What is a crawl space?
By definition, a crawl space is a gap between a house and the actual ground level that it is built upon. Basically, you can imagine elevating a house and the space that you will find under is what can be considered a crawl space. The enclosure around the crawl space, which also acts as the foundation that will hold up the entire house, can be made of different kinds of materials. Bricks, concrete, metal or a combination of those three are options that homeowners can choose from during the construction period of their house. Often, there are holes and ventilation shafts built around the enclosure of the crawl space to allow air to circulate. As for the floor, most people opt to just put soil or gravel but tiling the floors or cementing is possible. Because of the vents and soil, a crawl space does not have a very controlled environment and is open to the dangers and hazards of natural weather occurrences. Floods, organic infestations and the like are more prone in crawl spaces and a more detailed discussion of this will be provided later on.
Crawl space VS basement
To some people, a crawl space may sound very much like a regular, full-sized basement but the two actually have very different characteristics. From a financial standpoint, basements are a lot more expensive to construct as they are usually full sized rooms that have electrical wiring and plumbing in a closed environment. Crawl spaces on the other hand are not nearly as big as basements and usually require homeowners to bend over to fit inside hence the name crawl space. Also, crawl spaces are usually very bare with no electricity, plumbing or any other fancy stuff. In effect, it is a lot easier to construct and the maintenance that it would require but be much less when compared to that of a basement.
Why choose a crawl space
This brings us to why some homeowners would even opt for a crawl space instead of a basement. When you take a look at the preliminary features that each of these provide and neglect the cost differences, the basement comes out as a clear winner. It is more spacious to begin with which allows you to store more objects and possessions. The environment is controlled which means that you will not have to worry about its maintenance as much as you would with a crawl space. Also, if the need arises, a basement can be converted into another bedroom because it is enclosed and usually has electricity and water. All this can be provided by a basement and not by a crawl space but it is also the reason why some homeowners decide on crawl spaces instead. This is because, practically, there are not a lot of people who need a full room for storage, or an extra room to sleep in. Since it costs more to build basements, homeowners will opt for the simpler and cheaper option because it already caters to their needs. Usually, homeowners just need a small portion of their house for storage and nothing more.
Disadvantages of a crawl space
Given the reasons why crawl spaces can be favored against other alternatives, it is time to take a look at the benefits and disadvantages it gives to homeowners. One of the main disadvantages of crawl spaces can be found in its design and structure. It is open which means that it is constantly exposed to heat, moisture, humidity and air. All of those elements make the environment in a crawl space very conducive for organisms to thrive such as mold and other insect infestations. In the long run, this combination of elements can seriously threaten the stability of your house and the health of those living in it. Cases of infestations which have caused disease and sickness have been regularly reported over the years and are issues that should be taken seriously. Examples of infestations range from mold to termites, to all sorts of critters which can either damage your house or be quite a nuisance. Also, some crawl spaces have been known to be inhabited by different animals such as snakes and the like which, again, can be very dangerous. Another case is when the moisture in the crawl space slowly eats away at the foundation of the house. This can cause the structure to become very unstable and susceptible to major accidents. All these cases are very much possible and definitely not worth dealing with so taking the proper precautionary measures will go a long way in ensuring your safety.
What can be placed in a crawl space
This leads us to one of the first things that homeowners should seriously consider placing inside their crawl space, a dehumidifier. This device regulates the climate inside your crawl space thus reducing the elements that can cause the problems mentioned previously. But, not just any dehumidifier can be used. The common mistake for most homeowners is that they believe that normal-grade dehumidifiers can get the job done but these devices are usually built for enclosed rooms. For crawl spaces, the environment is much harsher and regular dehumidifiers may not be able to take the load. Industrial-grade dehumidifiers are the answer to your problems. Although they may be expensive, the price is definitely worth it in the long term. Just think of not having to worry about dealing with medical bills, house reconstruction expenses and other issues that an unattended crawl space can give you.
Another thing that is usually found in crawl spaces is the plumbing system. Since water comes from pipes in the ground, the system will have to pass through the crawl space to get to the house. This poses several problems especially when there are leaks in the system. In avoiding water damage and the growth of hazardous organisms, a proper drainage system can be constructed in the crawl space. This involves installing pipes and drains that will direct the water out of the crawl space and into the sewers. If your area experiences a lot of flooding, pumps may also be installed to further hasten the redirecting of water and moisture. Other people also resort to using vapor barriers which protects the ceiling of the crawl space from exposure to moisture and dampness.
Other items that may be installed in your crawl space as precautionary measures against futures hazards are ventilation systems which force the air inside to circulate, insulation systems which also help regulate the crawl space climate and many other things that you believe will help protect you from any long term problems.
Now that the different solutions to the disadvantages of a crawl space have been laid out, it is time to look at the different practical uses that it may provide to homeowners. The most obvious is its storage capabilities. Crawl spaces usually cover a lot of ground and are perfect for storing a variety of household items aside from the ones already mentioned. All the following items that will be mentioned can be stored in crawl spaces assuming that all the necessary precautionary measures have been taken to protect the space from any problems such as infestations and the like.
Benefits of a crawl space
Household items that are not used daily can easily be stored in crawl spaces. Examples of items like these would be gardening tools, Christmas decorations, unused furniture and other items that you would not want to have lying around in your house. The items mentioned are usually used once a week, like the gardening tools or maybe even once a year like the decorations. Keeping them in storage inside a crawl space means that there will also be less clutter around your house which adds to the ambience and overall comfort. Also, when the time comes to use these items, it will not be difficult to retrieve them as crawl spaces are usually easily accessible in most houses. Other items that can be stored include mechanical equipment such as tools and other parts, gardening pots, and the like.
Aside from those kinds of items, you can also get more creative and use your crawl space to hide otherwise, unsightly appliances such as your air conditioning system or heating system. The actual units of the appliances can be safely hidden inside the crawl space while the pipes and cables where the air passes through can be directed inside your house. This is particularly useful to those who put a premium on the aesthetic appearance of their house. Having a huge air conditioner sitting outside your backyard is not very appealing and crawl spaces provide a simple solution to hiding these appliances.
As you can see, crawl spaces are extremely useful to most homeowners. It is a very cost effective storage solution as long as it is properly maintained and regularly cleaned. In the future, you can expect people to come up with more innovative uses and ideas for making the most out of a crawl space but for now, in terms of storage, it can definitely get the job done. So, before throwing away those rarely used household items, look to your crawl space for storage, you never know when you might need those items again. An once again, for emphasis, always remember to take the necessary precautionary measures when it comes to your crawl space to ensure the safety of your items and yourself.