Billy Tesh

Crawlspaces are largely ignored areas of a home that for the most part, don’t offer much usability or too many benefits to homeowners. To pest management professionals, however, they represent a tremendous opportunity for revenue growth and income stability.

Standard crawlspaces are typically not maintained properly because they are not used every day like other rooms in a home. As a result, they are prone to poor indoor air quality, heat loss and excessive moisture production. All are liabilities in a residential home, boosting the case for having a closed crawlspace.

Billy Tesh, president of Crawlspace Depot, started closing crawlspaces as a pest management professional more than 20 years ago and has been leading the market segment’s growth ever since. Tesh saw the many problems homes were facing because of vented crawlspaces and compared the environment to a closed crawlspace, he said the result surprised most people. “Many in the industry thought closing the crawlspace was the worst thing to do,” Tesh said. “We started researching and found these closed crawlspaces were as good as the day they were installed. In fact, they were 18 percent more energy efficient (according to Advanced Energy), the air quality was better, and the sustainability was better too. The wood, the A/C duct work…all of the components were in better shape than a vented crawlspace.” From that point on, Tesh started focusing on closed crawlspaces as part of his portfolio of his pest control company’s services. Research done for this State of the Closed Crawlspace Market Report show that closing crawlspaces are continuing to grow as a service.

One in five PMPs offers closed crawlspace services. While that has been somewhat steady the last four years, it also means the segment has cemented its role in pest control. This comes a long way from when Tesh first discussed the closed crawlspace methodology at industry gatherings years ago.

“Our closed crawlspace data was first presented at a 2003 NPMA symposium in New Orleans and it caused quite a stir. Everyone was used to vented crawlspaces and closing the crawlspace was almost counterintuitive. But the science was sound and as people studied the research, they began to see benefits,” Tesh said.

They also saw the vision Tesh had for capturing the closed crawlspace opportunity for the pest control industry. “I knew closing crawlspaces could be done by the builder, remodeler, HVAC or plumbing companies, but I also knew it was the pest company that was the most qualified to do the job and to continue to provide support to the homeowners,” Tesh said.

The 2020 PCT State of the Closed Crawlspace Market Survey shows that this market is here to stay as 57 percent of PMPs have been offering closed crawlspace services for more than 10 years. Of those doing the service, one in four PMPs expect to increase revenues in the next year thanks to the service offering.

Tesh said closed crawlspace services can start as a small add-on program but that PMPs can grow them over time.

“At certain times of the year you get termite treatments and maybe you don’t have a full-time service, but you add this, and you can do this all year-round,” he said. “We started out with one guy doing one job a month then five jobs a month then three a week and then the next thing you know we have three crews doing it every day. It’s all in your marketing and how you want to apply resources toward it.”

For those pest management professionals whose location does not offer the service, 25 percent of those surveyed are now considering it. The biggest impetus in not offering closed crawlspace services? Lack of demand. That’s because those PMPs are located in markets with few crawlspaces.

As for advice for those looking to jump into the market? Tesh said providing the best materials and services is a big key to being successful.

“Crawlspace Depot is not in it for anything but closed crawlspaces and that’s why we’re so dedicated to it. If PMPs want to get into the market, we’re here to help them. Some may have run into stumbling blocks trying to grow and we can help them come up with solutions.”