Standing Water In Crawl Space: Prevention, Causes And Solutions

Standing Water In Crawl Space: Prevention, Causes And Solutions

Standing Water In The Crawl Space: Causes And Solutions

We have already discussed the general issue of water in the crawlspace and particular situations in the foundation where there are puddles of water in the crawlspace only after heavy rain. Now, we discuss a more serious issue that is when we detect standing water in the crawl space despite the lack of rain, without leaking water heaters, without flooding due to a sudden rise of the water table, or visible hydrostatic pressure because this pressure occurs in the basement and not in a crawlspace. I will also explain which are the solutions that I suggest implementing after thorough removal of the water namely through the execution of a crawlspace waterproofing, usually by installing a vapor barrier and probably a dehumidifier.

Water in your home’s crawl space is more than just an annoyance; it can have devastating consequences for your home’s value. Standing water or even ever-present moisture in the air can create mold problems . At the extreme end, water in a crawlspace can lead to rot and decay that weakens structural members and makes major architectural repairs necessary. The presence of moisture can also foster termites, carpenter ants, and other insects that can damage your home. Water under the house attracts animals that you really want to avoid such as rats and raccoons.

You’ll want to look out for standing water, but there are other more subtle signs of excess moisture to look out for. Efflorescence, or white crystalline or powdery salt deposits on the walls is one signal that there’s been too much water in the crawl space in the past. Additional giveaways are mold or fungus growth, mineralization, and moisture on the soil or vapor barrier. You’ll also want to check any metal fixtures for signs of rust. 

Your crawl space sits directly on your home’s foundation. The concrete foundations and wooden beams that support your house will be damaged by standing water. Over time, standing water could eventually weaken the structure of your house to such an extent that it becomes unfit for habitation.

You can fix the problem of water in your crawl space on your own. Because it is such a time-consuming project, you may wish to call a water remediation company to do the job.

Water can sit in the crawl space for months, even years, giving a false impression that everything will be fine as long as you own the house. Over the long term, though, standing water can damage the house’s foundation ; wooden beams and joists will begin to rot; various strains of mold can develop. You will be required to fix the problem when it comes time to sell the house. A future buyer will be unable to obtain a loan to buy a house with water problems in the crawl space. The reasons you might have standing water under your home include a clogged low-point drain, leaking pipes, cracks in the foundation of your home, issues with foundation vents, and moisture from the ground. Let’s review these in detail now.Crawl spaces are used to house plumbing, electrical wiring, ductwork, air conditioning, and heating systems, as well as to provide unlimited access to these substructures. A crawl space’s problem is that it can rapidly become filthy and damp. Mold, fungus, termites, and rats may all be a problem in the crawl space if there is too much moisture. 

Identification Of The Source Of The Standing Water In Crawlspace

When you find standing water on the ground, it is important to identify whether the source of the water is groundwater water flowing in or seeping up from the ground or if it is coming from above-grade. Above-grade water usually comes from a leak in plumbing fixtures, drain pipes, or water supply pipes running in the space below the floor of the house.

Locate the access opening to your crawl space. This is sometimes an outside hatchway in the exterior wall around the crawlspace or a hatch in the floor, often located in a closet or utility area. Equipped with a good flashlight, sturdy work clothes, and plastic sheeting to protect your clothes as you crawl about, enter the crawl space and inspect every area both the ground and the structural members of the house above you. Look for signs of standing, puddling water on the ground, and signs of discoloration caused by mildew and wood rot on the wooden posts, piers, and overhead structural members of the house.

Above-Grade Water Sources

If the puddling water does not seem to be affected by seasons or weather, it is possible you are dealing with above-grade sources. This is most likely caused by plumbing problems in drain pipes or water supply pipes running beneath the floor in the crawl space.

If you notice that the pooling, puddling water is found directly below a tub, shower, toilet or other plumbing fixtures, or beneath drain pipes, you are probably dealing with a plumbing-related water problem. The good news here is that plumbing problems can be corrected by a plumber, which will be less costly than dealing with groundwater issues.

