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Thread: Damp crawlspace

  1. #1
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    Question Damp crawlspace

    I was in a crawlspace yesterday that was damp throughout all the areas I entered. Note the property was about 3 blocks from the ocean. My question is, can a property at sea level have a constant dampness in the crawlspace or this likely related to an unfound (due to limited access) condition?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    Three blocks away is not at sea level, or is it?
    Age of house? dirt floor? grade slopes which way? gutters and downspouts? ventilation? vapor barrier on the dirt?
    How damp is damp?

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    John,

    In response to you questions: Age of house is 55, Grading is dirt / sand, Slope is overall step grade in southeast to northwest direction, Gutters with downspouts present (no extensions), Ventilation was present at multiple locations and there was no vapor barrier. Thanks in advance for any help....


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    By grade he meant is the grade on the outside properly sloped away from the house or does it direct water towards the foundation? Lack of downspout extensions may be a concern but if the grade drops 1 foot over 5 feet from the foundation, probably doesn't matter.

    The questions were really more of a sample of questions for you to provide as much information about the house as possible. Just because it is near the ocean does not mean it should be damp. How damp is damp before you consider it wet? Moisture meter readings are useful for you to be able to say how dry, damp, or wet it is.

    Are there other signs of elevated moisture and associated problems? Mold, mildew, rotted wood, crickets, water logged insulation, drips, puddles, water staining, efflorescence, etc. You have to paint a better picture of conditions besides "damp". Photos are always useful.

    As you supply more information, the answers will get better.

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    Bruce & John,

    Attached are a few photos...As far as the immediate pad / grading around the property it is near level (as indicated, overall the neighborhood as a step grade). There are other conditions that I have noted within the inspection report (ie: grading in contact with exterior siding, efflorescence on foundation walls, wiring unsupported and lying on grade in crawlspace etc., etc.. (see photos)) but am just curious if the damp (no puddles or standing water) grading can be related to near sea level conditions....Again, any help or advice is greatly appreciated.

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  6. #6
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Birenbaum View Post
    I was in a crawlspace yesterday that was damp throughout all the areas I entered. Note the property was about 3 blocks from the ocean. My question is, can a property at sea level have a constant dampness in the crawlspace or this likely related to an un-found (due to limited access) condition?

    I have no idea what your soil conditions out there but in Mass and Florida I lived no more than a few blocks from the ocean and I am assuming that the sandy soil (almost oll sand) never retained moisture. You could let a hose run all day and the water would still just keep draining into the ground. I would venture to say that if it is a very sandy well draining soil that the moisture would be from a leak in a drain or supply line.

    Even when I move to the western side of the inter-coastal water way the soil drained extremely we.. Same thing up north, well inland.


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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    Hello Mike. The pics tell the story. It looks like moisture is creeping thru the perimeter foundation walls, producing a lot of efflorescence. My guess is that most of the moisture is falling from the sky, although some fog and smog is probably contributing a bit. Better perimeter drainage will help. All the downspouts should drain into a storm drain system instead of just dumping out around the foundations. Then, they should install a 6 mil poly vapor barrier on that dirt. From what we can see, the beams and joists look OK.

    Those pics could be from anywhere, not necessarily due to location near the beach. The soil type is probably the biggest factor.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  8. #8
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    If you look at the first picture the stucco is into the ground. This can have termites come up between the block and any possible, even slightly loos stucco.

    Second, the top of the wall is where I think the water is coming in unless you live in a flood zone and the water has come up toward the top of the block which I doubt. That ledge looks flat and the flashing needs to be checked to see if water is getting back in and down thru the blocks. The last picture shows the height of where the water has been coming in.

    Last but not least. That foolish little thin strip of dirt between the home and driveway.....make it go away. It is just a place to trap water. Continue the concrete to cover that space and pitched away from the foundation. You said the soil around the home is flat. It needs to pitch away frpom the hpome and maybe some surface/French drains need to be installed.

