How To Remove Water From A Flooded Crawl Space

Crawl spaces are usually located around the home’s foundation. This space is usually filled with soil and may be covered by a plastic layer to reduce moisture. Sometimes, due to flooding or broken pipe, your home’s crawl space may fill with water.

If you have a flooded crawl space, work to immediately remove the water before it causes permanent damage to your home. Use a sump pump to remove the water from your crawl space and air out the area to prevent mold. Install a drainage system so water will no longer collect in your crawl space.

Water below the ground may come from a broken pipe or the underground water table, while water from above the ground may come from rainwater or leaking pipes.

The process of recovering a flooded crawl space may be complex and dangerous.  Therefore, you may need an expert to assess the level of damage, clear the flooded water, dry and dehumidify, and disinfect the place to kill germs and molds.

If not dried in time, the flood water may cause extensive damage to the structure, raise the energy bill, and cause health complications.

How to Remove Water From a Flooded Crawl Space

When your crawl space becomes flooded, you need to get the water as fast as possible before it causes extensive damage to the structure and serious illness to family members. Below are steps to take to get rid of the water and recover the space:

1. Stop the Water

First, identify the source of water and stop it if you can. If it’s a burst pipe, you can usually close the main tap. 

If the water is coming from outside from floods or sewage backups, you may not have the ability to stop since it may be a lot and with a lot of force.  

2. Assess the Level of Loss and Damage

After stopping the water flow, take stock of the damage and loss caused by the excess water. You may need to hire a professional to assess the level of damage and the loss suffered. In addition, there are risks involved when dealing with a flooded part of the house, including electric shock from exposed power cables.

The contractor will conduct an initial assessment and recommend the necessary precautions and emergency measures to prevent further damage.

3. Drain All the Excess Water

After doing the loss assessment, the next step is to drain the water out of the crawl space. This process may require an expert with specialized skills and equipment. Experts usually employ various tools to clear air movers, wood floor drying systems, sub-floor drying equipment, high-quality blowers, and industry-grade extractors.

4. Clear Damaged Items and Building Materials

After draining all the water, it is time to remove any items and remove anything that will need replacement.  Removing these items creates space for air circulation and quick drying.  Things you may have to remove include insulation, carpet, and drywall.

5. Drying and Dehumidifying

After the excess water drains out, it is time to dry any remaining water.  Experts use methods like dehumidification to dry the house, reduce humidity, and prevent mold growth. You can use structural drying dehumidifiers, and high-volume fans dry much faster.

6. Cleaning and Sanitization

Usually, the floodwater carries all types of dirt and debris along its way. After draining the excess water, removing the dampness, and allowing it to dry, it is time to have the place cleaned and sanitized.  Cleaning and sanitizing can help to get rid of visible dirt and debris.

7. Mold Treatment

Mold treatment is one of the processes that may force you to use an expert instead of doing it yourself. Flooding usually creates damp conditions that lead to the growth of molds. Molds may cause health problems and lower the house’s resale value.

What Causes a Crawl Space to Flood?

Whether water is seeping into your crawl space from the ground or through a broken plumbing system, several factors can contribute to the flooding of the crawl space:

Drainage Issues

Frequent flooding of crawl spaces could point to a bigger problem in your drainage system. Common drainage problems could cause flooding of the crawl space, including defective window wells, improper grading of the property, and inadequate guttering or downspouts.

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Sump Pump

Having a defective, inadequate, or improperly installed sump pump can cause groundwater to seep into the crawl space.

Cracked Foundations

A cracked foundation can allow groundwater to seep into the wall and excess moisture to enter. 

Broken And Leaking Pipes

When you have broken and leaking water lines, they can lead to flooding of your crawl space.

Sewage Backup

An overwhelmed sewage system or clogged lines could cause your crawl space to flood and become a health hazard if not corrected early enough.

How to Prevent Your Crawl Space from Flooding

After determining the cause of flooding in your crawl space, the next step is to get solutions to the problem. Several minor problems may be simple and easy to handle yourself.  For more serious problems, you may need the assistance of an experienced professional to fix the problem.

1. Fix Your Drainage System

A broken or clogged drainage system affects the flow of wastewater around your home. Houses are fitted with downspouts and gutters that direct rainwater and wastewater away from your home.  When the foundation of your house seeps up water, more water is attracted from below the building that may eventually lead to flooding.

During a torrential downpour, your drainage system may be overwhelmed, and rainwater finds its way into the crawl space. This weakens the foundation, compromising the strength of the structure and the safety and security of your family.

There are three types of drainage systems that can prevent flooding of the crawl space:

  • French Drain – French drains are used to direct groundwater or runoff water from the home’s foundation or any other affected areas. They are usually installed below affected areas where they help remove excess moisture from the soil and reduce the hydrostatic pressure. The drains allow water to flow freely through the pipes away from the house. You can use French drains to stop water from collecting in low-lying areas like the basement.
  • Full Gutter System – Full gutter systems remove excess water from flood-prone areas and direct it to ponds, collection systems, and stormwater management areas. This drainage system collects roof runoff and captures rainwater and prevents it from damaging the house’s foundation. Instead of having a full gutter system, you can simply install downspout extensions to the gutters to lead water to other areas.
  • Sump Pump – this is a small pump installed in the crawlspace and basement and which pumps water into designated areas. Sump pumps help to prevent large-scale flooding in low-lying areas

A flooded crawl space can cause extensive damage to your air conditioning system, leading to indoor air contamination.

