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.
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.
What's wrong with this picture?
If you said the chimney is missing a chimney cap, you're right! Such a simple, inexpensive fix. However, if this is left like this, you could be facing one or more of the following issues:
1. Chimney caps keep out birds, BATS, squirrels, and other small rodents. If something crawls into your chimney but gets stuck and can't get out (which happens a lot), not only is that awful for the animal, but you will also be dealing with a dead critter, bad smells, and even bugs (maggots, etc.). Yuck.
2. SAFETY ISSUE - wood burning fireplaces sometimes emit large burning embers that float up the chimney and without a cap, can land on your roof or something equally flammable.
3. Chimney caps help reduce water/moisture that can damage your chimney liner and other components and can also lead to mold.
4. A correctly placed cap can help block downdrafts and excessive wind (especially during hurricanes and other serious weather events) from channeling down your chimney and blowing smoke and/or soot into your living space. Caps also prevent debris like leaves and small branches/twigs from getting inside your chimney.
So what does all of this mean? If you're buying a house, make sure it has a chimney cap! If you own a house with a chimney, go take a look and make sure you have one and that it is securely placed. If you can't tell, then it's time for a roof inspection.
.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
HVAC TIP: Check to make sure there are no gaps! Gaps in the metal exterior duct that leads from the HVAC to the home lets heat escape and lets water in. It can also contaminate the air supply with undesirable fungal growth (think mold). The metal box should be flush and sealed to the home to prevent these serious issues from occurring.
This water stain on the ceiling might seem pretty obvious - but would you, the buyer OR the home owner, notice this in the guest bedroom closet? That is where I found this stain and it led me to the attic to investigate further, where I found evidence of a past active leak. Leaks like this lead to damaged drywall and/or sheathing and possibly mold and should be addressed immediately. Home inspections are crucial to the upkeep and proper maintenance of your home, not just during the buying and selling 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.