Interior Water Issues

Simple humidity issues arise from water vapor transferring up from the ground into the crawl space. In this instance, you will rarely see puddling or pooling water, but there may be widespread evidence of mildew or mold on the wooden framing of the house.

This can be a severe problem in crawlspaces without vapor barriers and without adequate ventilation. But the solution is often simply to lay a vapor barrier over the ground, which is a much less expensive fix than dealing with major groundwater problems.

Safety Considerations

Working under your home can present many hazards. Dust, dried animal feces, black mold, and asbestos are only a few of the contaminants you might breathe in this space. Always wear breathing protection in the crawl space.

Many sharp objects might be in the crawl space since builders sometimes discard nails, utility knife blades, glass, and metal here. Be sure to wear heavy gloves, knee pads, heavy pants, and long-sleeved shirts or coats.

Preventing Standing Water In The Crawl Space

To prevent water from pooling in the crawl space in the future, you can engineer a system that includes a perimeter trench, perforated pipe, gravel and a sump pump. Depending on its size and how easily you can access your crawl space, you may choose to attempt this project on your own. You may also choose to consult a professional for an easier, optimal solution.

For those looking to do something ahead of time to prevent water coming into the crawlspace ahead of an intended sale, installing French drains can be an aesthetically pleasing way to keep storm runoff from getting close to the house and entering the crawl space.

Another idea combining form and function is cultivating plants to naturally soak up some of the extra rainwater. This list of water-absorbing plants is a great start, and you can boost efficacy by choosing plants indigenous to your region. This can prevent soil erosion and make water drainage more efficient. This list of 34 plants native to north America can provide some ideas.

The EPA also recommends rain gardens as a means of soaking up rainwater and preventing it from entering the crawl space. Essentially, a rain garden is a bowl-shaped depression in the ground which can be landscaped with lovely — and absorbent — flowers and shrubs. They can be made in 5 easy steps — and, according to the EPA, in addition to being beautiful, they can filter pollutants from runoff, as well as provide food and shelter for butterflies, songbirds, and other wildlife.


Moisture from Ground

If you notice exposed dirt in your crawlspace, this is a red flag. When you have dirt in that area, moisture can rise through it and come into your home. This is often the case if drainage or landscaping around your home hasn’t been done correctly.

Specifically, if your vapor barrier hasn’t been installed correctly or has become damaged, this often allows moisture from the ground to come into your home.

Check the flooring of your crawl space to see if there is exposed dirt. Exposed dirt allows moisture to seep into the crawl space. Moisture can seep in through exposed dirt due to rainwater and improper landscaping or drainage around the home’s foundation.

This happens when a vapor barrier is damaged or installed in an improper manner.

Crawl spaces that aren’t ventilated properly can cause moisture to accumulate. Mix moisture with a warm climate, and you have yourself a perfect environment where mold can grow, multiply and spread.

With standing water, the water is already there in the crawl space. Moisture evolves through evaporation and you are left with a perfect breeding spot for mold to grow. In some circumstances, there can be black mold that grows. Black mold in your crawlspace can cause major health problems, and in extreme cases can even lead to death.

Living around a moldy crawl space can result in you and your family breathing in toxic air. Air quality is essential for your health and the health of your family. If moisture is causing the mold to grow, then the question becomes, how do you avoid moisture issues?

Moisture isn’t a crawl space’s best friend, mainly if it’s an older home with a ventilated crawl space. Excessive moisture may cause rot by compromising the structural integrity of wooden pieces. Replacement of rotted support beams can cost anything from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the material used (wood or steel) and how easy the issue is to fix.

Cracked Walls

Standing water under your home may also be a symptom of cracked walls. If the concrete between the bricks making up your walls is damaged, water can seep into your crawl space. Most worrying of all, the presence of water in your crawl space may indicate a leak in your pipes that you are not yet aware of yet. 

