A house’s footings need all the support they can get.
The kind of support I am talking about is the dirt kind. And in this case the footings are for a very tall and heavy chimney. This crawl space has been excavated to create a place for the water heater and the furnace. In the process, the area at the base of the chimney has been excavated vertically leaving the chimney footing vulnerable to undermining and possible collapse.
This 20′ tall chimney weights at least 4-1/2 tons. That amount of weight, coupled with the presence of and/or the lack of moisture in the soil, and/or the odd earthquake, and/or a jet breaking the sound barrier, could result in the chimney ripping down through the house into the crawlspace. While this would most likely do no more than wake the dead, it would be very disconcerting to anyone that might be unlucky enough to be in the crawl space at the time.
In this case, since the furnace needed to be replaced anyway, I recommended that the chimney be removed and that a proper area be constructed for the water heater and the furnace, and to construct walls to properly retain the earthen walls. The buyer had already discussed the desire to gain some space in the kitchen for a proposed remodel, and had shown a desire to install a new high efficiency furnace, so recommending removal of the chimney fit those desires nicely.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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