Understanding the Devastating Effects of Flooding in Crawl Spaces

Flooding is an unfortunate event that can occur in any property, causing significant damage and upheaval to homeowners. While many are aware of the visible damage floods can have on basements and living areas, crawl spaces, often neglected and hidden from sight, are also susceptible to devastating flood damage. In this blog, we’ll explore the impact of flooding in crawl spaces and shed light on the potential damage homeowners may face.

  1. Structural Damage:

When floodwaters infiltrate crawl spaces, they can compromise the structural integrity of a building. Excessive moisture weakens and warps the wooden beams and supports, leading to sagging floors, cracks in walls, and destabilization of the foundation. As the waterlogged materials decay over time, the overall stability of the structure is compromised, putting the entire property at risk.

  1. Mold and Mildew Growth:

Crawl spaces, with their limited ventilation and trapped moisture, create an ideal breeding ground for mold and mildew. Flooding exacerbates this issue, providing ample nourishment for these fungi to thrive. Mold growth not only causes an unpleasant odor, but it can also trigger respiratory problems, allergies, and other health complications. The compromised air quality can permeate the entire house, affecting the well-being of its occupants.

  1. Pest Infestation:

Flooding in a crawl space can disturb the ecosystem, displacing pests such as rodents, termites, spiders, and cockroaches. These unwanted guests may find their way into living spaces, causing additional damage and health hazards. Controlling and eradicating these pests is challenging once they have established themselves within the crawl space, calling for professional assistance and further expenses.

  1. Electrical and Utility System Issues:

Crawl spaces usually house critical utility equipment, such as electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC systems. When flooding occurs, these essential systems can be severely damaged. Water can short-circuit electrical systems, leading to electrical fires and power outages. In addition, submerged pipes can burst, disrupting water supply and causing costly repairs.

  1. Higher Energy Costs:

After a crawl space floods, the excess moisture can persist for an extended period, leading to an increase in humidity levels throughout the house. The increased humidity forces air conditioning systems to work harder, resulting in higher energy bills. Furthermore, the constant need for dehumidification to prevent mold growth adds to the financial burden.


Flooding in crawl spaces may initially seem less alarming compared to other visible areas of a house, but it carries its own set of risks and consequences. From structural damage to health hazards and energy inefficiency, the aftermath of a flooded crawl space can be financially and emotionally draining for homeowners. Therefore, it is crucial to take preventive measures such as installing proper water drainage systems, ensuring regular inspections, and seeking professional help when necessary. By addressing flooding in crawl spaces promptly, homeowners can protect their property, their health, and their peace of mind.

Under house crawl space with white plastic membrane on all of the ground In Lake Oswego

Crawl Space Waterproofing: Shielding Your Home from the Ground Up

Nestled beneath your home, the crawl space often goes unnoticed. However, it plays a crucial role in maintaining the structural integrity and indoor air quality of your home. When water infiltrates this space, it can lead to a host of issues, from mold growth to weakened foundations. In this guide, we’ll explore the importance of crawl space waterproofing, the problems it addresses, and why investing in this essential protection is a wise decision for every homeowner.

Understanding the Role of Crawl Space Waterproofing: Crawl space waterproofing involves creating a barrier against moisture, ensuring that water cannot seep into this vulnerable area of your home. This process not only keeps your crawl space dry but also safeguards your home from potential damage caused by excessive moisture.

Common Issues Stemming from a Wet Crawl Space:

  1. Mold and Mildew Growth: Damp environments provide the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew, leading to health issues and unpleasant odors.
  2. Structural Damage: Water can weaken wooden supports and compromise the foundation, leading to costly repairs.
  3. Decreased Energy Efficiency: Damp crawl spaces can affect your home’s insulation, making it harder to maintain a comfortable temperature and increasing energy bills.
  4. Pest Infestations: Damp environments attract pests like termites and rodents, causing further damage to your home.

Benefits of Crawl Space Waterproofing:

  1. Preventing Mold and Mildew: A dry crawl space inhibits the growth of mold and mildew, ensuring a healthier indoor environment.
  2. Preserving Structural Integrity: Waterproofing protects your home’s foundation and support structures, extending their lifespan.
  3. Enhancing Energy Efficiency: A dry crawl space improves insulation, helping you maintain a consistent temperature and saving on energy costs.
  4. Increasing Property Value: A waterproofed crawl space adds value to your home, assuring potential buyers of its structural soundness.

