Condo crawl space dilemma drags on...

Situation: Attached 2-story, 20-year-old condo buildings located in south central Indiana (Bloomington), with 4 connected first floor units above approx. 1000 sq ft. vented crawl spaces approx 24" h. The crawl spaces are connected in pairs. A year ago we shared our pre-buy inspection report with the HOA. The main crawl space issues were that a lot of fiberglass insulation was hanging down and the vents needed to be repaired or replaced.

I assumed they would clean the place up and replace any batts that needed it. Instead, the HOA board contracted to have the spaces “conditioned” without seeming to understand the complexity of this particular situation. I raised questions with them. Eventually, I got an agent in the city Planning Dept involved, and he pointed out design problems and requirements for fire retardant barriers, dampers, etc. Unfortunately, by the time they paused in the process to reconsider their approach, the contractor had removed all the fiberglass insulation, installed a new vapor barrier (and probably removed the old one) and installed 2" rigid extruded polystyrene insulation on the exterior walls.

The city agent suggested 4 possible options. The simplest and probably least costly seemed to be that of sticking with the vented system. The board agreed, but informed me that they would use spray foam instead of batts. Sounds nice, but…
Possible problems that I see are:

  • The HOA board seems reluctant to communicate with residents living over the crawl spaces (to determine or alert re allergy/health issues, precautions during application, etc.) In a situation such as this, what info or precautions are residents typically given re application day and afterward?
  • I read on another site that 2" deep spray foam might cost $2 sq ft. x 1000 sq ft @ = $8k. There are actually 2 buildings, so this number would be $16k. The board has not said what the actual quoted price is. Does this sound accurate? And would that include the required fire barrier?
  • Perhaps more to the point - can a thorough job can be done, applying this spray to a surface about 24" above the floor while lying down in an unlighted crawlspace?

I’d appreciate any feedback/opinions on proceeding from here.

YOur crawl space dilemma doesn’t make much sense to me. Unless having a conditioned crawlspace is not accepted in your area, if done properly will provide you with far better results in the long run then having a vented system. The biggest issue I have is You need to post your location. Different locations will have different eviromental concerns with humidity and air quality.

Joe you seem to want involvement in the process and that is great as to many could care less however you are trying to learn trades you have no real understanding of.
Just leave the methods to the experts.
If they mess up in recommendation and implementation it is their liability and not yours.

I agree with Sean that conditioned crawlspace in a building only 20 years old is the way to go.

I’m sure others will chime in…

Thanks for your replies. I do appreciate them.

  1. Sorry for my math. The actual numbers: $2 sq ft. x 1000 sq ft each of 4 crawlspaces = $8k. There are actually two buildings, so this number would be $16k; however, I suspect the number would not include a fire barrier. I sent the board an email 9 days ago with a number of questions. They have not yet responded.

  2. The Planning Dept. rep has confirmed the complexity of and potential higher (unanticipated) costs to condition our connected crawlspaces (two HVAC, not in sync, to condition each 2000 sq ft space). The HOA board appears to have stumbled into this changeover, not knowing that it required a permit, inspections (and inspection costs), fire retardant for exposed foam insulation, possible costs for fire dampers and their maintenance, walls to separate the crawls, etc. They also had no intention of asking the 7 owners (the 8th is on the board) for permission to tap their HVACs to condition these HOA owned spaces.

  3. As for trusting experts: They have employed no experts (see #2 above) and this thing is costing waaaay more than it should have and will be a financial liability for all of us owners. Originally, they got a line item estimate of costs to condition (I suspect the spaces were never visited), which the board thought was too high, so they simply shopped the list around to two other contractors. The one they hired, obviously, did not know the regulations - therefore could hardly be called “professional.”

  4. Re sprayfoam, health and communicating: “Discussing SPF Application with Building Owners and Occupants” checklist. There are other documents here that would seem to indicate caution and need for awareness. Shouldn’t owners be informed?