2. Assess and Fix Any Foundation Cracks

Due to heavy rains, broken water lines, plumbing leaks, and a cracked foundation could flood the crawl space. This, in turn, weakens the foundation’s load-bearing capacity and weakens the whole structure. There are three main ways through which water affects the foundation and strength of the building:

  • Hydrostatic Pressure – When water collects around the house, it exerts hydrostatic pressure against the building’s foundation and causes the walls to crack.
  • Expansive soils – expansive soil usually contains minerals that absorb water. This water causes the foundation to crack. Additionally, when the expansive soil dries, it shrinks. The expansion and contraction of expansive soil exert pressure and weakens the building in the long run.
  • Erosion – underground water or rainwater slowly washes soil around the foundation causing foundation settlement. Effects of foundation settlement include uneven floors, sinking, drywall cracks, tilting chimneys, and faulty doors and windows.

Foundation cracks can cause extensive damage to the building and weaken its strength.  Ensure proper water drainage to prevent water buildup that causes pressure and cracking. You can also do waterproofing to cover the yard and basement.

3. Install a Sump Pump

A sump pump is usually installed in crawlspaces to prevent flooding. It is designed with a basin and a pump that sucks water through the pipes directing it away from the house. You can install a sump pump if you live in an area that experiences frequent flooding.

Sump pumps come in two forms:

  • Pedestal Pumps
  • Submersible Pumps

Pedestal pumps are partially above the ground, while submersible pumps are fully under the ground.

The decision to install a sump pump is mainly determined by the level of flooding and its effects on the house’s stability. If your house is in a low-lying area, a sump pump could be a must due to vulnerability due to water damage.

While floodwater may have several effects around your home, like damage to electrical appliances and causing wood rot, the biggest threat is always damage to the building.

A sump pump helps improve your indoor air quality, keeps insects away from your home, protects your appliances, and increases the stability of the building.

4. Fix Broken or Leaking Pipes

Your home relies on water lines to supply water to various sections. Sometimes, your home water line may fail due to age, wear and tear, extreme temperatures, and poor design. A broken or leaking pipe can cause extensive damage to the building, in addition to raising the energy bill. 

5. Using Flood Vents

Flood vents are permanent wall openings between the crawl space and the outdoor. They are used to let any water out before it fills up the crawl space and begins exerting pressure on the walls. You may require these vents, especially if your house is located on a flood plain.

Problems Caused by a Wet Crawl Space

If you leave your crawl space in damp conditions for long, it may cause lasting effects. Below are problems caused by wet and flooded crawl space:

  • High Energy Bills – a wet and damp crawl space increases the level of humidity within the entire house. Humid air is warmer and requires more energy to cool.  This translates into high energy bills as you have to keep your AC on for long. In addition to using a dehumidifier, you can apply waterproofing to fix the problem permanently.
  • Mold – damp places offer perfect conditions for breeding and growth of mold. When mold accumulates in your crawl space, it starts to circulate in the air. Inhaling mold causes health complications, irritation, and allergies.
  • Pest Infestations – stagnant water in your crawl space may become a breeding ground for pests and insects like cockroaches, carpenter ants, termites, and rodents.
  • Damp, Musty Odors – stagnant water, mildew, mold, and rotting debris may cause a damp, musty odor that soon finds its way into your living room.   It also leads to poor air quality that may cause health complications.
  • Structural Damage – when the foundation of your house is submerged in water for long, it starts to weaken. Wooden substructures also become weak when they take in a lot of water. Structural damage may be the highest cost to bear as it compromises the stability and strength of the entire structure.

DIY vs. Hiring a Professional to Remove Water From a Crawl Space

Depending on the magnitude of flooding in your crawl space, you may opt for a do-it-yourself or hire a professional to do the job.  Clearing water from the flooded crawl space may come with its equal share of challenges, including the risk of electric shock from exposed power cables. 

An expert can assess the level of damage and recommend the right corrective measures to restore the place as quickly as possible.  In addition to specialized skills to manage all magnitudes of crawl space flooding, experts usually have the right tools to clear the water.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Flooded Crawl Space?

The cost of getting water out of your crawl space is determined by several factors, including the size, location, level of flooding. The process may involve replacing and redirecting a gutter and fixing foundation cracks.

It costs between $1,200 and $4,500. This figure increases dramatically as the amount of water goes up. Some homeowners also install hygrometers to monitor the level of humidity in your house.

Waterproofing Your Foundation To Keep Away Water

In construction, waterproofing helps to prevent water leakage in the basement, crawl space, and foundations.  Waterproofing the foundation prevents water from intruding into the house when the outside ground is over-saturated.

You can seal any cracks in the crawl space by using waterproofing paint. You can do this through a simple do-it-yourself waterproofing process.  Applying a layer of waterproofing paint on the inside of the crawl space walls stops water from seeping through cracks or porous concrete.

How Effective are Sealants In Preventing Crawl Space Flooding?

Sealants are commercial waterproofing products that offer instant relief in case your house is already flooding. The sealant creates a bond that locks out moisture and water for as long as the bond lasts.

Sound Landscaping to Prevent Crawl Space Flooding

Flooding in your crawl space could be a result of something outside the house. Bad soil around your house causes poor drainage. Adding organic soil helps improve the texture of the soil around your home.  This helps to improve the water-holding capacity of the soil and prevent frequent flooding of the crawl space.  

High-quality soil enables plants to absorb more water and prevent any overflow from flooding the house. Common ways to improve drainage include;

  • Dig ground channels – create water paths that lead water away from the building.
  • Add gravel pipe – this involves digging deeper water channels and covering gravel.
  • Use drainage pipes – pipes can be buried deep into the ground to divert water away from the building. 

Conclusion

Having a flooded crawl space may lead to costly consequences like increased energy bills, complications with your health, and it can compromise the stability and strength of the entire structure. You need to clear a flooded crawl space as fast as possible to protect your home and your family. 

Sources

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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