Crawl Space Waterproofing Methods:

  1. Vapor Barrier Installation: A heavy-duty vapor barrier prevents moisture from seeping through the ground and into your crawl space.
  2. Crawl Space Encapsulation: This method involves sealing the crawl space with a vapor barrier and insulating the walls, creating a completely waterproof environment.
  3. Sump Pump Installation: Sump pumps efficiently remove any water that manages to enter the crawl space, keeping it dry even during heavy rains.

Choosing the Right Professional for Crawl Space Waterproofing: When it comes to protecting your home, it’s essential to work with experienced professionals. Look for experts who specialize in crawl space waterproofing, have a proven track record, and are willing to assess your unique needs before recommending the most suitable solution.

Conclusion: Crawl space waterproofing is not just about maintaining the structural integrity of your home; it’s an investment in your family’s health, comfort, and peace of mind. By addressing potential issues before they escalate, you’re ensuring the longevity of your home and creating a safe environment for your loved ones. Don’t wait until water damage takes its toll – take proactive steps today and shield your home from the ground up with professional crawl space waterproofing. Your home deserves the best protection, and so do you.

Crawl Space Waterproofing Portland

Why Do I need A Sump Pump In My Crawl Space?

Introduction: Crawl spaces are often overlooked when it comes to home maintenance, but they play a vital role in the overall health and stability of your property. If your home has a crawl space, you might be familiar with the challenges of moisture accumulation, especially in regions with high rainfall. This is where sump pumps step in as a powerful solution to keep your crawl space dry and your home protected. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of sump pumps in crawl spaces, exploring their benefits, installation, and the peace of mind they bring to homeowners.

Understanding the Role of Sump Pumps in Crawl Spaces: Sump pumps are devices designed to prevent water buildup by removing excess moisture from areas prone to flooding, such as crawl spaces. These areas are particularly vulnerable to moisture infiltration, which can lead to mold growth, structural damage, and decreased indoor air quality. Sump pumps work by collecting water in a sump pit and then efficiently pumping it out of the crawl space, ensuring that your home remains dry and free from potential issues.


Benefits of Installing a Sump Pump in Your Crawl Space:

1: Mold Prevention: Moisture is a breeding ground for mold and mildew. A sump pump helps maintain optimal humidity levels in your crawl space, preventing the growth of harmful mold that could spread to other areas of your home.

2: Foundation Protection: Excess moisture can compromise the structural integrity of your home’s foundation. Sump pumps safeguard your foundation by preventing water from accumulating and causing cracks or instability.

3: Improved Air Quality: Damp environments can lead to musty odors and poor indoor air quality. By effectively removing excess moisture, sump pumps contribute to a fresher and healthier living space.

Sump Pump Installation and Maintenance:

1: Choosing the Right Sump Pump: There are different types of sump pumps available, including pedestal and submersible pumps. The choice depends on factors like the size of your crawl space, the amount of moisture you’re dealing with, and your budget.

2: Proper Sump Pit Placement: The sump pump is placed in a sump pit, a hole dug in the lowest part of your crawl space. This pit collects water, allowing the pump to expel it away from your home. Correct placement of the pit is crucial for efficient water removal.

3: Regular Maintenance: Like any mechanical system, sump pumps require regular maintenance to ensure they function optimally. Check the pump’s operation, clean the pit, and test the pump periodically to avoid any surprises during heavy rainfall. Maintenance often is not as regular as one might think. Pumps have come a long ways and can last over 10 years, but should be changed every 7.

Hiring a Professional for Sump Pump Installation: While some homeowners might be comfortable with DIY projects, installing a sump pump in a crawl space is a complex task. It’s recommended to hire a qualified professional with experience in crawl space waterproofing. They can assess your specific needs, recommend the right type of sump pump, and ensure proper installation for maximum effectiveness.

Conclusion: Sump pumps are the unsung heroes of crawl spaces, providing essential protection against moisture-related issues that could compromise your home’s integrity and your family’s well-being. Whether you’re looking to prevent mold growth, safeguard your foundation, or improve indoor air quality, a well-installed sump pump is a wise investment. By understanding the benefits, installation process, and maintenance requirements, you’re taking a proactive step towards maintaining a dry and healthy crawl space, ultimately contributing to the longevity and comfort of your home.

My Crawl Space is Dry, How Do I Keep it That Way?

Praise be! Your crawl space passed our free estimate and got a dry passing grade. Or maybe all you needed was a vapor barrier, that is great too! But lets keep it that way. Unfortunately, just because it is dry today does not mean it will be dry tomorrow. Lame, I know, but in a world of shifting water tables and changing seasons it is the harsh reality.

In the wet Spring of 2022 we put in 300’ (!!!) of drainage in a home with 2(!!!) sump pumps. All his down spouts were clear. There was no plumbing leak. AND he had exterior drainage around the home, but the homeowners woke up one morning to 19” of water and approximately 25,000 gallons. After a pump out and during drainage installation we discovered the spring that had popped up under his home.

