Crawlspaces: A Defect-Rich Environment!- San Diego Home Inspector- Part 1
The crawlspace area is where a home inspector really earns his money. If I'm inspecting a home with a raised foundation, 30 additional minutes can be spent in the crawlspace alone. Spiders, rats, snakes or other surprises may await you. Crawling on your belly under a home is not glamorous, but a thorough investigation of this area is vital. A crawlspace is one of the most defect-rich environments a home inspector will encounter. Due to it's dark, damp, unwelcoming environment, many of it's components are often neglected or overlooked for years. Let's look at several crawlspace components and the problems associated with them:
Gas-burning appliances: Floor furnaces and horizontal furnaces are often seen installed in a crawlspace area. They must have six inches of clearance from the soil to prevent moisture damage and deterioration of the unit. The flue assembly typically runs horizontally through the crawlspace to the point where it turns vertical to be vented above the roof line. The flue and draft hood often have holes corroded in them or have disconnected presenting a carbon monoxide hazard.
Combustion products can escape and rise through the floor of the home where they are breathed in by the occupants. Improper pitch is also commonly seen at the horizontal run of the flue- it should have 1/4" rise for every foot. There are also rules pertaining to the length of the horizontal run versus the vertical run.
Foundation issues: The best view of a home's foundation can be seen from the crawlspace. If horizontal cracking is present, this is often evidence of deterioration of the reinforcing steel within the foundation wall. Vertical or diagonal cracking can mean there has been structural movement or settling.
Spalling (when the surface of the foundation wall begins to chip or flake and fall off) and efflorescence (white powdery deposits) are often evidence of moisture penetration. Signs of settling can often be seen at the crawlspace piers and posts. Foundation problems are structural in nature and repairs can be costly.
Moisture issues: Excessive moisture conditions and even standing water are often encountered in a crawlspace. The soil in a crawlspace area should remain relatively dry, even during wet weather. Installation of a sump pump is only a band-aid and does not address the real issue which is exterior water penetration. If excessive crawlspace moisture exists, a grading and drainage contractor should be consulted to evaluate the perimeter drainage system.
We still need to talk about several other critical components, so I'll do Part 2 of Crawlspaces: A Defect-Rich Environment!- San Diego Home Inspector tomorrow. Steve Stenros, a San Diego home inspector, is the owner of First Choice Inspections and is a CREIA MCI inspector. Clients receive a FREE lifetime appliance RecallChek with every standard home inspection. Appointments can be obtained by calling 888-335-3040.