Crawl Space Insulation: What You Should Know

Insulation in your basement crawl space can make your whole house more efficient. Here's how to install it in your space.

Crawl Space

Crawl Space

Photo by: unknown


By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik
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Crawl space insulation, as a part of overall home air sealing and insulation, helps maintain your entire home's energy efficiency. Without insulation, heat and cool air are easily lost through the floor. Insulation also helps to preserve the air quality and reduce energy costs. There are two types of crawl spaces - ventilated and unventilated - and each requires its own form of insulation. The goal, however, is the same: to enclose the space in a thermal envelope.

Rustic and Refined: Unfinished Basement Overhaul

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Unused Space Gets an Update

To add plenty of space for their growing family, an Atlanta couple underwent a massive remodel turning the previously unused basement into the heart of the home. While the drywall, ceiling detail and electrical were completely updated with a polished look, the concrete floors were simply stained and sealed for an industrial touch.

Reclaimed Room Divider

A room divider with integrated open and concealed storage was constructed from reclaimed barn wood. In addition to housing toys, books, photo albums and supplies, the room divider also splits the basement into two distinctly different areas: one area for homework and activities, and another to lounge and watch movies.

Charging Station

As smart phones and tablets grow increasingly popular with kids and parents, it's wise to integrate charging stations into common areas. To keep gadgets within arm's reach and ensure they're properly charged, an outlet was integrated into the reclaimed wood room divider.

Open Storage Room Divider

Basements heavily used by kids are certain to receive their fair share of toys, books and stuffed animals strewn along every surface. Homeowners Amy and David Winter added open storage throughout their entire basement, starting with open shelving along the bottom of its room divider. Properly proportioned to house books in common sizes, the shelves are also deep enough to accommodate crates and baskets for all three childrens' toys and books.

Concealed Room Divider Storage

Concealed storage was also added to the room divider with hinged door fronts. Made from the same reclaimed lumber as the rest of the structure, the doors close, keeping anything which may otherwise become visual clutter hidden from view. The Winters ensured child-friendliness to the room divider by having its doors installed on slow closing hinges.

Lounge Area

Due to a lack of natural light, most basements feel cavernous and unwelcoming. David and Amy brought ample natural light to their newly remodeled basement with three sets of paned windows installed along its main exterior wall. This keeps the lounge area light and bright during the day, enticing the family to spend more time in it.

Neutral Grays

After the hefty expense of the remodel, the Winters decided to stick with a timeless color palette they could mix up without any major expense. Overall, the basement is made up of warm grays and a cool shade of white. To keep the space from feeling matchy-matchy, a variety of gray tones including greige, charcoal and brown gray were used on the concrete stain, sofa upholstery, pillows and window seat upholstery.

Reading Nooks

A common problem homeowners face with basements is making sense of high-sitting windows. In most cases, these windows appear close to the ceiling from inside, although they're actually level with the ground outside. The Winters decided to add reading space for six by having the walls below each trio of windows built out as reading nooks accessed with small step ladders. The lack of steps below each nook allows furniture to be placed up against the wall, making the most use of all available square footage.

Nook Upholstery

Constructed with zippers along their backs, each reading nook's cushion cover can be removed, then professionally cleaned in the event of any mishaps.

Nook Outlets

Since books are quickly being replaced by tablets and laptops, each of the three reading nooks is equipped with its own wall outlet. This is especially helpful when the kids tackle their homework for hours on end.

Ceiling Detail

Rather than lowering the ceiling below any plumbing or electrical, it was built in two levels resulting in a coffered look. This is helpful in spaces with low ceilings, especially basements, because it helps create the illusion of having slightly more space.

Shag and Concrete

A combination of shag and concrete floor surfaces was used to add both durability and comfort to the basement. For a subtle tone-on-tone approach, the Winters chose a shag rug slightly lighter in tone than the charcoal stain of the polished concrete.

Polished Concrete

An excellent way to save on a major basement remodel is to simply work any existing concrete floor surfaces into its updated design. While new wood floors throughout the space could have totaled $8K to $12K, the concrete was only a fraction of the cost. To protect the finish, all furniture legs are outfitted with plastic and felt protectors.

Home Office

Overall, the main purpose of the 700-square-foot basement is for family time; however, dad David also needed his own home office. To delineate his work space from the lounge and activity zones, it was outfitted with clear glass French doors which allow the natural light to flow through.

Mini Kitchen

Movie nights are big at the Winter home. To keep the family stocked up on drinks, snacks and popcorn, a mini kitchen was added just outside of David's home office.

Porcelain Wood-Look Flooring

A major problem homeowners face with basements is flooding. For this reason, wood floors are not always the best option as they’re easily damaged by water. An excellent alternative is porcelain wood-look tile which looks and feels like wood, but with the durability of tile.

Activity Area

The activity area of the basement was designed for the Winter kids (Ellie, Kate and Henry) to work on creative projects and display their school work. Every surface is hardy and easy to clean, from the science lab table, stackable steel bistro chairs and a reclaimed factory storage unit. The charcoal wall is made of foam, allowing art work to be pinned without damaging drywall.

Industrial Storage

The overall farmhouse look is added to the basement though small industrial touches. Here, reclaimed factory storage powdered coated in a shade of barn red keeps all of the kids' art supplies neatly tucked away.

Metal Tabletop

Since all three kids work with crayons and markers on a daily basis, the tabletop surface of the activity area needed to be durable and easy to clean. Amy and David chose a science lab table with a hardy oak base and a metal-wrapped top.

If the crawl space is ventilated, which is ideal because it aids in the elimination of moisture, then fiberglass insulation can be easily installed under the subfloor between the floor joists. It is important to secure insulation and cover it with a vapor barrier in order to prevent moisture and the mold that often follows close behind.

If your crawl space isn't ventilated, insulate the walls of the crawl space rather than the subfloor of the room above. This requires less insulation and will eliminate the need to insulate ducts and pipes, separately.

You may also want to install a polyurethane vapor barrier over the dirt floor for further protection. The barrier may be covered with sand to keep it from getting damaged.

While crawl space insulation may be installed by a handy homeowner, you might consider using a professional. They'll clean up and properly dispose of old insulation and often spray the space with bacteria - and fungicides.

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