Steven L. Smith, Bellingham, WA Home Inspector (King of the House)


The Rains Came

The rains came and suddenly the crawl space was full of water. The issue of crawl space, and even more serious usually, basement water, is a real concern. It is also tricky for the home inspector. In the Pacific Northwest it is possible to inspect a home in dry months and think it looks good, or at least not alarming, underneath. Then you end up going back in October to February and the piers and posts are underwater or the vapor barrier is floating. At least that kind of situation can apply in the crawl space. In a basement, people's belongings might be underwater. As an inspector, even in dry weather, you try to look for clues of moisture or past moisture -- houses cut into hills or on sloping lots, lots of mud or water stains on the foundation, vapor barrier or structural wood. Problem is, especially in new houses, you just might not be lucky enough to get any of those clues. Below are a few pictures of a home I inspected in summer, and the lower  photos are the same crawl space in winter. Fortunately, I had told the people (house built into hill and I was familiar with the neighborhood) that I ought to come back and check it for them in the winter. It was a home warranty and, for this issue, we were really inspecting the wrong time of year. So, gratis, I drove back out in December. The circumstances were pretty different and glad we did that. You can see how people can end up pretty mad at an inspector, when the crawl space changes so much. The top three pictures were dry time of year, the lower three were winter, same house.


Steven L. Smith

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Comment balloon 2 commentsSteven L. Smith • January 07 2008 02:58PM


Steve, this gets us back to another reason it is so important to inspect new construction.  There is no "history" with new homes  If we inspect the brand new home in June we can tell that those high water marks occurred during construction---perhaps even before there was a house on the foundation.  If we then go back at the end of the warranty period in a year (or whatever) there will at least be a year worth of seasons the crawl space has seen.  Then, if there are additional high water marks we can make appropriate recommendations.  Obviously everyone should be checking their crawl spaces during the rainiest times of the year----or certainly when the ground water level is the highest.
Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 12 years ago

"Obviously everyone should be checking their crawl spaces during the rainiest times of the year----or certainly when the ground water level is the highest."


What you say above is true, but I am convinced that almost nobody ever looks in their own crawl space.I find electricians, plumbers, HVAC pros, contractors and it seems like none of them have a clue what is in their own crawl space. Probably true of home inspectors too, but nobody would want to admit it. The crawl space is ignored from what I can tell, unless it stinks or smells bad, then they might get the high school kid next door to peak in the door. Seriously! 

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 12 years ago