If you want a very dark, Bukowskiesque and cynical look at modern day life, and perhaps reflect on ones own drinking habits, I highly recommend the movie Barfly. But be warned, this movie is not for the squeamish or easily offended. Even some of you that are NOT easily offended might find parts of this movie a little over the top. It is nonetheless very funny, sad, and poignant.
One of the great lessons to be learned from the movie, and there are many, is when Henry (Mickey Rourke) talks about how one of the things he can’t stand is “obviousness.”
The crawl spaces of homes can be dark places too. Only a very naive person would think these places would not fit well in a Bukowskiesque view of the world. Suiting up to do battle in a crawl space is a lot like climbing onto some tattered, booze and urine soaked bar stool–right along side all the creatures that have slid in off the city streets looking for solace and connection. Instead of the stench of centuries old booze, urine and body odor, we have oily rat pee, raccoon feces and the smell of raw sewage.
There really is no excuse for letting our crawl spaces become the places that inspectors hate. They get this way one day at a time. The same way a barfly becomes the fixture they do–one drink at a time–some by luck–some by mental defect. However explainable, there are no “good” excuses for how people’s lives end up in the Bukowskiesque bars all around America. If we paid attention to the details as we went along, perhaps we could avoid both the sad story of most crawl spaces and barflies. Certainly most children do not say that when they grow up they want to be a barfly. Well the same is true of any home–that crawl space “generally” starts out clean, rat free, and something someone was possibly even proud of.
So what happens along the way?
Whether it is in our lives or in our homes, it is because we don’t pay enough attention to the details.
If someone went down into the crawl space and checked on things at least once a year, and took care of issues as they cropped up, they would not turn into the monstrous places that they turn into so often.
But back to obviousness.
At a recent inspection, of what I consider a “new home”–only 5 years old–there should be no real issues to speak of. However this house was suffering from a very bad infestation of rodents that had been going on since day one. Hopefully this house was not inspected when purchased, as the number of locations where critters could get in should have been noted. However if the buyer waived an inspection because: “Who the hell needs an inspection–the house is new,” I think someone made a mistake in judgment, and did not pay enough attention to the details.
To not send someone down into the crawl space a year after purchase, prior to the end of their warranty period, was again not paying enough attention to the details–as significant costs could have been avoided by nipping the infestation in the bud. Five years later things were a real mess–all for NO REASON. Except not paying attention to the details.
How were the critters getting into the space? It was all too obvious–and now aren’t we all starting to hate “obviousness?” The two most important locations were the gravity drain and the main house sewer drain.
Gravity drains are installed by the builder during construction so that the foundation doesn’t fill up with rain water before the house is built. They can also be a place to drain water away after construction whether from water intrusion from the outside or from catastrophic plumbing leaks. This fix probably costs about $.75 to fix.
Intrusion at the plumbing waste drain was due to a missing cap on the test balloon port. All plumbing systems have to be tested for leaks. This test involves inserting a balloon device into the pipe through the test port and inflating it to seal the pipe. The entire piping system is then filled with water until it runs out the vent pipe above the roof. When done with the test, the balloon is removed and a proper cap is put in place. This cap may cost $3.29–if you were the plumber that installed the port, the cap probably came with the fitting.
So now, for want of $4.04 we are looking at several thousand dollars in repairs and crawl space cleaning.
Sooner or later someone has to pay attention to the details and someone has to pay.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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