Best Moisture Level for Wood in Crawl Space

What is the best moisture level for wood in the crawl space? We are constantly discussing wood moisture levels being too high, but is too low a problem? Many crawl spaces are too wet but once they dry out, what is too dry? Can a damp crawl space that dries out have any issues?

How Does Moisture Level Affect Wood?

Water can affect the wood in many ways, but many overlook the types of moisture that can affect wood. If you have ever seen a water-soaked log floating in the lake, you understand it is heavy and swollen. Take the wood out of the water, and it shrinks and becomes lighter. Relative humidity can affect wood in the exact same way.

Wood is hygroscopic. It gains or loses moisture based on relative humidity. If the relative humidity in the crawl space is high. The subfloor and floor joist will swell and become heavy. As the relative humidity is lowered, the wood will shrink and become lighter. Many homeowners experience squeaky floors and possibly cracked drywall in the home after the crawl space has dried out.

Side Effect of a Dry Crawl Space

I have spoken with customers that noticed bouncing floors and seen cracks in the drywall above door jams after proper crawl space encapsulation. Most of the time, these issues are noticeable by homeowners that had foundation repair prior to encapsulation.

A company was called in to install jack posts but did not address the wet wood first. Then Crawl Space Ninja was called to fix standing water, high humidity, and mold problems. After the crawl space is corrected, the jack posts lost their effectiveness and the floors shifted slightly down.

Why Does the Floor Downshift?

This downshift in the floor is because the wood shrank due to the moisture being removed. If the foundation company would have dried the crawl space before installing the jacks. This issue would have been corrected permanently when the post jacks were installed. The post jacks were adjusted to apply pressure to wet wood. Now the wood is dry and they need to be readjusted to compensate for the density lost in the wood when the moisture is left. Unfortunately, the shift in the wood creates a shift in the walls above.

This cart before the horse approach to fixing crawl spaces is why some see a negative side effect to crawl space encapsulation. Don’t install post jacks or do foundation repair prior to drying out the crawl space if you want to avoid this issue.

Best Wood Moisture Level for the Crawl Space

To obtain the best wood moisture level, you need a crawl space that has controlled humidity all year. The wood in the crawl space will equalize to a good moisture level if the relative humidity is kept between 45% and 55%. Addressing water leaks from above is also recommended. Stopping and removing standing water entering the foundation will also help prevent humidity from getting out of control in the crawl space.

Once the relative humidity and all other moisture problems are addressed, you can expect wood moisture to fall between 6% to 14%. According to Wagner Moisture Meters, interior wood should be 6% to 8% while exterior wood should be 9% to 14%. An argument could be made the crawl space is exterior.

But we want to condition the crawl space.

Which means control the moisture levels, so some crawl spaces may see wood moisture levels as low as 6%. Focusing on the relative humidity levels is one of the easiest and most consistent ways to ensure the wood moisture levels are in an acceptable range.

Check your relative humidity and wood moisture levels with the same metes we use at the Crawl Space Ninja DIY Store.

3 Easy Ways to Control Crawl Space Humidity

All crawl spaces are different, so they face different problems. Some flood every time it rains. Others flood every day. Some have subfloor insulation and loose-laid vapor barrier. Others are fully encapsulated with no dehumidifier and the vents are open to the outside.

All of these methods are ways companies and homeowners try to fix their crawl spaces and make them healthy. I say go with what the moisture meter and relative humidity say to do. If you have done these things and the relative humidity still gets above 55%, you need to do more.

High humidity causes all kinds of problems. Mold, dust mites, and other pests grow uncontrolled in high humidity environments. The living space can be affected by the high crawl space humidity.

Here are 3 must-haves to consistently and effectively control crawl space humidity.

  1. Sealed vents and door
  2. Properly sized commercial dehumidifier and condensate pump
  3. Vapor barrier covering all of the ground

If you have read my past articles or seen my videos on YouTube you may be asking why I didn’t include a foundation vent fan. I highly recommend installing a foundation vent fan, but not to control humidity. We use them to move odors and soil gases like methane, ammonia, and radon. However, they are not needed to control humidity. That being said, I do highly recommend you install an active ventilation system in the crawl space to address soil gases.

Best Crawl Space Dehumidifiers

I am partial to the Aprilaire E Series Dehumidifiers. The Aprilaire E070, E080, E100, and E130 do a great job at keeping crawl space humidity in check. The set it and forget it digital panel allows you to set the dehumidifier on the desired humidity and leave it alone. They do require maintenance every 6 months to keep the running efficiently and ensure their longevity. Please check out the Aprilaire Dehumidifiers on our Crawl Space Ninja DIY Store for more information. Also, check out the Wagner Meters article for acceptable wood moisture levels in other areas of the home.

Contact Crawl Space Ninja for Basement Waterproofing and Encapsulation

Please contact us to schedule your assessment to fix your crawl space, basement issue. 


Do you need help with mold removal, crawl space encapsulation, crawl space insulation, vapor barrier, waterproofing, foundation repair, basement waterproofing, or controlling humidity in your crawl space?

If you live in Georgia, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, or Kentucky, Crawl Space Ninja can help!


Also, let us know in the comments below if you have an idea for a new blog topic.

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