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What to do about a cold crawlspace above an open garage?

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Posted by: from Victoria
2/26/2012 at 3:52:00 PM

From the ground up into my living room are the following layers : cement slab ground, 7ft open garage/carport, 2" of stucco, and directly on top of stucco old Fiberglass batt insulation, approx 18" air space - with all my plumbing running through it, floor joist, plywood, 2"-3" cement, small foam underlay, engineered wood flooring to finally my freezing cold feet.

We have two small (2' x2') access ports from the grarage into the crawl space (it is only when we put these in to deal with a plumbing issue did we see the insulation problems). The ceilling of the garage/my subfloor is approx 1000 sq ft, in otherwords you can't really see to blow in insulation and it is too small to fit a person up there (and not safe - the stucco may not be attached well). Oh and my pipes are not insulated and my water is darn cold and takes forever to heat up.

I live in a strata of 3 and the garage is technically strata property- we each have one parking stall. However I am the only one above the carport and the only one with expensive heating bills - so in otherwords it is my problem.

Help!!

REPLIES (5)
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Date/Time2/26/2012 at 4:24:49 PM

Hi Karen

I am assuming that the previous problems that you have incurred with the plumbing is frozen pipes? If this is the case and the insulation issue is not addressed then the problem will most definitely occur again in the future.

My initial response to your dilemma, would be if at all possible have the stucco and plywood substrate ceiling removed to inspect the area further, possibly highlighting any further issues you may have with plumbing, HVAC etc within this area.

Once this has been completed I would highly recommend installing a 2lb Spray Foam insulation (I.E Walltite Eco) to the voids in the ceiling joist spacings. The contractor prior to doing the insulation will have to install a backer substrate in between the joist cavities to allow the spray foam to adhere (OSB or Plywood) will work.

Once this has been carried out then you can re-instate your ceiling, several options open to you in this area including Cedar T&G Boards, Stucco etc etc.

This may sound a fairly drastic procedure but in my opinion is your best option, not only will it resolve the issue with you "cold feet", "cold water" etc it will give you piece of mind that your water pipes will not freeze in the future.

I hope that my input has been of some use to you, if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards

Julian Evans

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Date/Time2/26/2012 at 9:35:18 PM

Hi Karen, +1 to Julian. You need to ensure that the crawlspace is air sealed and insulated - in other words "conditioned" space just like the rest of your house. To do this you would need to insulate the ceiling of the carport as Julian mentioned, as well as the walls and access hatches of the crawl space. You will also have to put in a heating duct and possibly an air return to allow the area to get some ventilation so humidity doesn't build up and cause potential mould problems. This will keep your water pipes in a warm area and help a lot with your feet. 2 lb. closed cell foam is a great product for this application as it combines the air sealing and insulation in one application.

You should put your requirements in the "post your projects" section so some local contractors can come and have a look at your situation.

Good Luck with it!

Jim Kuzma

Kettleby Handyman Services

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Date/Time2/28/2012 at 1:06:01 PM

Hi Karen

I absolutely agree that the crawl space should be vented, good point Jim! I thought I had mentioned that but obviously not!

As for the heating ducts, not sure it is completely necessary in Victoria? Might be worth talking to someone at your Local Permits/planning office or a heating Engineer?

Kind regards

Julian Evans

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Karen in Victoria
Date/Time2/28/2012 at 10:00:44 PM

Thank you very much gentlemen. That was very helpful.

I had a feeling it needs to come down. I wish I new that when I bought the place. Now I am thinking that is why they left the holes alongside of the beams - for ventilation. The trouble is that those holes, which I quickly closed up are about 1-2ft above ground perfect access for things that scurry. Before I closed them up, every strong wind would send a certain aroma (?dead animal, urine, wet cement) up through the subfloor?crawl space into my place via the pipes etc. That is the real reason I put in the access hatches in. We put in a piece of plywood in and around the 3ftx3ft hole in the cement floor the previous plumber put to run the drain/pipes into the bathroom. We cut the hole in the stucco ceiling of the carport up and attached it to my subfloor from underneath.

When we removed the old tub we found lots of rodent droppings - they were crawling up under the tub. I could handle the idea of taking a bath and having something scurrying around and inch below me -yuck. I did try and close up any area that odours can travel up into my place with spray foam. The pipes -so far the pipes have not froze. Someone I consulted didn't think they would (they are heated enough by me having the heat on). I was wondering if they did freeze if insurance would help with the cost of that stucco ceiling in the carport.

Anyways enough of my complaining - my final question does the material on the ceiling of the carport have to be fire proof? Thanks again - This is my first ever posting experience - you both have been most kind.

Karen

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Date/Time2/29/2012 at 11:39:07 AM

Hi Karen,

Venting is paramount in this void space, if left unvented it will over time through condensation go mouldy and decay. Without seeing the job its difficult to visualize, but I would recommend installing a high level vent to the outside elevations. You can buy vermin control products for vents, however these should be checked through regular maintenance controls to see if they have been breached. Depending on the direction of the Joists in relation to the vents it may be necessary to install strapping to the underside of the joists prior to installing the finished ceiling to allow air movement.

Did you obtain a Home inspection when purchasing the property, If so the inspector should of picked up on the ventilation issues, decaying stucco and potential hazards to you and provided recommendations that could possible rectify and issues. I appreciate that he may not of had access to the void to view the insulation problem but he should of known that the pipes, ductwork etc ran through the void and explained that you may wish to check that they were sufficiently insulated prior to making the purchase.

It is still my recommendation that you remove the existing ceiling and install 2lb closed cell spray foam, this is even more important as you mentioned that the Carport is used by you and your neighbours. It is obvious from your previous remarks you make about the smell etc venting up through your floor boards that you have voids in this area allowing air movement. I think the issue that you have to more importantly have to consider is the off gassing from the vehicles that are idling in the Car port area, which will result in carbon monoxide venting in to your suit if not completely thermal broken. Buy a Carbon Gas alarm!!!!

As for the new ceiling required to be Fire resistant, it may or may not be necessary you would have to check with your local authority on their requirements, although it would be a wise move.

I highly doubt that your insurance company would pay for the entire area to be fixed if you had a leak in one area. I am sure they would employ a contractor to fix the issue in that immediate location only. However miracles do happen! Possibly consult them directly to find out!

Do you have a Condo board and if so can you not approach them to see if they have funds that will assist you with the work? Considering it's a shared area below you?

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