Most people hear you utter the word “Crawl Space” and it instantly conjures up images of a dank, cramped little dungeon full of spiderwebs that your cousins dared you to crawl into when you were 8 years old. Yet for a lot of modern-day homes, a crawl space is a functional area under the home, or in an abbreviated part of the basement that is just begging to be used as a storage area.
Yes, it is possible to convert a crawlspace into functional storage. Though the devil is in the details.
There are some challenges here. A lot of crawl spaces have uneven dirt floors, and might not be ideal for storing boxes without something to first set them on.
Crawl spaces also tend to be hard to access and have very little overhead space to work with. They also tend to have above-average humidity throughout the entire year, which makes mold prevention important.
If you’re thinking about transforming your crawl space into a long-term storage area, you might want to consider some of the following tips.
Deal with the Floor
Chances are good that your crawl space has a dirt, sand, or gravel floor. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is something you have to contend with. Especially since soil that makes contact with cardboard can wick moisture into the cardboard causing mold problems.
The easiest way to deal with a dirt floor in a crawlspace is to simply lay down some used pallets. The sand can be leveled by hand and the pallets will keep any boxes or totes at least a few inches above the soil.
The more expensive fix is to have a permanent floor installed. Concrete is a more permanent option and eliminates the risk of moisture wicking up from the soil. Though a suspended wood floor might also be feasible.
Beware Signs of Mold
Mold and crawlspaces go hand in hand. This is usually a product of high ambient humidity. Though any recent water flooding or foundation leaks can easily leave unseen water deposits behind. Mold spores need this moisture to germinate and grow into thriving colonies.
- Common Signs of Mold in a Basement Crawlspace
- Discolored splotches on walls & woodwork
- Musty or earthy odors
- Blistering wall treatments
- Being in the room makes you sneeze & cough
If you’ve been noticing any of these signs of mold in your crawlspace, the wise move is to take measures to remediate it, and proactively prevent it before using it as a crawl space.
A professional mold remediator can eliminate the presence of all fungi. Then they can help you understand how to prevent it from recurring again. This might include things like:
- Pouring a cement floor
- Sealing the crawl space with a moisture barrier
- Painting all woodwork & drywall with mold-preventer solution
- Maintaining an active dehumidifier in the crawlspace
How to Move Around
One of the biggest challenges when converting any crawlspace into a storage area is figuring out how you’re going to move yourself and any boxes around safely. The ceiling is often low, and there’s a real risk of bumping your head. If you’re going to do it manually, then you’ve got to have enough room to crawl around on your hands and knees.
You might want to also consider using containers with handles and giving yourself a broom handle with a hook on it. Assuming you’ve found a way to make a solid floor, you can then use the hooked handle to move boxes around, pulling them toward you while you remain at or near the entryway.
Let There Be Light
The best way to dispel the motif that your crawl space is dark and full of terrors is to add some light. If you’re blessed with an outlet or two, this might be as simple as installing a fluorescent shop light fixture with a pair of 48-inch long bulbs.
If there’s no wiring or outlets available, then your best option is to go with battery-powered LED lights. They’re energy-efficient, which means the batteries will last for years in the crawlspace. They’re also light enough that you can attach them to walls and ceiling or floor stringers with little more than a Velcro tab.
A simple touch activates them. This will give you enough light to see what you want and grab it quickly without having to spend a lot of time scrounging around in the dark.
Choosing the Right Storage Containers
Even with your best efforts to minimize moisture and prevent mold, there’s always going to be slightly higher humidity in the crawl space storage area. This makes cardboard boxes a bad idea.
Instead, consider a heavy-duty plastic tote with a tight-sealing lid. You can even stack them on top of one another to make the most out of every square inch of vertical space in your new crawl space storage area. If you’re taking the hook and pole option, make sure to look for one with large handles.
Just take the extra time to label each tote with a big sign like “Holiday Decorations” “Family Mementos” or “Dad’s Old Sports Gear.” Then you can fish out what you need at a glance, without having to crawl into the storage area opening tote after tote until you find the thing you want to retrieve.
When to Call in the Pros
Converting a basement crawlspace into a storage area isn’t for the faint of heart. It also requires an experienced eye to know how to safely make the most out of the space, without violating any building codes.
In a time like this, you can, and probably should turn to the professional designers and fabricators at ClosetTec. We have decades of experience helping homeowners convert their crawlspaces and basement areas into modern-day storage systems.
We have the expertise to evaluate the space. Understand the ideal flooring options. Deal with moisture concerns and design a system that meets your budget. We have a dedicated team of contractors and technicians that can come to your home to complete the transformation without you so much as having to soil a knee on the dirt floor.