What’s the bad smell in my crawlspace smell and what can I do to eliminate it?

If you’re like most homeowners, you probably only visit your crawl space when you absolutely have to. People usually go down there only to check heating or cooling equipment, change a filter, or turn an obscure plumbing valve – and normally only when they can’t pay somebody else to do it.

Before we get into solutions, let’s explore the most common causes of crawl space odors.

Common causes of crawl space odors in Alabama homes

bad smell in crawl space

Many Alabama homeowners don’t realize that even when a house is still and quiet, the air inside is always moving. As warm air leaves the attic or vents through windows, cooler air from underneath rushes upward to replace it. This process happens naturally in just about every house, and it’s known as the “stack effect” or “chimney effect.”

Alternating periods of hot and cold weather create seasonal changes in moisture and condensation underneath your house. If your crawl space has never been properly sealed, these conditions can soon lead to mold, mildew, and rot. Pests like insects and rodents can also get in through gaps and vents. The stack effect we described can pull the resulting smells straight up into your living areas and allow them to permeate just about everything you own.

Does “bad” crawl space air raise any health concerns?

Strange smells are one thing, but the picture gets even worse when you consider the potential health risks to you and your family.

In addition to bad smells, as crawl space air moves upward, it can also carry mold spores or toxins that off-gas from building materials or contaminated soil according to the EPA. These can attack your respiratory system or cause other health problems. More than a few mystery ailments have been cured when folks discovered they were being slowly poisoned by their own homes.

Here’s how you can eliminate bad smells from the crawl space

encapsulation helps get rid of bad smells coming from the crawl spaceSo what can you do if your crawl space smells bad, or worse, when crawl space odors are coming up into the living areas of your home?

Crawl space encapsulation technology has come a long way in the last few decades, and the good news is that there are a number of highly effective and affordable corrective measures to choose from. Here are a few that are recommended by the most reputable service providers:

  1. Crawl space encapsulation: Using special purpose lining materials that won’t deteriorate or give off odors of their own, encapsulation surrounds your crawl space with complete protection against unwanted moisture. This can easily be coordinated with other corrective measures like drainage improvements and dehumidification.
  2. Drainage: The right professional or do-it-yourselfer can make sure that excess water is properly drained away from your crawl space with a tailored mix of aggregate, perforated piping, or landscape grading. Also consider sealing cracks and vents to keep water from getting in. And don’t forget to ensure your gutters are clean, free of debris, and include downspout extensions that keep water away from underneath the home.
  3. Dehumidification: For chronically damp conditions, there are dehumidifier units that are specially designed to keep crawl spaces clean, dry, and healthy for your family. These work especially well when combined with crawl space encapsulation.
  4. Sump pumps: Crawl space sump pumps take water management to the next level by forcibly removing any excess water. At SouthernDry, we offer a wide variety of sump pumps, including battery backup systems and WiFi enabled models

When it comes to smelly crawl spaces, your number one enemy is unwanted moisture.

Once dampness begins to accumulate under your house, the stage is set for invasion by mold and mildew, which can cause your building materials to rot and deteriorate. These all come with their own odors, but remember that the same conditions may also attract insects and rodents that create even more offensive smells. It’s important to get a trustworthy professional assessment on all these conditions so you can choose the repair options that are best for your situation.

SouthernDry has been a trusted crawl space and basement repair partner for years in Alabama. We can help you protect your family with affordable and proven preventive measures like crawl space encapsulation, dehumidification, and a complete array of reliable foundation repair services that will improve the living experience for your whole family.

My basement walls are bowing inward. What should I do?

Bowed basement walls can be a sign of serious structural trouble under your home. If one or more of your basement walls is starting to bow inward, it’s important to act quickly before the damage spreads. Here are the most important things you should know right now.

When it comes to basement wall damage, here is what you should look out for

The most common cause of bowed basement walls is excess moisture around your home.

Even natural groundwater can put a surprising amount of strain on your foundation. Added factors like excess storm runoff or improper drainage can greatly increase the amount of moisture in the soil. Structural engineers call this force “hydrostatic pressure” and it’s powerful enough to stress vulnerable parts of your foundation with the weight of an average family car.

This constant (or at least seasonal) pressure can build up against your basement walls over time and cause them to crack, bow and buckle inward. In turn, this can weaken their load-bearing capacity and eventually threaten the structural integrity of your whole house. The damage can range from a few superficial cracks to severe visible inward bowing and separation.

