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How to Look

at a House


A blog with answers
to your questions about
HOME INSPECTION
and HOME MAINTENANCE

Welcome to our blog!
We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

   The second issue that my prevent an inspector from exploring the crawl space is personal safety. If there are loose electrical wires on the ground, glass or other sharp debris, evidence that an animal is occupying the space, leaking sewage on the ground, or evidence of poisons, then we will only view and photograph the area from any available openings. The determination of whether the area is safe to enter is at the discretion of the inspector.

   The two photos below are from a recent inspection in which the crawl space had extensive mold growth over large areas, and both ducts and plumbing drain piping obstructed access. We entered the crawl space only briefly because of the mold spore hazard and were unable to examine some areas because of the obstructions.
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    Here’s what we check for once under the house:

  1. 1)Adequate ventilation - The rule of thumb is one square inch of venting for each square foot of conditioned floor space. Also, the ventilation openings should be screened and distributed around the perimeter of the crawl space to allow for cross-ventilation, with at least one vent within a few feet of each corner to avoid a dead air space.

  2. 2)Moisture level in soil - This can be caused by natural water movement through the soil or plumbing leaks. It can be observed visually by discoloration of the soil or by touch. Fingertips are actually an excellent moisture evaluator. Follow-up with an electronic moisture meter determines the precise level of wetness. Excessive soil moisture can cause multiple problems, such as mold growth, wood rot, and corrosion of metal fasteners. Lack of ventilation will compound the problem.

  3. 3)Damaged masonry stem wall or piers - Most damage to foundation piers and stem walls is caused by settlement or heaving due to clay soil. If the damage appears to be structurally significant, we recommend further evaluation by a licensed engineer.

  4. 4)Temporary supports - concrete blocks or wood supports placed below floor framing are usually there because of foundation settlement or the sagging of undersize floor joists. They are quick fix that and will not last. We document them and recommend a permanent repair be made.

  5. 5)Termite guards - A termite guard is a metal strip on the top of foundation piers and stem walls that sticks out into the crawl space at an angle and deters the building of mud tubes up into the home by termites. They cannot build a tube around the sharp edge of the metal. We look for termite guards under the home and the lack of them increases the risk of Subterranean Termite infestation. If we are also performing a WDO (termite) inspection, we look carefully for mud tubes on the foundation and evidence of termite or beetle damage to the framing. Drill holes in the foundation and other evidence of treatments are also noted.

  6. 6)Things that shouldn’t be in the crawl space - Stored wood or debris on the ground, chemicals, air conditioning condensate drain termination, or dryer vent termination, for example.

  7. 7)Condition of floor framing - We observe the sill beam, floor joists, sheathing, and bridging, along with mechanical connections to the structure.

  8. 8)Evidence of mold-like substances - Any areas that look to be mold are noted and should be sampled and evaluated in a lab.  Mold in a crawl space is always related to a high-moisture problem in the area.

  9. 9) Vapor barrier and insulation - We note the presence of both and describe the type.

  10. 10) Evidence of animal damage - Torn insulation, fecal pellets, shed snake skins, and burrow holes all indicate current or previous animals in crawl space.

  11. 11) Plumbing, HVAC ducts and electrical where visible - We examine and describe these components and note any defects observed.

   Because homeowners don’t ordinarily get under their home and examine the crawl space, an inspector’s findings are often a surprise to everybody.


While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
©2015 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection.

 

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