It is common for homes in Indiana to have a basement or crawl space. They are often used to hide “ugly” parts of the house like plumbing or HVAC units, and in the case of basements, are extra living/storage space and a place to shelter from storms. However, basements and crawl spaces are often a breeding ground for structural problems in your home. Because they are at ground level or underground, water can cause major damage. Unless you have a nice finished basement, most people don’t spend time in the basement or crawl space, meaning problems can turn serious before you even know about them. Here are some of the issues I see on a regular basis during my home inspections.
1. Hydrostatic Pressure on Basement Wall
When in a basement that has block walls, you may see a crack just below the ground level. The ground settles against the home and freezes. Just like in an ice, the ground expands and pushes on the basement wall. When the ground thaws out, it settles slightly. Over time the ground pushes on the wall so much that it cracks the basement wall in a horizontal line. Over time, the time can get so large that the wall will fall in on itself.
2. Improperly Cut Floor Joists
When a home is being built, there are several phases to completion. After subflooring and walls are erected, the sub-contractors will be called in to install HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc. Some less professional companies will cut out or over notch support members that are in place for structural support. These cuts typically don’t cause an immediate problem. However, the problems arise after months or sometimes years of settling.
Crawl Space Areas
1. Rotten Subflooring from Above Leaks
Common leaks occur around windows, doors, toilets. If he moisture is not permitted to dry out, the wood will become soft and rotten.
2. Missing or Deteriorated Vapor Barrier on Crawl Space Floor
The vapor barrier is an important element to having a weather-tight foundation. The idea is that any water shedding from the block wall or coming up from the ground will stay under the plastic. If water gets above the vapor barrier or a floor without a barrier, the moisture can condensate on the subflooring and ductwork above. This will cause subflooring to rot and mold. Even a crawl space that is poured concrete should ideally have a vapor barrier. Concrete is porous and can allow moisture through.
Before buying or selling a house, it is important to have these “hidden” areas of the home inspected for potential problems. It can be difficult and costly to make repairs to a basement or crawl space, so it’s ideal to catch any issues early. Regularly inspect your basement or crawl space, or have a professional inspect it, to avoid expensive repairs.