Natural Spring Of Water

But there’s also the rare possibility of a natural spring below the home sending water gurgling upwards, which is pricier though not impossible to deal with, and will most probably require the installation of a sump pump.

Mold, mildew, And Fungus

If there is some water problem, the combination of that and inadequate ventilation leads to mold and mildew, which eventually rots the floor joists. If this is the case, mold removal is a must. And there’s the health problem of walking on a floor that has a lot of mold beneath it.

When a moisture issue isn’t tackled, the crawl space becomes an ideal breeding ground for microorganisms like mold and mildew. The harmful microorganisms and bacteria will spread throughout the house if the air from the crawl space circulates. For residents with respiratory problems or allergies, this could spell disaster.

Pest infestations:

Crawl spaces that aren’t properly sealed are vulnerable to insect infestation. The warmth and moisture found there attract rodents and small animals. Because of their dander and hair, insect infestations can pollute the air, but their droppings are also a health hazard. Insects such as termites, in addition to small animals, can cause damage to structural components, HVAC ducts, and wiring. 

Poor insulation:

Heating and cooling systems can be hindered by crawl spaces that have not been adequately enclosed or insulated. The furnace or heater may have to work longer to maintain temperature if the outside air is colder or hotter 

Foundation Vents

Sometimes, water can get in through your home’s foundation vents. If you’ve noticed that your home slopes toward the vent, it’s likely this could be the cause. Look at the vent screen. If it’s wet, water might be coming into your home through the vent.

If your home has foundation vents, then you’ll want to be sure that water isn’t finding its way into your crawl space through these vents. Some ways to tell if the water is coming through a foundation vent is to determine if the home is slopped towards the vent.

Check the vent screen as well to see if there are any signs of water seeping in.

Cracks in Foundation

Cracks in your home’s foundation are another possible source of water entry. Do a complete inspection of your home’s foundation to determine if there are any cracks where water could be getting through. In most cases, if the water is getting through the cracks, there will be visible signs of this.

Another possible cause of standing water is cracks in your foundation. When it becomes cracked, it’s easy for water to seep in from outside your home. Take a look at your foundation, searching for any cracks. If you see water going through them, this is the cause.

Leaking Pipes

Leaking pipes are another cause for standing water in a crawl space. Be sure to have all of your pipes and plumbing systems checked for any leaks. With the water turned on, you should be able to tell if a leaking pipe is the source of the water.

Clogged Low-Point Drain

If you’ve noticed standing water in the crawl space under your house, this might be because you have a low-point drain in your crawl space that’s become clogged. When working properly, water in these drains goes through the pipe and is emptied onto the street.

However, if it hasn’t been installed with a filter, this drain can become clogged easily. As a result, it starts to leak into your crawl space.

If you’ve check out your low-point drain and found that it’s submerged underwater, chances are it being clogged is the reason why you have standing water.

Does your home have a low-point drain installed in the crawl space? These drains allow for water to drain out of the crawl space under the ground and into a nearby street. When installed without a filter, these drains can become clogged easily.

If you check your low-point drain and find that it’s underwater, then it’s most likely clogged.

Improper Grading And Lack Of Rain Gutters

A very common reason why there can be standing water in your crawlspace is the drainage system around your home. Improper grading and lack of rain gutters can also contribute to water in your crawlspace.

The Treatment: How can water in the crawl space be fixed?

Improper grading and lack of rain gutters contributes to crawl space moisture control issues by allowing unwanted rain or ground water to enter the crawlspace.

Poor crawl space ventilation compounds the problem by creating a mix of warm and cool air causing surface condensation, further increasing the amount of crawl space moisture under the home. This repeated wetting of building materials day after day provides the perfect environment for mold growth, termites and structural damage under your home.

Standard solutions when dealing with water in the crawl space include:

Proper grading around the home directing moisture away from the structure.

Installing, repairing or cleaning gutters and downspouts.

