Dirt crawl spaces are great places to live, thrive and reproduce if you're a bug. There is an even temperature, moisture, damp wood and shelter. Spiders, beetles, centipedes, termites, and all kinds of other insects are found in dirt crawl spaces. Animals such as mice (dead and alive) are commonly found in dirt crawl spaces. ln some cases, even rats, snakes and small animals have been found.
Because of the high humidity level in a dirt crawl space, cool surfaces such as the earth at 55 degrees, concrete and metal surfaces will sweat with water vapor condensing out of the air. This causes rot, smells, and is a water source for critters.
Mold spores, the seeds of mold, are in the air everywhere. All they need to grow is organic material such as wood, the right temperature range, and moisture. Of these, the only one that can be controlled is moisture.
Dirt crawl spaces have the high humidity levels necessary for mold growth. Humidity levels from 50% to 90% are easily found in dirt crawl spaces that have never flooded.
Mold can grow on dirt, insulation, framing and even under your carpet on the first floor. Mold destroys organic materials as it feeds on them. Mold reproduces by producing millions of floating airborne spores, which some people are very sensitive to. Spores can be dormant for many years, waiting for the right conditions to grow. Some molds produce mycotoxins, such as the black mold Stachybotrys. Many articles have been written on the effects of mold and toxic mold.
Don't panic; there is a solution that will stop your crawl space from being a hospitable environment for mold. Mold will not grow when the humidity levels are reduced below 50%.
Most dirt crawl spaces are vented to get the moisture out. The problem is that the vents let warm humid air in during the summer. This adds moisture to the crawl space, and makes the house harder to air condition as all this moisture needs to be wrung out of the air. In the winter, the vents let in cold air, which causes very cold, uncomfortable floors upstairs and higher heating costs.
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