Here at Smith & Smith Home Inspections of Murfreesboro TN, there are common defects and problem areas that we find in crawl spaces, no matter the age of the house. An advantage of purchasing a home with a crawl space is that your home inspector can see the condition of the house’s bottom plates, rim joists and overall floor structure. Your home inspector can also observe if there are any flaws in the plumbing and/or wiring, if there were past or present leaks under the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms, and, most importantly, if there has been any movement in the foundation wall.
During a home inspection, it is very important to observe the entire perimeter of the crawl space. Leaks or moisture intrusion at the roof eaves, siding, windows and doors can be seen as moisture stains and/or rot on the rim joists, joist ends and bottom plates. These are also the main areas where one will find termite damage. I find termite damage at past or present moisture intrusions, behind mulched areas, behind areas that have siding touching grade, and the side where the garage slab meets the house. Plus, past or present termite tunnels are easy to observe inside a crawl space. As a home inspector, I poke and prod all wood with moisture stains and all wood above past or present termite tunnels to discover rot and insect damage.
The most common leak to find in a crawl space is around toilets. If a wax ring is not installed properly, or the toilet is not secured enough to the bathroom floor, a leak will occur. You can check if a toilet is secured properly to the floor by placing each knee up against the toilet sides, and lightly push/pull with your legs. If I discover a loose toilet in any bathroom, more than 90% of the time, I will discover active moisture stains under that toilet. If an active leak is found under a toilet, you must go ahead and replace the wax ring before you refasten or tighten the toilet connection to the floor.
Another important area in crawl space inspections are plumbing and electrical wiring. I find pipes and wiring not supported properly all the time. If not supported properly, plumbing pipes can sag when filled with water. The weight of the water can break connections, or the joints, and cause serious leaks, which, in turn, could cause expensive water damage. As for what could be discovered wrong with electrical wiring, for example, the other day a client asked me why the kitchen island did not have an electrical outlet. With the Murfreesboro house being only two years old, I assumed the electrician must have just forgot to wire an outlet to the kitchen island. Under the kitchen, I found a live wire (safety hazard) labeled “kitchen island”. It was wired downstream from the kitchen ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), but never found its way to the kitchen island.
Lastly, crawl spaces are great places for home inspectors to observe the condition of foundation walls. Not all cracks in foundation walls are serious concerns. Vertical hairline cracks can be pretty common, and can be caused by normal house settlement and compression and tension on the concrete. New homes can start seeing vertical cracks after only a couple of years. While you might not necessarily have to do anything to fix hairline or vertical cracks at the moment, you must continue to monitor them. Since cracks can change subtly over time, the best way to measure changes is to take pictures and measure cracks every six months to a year. Horizontal cracks can point to a more serious problem. They can be caused by hydrostatic pressure (the outward and downward pressure caused by standing water pushing against any object or surface that blocks it) due to gutter of downspout issues, and/or negative grading at the house perimeter. Diagonal and stair-step cracks can indicate differential settlement, and are commonly found in houses built on hillsides. Any cracks measuring more than 1/4-inch wide should be evaluated and addressed by a foundation specialist. However, some foundation experts say cracks more than 1/8-inch wide should be addressed. Another foundation defect that should be addressed is when bricks or blocks are displaced, or they appear to be pushed in or out from the wall.
At Smith & Smith Home Inspections, I provide due diligence in finding and informing my clients of all crawl space problems observed, whether big or small. We provide home buyer inspections throughout Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Lebanon, Shelbyville, Manchester, McMinnville, La Vergne, Winchester, Woodbury, Columbia, Nashville & The Greater Middle Tennessee Area. Contact us today to schedule your inspection!