This image can strike fear in the hearts of buyers, sellers, and agents alike. The issue here is called "stair stepping cracks" and they can occur in any foundations with joints and mortar (brick, cement). The good news is that stepping cracks are not an automatic deal-breaker. They CAN be repaired in most cases. The key is to having a foundation professional (typically a structural engineer) evaluate the structural integrity of the foundation and of course, the home above it. All homes settle and shift, so it's not uncommon to see these kinds of cracks in older homes, especially near the corners. If an engineer deems the structure to be sound, that clears the way for repairs and a smooth buying and selling experience. Call us at 919-914-0606 or schedule online to help ensure you have this type of important information before you buy OR sell!
Your home has a relentless enemy - do you know what it is? Water, water, water.
Did the recent heavy rains turn the leaves in your gutters into mush? It's very important to make sure your gutters are clear and that the water that accumulates has a way to exit down and away from your home. Maintenance home inspections not only check your gutters, but also your downspouts, soffits and fascia, siding, crawl space, foundation and grading, all to make sure your home is adequately moving water AWAY from it. We cannot stress enough how much water is the worst enemy of your home. Call us at 919-914-0606 or book your inspection online - we are OPEN for business and exercising all recommended safety precautions. Be well!
Can you tell what is going on in this crawl space? Notice the dark spots on the foundation wall and the white wave-like deposits directly under the dark spots? Those white deposits are salt/mineral stains and are a phenomenon called "efflorescence". Efflorescence is found when conditions inside the foundation are repeatedly wet and dry from water infiltration. Water is the number one enemy of your home and you definitely do not want any inside your crawl space. Direct water penetration into the crawl space (from cracks in the foundation, leaks from plumbing pipes, missing/inadequate vapor barriers, etc.) can damage the foundation and wood structure, and create an undesirable environment in the living areas that encourages insect and fungal growth such as mold/mildew. It's a good idea to have annual inspections of your crawl space performed - especially after the kind of rain we have received lately. This kind of home maintenance can save you thousands of dollars down the road and help keep your home (and the air in it) safe.
At a recent home inspection, I discovered that the drain pipe in the crawl space under the kitchen was leaking. Since we use modern, web-based reporting software, I was able to take a video of the leak (far more informative than just a photo) and include it right in the report. Just another reason why home buyers and realtors love us and our modern 2020 way of doing things. Having clear color photos AND videos really does make an impact.
What serious concerns do you see in these pictures and what is the main cause of these concerns? Pictures 1 and 2 are suspected MOLD. Picture 3 is rotted a rotted wood beam. What do they all have in common? Moisture. It's the number one enemy of your crawl space and your home and all kinds of bad things happen when it is present. Sometimes it is an easy fix that involves making sure your downspouts drain away from the home and there is a proper vapor barrier on the floor of the crawl space. Sometimes the fix is more involved and costly. But one thing that is always true is that the sooner you catch it, the better off you'll be and since most people don't enter their crawl spaces very often (if ever), a pre-listing, pre-purchase, or maintenance home inspection is so extremely important and cost effective.
REALTOR Spotlight: Kelly Alexander, Go Realty - Better Homes and Gardens. We have had the privilege of working with Kelly and her clients on many occasions and we have seen first-hand her dedication to the people she represents and her knowledge about the buying and selling process in the Triangle area. She is very responsive to calls and texts, coordinates the MANY moving parts in a real estate transaction, and helps educate her clients along the way. She attends inspections and joins me in the crawl space just so that she can see herself what I've found. On one occasion I arrived at an inspection to find her helping a client move a refrigerator out of the home. Her level of attention to her clients is top notch and we highly recommend her to buyers AND sellers! You can reach her at 919-414-9307 or at email@example.com. Thanks for all you do, Kelly!
Our home inspections cover A LOT. Typically, we inspect every single room and component inside and outside of your home or prospective home (when accessible). Imagine buying a home and moving in and then realizing the oven doesn't work, the exterior wood trim is decayed and letting water in, the crawl space lights don't function, several outlets have open grounds or reverse polarity (which is a safety issue), the spare bedroom window is broken, and there is a mysterious stain on the ceiling in the master bedroom closet. Issues like this will get discovered in your home inspection and included in the web-based report (with pictures AND VIDEO). Even new houses and houses at the 11-month warranty deadline will have issues - but houses that are 5+ years old and older DEFINITELY need to be inspected and more than pay for themselves in every inspection I have done over the years.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and sometimes, a video is worth a thousand pictures. In this case, we see a brick support pier that looks a little askew at first glance. But as the video shows, it has completely separated from the wall which can jeopardize the stability of the structure. We use short videos like this when necessary to highlight concerns in a very direct and easy-to-see way. These videos go directly into our web-based home inspection reporting software so that when you receive your report, you are not only getting pictures and detailed language, but also videos when pertinent.
