From The Detroit News | By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
DETROIT, January 19, 2023 ~ I have never met a Midwesterner who enjoys cold floors in winter.
Some cold floor issues are harder to solve than others, like that 2 a.m. trod across the ceramic tile in the bathroom on your just warm-from-the-sheets feet.
But other such problems can be resolved in a way that adds value to the home while providing comfort and economy.
We’re talking about those homes built above crawl spaces.
Historically, the open space below the framed floor was simply a nod to keeping the frame timber dry and, hopefully, bug-free.
Early building codes recognized the potential for moisture building up in that space and so proscribed a solution by requiring vents in the foundation walls that would allow air to move freely through the space regardless of the outside air temperature or conditions.
The addition of screens to keep out bugs and louvers to slow wind movement were considered upgrades to the vents decades ago.
In fact, the codes still would make it appear as though those vents are mandated unless you read just a little bit further where the option to eliminate the vents is written.
January 22, 2023 ~ Chuck “The Inside Guy” Breidenstein and Ken “The Outside Guy” Calverly offer the knowledge and resources you need to make the home of your dreams a reality. Catch them every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon on 760 WJR.
(CONTINUED) At that point, we would ask contractors and homeowners alike to think of the crawl as a short basement; in other words, build it as you would a typical conditioned space below grade.
As an example of the need for this thinking, most basements built in the past 70 years or so have a perimeter drain around the lowest point of the foundation exterior, what we call the footing. This is intended to drain ground water to either a sump or what we call day light, to a ditch or other low surface ground area away from the building.
Few crawl spaces are built with such drains, though the need for them is inherent to a dry space.
It is also common to have a crawl space with an exposed earth floor that can not only function as a heat sink, stealing heat from the house above, but can also wick moisture from the ground below, which can create a growth environment on the wood frame for mold and provide unwanted humidity in the home.
A typical crawl space will also not have insulated walls or band joists, the exterior portion of the wood floor frame that rests on top of the foundation.
And while it is common to run mechanicals through the space such as pipes and ductwork, we don’t usually condition the air there either.
This is where the idea of encapsulation comes in. Companies like Foundation Systems of Michigan in Livonia, Foundation Solutions 360 in Fraser, and Amistee Air Duct Cleaning and Insulation in Novi can provide a service to preserve and protect that space while eliminating moisture and cold outside air.
These companies, serving the entire metro area, can install quality vapor barriers that seal the earth floor and stop moisture intrusion.
In some cases, they can retrofit perimeter drains on the interior to intercept ground water.
Thermal insulation, usually in the form of applied spray or rigid foam is provided on the sidewalls and in the band joists.
Properly applied in the perimeter floor frame, this insulation can not only slow the movement of heat from the home to the outside, but it also seals against uncontrolled air flow and the intrusion of pests like bugs and rodents.
When the crawl is properly encapsulated, we suggest having professionals like Sharons Heating and Air Conditioning in Westland or C&C Heating and Air Conditioning in Roseville take a look at your forced-air system and provide supply and return air to the crawl space, conditioning it as you would a basement.
In the winter, the heat introduced into this insulated space will “escape” to the floor and home above warming that surface that usually chills your feet.
Conditioning the air can also prevent the buildup of moisture and, thus, the mold growth we referred to earlier.
Properly and timely done, these improvements will add long-term comfort and value to your home. Just make sure you use a professional like those you’ll find at InsideOutsideGuys.com.
For housing advice and more, listen to “The Inside Outside Guys” every Saturday and Sunday on 760 WJR from 10 a.m. to noon, or contact them at InsideOutsideGuys.com.