    The pic below is an exaggeration of what the property should look like with the slope away from and around the home to a low point

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  9. #9
    Ken Bates's Avatar
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    I did not read all the previous posts.

    About 5 years ago I inspected what is the last house between America and Europe. About 100 yards eastward was a sea wall and behind that was a strand of sand and the Atlantic ocean.

    The house was resting on concrete "grade beams" supported by very large concrete piers and one Lally column in the center.

    The house was built 30 - 40 years ago and all of the structure ( i.e. joists and subfloor looked like it was just purchased from a cabinet makers supplier.
    (the most perfect wood you will ever see) It was just conifer wood with no inherent protection for decay.

    There was and probably always will be a few inches of water on the dirt floor.
    I did not taste or sample for saline content. But I could only conclude that an 8 foot high crawl space with a floor about the same level as the waves that lap the shore is a good thing. If I saw this a few miles inland next to a pond or river I would expect to see Rod Serling in the shadows. This situation would be impossible/improbable elsewhere. So I think there can be something about salty water in a crawl space. (Think pickles)


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Hello Mike. The pics tell the story. It looks like moisture is creeping thru the perimeter foundation walls, producing a lot of efflorescence. My guess is that most of the moisture is falling from the sky, although some fog and smog is probably contributing a bit. Better perimeter drainage will help. All the downspouts should drain into a storm drain system instead of just dumping out around the foundations. Then, they should install a 6 mil poly vapor barrier on that dirt. From what we can see, the beams and joists look OK.

    Those pics could be from anywhere, not necessarily due to location near the beach. The soil type is probably the biggest factor.
    Hi Mike, what John said was good but also if they are going to put in better perimeter drains it would also be good to redo the walls on the outside and seal them up too while they are there and open to it. As to the 6 mil poly seal it in and lay some gravel on top to prevent it from moving around it will act as ballast.

    Also something to check out is the water table and is that a factor in the situation. Basements always leak just a question of when where and how much, then it is a case of controling it to an acceptable level


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    I live in an area where many houses are on or near the ocean.

    Those pictures look like high ground water saturation. You can see it has wicked up everwhere. Even though the ground is not level, all high and low points within the crawl are saturated.


  12. #12
    Dave Calkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Hetner View Post
    Hi Mike, what John said was good but also if they are going to put in better perimeter drains it would also be good to redo the walls on the outside and seal them up too while they are there and open to it. As to the 6 mil poly seal it in and lay some gravel on top to prevent it from moving around it will act as ballast.

    Also something to check out is the water table and is that a factor in the situation. Basements always leak just a question of when where and how much, then it is a case of controling it to an acceptable level
    I agree with most of the things said. The efflorescence from the walls does indicate that the dampness is coming from the exterior. I don't recall anything about putting in better perimeter drains. From the age of the house, they in all likelihood don't have perimeter drains. Ted's comments about drainage away from the home and swales were good. 6 mil plastic will help hold down the humidity being exuded from the soil, but as you noted after 55 years there has not been any rot, so the humidity is not likely to be a big issue. To answer your direct question as to whether the moisture could be due to being so close to the ocean, that would be impossible for us to determine without knowing the local geology and topography. It could be, but is not really likely to be sea water related. As others have said, the water is most likely coming from the downspouts not being directed away from the home, but I have seen homes that have a layer of clay that directs uphill water right to and under the foundation. One other thing that someone said, foundations always leak. Out here in Oregon, we use the fraise that foundations are like leaky boats, there is always moisture, the issue is whether the water is being directed out and away. Out here we are required to have 6 mil plastic run up the sides of the foundation as well as low point drains.

    Last edited by Dave Calkins; 12-04-2010 at 11:13 PM. Reason: addition info

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    Mike, the waste pipe looks very rusty at the edge of the photo. Maybe there is also a leak. Kind of looks like that crawl has the perfect storm for dampness.


  14. #14
    David Nelson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Damp crawlspace

    What were the conditions of the wood? Was there any surface mold or mildew? Was there any condensation on the wood, ductwork, pipes, etc? If so, humidity could be a contributing factor.


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