As a home inspector, the basic rule is: “document, document, document.” Even when something seems unimportant or “ancient history” it is important to all parties involved in the transaction to document these past conditions to provide a clear picture of the home.
This is not so much to “project” what is coming down the road but to “document” what has happened so that if it happens again there was at least some warning.
There is just no way around it—some areas may need to be monitored.
Perhaps the basement no longer leaks but the staining all around the paneling indicates that at some point it did. Perhaps new perimeter drains have been installed—-which might be documented as well—-and flooding is no longer likely. The staining still should be noted—it may be seasonal in nature—or only happen under very specific conditions.
The following story is an example of this type of documenting.
In the early fall I inspected a home and noted in the crawl space that a new interior drainage system had been installed (which was noted in the report). Also, at several points around the foundation, there were indications of past moisture intrusion—-as can be seen in the “muddy tan” discolorations in this picture (which was noted in the report). The rusting form ties visible in the photo on top of the footing are further indications that this area has been wet—also documented in the report.
Whether this happened during construction, after construction, or is ongoing or seasonal is difficult to determine at just one visit to the home.
The hole through the foundation is what we call a gravity drain. Builders will sometimes install these drains so that prior to building the home the foundation does not become a swimming pool. These gravity drains can admit lots of water to the crawl space if the exterior ground water is not properly drained away. In this case a feeble attempt at making a place for any incoming water to go has been installed and connected to newer interior drainage that runs to a sump pump on the other side of the crawl space.
There was a rotted support post, due to past flooding, that needed to be replaced, so I was called back to check the repairs about a month later—-after nearly two weeks of constant rain. Here is a picture of that same area taken at the time of the re-inspection.
While you can see that the footing is now all wet, you can’t tell from the photo that there is a little river running under the pipe and into the crawl space—-enough water to pretty much require that the poor little sump pump run continuously.
A very curious condition was causing this to happen. Apparently this gravity drain was tied to the footing drain on the other side of the foundation. This footing drains run around the home to where it runs out into the back yard “somewhere.” Well apparently, the drain in the back yard was somehow blocked. This was evidenced by the fact that whenever the sump pump turned on, water came up out of the ground like a little geyser and flowed on the surface into the back yard. The sump drain terminated in the underground footing drain and because the drain was not draining to the back yard, the sump water had no place to go except to back up around the perimeter drain around the home. It was then flowing back through the foundation and into the crawl space. Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows…
This is a good example of how some defects are just not going to be found during a Standard Home Inspection but by documenting “everything” we can sometimes get hints of issues to come. In this case the termination of the footing drain had to be repaired to eliminate recycling the ground water back into the crawl space.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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