The crawlspace in a home may seem like a dark and mysterious place, but in actuality, it’s just dark. A crawlspace inspection will reveal many things about a home. Good and bad. The nice part of having a crawlspace is that everything is accessible. If you want to do some modifications to the plumbing or electrical, it’s pretty easy to do from under the house, as compared to a slab-on-grade home where you’re breaking up concrete to move some plumbing around.
When looking at the plumbing you’ll want to note if it’s properly supported, does it show signs of leaking. If it’s a leaking waste line it can create a host of problems, such as microbial growth and odors. Even a small leak can cause elevated moisture levels conducive to wood decay, mold, and fungus growth, which can turn into a costly repair. Airborne mold spores can potentially enter the living space from the crawlspace. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Homes infected with molds and fungus are also much more difficult to sell, often requiring costly remediation prior to closing the deal.
Look also for loose wiring, unsupported wiring that may have fallen to the floor, open junction boxes, and apparently abandoned wiring. Any of these conditions should be evaluated and corrected by a licensed electrical contractor.
Look around to see if it’s bolted to the foundation. Installation of anchor bolts may not have been required when the home was built. Older homes are inspected within the context of the time period in which they were built, taking into account the generally-accepted building practices of that time period. Homes are not required to be constantly upgraded to comply with newly-enacted building codes but are only required to comply with building codes or generally-accepted standards that existed at the time of original construction. If the home is located in an area where seismic activity is significant, you might want to consider consulting with an Engineer or licensed Contractor about retrofitting the structure to meet current standards.
Joists should be fully supported, not hanging out in the air. This can cause uneven finished floors and annoying squeaks.
Look for evidence of termites, mice, rats and other unsavory critters. These pests can cause major and expensive damage to all of the components located in the crawlspace. These are only some of the issues you may find.
don't skip the crawl
It’s important not to overlook the crawlspace when performing a home inspection. The crawlspace usually includes a little bit of everything. There’s plumbing, electrical, structural, and HVAC components to most crawlspaces. Before entering the crawlspace you’ll want to outfit yourself with the proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). You’ll want to have a bump cap, goggles, face mask, gloves, knee pads, coveralls, and a flashlight, at minimum.
Look around for structural deficiencies. In an older structure it’s probably not going to have any of the seismic hardware required by today’s building standards. Check the perimeter sole plate
your crawlspace inspection wrap-up
The bottom line is, it’s not dark in the crawlspace if you take your flashlight, and it’s no mystery if you know what to look for. It’s easy to say that the crawlspace is inaccessible, but sometimes you need to put in the extra effort.