Encapsulated vs. Conditioned Crawl Space

No matter how large your home is, it seems as if storage space is always at a premium. Storing your stuff, especially the stuff you do not use every day (think Christmas decorations), can be challenging. You want to reduce clutter but access your things when you need them.

The good news is that you may be sitting (literally) on a lot of unused potential storage space.

Crawl spaces are areas behind walls, in attics, or under our floors which are part of the house’s structure. They may be created by an elevated floor or an angle with the roof and the ceiling. They are not the easiest spaces to access, but they are often great options for items you do not need ready access to.

There are several types of crawl spaces. Some are semi-exposed to the outside. This could be intentional, especially in older homes when insulation and air conditioning were either not used or were not as efficient as they are now. Vented crawl spaces helped keep temperatures steady. Nowadays, insulation has gotten so good that these types of vented spaces are unnecessary.

If you choose to use a vented crawl space for storage, keep in mind that whatever you store, while dry, will be more exposed to temperature and moisture changes.

Two other types of crawl spaces are conditioned and encapsulated. These spaces offer more protection than vented crawl spaces but differ somewhat in design and use. Below we will explain these differences and what they mean for your storage plans.

Conditioned Crawl Space

Conditioned crawl spaces utilize what are known as ‘vapor barriers’ to keep out external moisture. Usually, this vapor barrier is a kind of black plastic sheeting, such as Visqueen, which seals the entire crawl space. A thickness of 6mm is usually recommended. Care needs to be taken not to cover up any vents installed to allow some airflow within the house.

Conditioned crawl spaces are usually a good place to store most items for long periods.

Encapsulated Crawl Space

Encapsulated crawl spaces offer even more protection but require more work. Encapsulated crawl spaces all use white plastic sheeting to seal off the area. But instead of leaving vents uncovered like in a conditioned crawl space, encapsulated crawl spaces cover any vents as well. Since no sealing system is perfect, moisture will eventually enter the space. If the space is in the ground under your house, you will need to periodically dehumidify the space with a dehumidifier or even a sump pump.

Encapsulated vs. Conditioned Crawl Space

In summary, conditioned crawl spaces are sealed except for vents, and encapsulated spaces are sealed completely, including the vents. Encapsulated crawl spaces protect items better than a conditioned space but require more moisture monitoring. Encapsulated spaces are about four times more expensive to install.

Some people prefer the look of white over black plastic, but since these areas are very rarely seen, looks should not be a major factor in your decision.

How Will You Seal Your Crawl Space?

Both types of crawl space will help keep your items safe and increase your home’s storage space. Which one you choose should depend on your budget and home design.

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