Many homeowners wouldn’t crawl underneath their homes if you paid them to. At the same time, they’d love to have a full basement. What’s a homeowner to do? Here’s what you can do, and how to make do with what you have until you can afford to dig out the basement of your dreams.

What’s A Crawl Space For?

Homes that don’t have a full basement typically either live on a slab or they have a small crawlspace underneath them. The crawl space is an access for electrical, plumbing, and sometimes ventilation and gas hookups.

Crawl spaces are necessary when the home cannot have HVAC installed inside the home (other than ducting).

Special regulations and codes restrict crawl spaces and inform contractors and homeowners what they can and cannot do with them.

Contractors, like often convert these into storage spaces or full basements for homeowners who want more space, but don’t want to move to another home.

Moisture can be a problem in crawl spaces – especially if you live in a humid environment. This is why vapor barriers are necessary for many of them. But, if that is failing, it might be time for a partial or full conversion.

Pests, mold, and mildew can also be a serious problem in a crawl space. If not properly sealed, rodents, insects, and even termites can infest the house.

Finally, crawl spaces provide poor insulation and can negatively impact modern HVAC efficiency.

Converting A Crawl Space For Storage

When you can’t afford a full conversion, you may want to consider a partial one. Converting a crawl space to a storage room involves sealing the crawl space, installing new vapor barrier, and sealing it all up so that no more moisture can infiltrate the space. Sometimes, a permanent dehumidifier is necessary to keep moisture at bay.

Many times, insulation can be installed underneath the home, right underneath the floorboards or subfloor. This will go a long way toward keeping the home warm, and improving the efficiency of the HVAC.

The process is pretty straightforward. A contractor will come in, do an assessment, and then make a determination based on the current condition of your home.

He or she will need to figure out whether there is a serious moisture problem, how to eliminate it, seal it, insulate it, and then permanently protect it from future water or bug infestation.

Once it’s completed, your crawl space will be a safe and comfortable place to store seasonal items, like Christmas trees and decorations or rarely-used items like family heirlooms and personal time capsules or “treasure boxes.”

So, you’ve decided to go “full basement,” have you? You’re in for a treat. Assuming you can afford to dig out the space under your home, this is a major undertaking and one of the best improvements you’ll ever make. A crawl space is usually constructed as a short basement without a finished floor. It can occupy part or all of the foundation or all of the space under the house.

The main differentiator between a basement and a crawl space is that the crawl space is very shallow – just 16 inches in many cases.

A basement can be installed by excavating the perimeter to the desired depth, usually by hand. Once the footings are exposed, a four-foot section of soil below it is dug out, all around the perimeter. Usually, this is done in an alternating pattern to maintain stability of the existing structure. New concrete is poured and a new foundation is formed before the footing.

Once the new foundation is poured, an additional knee wall is poured inside the main perimeter. This knee wall overlaps the footings at the top. It creates something called a “bench ledge.

This wall adds strength to the structure, and it also serves as an effective retaining wall for the soil outside the new foundation.

Most contractors and construction crews will install vapor barriers on new basements to prevent moisture from seeping through the walls. Now is an excellent time to do that before the soil is backfilled against the foundation.

A construction crew will also install an interior drain tile to prevent any cove seepage. On top of that, they pout and level a layer of crushed stone and add a vapor barrier and a reinforcing grid device.

On top of the grid, a basement floor is poured. From here on out, the basement can be finished like any other – including any type of flooring option, HVAC, insulation, and interior walls, including drywall or other options.

Rather than buy a new home with a foundation, retrofitting a basement can be a cheaper alternative and it gives you the space you’ve always wanted.

Alice Browne has worked in the family home maintenance business all her working life. She blogs about home maintenance and DIY projects for a range of websites.


  1. It’s great that crawl spaces can go from being simple utility areas to a space for storage or even an entire basement if necessary. The possibilities are all there, but it’s up to the homeowner to decide what best suits their needs. Thanks for sharing!

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