I am not home inspector. I am basically an angry buyer trying to figure out what direction to take regarding issues with the house I purchased. I am looking to get opinions from outside, knowledgeable, and somewhat objective sources. The problems with this house include pervasive mold throughout the structure mainly due to moisture penetration from a combination of poor grading and the fact that 90 percent of the house sits over three separate dirt crawlspaces.
I’ll attempt to keep the focus of this discussion on the inspection of the foundation. I know there are issues with seller disclosure and issues with the seller and buyer agent.
Just to establish a few facts. I am a first time home buyer. At the time, I knew nothing about houses or home construction. I hired US Inspect based three recommendations from my buyer agent. I was not present at the time of the inspection. I was away on temporary duty assignment for the military. I had seen a floor plan provided by the seller agent which showed multiple sections to the foundation. It showed the foundation as L shaped with a crawlspace due north. A basement sitting slightly below this and above the right angle. A “sliver” of a crawlspace on the bottom left partially next to the basement and the rest of the lower right portion of the L which was documented to be a slab foundation. I doubt the home inspector received a copy of this floor plan.
However, the actual foundation is not like that. There are indeed multiple sections, however there is no slab, just one basement and the rest are dirt crawlspaces. One crawlspace is above the basement due north. One is partially wrapped around and below the basement and extends out slightly into the lower right portion of the L. And another composes the rest of the lower right portion of the L.
What is vastly obvious is that additions were added to a baseline structure. That can be seen easily by observing the exterior cement types and the fact that an addition was added to create an apartment (it could have been mistaken as a garage at one time - far bottom of the L ).
First, should the inspector have clearly identified that there are multiple sections to the foundation if this were obvious? Secondly, should references to “crawlspace” be clear in terms of them being multiple as opposed to singular?
The inspector “mentions” crawlspace three times in his report. In only one instance, in the structural section, does he go into depth on a crawlspace section since he found an access to it. This is due north of the basement. He observes that the entrance is too narrow but still accessible. However, asbestos was present and obstructed him. He could not see any visible signs of mold, recommended removal of the asbestos, recomended further inspection of the area, identified a dirt floor and recommended installation of a vapor barrier. This was accurate and acceptable in my opinion and made sense. He took pictures of this crawlspace.
In another paragraph, in the structural section, he mentions that a subfloor around a toilet is a weak and that it may need replacement. He states “that it was not observed from “THE” crawlspace.” Now this a completely different crawlspace. It is obviously separated BY THE BASEMENT and ANOTHER crawlspace and it was obviously added on…it is located in the apartment on the far right bottom of the L on the other side of the building.
At this point, it appears as if he considers the structure to have a single crawlspace. Is this normal? In this context of a sinking toilet, what does it mean when he says “the” crawlspace? Should one infer that it was the crawlspace due north since he never IDENTIFIES the presence of another crawlspace area DISTINCTLY, in the structural section.
That’s it in terms of crawlspaces in the structural section.
The third reference is a blurb under a “PICTURE” he takes of a peice of plywood on the exterior of the lower right of the L. He has pulled it off exposing just insulation. He states that he thought it might be a crawlspace entrance but that it was not.
That’s completely it in terms of foundation. No warnings about inaccessible areas needing further examination etc -
After reading the report, I made the assumption that the only real concern was the crawlspace with the asbestos since he had included very little documentation about the other areas of the foundation. However, to confirm that the rest of the foundation was in good order (I was concerned about the slab components which he never mentioned) I followed up with a few phone calls and asked him several questions about the crawlspace and the rest of the foundation. I asked about ventilation in the crawlspace since he hadn’t documented it, and specifically about the rest of the foundation; were there any cracks or other issues with it? He said there was ventilation and no major issues with the rest of the foundation.
I did a final walk-through, noticed a horrendous odor of mothballs asked about it was told it was due to “dog smell” and proceeded to confirm the main issue of concern which was the cleanup of the asbestos and that was it. (BTW my wife had done the house-hunting and said the mothball smell was present then too). I ask the seller to remove the mothballs.
Anyway, we move in, discover that the mothballs were not removed so we proceed to remove them. The next morning we wake literally with our eyes watering from the toxicity of the odor of mold and mildew. I track it to the closet. Find an entrance open it. A quarter inch thick of black fungus growing on the top rung of the latter. A dirt crawlspace with standing pools of water and dripping insulation. No dehumidifier. It was horrendous.
Thus started my major, episodic journey into a nightmare which has since played a major part in destroying my marriage, my life savings and has brought me to the point now where I finally have save some money to file a lawsuit against everyone involved.
But I digress.
So I looking back over the inspection report, I wonder if these issues should have been caught by the inspector, (beyond the ambiguity of the use of the term crawlspace and failure to identify unique and separate components to the foundation.) and would like opinions of whether or not a prudent responsible inspector would have found them.
there are two vents on the top (north) of the crawlspace which he never investigates. He could clearly have taken photos of these and even inside of these. They were grated without screens to prevent bugs/rodent entry. Also it would have been obvious that these were created above the sills and not into the foundation itself.
In the lower left of the basement, between the rafters the second crawlspace could be viewed partially. This area was visible and unobstructed and is documented as such in one of the inspection report photos. He just never looked over the perimeter of the basement foundation walls. Had he photographed inside this area, it would have proven to show a cinder block foundation with a dirt floor and joists sitting no more than two - three inches above the earth (the floor nearby is collapsing due to rot and nevermind the mold). This crawlspace area is completely inaccessible. There is no entrance.
An entrance to the crawlspace under the apartment is located in the closet of the main unit’s master bedroom. I do NOT know for a fact that this was accessible, visible, and unobstructed during his inspection but based on a statement of the owner it was and that the inspector just missed it. The inspector did not take any interior photos of the main unit bedrooms.
There are four vents on the outside of the apartment indicating the presence of a crawlspace. He did not photograph these. It would have provided a very strong visual clue of the presence of a crawlspace.
Poor external grading. In some areas the slope is towards the building so I have pictures of water pooling against the foundation. In many locations the sill is no more than 1/2 an inch to five inches above the earth. Again this is documented in his photo’s of other things.
No ridge vent on the roof of the apartment - but soffits exist. It’s a cathedral ceiling…
Sorry for the long post…but it’s a long story.
Thanks for the help. Great site by the way.