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


Unseen Problems Lurking in the Dark (Crawl Space Woes)

At an inspection in Bellingham a few days back at a house with a "basement" I found a concealed crawl space area. This one really was concealed, no outside vents or anything to provide a clue as to its presence. However, when I found a hatch cut in the rotted-out deck, I pried it up and sure enough, there was the crawl space that nobody knew about, thought about or cared about.

As is, the condition of this crawl space alone was enough to stymie the deal on a house that had roof, electric, plumbing and structural issues. There were multiple problems in this crawl space, only a few of which include:

*No cover and strong rodent odors

*No ground cover vapor barrier

*Wood to earth contact, widespread basis

*None accessible, space between structure and grade at entry point is 6 inches

*Zero ventilation

*Insulation installed upside down and rodent chewed

*Moisture level in wood 23%. Even with no earth contact wood can rot at 20% or higher

*Scraps and debris in the crawl space

Per state law, if an inspector is licensed by WA State Dept of Agriculture, he must cite that this crawl space is vulnerable to attack by wood destroying organisms (think rot and insects such as carpenter ants and the dreaded anobiid beetle) and that concealed damage may be present at this time. The mandatory recommendation goes farther and states that the crawl space must be made accessible and then inspected by a licensed and qualified party.

An unseen, unknown, crawl space is in fact more likely to harbor and hide serious problems than a more accessible substructure area.

Steven L. Smith

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Comment balloon 4 commentsSteven L. Smith • February 17 2014 08:13AM


HA!  Does the lot have any market value??  Of course, just tearing down a tax producing property improvement is not uncomplicated nor cheap.

What a waste.  What a waste.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Hi Steven,

I have seen a lot of these bad crawl spaces. I hate to find them. It adds a lot of work to the reports.

Some owners even say we didn't know we even had a crawl space. "And who was your home inspector when you bought the home"? = blank look.

Have a good day out on the West Coast my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 6 years ago

Lenn, you have the right idea...not worth fixing. Would cost more than the asking price.

Clint, you got that right. A crawl space is a bad thing to miss.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 6 years ago

And then there are those people who think they don't need a home inspector to just give it a check!

Posted by Sussie Sutton, David Tracy Real Estate for Buyers & Sellers (David Tracy Real Estate) over 6 years ago