I don’t share that customers unfortunate story to tell you to install drainage just in case a temporary spring pops up under your home, these are exceedingly rare especially this severe. I do share this story to explain how a passing grade one day doesn’t mean a failing one later in the life of the home is out of the ordinary. We need to mitigate that though. We can’t prevent the unlucky temporary spring, but, we can do plenty of other things to keep the crawl space dry, route water away from the foundation and in turn prolong the life of the home (potentially by A LOT).

Down Spouts and Gutters

Those pipes attached to the bottom of your gutters are almost as important as the gutters themselves. And the gutters are almost as important as the roof! Your home displaces a lot of area, and all that rain water captured by your roof does not belong running along your foundation. But the gutters are meaningless if we can’t take the water completely away from the foundation. Down spouts fail because they get clogged, which is why you need regular gutter cleaning, or they might as well not exist at all. Much too often we arrive at homes and the gutters are just dumping water right at the base of the home. Or the down spouts are overflowing.

Step 1: Regular gutter cleaning and unclogging or fixing down spouts when they overflow.

No down spouts or old and undersized ones? This is common also. We use 3” buried ABS (black plastic pipe) and generally send it to a pop-up emitter or some form of a drywell. Rule of thumb is no less than 15’ away from the foundation, but more the merrier. Any chance you can get to increase the soils ability in and around your home to absorb water you should take it. If running it 60’ away out towards the street is possible and is in your budget you should do that. Once the soil has settled and the grass seed we toss afterwards takes you won’t even be able to tell we were there.

Vent Wells

The foundation vents around your home are also very important! If it seems like I have a reoccurring theme of telling you something is important, it is because I see a reoccurring theme of eye rolls and homeowners not thinking anything matters. But, if the soil against your home is not a solid 2”-4” below the opening of the foundation vent then we should install a foundation vent well to keep it so. If the soil is in the vent well or your vents are filled with soil then you have a fairly effortless way for water to intrude into your home. Easy fix. Generally we install something like this for free when doing a full crawl space restoration.

Step 2: Foundation vent cleaning and/or vent well installation

Now we are routing roof water away from the home. We have also cleaned or installed our vent wells. But the wife insist on watering the roses.


No, your sprinkler system is not flooding your crawl space. Could it be attributing to a little pooling because one particular sprinkler is aimed perfectly through a vent? Absolutely. But the cracked pipe you found 3’ away from the foundation that runs for 10 minutes 3x a week 9 months a year is in no way flooding your crawl space. However, I have been to homes where they are severely over water their lawn AND they have bark dust up the bottom of the siding AND their vent wells are full of dirt. That could be one piece of this big puzzle.

Step 3: Be mindful of your watering practices

Gutter water is at the street. Vent wells installed. Ensuring not to over water our lawn and plants, especially near the foundation. Mostly easy and mostly cheap solutions. But I live on a hill and my lawn is always soggy still. That can’t be good.

French Drain

The exterior drainage system, also commonly known as the French drain, is the biggest tool in our belt. All those rocks and dry riverbeds you see around homes in suburbia do serve a function, and they usually have a drain pipe in them. Generally speaking if your crawl space is flooding and you have done steps 1 thru 3 for the past few years or so then chances of preventing future flooding with exterior drainage is slim. It is also hard to promise that any exterior work will solve the problem, but it will give the interior system the greatest chance for success so it is not a total loss. It also looks nice and can elevate the style of your yard.

Placement of the drain is critical and so is discharge, which can/should/will be a entire blog itself. There are a few quick options, if the goal is to only protect the foundation, we can get it pretty close to the foundation often times. Or if the lawn is obviously pooling in certain areas then we can and should address that too. There are a lot of factors and considerations when contemplating French drain placement and depth. Including but not limited to, discharge, goals, and of course the budget. With cost in mind though we are able to do a lot for the life of the home for as little as $2,000.

Step 4: Drainage

Maybe this seems like a lot. Maybe it seems like a little. But a little does go a long way. Especially when none of the steps have been completed. The order of the steps was thought out. Not only in importance, but in order of ease and cost. A lot of home owners would not have a problem doing one of these steps but tackling all 4 or 2 of them might not be worth your time. If that is the case or if you just want some application advice please give us a shout and we would love to assist you in keep your home dry.

How Much Water is Too Much Water in My Crawl Space?

We are of the belief that you should have virtually zero tolerance for water on top of the vapor barrier under your home. This distinction of on top of the barrier is important and we will explain. But why so strict when on top of the barrier? Because it is easily achievable to have a dry crawl space and the risk of allowing anything more than zero does not seem like one taking.

