LESLIE: Peter in Virginia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
PETER: I have a house built 13 years ago and one of the rooms on the first floor extends past the basement, so there’s a crawlspace. I noticed, just after they built that, that there’s some moisture and mold in the adjacent closet in the basement to the crawlspace. What they did was they put some thick plastic sheeting in the crawlspace and they put a dehumidifier – and just a standard one that you can get in The Home Depot or Lowe’s – with a drainage hose that goes into, I guess, a pipe or a drain. And that’s been running continuously for 13 years. And I haven’t had any moisture problems since. I was just kind of wondering, is that the safest solution? And I guess I just have nightmares that the dehumidifier catches on fire, I guess, because it just runs continuously.
LESLIE: Hmm. Well, let’s think about the reasons why that humidifier is running consistently. I mean you’re probably needing to control the moisture that’s coming into the space, so let’s look at the exterior of the home. Anywhere around the foundation, look at how the soil is. Is it sitting all the way up against the foundation? Is it sloping towards the house? Look at that and think about where that water is moving to, anything that’s hitting out there. So you want that soil to slope away from the house. And you want it to angle, not drastically, but get things moving away.
Look at your gutters and your downspouts. Make sure that they’re clear and free-flowing and that the downspouts don’t deposit right next to the home’s foundation, that they go out a couple of feet away from the house. And then look at those downspouts because a lot of times, you might not even realize that you have a clog in the downspout and that could be depositing a ton of water maybe underground or right next to the foundation. And that water can move quite a good distance and really cause a lot of havoc. So if you can control that and where that’s all coming from, that’ll really be helpful.
PETER: I think they have the dehumidifier set to ruin continuously. I think that’s an option on the machine. You know, when they built the house, they put in French drains around the outside. I don’t have any trees next to the house that was shedding its leaves, so I’m thinking the gutters are probably clear. And I’m thinking they just have the dehumidifier set just to run continuously. I was just wondering, is that safe? It’s been doing this for 13 years.
TOM: The type of dehumidifier that you’re talking about is not the kind that I would leave in a crawlspace for over a decade. There are better dehumidifiers for that exact use and they usually hang from the ceiling of the crawlspace and they can cover a much wider area and they could do a much better job of taking the moisture out. Take a look at ThermaStor.com – T-h-e-r-m-a-S-t-o-r. That’s one of the manufacturers.
I actually have one of their units in my basement. Even though I’ve got all the grading and the drainage and all that kind of stuff is fixed up and looking good, I’ve got this Therma-Stor Ultra-Aire unit there installed. And it does a really good job of just sort of taking care of the natural soil moisture that forms.
I think you mentioned this but I just want to double-check. Do you have plastic sheeting on the floor of the crawlspace?
TOM: OK. And then it goes all the way to the wall – wall-to-wall?
PETER: It does. And the entire height of the crawlspace is maybe 3½-feet tall. It’s not a really tall crawlspace.
TOM: Mm-hmm. OK.
PETER: And I haven’t noticed any issues in the closet next to it.
PETER: There’s no mold on the door like I saw before, so …
TOM: Well, I think just to kind of head off the problems, I would replace that dehumidifier with a better-quality one. Look at Therma-Stor, look at Santa Fe. That’s another one of their brands. A little less expensive. Have an outlet installed where you’re going to plug it in, that’s ground-fault protected, and I think you have nothing to worry about. You can have a condensate pump added to it so that it will basically take all that water and pump it wherever you need. Just make sure it’s going out of the house.
PETER: Yeah. OK. Great. Thank you very much.