Options to repair a bowed basement wall

The good news is that affordable repair methods are available to get your basement walls back in top load-bearing shape. Several proven technologies exist that can not only restore structural integrity, but also make cosmetic improvements and help prevent future deterioration.

The most important next step is to find a trustworthy technician who can evaluate your basement and give you reliable advice on the repair options that are best for your home and budget. Here are a few of the best approaches they might recommend:

  1. Carbon fiber straps: This is a highly reliable and relatively inexpensive interior repair option that reinforces the wall and helps to evenly resist and redistribute any outside pressure. Once installed, they can be painted to match the wall and are nearly invisible.
  2. Wall braces: Similar in concept to carbon fiber straps, this is an engineered steel option that can be anchored in place and then gradually adjusted to pull the wall back into alignment again. While engineered brace installation is mostly an interior job, it might be supported with some light outside excavation.
  3. Wall anchors and tie-backs: These devices usually come in multi-part kits. An interior wall plate connects to a threaded locking rod, which is in turn attached to an exterior ground plate embedded in the nearest stable soil. The number and spacing of the kits is determined by the severity of bowing. From there, they work mechanically similar to braces.
  4. Epoxy injections: To prevent moisture coming through minor cracks, epoxy injections offer both low cost and high structural integrity. Repair material can be applied from inside with no exterior excavation and little to no interior grinding or surface preparation.

The Force spring-loaded bowing basement wall repair system

In most cases, any of these basement wall repair options can work well with both block construction and poured concrete.

Hyrdrostatic pressure is working against your basement and must be addressed

Hydrostatic pressure is the most common reason why your basement walls might be starting to bow or bulge inward and must be alleviated through exterior grading, gravel backfill and drainage. Other causes, which may or may not contribute to the primary hydrostatic pressure issue could include:

  • Poor construction practices or inadequate grading on your home, or on neighboring sites.
  • Excessive amounts of rain or unusual flood events.
  • Tree roots that are spreading into parts of your foundation.
  • Heavy driveway or patio paving elements that add pressure to basement walls.
  • Hidden plumbing leaks due to poor installation or unexpected damage.

We an experienced basement wall repair company serving most of Alabama

If you see bowed walls in your basement, or if you suspect that any of these other warning signs might be present, you should have a trained technician help you assess the situation. SouthernDry has qualified and experienced technicians who will take a look for free and give you a no-pressure evaluation of the state of your foundation and present you with the best repair options.

SouthernDry has been a trusted basement and crawl space repair partner for years in Alabama. We can help you seal and straighten your basement walls with affordable and proven preventative measures like basement wall braces, basement wall anchors, epoxy injections, wall linings, sump pumps, basement interior drainage options, and advanced sealing techniques that will improve the living experience for your whole family.

Dealing with pests and insects in your crawl space or basement?

Home is a place where everyone in your family should feel safe and comfortable. For our own families at SouthernDry, we want our homes to be a refuge from the pressures of daily life, and that includes freedom from the health and property risks that can happen when you have pests living in your basement or crawl space.

In Alabama, especially around the Birmingham area, the most common pests that can invade your house through the crawl space and basement areas may include silverfish, roaches, spiders, termites, rodents, and ants. Spiders can be a tough call, because a few of them are natural predators that help keep the populations of other pests under control, but that doesn’t neccisarily mean you want to share your home with them.

How do pests get into crawl spaces and basements?

Depending on the seasonal conditions around your home, most of them show up in search of food, water, warmth, or a combination of the three. Many have adapted in amazing ways to get through tiny — sometimes nearly invisible — separations in your foundation or ground floor building materials where you’d never imagine they could fit.

Once inside, crawl space pests can quickly establish nests and reproduce at alarming rates. Many are only active at night, so they can get a head start before you even know they’re there. Pests like silverfish, termites, and carpenter ants can cause serious property damage, but even the ones that don’t physically destroy your house can pose health risks for your family.

What attracts basement and crawl space pests?

silverfish in crawl spaceFirst, know that many of these creatures have been around for thousands if not millions of years and they’re part of the world’s natural order. You can have a perfectly maintained and ordered home and yard, and some of them are going to show up no matter what — that’s what they do. That said, there are some conditions you can watch out for to help minimize your exposure.

Moisture accumulation is a big draw for unwanted crawly visitors. This can show up as condensation around basement or crawl space appliances, leaky plumbing, or improper drainage of exterior water that finds its way through gaps in your foundation or seeps through basement walls. Food sources like exposed wood, spilled garbage, or even things like a forgotten bag of wild bird seed that’s been stored and left to decay can be a pest magnet.