When we find water in the crawl space we usually tell homeowners to have a mold inspection in their attic. More often than not there is mold discovered. And in our experience the inverse is true, a dry crawl will usually yield a passing grade from a mold inspection. Why is that? Well, mold needs 3 things. Moisture, oxygen, and darkness. Just eliminate one of those factors and we severely limit molds ability to spread. Eliminate two factors it would seem exceedingly rare that mold could replicate in such an environment.

We can severely restrict and/or eliminate the moisture by installing a drainage system under the home with a PROPERLY installed vapor barrier (notice the emphasis). That black plastic in your crawl space does serve an important function. It’s job to keep soil gasses and moistures out of the crawl space and in turn out of your living space is an important one. Often there is no need to install a drain system. The rips and tears in the existing vapor barrier along with incorrect overlap of seams might be allowing the smallest amount of ground water to percolate on the barrier and accumulate into standing water. If the vapor barrier is properly installed and in good condition then the water is evidence that the soil has reached maximum absorption and that the water table around your home is too high to just have a vapor barrier without drainage below it. The best way to increase the soils ability to absorb water, and the only way that I have heard of? Remove water from it with a drainage system and generally one that ends at a sump pump.

You will never hear anyone at Better Basements tell you that a home with proper drainage and a dry crawl space will never experience foundation issues. However, we will confidently tell you that major foundation issues are often caused by running water and poor groundwater management. Why and how is that? Running water carves canyons and creates mountains on the earths surface. The clay and soil around the foundation of your home truly stands no chances up against an Oregon Winter and Spring rainfall. Then when it settles your foundation ever so slightly to create a crack, water will easily find it’s way into that crack and begin to carve it’s own canyon. So is water in and around your home really THAT big of a deal? Only if you think your foundation is a big deal.

“All homes have water in them, this is Oregon. Can you even stop it?”
This is my favorite push back. Because if we are making these statements then it would seem I have convinced you that water in your crawl space and standing water around your home is in fact a big deal. Now I get to tell you how simple the solution is, which is why our tolerance for these symptoms should be nearly zero. There is a fix. A straightforward easy fix. AND it is generally done for less than most people are expecting it to be.

Let’s share cost before we share application, then I have a hunch you will think it is a bargain. And we share cost with a very large and obnoxious disclaimer. Many homes are much larger than average, and many homes only need 20 feet of drainage where as the average needs 120’. So what does a full crawl space waterproofing cost? In our experience between $4,000 – $8,000. With the vast majority of homes being in that $5,000 range.

Maybe you think that is outrageous. Well let me share some quotes with you from homes that had their foundation sink from years (or A year) of standing water and we’ll think it is a bargain.

“Okay, fair point, I am not interested in spending $50,000+ for foundation stability and restoration. But I will just do it myself because it is not that much work”. By the way, we love our DIY types. That is how all contractors got started, so if you need advice on how to do this just let us know and we would be happy to sell you some materials and give you advice (still free). Lets just not kid ourselves on it being easy.

  1. Go under home. Cut up and remove ALL vapor barrier and debris under home. Put into trash bags. Remove trash bags filled with debris. (this usually takes a 2 man crew about 2 hours, and they do this all the time and their fear of dead rats and living spiders has disappeared).
  2. Decide what proper drain trench placement is. Do you really need to do a full perimeter drain system? Afterall, if we can do 50’ instead of 140’ that would be ideal. Are you prepared to make that educated decision to ensure that you are not going down there in a flooded crawl space on a Saturday morning to right your wrongs?
  3. Dig trench. Easier said than done and I usually do not need to convince anyone of that. We use mini D-Handle spades. They are about 25” long and work well for digging on your side. Yes, you have to lay on your side and dig trench whilst throwing the soil evenly over your shoulder. This process is obviously the longest and will take a good crew with “good” soil conditions a full day, Generally about 20 man hours.
  4. Dig sump pump basin pit, lay a gravel base, install basin and surround in gravel (have fun bringing that gravel to the lowest point in your muddy crawl space). Install sump pump in basin and connect with PVC.
  5. Crawl out of crawl space and install your discharge line (not going to explain how important this part is and how to decide that, alas it is important).
  6. Install drain pipe/drainage/drain tile or whatever you would like to call it.
  7. Properly install vapor barrier. So, likely better than the last guy. Which is there can be no earth exposed and all the seams must overlap no less than 12”. BUT, we must keep as minimal seams as possible. Which means you need to use as large of sheets as possible, make tight cuts around your post, and to keep it really professional roll yourself out of the crawl space to ensure it is clean. We even go the extra mile and take a small leaf blower with us to keep any dust and dirt under.
  8. Finally, you have to be willing to stand by your work. Because you can’t call me for a warranty repair to fix your mistake!