Adding downspout extensions and exit lines to move water further from the home.

Interior or exterior waterproofing.

Installing vapor barriers or encapsulation systems to isolate the crawl space from the earth.

Installing crawl space ventilation- crawl space dehumidifiers and/or crawl space ventilation fans.

Treatment for standing water in your crawl space is dependent on what the actual cause is. There are a few different ways that you can treat these issues. Here’s what you need to know.


Waterproofing your crawl space is one way to keep water out if the source of the water is coming from the outside. When waterproofing your crawl space, be sure to waterproof both the exterior and interior.


Proper crawl space ventilation is another must no matter what the cause of the standing water is. Aside from installing great ventilation, be sure to install a crawl space humidifier and ventilation fans as well.


A vapor barrier or an encapsulation system will help keep your crawl space separate from the ground and earth around it. This will help keep moisture from the ground out of your crawl space.

Install a Sump Pump

Installing a sump pump is a great way to remove standing water from inside the crawl space. There are several different types of sump pumps that you can choose from. Be sure to speak with a professional about which type is best for you.

The job of cleaning a flooded crawl space starts with removing the standing water. If all you have are a few puddles, use a wet-vac to suck up the water and dump it outdoors. 

Place the pump’s suction hose into the flood water and direct the drainage hose outdoors away from the house. The drainage hose should release the water far enough away from the house that it can’t flow back into the crawl space. Switch the pump on and let it run. You may have to re-position the suction hose periodically until all standing water is removed. 

While the pump is running, remove all wet materials from the crawl space. This includes any stored items, soaked insulation, and debris the flood water carried in or knocked loose from the crawl space’s interior. Wet items hold in water and lengthen the time it takes to dry the space. Water-damaged insulation is no longer efficient, so throw it out and replace it rather than trying to dry it.

Installation Of A Vapor Barrier To Avoid Standing Water In Crawl Space

In a crawl space that isn’t concrete, there are fabrics that contractors can lay down to serve as a vapor barrier . They’ll lay thick plastic under the entire house today to seal it, similar to rubberized roofing material. To eliminate any extra moisture in a crawl space with a dirt floor, use cross-ventilation, a dehumidifier, or an exhaust fan. Keep in mind that a dehumidifier’s moisture removal capacity is determined by how many quarts of water it can extract every hour. Also, since ambient air contains moisture, it’s essential to keep air flowing to and from the dehumidifier. To maximize airflow, you’ll probably want to add multiple fans in the crawl room. The crawl space may become flooded during a heavy rainstorm, necessitating a professional’s use to drain out the water and the installation of a sump pump.

Using A Push Broom

For widespread flooding that doesn’t reach more than an inch deep, you can try sweeping the water out with a push broom. Using a general purpose pump, however, will get the job done more efficiently and it’s the only practical option if the space is severely flooded. 

Installation Of A Dehumidifier

Water in Crawl Space Solutions If there is standing water in the crawl space, it first needs to be removed. This can be done, depending on the amount of water, with a wet vacuum or sump pump. Running a dehumidifier will reduce the humidity levels and help prevent the mold growth. 

The Dangers

There are several dangers associated with standing water in the crawl space under your home. It’s important to take note of some of these dangers and then correct the problem as soon as possible.

Pests and Rodents

The moisture in your crawl space will attract a variety of pests and rodents. Once these pests find their way into your crawl space, they won’t want to leave as their given water and a warm place to sleep. Urine and feces from the pests will buildup under your home creating an unhealthy environment.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew will also begin to grow in your damp crawl space. The mold will begin to seep through your home’s floorboards. Rot will also find its way onto your floorboard, eventually warping them.

Even though this all takes place under your home, it’ll eventually find its way into your home, which can make you and your family sick.

Potential Health Issues

When you have moisture in your home, this can cause mold and mildew to spread. If you’re sensitive to mold, you could end up experiencing symptoms such as red or itchy skin or eyes, wheezing, or a stuffy nose.

