I inspected a very nice brick veneer home in a very upscale neighborhood a while back. This house was on a very large, sloped lot with an incredible panoramic view of the mountains and Puget Sound. The house, being a year older than me, I fully expected it to have a few aches and pains. Its curb appeal I am sure exceeded mine. The landscaping was “phenomenal”—-including fruit trees loaded with apples and pears. The house had that “magazine look.”
I always save the crawl space for last. Kind of like eating the frosting on the cake last—-always looking to save the best for last. I wish there was some “practical” way to do the crawl space first, because the issues that turn “buyers” into “walkers” occur in the crawl space so often. But as inspectors it is important to do this area last, as this is where the plumbing leaks are going to show up, and if we haven’t tested all the plumbing fixtures yet, we are not going to have the best information about the crawl space or the plumbing.
I finished inspecting the house and suited-up and headed into the crawl space. Typically during the rest of the inspection I am keeping an eye open for the location of the crawl space access—-whether it is inside or outside. It was not obvious where this one was. I finally located it behind several filing cabinets that were up against a wall that covered the space under the basement stairs. (This is the point where many inspectors would say, “See you later, call me back when you have made access.”) The agent helped me move the stuff out of the way, and the inspection of the crawl space could proceed.
Huge “RED FLAGS” in the Basement Kitchen, and Basement Bathroom, had already alerted me to the likelihood of serious issues in the crawl space and I was not willing to go away and risk that my buyer might make a decision about the house without knowing what was going on down there. The extent and severity of the issues in the crawl space only became apparent when I crawled inside. The crawl space was large—-perhaps 16 feet by 40 feet. There were two crawl space vents—-both on one side, and one was boarded over. Typically a crawl space of this size would have the equivalent of 12 to 16 vents. Even worse than the lack of venting, was that there was NO GROUND COVER (vapor retarder). Random sampling of wood structures throughout the crawl space showed moisture levels well above what is considered necessary to support rot and Anobiid Beetles—-and this is the dry season. Now picture this condition for 63 years.
Let’s go back to those “RED FLAGS” for a moment. The Basement Bathroom had tiled walls and floors. This first picture shows what the tile joint at the wall and floor “should” look like—-or at least “closer” to what it should look like. Notice how the black base board tiles are more or less flush with the floor tiles after they curve?
The other side of the bathroom shows where the floor all along the wall has actually dropped over an inch. The gap has been filled with spray foam. The explanation for this drop all along the length of the bathroom (and the adjacent kitchen) is the result of the collapse of the double foundation sill plate due to decay/rot (visible in the crawl space).
The rotten bones of this houses floor structure are in far worse condition than my bones are. Even my toes never saw as much fungal growth as this crawl space. All wood structures of this crawl space were severely compromised by wood decay/rot and Anobiid Beetles. The only thing I found amazing was that there wasn’t more damage given the length of time and the missing ground cover. The entire basement space—– partitions, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and family room, will all have to be removed in order to completely replace the entire floor structure, including the foundation sill plates, rim joists, beams and floor joists. 63 years has taken its toll. Here are several pictures of the fungus covered wood floor structures and resultant damage.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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