needing foundation work to repair problems. It won’t be the least expensive solution, but it might not cost as much as you think and can be done at the same time as the crawl space foundation repair.
We’ve got an article *all about* how to know if you can elevate your home if you think this option might be one you want to explore.
Start Improving Ventilation Under Your Home Now
We’ve given you a lot to think about and try with six ideas to improve ventilation under your home. Fixing these kinds of problems takes time and patience. Water and air are hard to control and they don’t always behave the way we think they will.
The best thing to do is to just get started and try something. Your first stab at the problem might not solve it but it will still be an improvement. Getting rid of excess moisture through proper ventilation will keep your home healthy and prevent a lot of serious problems.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have repaired many a pier and beam home that had foundation issues due to poor ventilation and excess moisture in our 35+ years in business. If it’s possible to save just one home from the issues of mold, termites, wood rot, and foundation problems – we want to do it with the power of information.
Speaking of pier and beam foundations, they are interesting and complex structures. Check out this article to understand damage and repairs to pier and beam foundation homes if you want to know more.