If anyone in your family has asthma, this could cause severe reactions. These include shortness of breath and fever, as well as coughs and respiratory tract infections.

A House Inspection Revealed Standing Water in the Crawl Space. Is this a Deal Breaker?

Standing water in the crawl space of any home can lead to mold and mildew growth – which, in addition to being a potential health hazard, can become the cause of rot and structural damage. If you’re considering buying a home with standing water in the crawl space, then you should also be on the lookout for mold.

Importance Of A Foundation Inspection To Detect Standing Water In The Crawlspace before Selling

It’s kind of like bulletproofing the transaction, They can do a full once-over on the property and tell you everything that needs to be done – you know, soup to nuts. And it’ll let you know if you have a major crawl space issue that needs to be remedied, how severe it is, or if you don’t have one at all because sometimes it’s easier just to know so you’re not living in fear.

Not only can it be easier for sellers to make good decisions when they have a full picture, but they can also more confidently negotiate contracts and ultimately ask more for the house. This is especially true if there’s an inspection report with invoices showing that repairs are complete or that no repairs are necessary. 

We don’t recommend a pre-listing inspection for everyone,.

Judge it on a case-by-case basis depending on when the home was purchased. If it was bought within the last two to five years, we can imagine that another home inspection is probably just going to be a punch list. But if we go in and there’s very obvious issues like the hardwood floor is cupping which is a major red flag then a full inspection is a good idea.

What are signs of water in the crawl space?

Common signs of issues related to water in the crawl space include wood rot, termite damage to subfloor materials, hardwood flooring “cupping,” and visible mold growth on the wood surfaces underneath your home. Many crawl spaces have exposed earthen floors, which can allow ground moisture to seep out from underneath your home and increase the humidity levels – especially the crawl space isn’t equipped with a dehumidifier.

HWarped or cupped hardwood floors are a “sure sign” there’s water underneath the house, and suggests that if a would-be seller has reason to suspect there might be water in the crawl space, the first thing they should do is to get a regular home inspection right away

How does standing water in the crawl space affect the value of a home?

Standing water in the crawl space in and of itself does not necessarily affect the value of a home. What affects the value of a home in relation to standing water in the crawl space is the potential for mold.

Mold can greatly affect the appraisal value of a home. FHA appraisers, for example, are required not only to note if mold is growing in a home, but also the type of mold and its location. If you find that the mold growing in the home is black mold, there are a few things you should know: toxic black mold can cause permanent damage to your health and in extreme cases has even lead to death.

Large overgrowths of mold and mold in unusual locations are especially likely to lower a home’s value. If the FHA appraiser finds that the mold overgrowth is dangerous, you might be required to remove the mold before you can get an FHA loan.

How much will it cost to dry out the crawl space?

The cost of drying out a crawl space, and making sure it stays that way, can vary wildly depending on location and the precise services required. Harris says that in her market, the problem can be solved for as little as $600 if pest control puts down a simple vapor barrier, or as much as $15,000 if the space needs a full encapsulation, including sump pump installation, by a crawl space specialist.

We turned to HomeAdvisor for a rough online estimate , listing mold and mildew, dampness, discoloration or rust, white deposits on walls, and buckling or bowing walls on a hypothetical residential home in Flushing, New York. Based on 4,000 self-reported answers by HomeAdvisor members, most homeowners spent between $2,117 and $6,612, with an average cost of $4,340. The lowest reported cost was $600, and the highest $11,900.

As the numbers suggest, the most expensive fixes, which would likely include sump pump installation, are the exception rather than the rule. (If a sump pump is required, professional real estate agents say not to be too put off by it having one can actually be an advantage when selling a house.) And then there’s the $10,000 question: Will homeowner’s insurance cover the cost of waterproofing a crawl space? Harris says not to get your hopes up. “Most flooding and water events in houses are only covered if it’s a one-time event,” she says. “If it’s a long-term problem, it’s generally not covered.” Of course, the surest way to find out if water in the crawl space is covered by your homeowners insurance is to call and ask.

