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!
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.
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.
.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!
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
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.
Don't step on a crack or ... Actually this is a vertical crack. IN THE FOUNDATION. Keep your eyes peeled for tell-tale signs like this that could affect the stability of your current or prospective home. When walking around the exterior of the home and when looking inside the crawlspace (if you can get in there, you should), pay very close attention to the condition of the foundation walls. Stepping cracks, horizontal, and vertical cracks can all indicate potential problems. Sometimes these are easily fixed but sometimes the repairs can be quite costly. Our home inspector will locate and identify these types of issues so that you can make an informed decision about the next steps in the buying process.
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.