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Do I Need a French Drain in My Crawl Space?

Crawl Space Repair

05/15/2024

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Including a French drain in your crawl space drainage system is not necessary but an excellent choice. French drains help to collect water near your foundation and convey it to a location where it does not cause any damage.

What is a French Drain?

A French drain is a type of drainage structure you can include in your foundation design or elsewhere. French drains consist of a long trench dug into the ground. Whoever constructs your French drain will add a perforated pipe running the length of the trench. They will also fill the remaining areas of the trench with a porous material like crushed stone.

When the water reaches the French drain’s trench, it enters the trench, percolates through the porous material, and enters the perforated pipe, which conveys the water away. Adding a French drain to your foundation area helps collect any water in that space, preventing it from causing harm.

Basic Components of A French Drain System

Signs You Should Improve Your Crawl Space Drainage System

  1. Standing water: If you find standing water in your crawl space, it is likely you have an issue with your drainage system. Clogs and breaks in the system can both result in this issue.
  2. Musty odors: Foul scents indicate your crawl space fails to manage moisture correctly. Excessive moisture can also cause rot, poor air quality, and mold and mildew growth.
  3. Structural water damage: Water present in your crawl space will result in water damage to your structural elements or any stored items in that space.

Causes of Crawl Space Drainage Issues

  1. Clogged drainage systems: Drain systems that include clogs fail to convey water away from the home, often resulting in standing water in your crawl space.
  2. Broken drainage systems: Similar to clogged drains, broken drainage systems can also cause water to pool in your foundation area.
  3. Hydrostatic pressure: When water below the soil’s surface contacts the sides of your crawl space, it creates hydrostatic pressure. This pressure causes walls to crack, bow, and deform. Hydrostatic pressure can also result in water leaking into your crawl space.
  4. Flat grading around your home: If the land around your home is flat, it encourages water to pool and enter your crawl space.
  5. Grading that pitches water toward your foundation: When land pitches toward your home, it is even more problematic than flat grading. Land that slopes toward the home causes water to flow there too.
  6. Clogged gutters: When your gutters are clogged, they can overflow and deposit water directly next to a crawl space.
  7. Lack of downspout extensions: Short downspouts are like clogged gutters in that they drop water directly next to your home.
  8. Lack of a drainage system entirely: Unfortunately, some crawl spaces lack a drainage system entirely, resulting in poor water management and excessive moisture in the foundation.

Damage Poor Crawl Space Drainage Can Cause

  1. Structural decay: Poor drainage causes rot to the wooden structures in your crawl space. Since your home depends on these structures, rot can be detrimental.
  2. Damage to any stored items: If you store items in your crawl space, the presence of water will damage them, sometimes beyond repair.
  3. Mold and mildew growths: These substances arise whenever the moisture in a space is too high. Mold and mildew are a threat to your structures and health.
  4. Staining: Water causes staining to your crawl space materials that are both unsightly and difficult to remove.

If you have wondered how your crawl space drainage system can improve, you may have considered installing a French drain.

Components of a Complete Crawl Space Drainage System

  1. Interior drain tiles: An interior drain tile collects any water inside the crawl space and conveys it to a safe location.
  2. Exterior drain tiles: Like an interior drain tile, an exterior drain tile performs the same function for any water outside your foundation space.
  3. Sump pump: These pumps collect water and push it out of the home via a discharge pipe.
  4. Floor drain: For anyone with standing water on the floor of their crawl space, a floor drain can collect it and move it elsewhere.
  5. Vapor barrier: A vapor barrier is a key component of crawl space encapsulation and creates a complete seal between the crawl space and the outside.
  6. Dehumidification: Installing a dehumidifier in an encapsulated crawl space ensures the relative humidity remains at an ideal level.

Sump pump: These pumps collect water and push it out of the home via a discharge pipe.

Another Way to Improve a Crawl Space

One of the best ways to enhance a crawl space is through crawl space encapsulation. When you hire someone to perform a crawl space encapsulation for you, they will likely complete the following steps:

  1. Remove standing water: Step one involves removing any standing water in the area.
  2. Repair damaged structures and items: Before encapsulating a crawl space, an experienced crawl space specialist will repair or replace any damaged structures in the crawl space.
  3. Install or repair drainage systems: Enhancing a drainage system is an essential component of encapsulation and helps ensure water won’t be an issue in the future.
  4. Seal existing crawl space vents: Sealing crawl space vents ensures moist air from outside does not enter.
  5. Install a vapor barrier: The installation of a vapor barrier seals a crawl space entirely, preventing water and pests from entering.
  6. Add dehumidification: The final step of encapsulation is to install a dehumidification system that monitors and manages the moisture in the area.

One of the best ways to enhance a crawl space is through crawl space encapsulation.

Encapsulation creates a complete barrier between your crawl space and the outside, preventing water from getting in.

Advantages of Crawl Space Encapsulation

  1. Moisture control: Encapsulation involves the installation of a vapor barrier, an enhanced drainage system, and dehumidification, all of which keep moisture at a reasonable level.
  2. Reduced mold and mildew: After encapsulation, you won’t need to worry about excessive moisture or the mold and mildew it can produce.
  3. Better air quality: By reducing air moisture, encapsulation results in better air quality as well.
  4. Pest prevention: The complete vapor barrier also keeps pests away.
  5. Energy efficiency: By protecting your HVAC systems, encapsulation allows them to operate more efficiently.
  6. Structural integrity: Since your structures no longer have contact with excessive moisture, they remain intact and also have increased longevity.
  7. Increased storage space: An encapsulated crawl space becomes the ideal location to store tools and other items of lesser value.

How Long Does Crawl Space Encapsulation Last

Crawl space encapsulation will usually last about 15 years or more.

Can You Encapsulate a Crawl Space Independently?

You should not attempt to encapsulate a crawl space alone, which can be dangerous and unsuccessful. A better approach is to hire a crawl space expert to encapsulate your crawl space.

Can You Improve Crawl Space Drainage Independently?

There are some drainage improvements you can make on your own. For example, you can ensure your gutters are not clogged and that your downspouts have extensions that send the water away. Still, improving crawl space drainage is something a professional should do.

Should You Seal Your Crawl Space Vents?

Some people assume leaving your crawl space vents open is better, but that is not the case. You should close your crawl space vents to ensure moist air from outside does not enter.

Does Your Crawl Space Already Have Drainage?

Many crawl spaces have drainage. However, this does not mean that the drainage system works well. Your drainage system may be broken or clogged, causing water problems in your crawl space. Similarly, some crawl spaces don’t have any drainage system.

Hire a Pro to Improve Crawl Space Drainage

When improving the drainage system of your crawl space, you should hire a professional who is well-versed on this topic. If you live in the Triangle, Triad, or Eastern North Carolina, the best team to choose for any crawl space concern is Regional Foundation & Crawl Space Repair. Contact us today to learn more.