CRAWLSPACE MOISTURE IN FAYETTEVILLE AND THE SOUTHEAST

By
Home Inspector with Carolina's Best Home Inspections 1051

                                         HOME INSPECTION REPORT ON CRAWLSPACES
As a Home Inspector I see a lot of crawlspaces, but this is one place many homeowners never venture. There are many good reasons for this. Snakes, spiders, vermin, insulation, mold, dirt, pesticide, and other things live down there. But even if you don’t visit your crawlspace you should have someone else do it, and for good reason. Things can happen down there that are bad for your home and since you don’t go there you may not even know about it until significant damage has been done.                            

Let me give you an example of what can happen in a crawlspace while you are enjoying your nice clean air conditioned home. Here in the southeast many people use heat pumps for heating and air conditioning. Most heat pumps are split system heat pumps, which means that there is a condensing unit outside the house and an air handler inside the house, usually in the basement or crawlspace, but often in the attic, and sometimes in a closet. A heat pump produces a lot of condensation water in warm months when the air conditioner is cooling the house. You may have seen water dripping from a white pipe outside your house. This is condensation water from the heat pump. The water is formed at the air handler and is carried by a pvc pipe to the exterior of the house or foundation where it drips on to the ground outside. At least that’s what it is supposed to do.

Sometimes the heat pump condensation pipe gets blocked up. I often see this on home inspections. It can happen from dirt, sludge, insects, rodents, etc. When the condensation pipe gets blocked condensation water continues to be produced. It has to run somewhere. An air handler in an attic has a safety pan under it which catches the water when this happens. The safety pan has an emergency shut off float switch or a safety drain that keeps the pan from overflowing. But an air handler in the crawlspace does not have a safety pan or float switch.

  I do a lot of Home Inspections and very rarely have I seen a back up drain pipe on a crawlspace air handler. When the condensate pipe gets clogged on an air handler that is in the crawlspace bad things start happening. Water can’t go out the pipe so it backs up into the unit and/or runs out the side and/or bottom of the unit. The longer this goes on the wetter the crawlspace becomes. The air in the crawlspace becomes very humid because of the moisture on the ground. The floor joists absorb moisture and mold begins to grow while you are upstairs enjoying your favorite TV show. This continues all through the summer. There is a break in the winter when the heat pump goes into the heat mode. But in the spring the dampness begins all over again.


Often on Home Inspections I see excessive mold in the crawlspace, along with drooping insulation (another result of excess moisture). Mold needs moisture to grow, so where you find mold you find moisture. As long as the climate stays damp the mold will continue to multiply.  Read more about mold here.


I’m Earl Payne, with Carolina’s Best Home Inspections, serving the Fayetteville, NC and surrounding area, advising you to visit your crawlspace once in a while. Ok, well maybe not you, but get someone you trust to visit your crawlspace once in a while if you are not going to do it yourself. One visit a year isn’t too much. It may save you a lot of money.

To contact us for a Home Inspection call 910-690-4691 (Earl’s cell), 910-692-9429 (Office), or email at earlpayne@gmail.com. You may visit our website at www.carolinasbesthomeinspections.com.

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Comments (2)

Andrew Herren
Craig Massee Real Estate - Milledgeville, GA

Good blog Earl. Dry crawl spaces are very important for a healthy atmosphere in your home. One of the problems I see regularly that contributes to a damp crawl space is duct work that is either un-insulated or under insulated. When that cool air from your system hits the metal duct it will literally rain condensation! It is very important to mastic every connection as well because the duct insulation will only filter the cool air escaping from leaky ducts.

Sep 20, 2011 02:30 AM
Stuart Simm
MAX Home Inspections - Lakeland, FL
The Home Inspector

Earl,

Great article, just last week I has a crawl space which technically I should have left alone because the access point was boarded over and screwed shut, but I think on occasions such as this we need to go further. Ince inside the crawl space it was event nobody had been down there for probably close on 30 years due to the levels of dust. It was hot and I had about 24" of clearance. After crawling under this 2,500sqft ranch for 20 mins I notice in the corner that the wooden floor joists had almost completely rotted away underneath the master bathroom. Laziness or unwillingness to open that crawlspace would have missed this issue and left the owners with a real problem down the line. My advice leave the crawl sopace until last but make sure you do it!

Sep 20, 2011 02:34 AM