How much does it cost to fix water in the crawl space?

Once again, it depends. Clogged or misdirected gutters and downspouts is the most common reason for crawl space moisture problems. Replacing and redirecting a gutter can cost up to $300. Foundation cracks are one of the most costly problems to fix. This type of repair requires a professional, and can range anywhere from $500-$15,000.

If there is mold, how much does it cost to remove it?

The level of infestation directly affects the mold removal cost. The mold removal cost of a crawl space can really vary. It could be as little as $500 or as high as $4,000 depending on the scope and size. If the attic and ducts are involved, the cost for those generally ranges from $2,000 to $6,000.

Even though you have an idea of how much mold removal costs, be sure to shop around. The first company you find might not be the best one for your needs. Pricing can vary between companies, but you also have to pay attention to the experience levels and what kind of guarantee they have if the mold comes back.

When Is The Best Moment To Solve Issues derived From Standing Water In The Crawlspace

Water remediation is a project best handled during dry months. While all of the work is done in protected environments such as in the house or under the house, water can continue to build up under the house and hamper work. 

Before You Begin

Unless the crawl space can be accessed from the exterior, you will need to bring in materials through the house and down an access door. Make sure all areas you walk on are protected with plastic or contractor’s paper.

Does Standing Water in the Crawl Space Affect the Value of a Home?

Actually, standing water itself does not necessarily affect the value of a home. What does affect it though, is the potential of foundational damage and mold growth from the standing water. If you’re looking to sell your home, mold can greatly affect the appraisal value.

FHA appraisers are required to note if mold is growing and what type of mold it is. Besides mold being a major health concern, it will also devalue your home and affect the overall value that its worth.

What is a crawl space?

Crawl spaces, common in the South while relatively uncommon elsewhere, is similar to a basement but is vented to outside air. Some crawl spaces can be full-height like a basement, where others can be two feet tall or shorter, so that you have to crawl around on your belly.

The two primary reasons builders use crawl spaces are cost and accessibility – as they work by allowing outside air to circulate beneath the house. By building the floor of a home off the ground (as opposed to on a concrete slab-on-grade), there are several benefits, including:

Cost effectiveness. Moving dirt to level a sloping lot for a concrete pad can get expensive; a crawl space negates that need.

Convenience. You get a handy place to install the HVAC unit and piping, as well as water and sewer distribution throughout the house. This also makes future repairs and replacements easier.

There are a few reasons why you would want a crawl space. The two primary reasons are cost and accessibility. Essentially you are building the floor of a home off the ground, as opposed to using a concrete slab-on-grade.

crawl space is basically just what it sounds like: a small buffer (usually between one and three feet tall) between the soil and the ground floor of a home. The logic behind building on a crawl space foundation is that it allows many of the home’s inner workings think heating and cooling, electrical, plumbing, insulation, and the like to be accessed by crawling underneath. This makes doing maintenance on a home with a crawl space much easier than on one sitting on a solid concrete slab

What are the Benefits?

For starters, it is a very cost-effective solution moving dirt to level a sloping piece of property rather than using concrete, which can get super expensive.

Second, it is extremely convenient because you’ll have a handy area to install your HVAC unit and piping. You can also use it for storage and have your water and sewer distribution throughout the house from the crawl space. Since it is easily accessible, your future Crawl Space Repair s will be much easier to manipulate.

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Photo of author

BY M. Kogan

Hello, I am Marcio. I am an architect and designer, alma mater is Mackenzie. Retired in theory, but an architect never retires completely. Along with architectural projects, I am a filmmaker and have completed some short documentaries. Filmmaking and design are my passions. In HomeQN I write about home decoration and foundations. The goal is to teach homeowners to DYI as much as possible, and when this is not possible, enable them through knowledge, to evaluate service quotations and choose the best service technicians.

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