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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

Energy Efficiency 101: From the Ground Up
Warm Floors Start with an Insulated Basement

Yep, I told you so. It does get cold in the winter. And yes, I do now wear shoes and socks when I go outside to get our newspapers. No more bare feet until next summer.

In last month’s column, we talked about cold floors and what to do about them if your house is built on a slab. This month, we will focus our attention on houses that have crawl spaces or basements.

Here’s a real simple fact for starters. If your crawl space or basement is never cold, the floor above is never cold. The way to keep a basement warm in the winter is very simple. Just insulate the basement wall and add a little heat to the basement. In nearly every case, it costs very little to heat and cool an insulated basement.

For insulating basements I prefer to:

  • Place two by four studs on the basement wall, just like the exterior wall of the house.
  • Then spray cellulose or foam insulation between the studs.

The basement is now well insulated and can easily be finished into living space in the future. Warmer basement equals warmer feet.

If your house has a crawl space, we prefer to treat it much like a basement.

Again, our intent is to keep the crawl space from ever being cold. The way to accomplish this is:

  • Totally cover the ground with heavy plastic.
  • Close the foundation vents.
  • Insulate the foundation wall.

This will prevent cold exterior air from getting under the house. As a result, the crawl space will always be about the same temperature as the normal ground temperature.

In fact, the crawl space will probably be warmer as the heat from the house and heat from your ductwork (if the ductwork is located under your house), may warm that area several degrees.

The foundation wall can be insulated with sprayed cellulose, sprayed foam, or foam-board panels. This solution often makes a crawl space drier and can solve mold and mildew problems.

While many in our country agree with what I’ve just written, there are some who don’t. Some codes won’t allow this and there are even pest exterminators who won’t offer termite contracts if your crawl spaces are sealed. Therefore, you should be absolutely certain that your codes and pest exterminator will allow this as a solution.

Please note:

  • If your crawl space ever has standing water, you must solve the water problem before sealing the crawl space.
  • If there are any gas lines or gas appliances in the crawl space, careful consideration must be given to ensure there is adequate combustion air.

Many thousands of homes now have “sealed” crawl spaces (with termite contracts), including my house. Those houses have lower utility bills and the occupants have warmer feet. In fact, I feel better already just thinking about it. See you next month.

More Information:

Doug Rye, the “Doctor of Energy Efficiency-the King of Caulk and Talk” can be heard on several different Illinois radio stations. Or you can go to his Web site at, e-mail him at, or call 888-Doug-Rye or 501-653-7931. You can also sign up for a free newsletter and order his “how to” videotapes.


© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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