Friday, August 9, 2013

A View from the Crawlspace

Is your crawlspace the murky underbelly of your home? If it is, you likely avoid it and ignore it. However, sometimes it can be one of the most important spaces in a home containing the mechanical systems providing you with the conditioned air you breath, the plumbing systems carrying your water and waste, and critical electrical and communications wiring. If you consider the importance of the equipment and how it affects your life and health, it seems important that it would be efficiently organized and well installed. I’ve learned this is usually not the case. I just wrapped up my summer interning with BuildSense and, fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, spent a good amount of time in crawlspaces. The first time I entered a crawlspace I was intrigued by the maze of joists, insulation, and hardware, and interested in how this jumble of things corresponded with the floor plan above. This fascination quickly faded when I realized that apart from the existence of a crawlspace, there was no logical design layout to it at all. It was an afterthought to the house plan; just leave 24’’ of clearance between the building and the earth and let someone else figure out how to make the systems fit.

Although I’m not personally in the market for a new home, I think I’m right in saying that an “accessible and organized crawlspace” is not first on the checklist for many buyers. It’s an afterthought, an added plus to a good home or a deal breaker on an average one. But if something so crucial to the function of a building is an afterthought, what else are you missing when you consider a future home? The fa├žade of a beautifully renovated house or a well-designed interior can easily lure one into thinking that internal issues can be “fix-its” to deal with in a few years once you’re settled. Before getting swept away, remember that even a beautiful house can be dysfunctional, and when things do start to go amiss, the culprit may be in the crawlspace.

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