Tips to maintain your basement or crawl space to help prevent pests from making it their permanent home

At least once a year, maybe during your usual spring cleaning or winterizing cycle, it’s a good idea to do a whole-house inspection. Make a quick visual check of all the places you can reach that could hold food or moisture that might attract basement or crawl space pests. Clear out what you can and make a note of any new or unusual signs of water accumulation. These might include building material stains, mineral bloom on block work, or musty odors.

What to do if you think you have a rodent or insect problem in your basement or crawl space

If you think you might have a pest infestation, there are two things you should do right away. First, consult a pest removal professional to make sure that you get rid of not only the visible pests, but also their eggs or nesting areas so that you eliminate their reproduction cycle. Once you know you’ve cleared the immediate problem, it’s time to think about prevention.

The best bug and insect solution? Sealing your crawl space or basement and improving air quality

Crawl Space | SouthernDry WaterproofingOne of the most effective ways to eliminate unwanted moisture is a process known as crawl space encapsulation. It’s a general term for an engineered assortment of vapor and moisture barriers that keep your crawl space clean and dry. Depending on how moisture prone your property is, it’s possible to add dehumidification to help control airborne moisture. In tougher cases with heavier drainage issues, there are sump pumps designed for these kinds of spaces that can remove larger volumes of water that attack your home from outside.

Our team isn’t scared of bugs, rodents or even snakes! We can get the job done right

SouthernDry has been a trusted basement and crawl space repair expert for years in the Birmingham area, and we proudly serve most of Alabama. We can help you “shut the door” on common pests with affordable and proven preventive measures like vapor barriers, wall linings, floor linings, drainage options, sump pumps, dehumidifiers, insulation and advanced sealing techniques that will improve the living experience for your whole family.

Helical piers: what are they and what do they do?

Industry experts say that helical piers are the best solution for most home and business foundation repairs, but not everyone knows what they are, what they do, or why they work better than older foundation repair methods.

Here’s a quick rundown to help you decide if they’ll work for you.

helical pier vertical imageThe word “helix” has different meanings depending on whether you’re talking about science or construction. For our purposes, it’s just a fancy name for a spiral shape that’s formed around a central core. Helical piers are earth anchoring devices made for deep foundation support. To qualify as a true helical pier, it’s got to have three defining parts:

  1. a termination point at the top that connects to the structure you want to support
  2. a central shaft that distributes load to the bearing plates
  3. at least one helical bearing plate (usually several) to distribute load to the soil

This simplicity is one key trait that makes helical piers work so well. They’re backed with 100 years of engineering experience to give you the best load-bearing advantages, with the least disruption to your property. The ones we use, manufactured in the United States by A.B. Chance, are certified to meet ISO 9000 international quality standards, and they comply with all national building codes. This means you can install them with complete peace of mind.

So why are helical piers a better choice than old-school foundation repair methods like driven piles, cast-in-place concrete piers? For one thing, because they’re precision-designed steel, you can load them immediately without having to wait for concrete to cure. The helical shape of the bearing plates make installation fast and easy, and they don’t require the costly and extreme excavation needed to drill and place concrete piles under your structure.

Choose helical piers when:

  • You want durable, efficient foundation repair at a lower total cost
  • You’re concerned about the environmental impact of the materials you use
  • You want to avoid unnecessary excavation on your property
  • You have access restrictions that make heavy equipment impractical
  • You have a high water table or weak surface soils like the variable types in Alabama
  • You need assurance that your repair will be able to resist wind or seismic forces

Advantages of Helical Piers for homes & businesses

One of the biggest advantages of helical piers, especially for Birmingham area property owners, is that they create almost no visible soil disturbance. When you use the kind of industrial auger you need to install a concrete pier, the auger blades mix and loosen the surrounding soil, creating more instability around your foundation. In contrast, the helical bearing plates are designed to glide into place and transfer structural loads to deeper, more stable soil layers.

Another good reason to choose helical piers is flexibility. When you work with the right installer, they’ll be able to advise you on the right configuration to deal with variations in Alabama soil. The load-bearing considerations might change depending on whether your property sits on clay, loam, or a mix of the state’s 21 other soil types. Helical piers can be easily field modified and grouped for light, medium, or heavy loads, depending on the extent of the repairs you need.

Finally, because helical piers are environmentally friendly, they’ve become a preferred solution for sensitive areas like protected wetlands and forests. In Alabama, you’ll often find them underneath the boardwalks and walkways that allow people to access our natural wonders without disturbing habitats for plant and animal life.

