Crawlspace Inspection, Part One - Cracks and Leakage
A crawlspace is one of those critical areas of our house, which can either make our lives better or more miserable. The tendency for home owners is to completely forget about it so long as the home inspector doesn't bring the subject to the surface.
It is ugly, dirty, often wet, sometimes flooded, and most of the time - full of surprises.
In several of my posts, I've emphasized the importance of exploring this area, especially when preparing your house for sale. Any accessible crawlspace will most likely be evaluated by a home inspector, and taking care of some of the possible issues before they are delivered in the inspection report, could make the difference between selling the house ... or not.
So, what can go wrong? Depending on your house design, you might have all, some, or none of the following:
1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation 3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace 4. Plumbing components issues - leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems 5. Heating system issues 6. Electrical component issues 7. Floor framing and structure support issues 8. Structural pest infestation - those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, Carpenter Ants, etc. 9. Mold problems 10. Ventilation
... there may be more problems in the crawlspace, but those are my Top Ten winners.
1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems - Generally speaking, cracks that are less than 1/4" open are not commonly regarded as being structurally significant. However, if you're noticing displacement on both sides of the crack, significant separation, distortion, uneven sagging / sinking of the foundation section (usually accompanied by sloping / uneven floors), buckling, horizontal cracks - get a foundation specialist / structural engineer to get a professional assessment. Some of those problems may not be noticeable on the exterior for a long time, and a good example would be horizontal crack. This is just one of the reasons to visit your crawlspace periodically.
2. Leaking foundation - there may be small and large cracks that won't cause any seepage because the drainage system and grading (positive / away from the house sloping of soil and hard surfaces) around the house have been properly designed. However, if the area surrounding your property has a negative slope, the rain water will be directed towards the foundation, and there's a big chance that the cracks will leak. Another factor increasing chances of your foundation cracks leakage is a so called "water table" - it's the top level (surface) of ground waters, which may be sometimes higher than the floor of your crawlspace. In such cases, the water pressure will force water through the foundation cracks. The solution is rather simple; it would require the resealing of leaking cracks. The most popular method involves injecting an epoxy mix into the holes predrilled along the crack opening. The two most popular companies in Illinois are Perma Seal and US Waterproofing (I have no affiliation with them at all, though), and what you get is usually a 10 year to lifetime transferable warranty on performed repairs - that's an important asset when you're selling your property. Your other option is to dig on the exterior (or have somebody do it for you), all the way to the base of foundation, clean the surface and seal it.
More in Crawlspace Inspection, Part Two - Crawlspace Drainage and Flooding.