Learn More About Fungal Growth in Your Crawl Space
If you live in the South and have a crawl space, don’t be surprised to learn your crawl space probably has fungal growth. This is especially true if your crawl space isn’t encapsulated, has been exposed to flooding, or if you don’t regularly maintain its moisture content. If you’re worried about fungal growth in your crawl space, keep reading! You’ll learn more about crawl space fungal growth identification, its causes, its effects on you and your home, and why you need to know all of this in the first place.
What is Crawl Space Fungus?
First things first, know the difference between fungus and mold. Fungus is an umbrella term that encompasses any type of fungi like yeast, mold, mildew, and even mushrooms. So, if you find any of these types of fungi upon inspection — you have fungal growth in your crawl space. Fungi in the form of mushrooms is easy to identify but mold, mildew, and yeast can grow in the smallest crevices without being noticed for a long time. Sometimes these fungi can be mistaken for a harmless wet spot, speck of dirt, or even a “crack” in the wood or cement. However, closely examining these areas will prove you’re actually dealing with some form of crawl space fungus.
Where to Look for Crawl Space Fungus
To look for fungal growth in your crawl space, you need to physically go down there and take a look for yourself. While this is probably not the way you want to spend your Saturday, unfortunately there’s no other way to visibly identify signs of fungus. The first sign you’ll notice if something is growing is a strong musty odor. Whether it’s from the fungi itself or water-damaged wood, you’ll be able to tell just by the smell of it. Be sure to check along the walls and foundation for any signs of water damage (which can eventually turn into fungi) or for any actual growth already happening. Don’t forget to lift up any edges of decomposing wood and check for possible growth hidden underneath.
What Causes Crawl Space Fungus?
It doesn’t take much for fungal growth in your crawl space to start. All that’s needed is a minimum of 70 percent humidity, warm temperatures, and a food source (such as wood).
The Effects of Crawl Space Fungus
Too many people assume crawl space fungus isn’t a big deal and that because it’s separate from the rest of the house, it’s nothing to worry about. However, this couldn’t be more wrong!
Fungus can develop within 24 to 48 hours after water exposure. From there it will continue spreading unless it's properly removed, which is a lengthy process. We want you to understand that any fungus in your crawl space is unacceptable. Buckled hardwood floors, insect infestations inside your home, condensation on your insulation and water pipes, and musty odors can all indicate crawl space fungus forming down below. Eventually, if fungal growth in your crawl space is left to its own devices it will rot the wood and ruin the structures underneath your home, and eventually make its way into your living spaces.
Aside from structural damage, fungus can cause serious health effects. Did you know up to 40 percent of your household air comes from your crawl space? From allergic reactions to lung irritation, crawl space fungus is not something to mess with! It’s best to avoid breathing in any fungus at all costs, and this can only be done with proper removal.
How to Remove Crawl Space Fungus
Unlike household mold, fungal growth in your crawl space is much more difficult to clean. This task will require a lot more work and safety precautions put in place before getting started. Keep in mind, this only applies to crawl spaces that haven’t been encapsulated and have a dirt floor.
DIY Mold Removal
Removing the fungus yourself is possible, however if you’re sensitive to mold or the chemicals used to remove mold, you might want to steer clear from doing it yourself. Wear gloves, safety goggles, and a dust mask, and use ammonia or bleach to remove any areas covered in fungus. You’ll want to scrub away any visible growth and the surrounding surfaces to make sure nothing can spread. If you come across large pieces of mold, remove it with a shovel or whatever tool you have handy and avoid disturbing its spores. During this process, use an air scrubber (similar to an air purifier) to filter the air by removing any mold spores and odors. You’ll also want to set up a negative air machine to pull contaminated air out of the area and prevent airborne spores from landing and regrowing. Once finished, you must drench the dirt floor in some type of antimicrobial solution to ensure any missed or fallen fungi will not regrow. Finally, if you happen to own a UV lamp, use that to kill off any spores that might be lingering. From there, circulate air into the crawl space so the entire area isn’t overly damp and can stay fungi-free!
Expert Mold Removal
If this doesn’t sound like a task you want to tackle yourself, hire a professional mold removal expert to handle this for you. This way, you know the mold will be properly removed and you won’t be putting your own health at risk. For more information on our mold removal services (which includes all types of fungi), check out our Mold Remediation From The Experts Guide. You’ll get an inside look at our detailed remediation process for removing crawl space mold so you’ll know exactly what to expect when our Service Experts arrive at your home.
How to Prevent Crawl Space Fungus
To prevent fungal growth in your crawl space from returning, be sure to keep the humidity level at around 60% and continually monitor the moisture content. Ideally, this would stay between 12-17%. If necessary, use a crawl space grade dehumidifier to keep these levels in check. Additionally, check for (and seal) any openings condensation can get in from the outside. Having your crawl space encapsulated can also prevent fungal growth and save you from having to undertake a mold remediation process down the road. These simple precautions will help you in the fight against crawl space fungus.
Professional Crawl Space Encapsulation
If your crawl space hasn’t already been encapsulated, we recommend you have this done to prevent headaches like mold growth. After the encapsulation, we’ll ensure fungal growth doesn’t occur thanks to our crawl space warranty that includes on-going checkups for new fungal growth, moisture and humidity levels, as well as dehumidifier services, cleanings and filter changes. To request a quote for our professional crawl space encapsulation service, click the button below!
This post was originally posted August 2015, and was refreshed May 2020.