In summary, why should our tolerance for water under our home be nearly zero? Because it is simple to keep it nearly zero and the ramifications of it not being dry can be drastic.

We covered a lot and this is a very brief overview. We did not explain material selection, drain trench or pump discharge placement. Why not do a gravity system? There are reason why you should and should not have a pump. What are some obvious fixes that we can do to see if that fixes our flooding crawl? All valid questions and pushback that have answers. Give us a shout to set up a free estimate or just to ask some questions and have a conversation with someone who has likely seen what issues you are experiencing. We truly love hearing from you.

Crawl Space Encapsulation, Is It Right For Me?

Male worker dressed in a white coverall suite in a crawl space under a house with a white PVC vapor barrier on the ground.

In the small community of crawl space contractors encapsulations are all the rage. They do offer quite a lot of benefits, but I believe that those benefits need to be weighed accordingly before committing to such a large project. What is encapsulation? Simply put, encapsulating a crawl space means you seal the crawl space from the outdoors creating a conditioned space. Most crawl spaces in the North West are vented. That means exactly what it sounds like, it is vented and not sealed.

In a vented crawl you have a vapor barrier no less than 6mil in thickness covering the entire floor of the crawl. In an encapsulation the vapor barrier is still fastened no less than 12” up the wall of the foundation, but instead of overlapping 12” at the seams, you only overlap 6” and you seal the seams. This practice is the first step in stopping moisture from getting inside your living spaces.

Of course it is never that simple. When encapsulating you also need to install an interior drain system. To do this you dig a trench around the entire perimeter of the interior of your crawl space. Then you install drain pipe and to route all the water that does manage it’s way into the crawl to a sump pump and sump pump basin. The sump pump will then pump the water out of the home.

Now that you have the water being pumped out of the crawl space and you have successfully blocked moisture and soil gasses you need to condition the space. What that means practically is that you move the thermal envelope of the home from the insulation in the floors, to the walls of the foundation. This gives an entire conditioned space below your living space. That is what it means practically, but to execute that it is much easier said than done.

First you remove all the insulation between your floor joist as it is no longer needed and likely was nothing more than a place for rats to nest any how. Then you insulate the walls of the foundation with foam board. The foam board is installed before you install the vapor barrier, and is secured with epoxy and with concrete fasteners.

Your foundation walls are insulated and you have installed a interior drain system and vapor barrier in your crawl space, but it is still cold and damp. Of course it is, you have not sealed your space yet. We now need to seal all the vents in your foundation, leaving one open for a crawl space fan that will run non stop creating negative pressure. Seal the sill plate to the foundation wall with spray foam or caulk. Insulate the rim joist. And finally, seal any and all penetrations with spray foam.

Finally, you have encapsulated your crawl space! True, it is encapsulated at this point. But is that everything? Maybe to some. But is this a conditioned space? No not really. Now you need to install a dehumidifier and ensure that your condensate line goes to your sump pump or all that moisture you suck out of the air will just go right back into it. Some contractors will say to just put your HVAC vent into it but I do not recommend that. Your HVAC system was not designed for the added square footage and your system also does not run at all times or manage humidity like a dehumidifier does.

Who is encapsulation for? Well that is a loaded question as it really is the best thing for your home. It significantly cripples the growth of mold. It controls the humidity in the rest of your home and increases air quality, and if dimple board is installed below the vapor barrier you can now use your entire crawl space for storage. So why is it not for everyone? It is expensive. Quite expensive when compared to traditional crawl space methods. It is not maintenance free. Now you have a sump pump and a dehumidifier to add to your list of home service needs. The benefits may also not outweigh the cost for everyone.

So why would anyone do it? You just told me it is a lot of work to do, it is expensive and it requires maintenance. If you are sensitive to mold, have an auto immune problem, allergies, or really need the storage, encapsulation is probably a good thing to have if the pocket book allows it. It is also probably something you should consider doing if you live in your forever home and getting the return on your investment is not always your top priority. People who will notice the most drastic differences are of course those that started with really damp crawls and homes with moisture problems. The maintenance is not really THAT bad, just make sure you get eyes on your system every 6 months or so and address any problems right away.

What does a proper crawl space encapsulation have?

  • Insulated foundation walls
  • Interior drain system and sump pump
  • Vapor barrier
  • Dimple board under vapor barrier if using space for storage
  • Sealed rim joist and sill plate
  • Sealed foundation vents
  • Dehumidifier