.Can you spot the problem here?
We'll give you a hint... it rhymes with 'hissing clownsprout'.
This gutter is missing a downspout (right side). That means that all of the water from rain, melting snow, etc. drains directly into the area next to and into the foundation. As water penetrates into the foundation month after month, year after year, the foundation starts to deteriorate and the area beneath the home (crawl space) is subjected to repeated exposure to moisture (hello mold). It is recommended that a gutter system with extended downspouts at least 3-6 feet away from the home be installed to protect the wall cladding and foundation areas of the home. This is a common concern/defect that the home inspector finds during his inspections and a very easy fix!
This is definitely NOT what you want to see when entering a crawl space. Nearly all of the beams and joists in this home were being supported by very unstable "piers" that have been cobbled together using bricks and other materials (including a doorstop!). These are temporary fixes at best and very dangerous, as small crawl spaces like this are rarely entered/monitored. If the pier(s) were to collapse, it could be months or longer before the homeowner realized that large portions of the home were not stable (not to mention all the termite damage!). This is another example of why inspecting crawl spaces is so important.
The crawl space is one of the most crucial areas a home inspector should inspect. This particular opening isn't exactly large, but trust us, our inspector Rick has gotten into MUCH smaller spaces (attic openings are especially fun!). A home's crawl space often contains HVAC components, exposed plumbing pipes, insulation, and vapor barriers and/or other encapsulation materials. All of these items should be carefully inspected to ensure they are functioning as intended. Signs of trouble can also be spotted in the foundation and in crawl spaces that are wet and musty - dry is what he's looking for!
Image courtesy of Trevor Holman Photography
Mushrooms on your burger with swiss cheese? Yes, please! Mushrooms in your crawl space (with or without cheese)? That's a big NO. Mushrooms love and need the one thing you absolutely do NOT want in your crawl space or basement - moisture. I know we sound like a broken record, but we can't stress enough how important it is to keep your crawl space dry. If it's wet enough to grow mushrooms, it's wet enough to grow other organic material like mold and over time, it can compromise your foundation as well. Plus all that moisture has a tendency to creep up into your living space.
After all the rain from Hurricane Florence, we thought it would be a good time to remind everyone about a very simple fix that can save you thousands of dollars in water/foundation damage.
ALL of the downspouts and pipes around your home should extend at least 6 feet away from your foundation. You can do this yourself by adding flexible pipe (found at Lowes or Home Depot) to the end of the downspout, or if you want something more aesthetically pleasing, you can have piping like a French drain added below ground, leading away from the foundation.
If you don't address drainage issues (like the one pictured), water - especially heavy rainfall - will continually seep into the foundation, crawl space, etc., and will gradually weaken the foundation and make your home unstable. Cracks in the foundation will eventually form under these conditions and could lead to major (and costly) damage over time.
Do you remember "hanging chads"? Well this might be even more cringe-worthy. Hanging insulation is pretty darn useless (at best), as it is not doing its job of protecting your home and your hard-earned money. Condensation has made this insulation wet, which causes it to deteriorate and it will eventually fall to the ground. Wet insulation supports mold growth and insects/vermin, and leads to unfavorable environmental conditions in your home (cold floors, poor air quality, lost heat). Crawlspaces can be dirty, cramped, uncomfortable spaces (with shockingly large spiders in residence) so oftentimes people tend to avoid them, which is why insulation and moisture issues go undetected. Our home inspector is well-versed in cramped crawlspaces and will thoroughly inspect yours to ensure all is well.
YES x 2. This home gets it right! First up - the downspout has an extension attached to it that continues underground AWAY from the foundation. Having a 3-foot extension (underground or above ground) is a quick and easy way to help keep your foundation dry. We cannot tell you how many homes the inspector sees that have multiple downspouts that drain directly down into the foundation, which can cause all sorts of problems like excess moisture and organic matter (i.e., MOLD) in the crawlspace (just two examples). Second - the bushes near the home are trimmed so that no foliage touches any part of the home. Tree branches, bushes, and other vegetation touching siding and roof shingles causes wear, damage, and serves as a conduit for insects. As in bugs. As in... late night shouts for help to kill the creepy crawly above the bed.
With all this rain in NC, it's a good time to head to your crawl space and check for moisture. If you see white salt deposits (efflorescence) and damp corners like in this photo, it means your foundation has been cyclically wet and dry. Direct water penetration damages the foundation, the wood structure, and creates an undesirable environment in the living areas that encourages insect and or/fungal growth such as mold/mildew. Call us at 919-921-8400 or book an inspection online and we can help you determine the weather-tightness of your home.
From Rick & Lori:
Yes, we've joined the 21st Century and started a (mini) blog! Check here for great updates and tips about your current or prospective home.