Get a Free Helical Pier quote

We’d be happy to talk with you about helical piers and whether they might be the right choice for your property. If you think you might be dealing with foundation problems, give us a call and we’ll arrange for a trained technician to give you a free assessment – no pressure and no obligation. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn how affordable foundation repair can be.

Cook Springs, AL | Small House with sunlight image| Air Quality

Ways in Which Poor Indoor Air Quality is Affecting Your Health

Is the air your breathing causing you harm? Many Americans are in danger of suffering lasting health effects because of the air in their homes. This is because the indoor air quality of their homes is actually quite poor. Considering that most people spend 90 percent of their time inside buildings, the state of the indoor air quality of these buildings is important.

There are various toxins in air including airborne particles, ozone, carbon dioxide, formaldehyde as well as odors and various gases. These pollutants come from cleaning products, paint and solvent fumes, building materials, furnishings and other household items.

Health effects of poor indoor air quality

Air pollutants can have lasting effects on our health. Poor air quality can cause:

1. Weight gain

Are you eating healthy and still packing on pounds? Is calorie counting not working for you? Your fluctuations in weight could be the result of indoor air pollution. When our bodies’ natural pathways are overloaded with toxins, our bodies react by gaining weight.

Cook Springs, AL | Indoor Air Quality Image

2. Asthma

According to the World Health Organization, up to 30 percent of respiratory diseases are caused by exposure to poor indoor air. This is understandable, because we are exposed to these toxic agents every day just by inhaling the air where it exists in many areas of our homes, from the kitchen to the basement. You can protect your household by ensuring that the air in your home is free of pollutants and disease causing agents by investing in a quality indoor air purifier.

3. Depression

While depression is often associated with genetics or events in a person’s life, it can also be the result of toxins in the air. Studies have shown a correlation between long term exposure to toxins in the air and depression. You can reduce the severity of your depression by getting rid of the pollutants in the air.

4. Allergies

More people in America suffer from allergies today than in the past. One of the main reasons for this is the higher levels of toxins in indoor air. These pollutants trigger allergic reactions such as sneezing, headaches, skin rashes, swelling, fatigue and a runny nose.

Getting rid of these allergens will help to protect your household from developing allergies.

Ensuring clean indoor air

While you may rely on your HVAC to filter out particulates in the air, it is not adequate for getting rid of gases as well as microscopic agents. It is best to invest in a system that will help to cycle air in your home to ensure fresh air in the house.

CONTACT SOUTHERNDRY TODAY TO SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION! 205-719-2544

Crawl Space | SouthernDry Waterproofing

Crawl Space Waterproofing – 4 Reasons Why You Should Have Your Crawl Space Inspected

Are you in need of crawl space waterproofing services? Many owners of homes with crawlspaces are not aware that they need these services until the damage to their homes is extensive. Identifying moisture issues in your crawl space is a great way to ensure that you can catch moisture problems early. Regular crawl space inspections will help you identify these issues.

The following are some ways that crawl space inspections can help.

  1. It will ensure that your crawl space remains clean and dry

The crawl space is not a space that is frequently explored by the residents of any home. Moisture problems in these spaces are therefore likely to go without notice. They are often noticed when the problem is in advanced stages.

Regular inspections can help to identify moisture problems in the early stages of development. A professional can identify the subtle and less obvious signs of a moisture problem and help you seek solutions. This ensures that the crawl space remains clean and dry.

  1. It will help you find out the true reason behind the tilting floor

There are many reasons why homes develop tilting floors. Sagging floors can be hazardous. They can cause people to trip and fall. Severely weakened floors can even result in people or furniture tumbling right through them.

Reinforcer | SouthernDry Waterproofing

 

One of the most common causes of tilting floors in homes with crawl spaces is moisture problems in the crawl space. An inspection of the space can help you determine whether this is the case in your home. This ensures that you can apply an efficient solution.

  1. It will help you determine the cause of the cracking dry wall or plaster

Are you struggling with repeatedly repairing cracking of plaster or dry wall in your home? The solution to your problem may be in your crawl pace. An inspection of your crawl space may reveal problems such as the shifting of the soil beneath the home. This may be causing your walls to shift and the dry wall or plaster to crack.

  1. It will help to reveal termite infestations

A termite problem can result in damage to the structure of your home. These insects have a preference for damp and rotting timber. It therefore won’t help to perform a termite treatment if you have an underlying water problem. An inspection will not only reveal the infestation but also the water problem. This will ensure you invest in crawl space waterproofing to help prevent a repeat infestation.

CONTACT SOUTHERNDRY TODAY TO SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION! 205-719-2544