A crawl space is the area under many homes that are not built on a slab of concrete or built on a basement. Typically, there is an access door on the back or sides of the home. Crawl space Inspections provide access to some of the electrical, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems located below the first floor. Most home owners do not venture into the crawl space unless there is a problem and if they fix the problem, they don’t always do it properly.
Access openings should be at least 18” x 24” for the inspector to safely get in and out. If there is standing water and electrical wiring laying around, most inspectors will not enter, and for good reason. Sometimes there is debris, HVAC ducts and/or plumbing drain pipes preventing full access around all corners. I know an inspector that needed help getting out of a crawl space last year. It is not easy to crawl on your hands and knees the length and width of the home. It’s not fun! It’s dark and dirty but in my opinion, it’s a very important part of a thorough home inspection.
Moisture control and management in the crawlspace is essential for maintaining a good, healthy house. The most common problem associated with wet crawlspaces is that moist conditions can lead to wood destroying fungus that deteriorates exposed framing. In addition, excessive moisture is a conducive condition that can lead to infestation of wood destroying insects, such as termites. In exceptional cases, water penetration into a crawlspace can lead to the undermining of the foundation. Last week I was in a crawl space of a 40 year old home that had moisture problems. It was wet everywhere. There was a working sump pump installed, a nice moisture barrier installed, the downspouts were extending out 5’ all around the house and it was still wet. There were 9 steel jacks installed along the back side (5 appeared to be 10 or 15 years old and 4 were done within the past year).
I often find plumbing leaks, damaged HVAC ducts, water damaged floor sheathing or joist, mold, moisture and other concerns. Most home inspections take 3-4 hours depending on the square footage. 20 minutes in the crawl space is not the most enjoyable part, but the most important part of a great home inspection. The roof and attic being a close second. Make sure your inspector is willing and able to get into the crawl space.