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  1. #1
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    Cool To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Are there any inspectors out there that do not go into crawlspaces? If so, how do you disclaim not going into the crawlspace? As an inspector for 6 years, I have always went into to crawlspaces when safe to do so and generally have felt that I was adding value to the process by finding things that would be important to the buyer.

    But today I received an email from a client I did an inspection for in November lambasting me about the rusted waste pipe under the kitchen that I didn't mention in the report. The problem was and I indicated it in the report that I wasn't able to go through the entire crawlspace because the dirt level in some areas were higher and made it impossible without a shovel to go through. Anyhow, that didn't stop the buyer from "ripping me a new one" via email regarding the issue.

    That being said, I've heard of some inspectors not going into crawlspaces but I thought it was more a personal preference or maybe a health or size consideration. Please share your thoughts.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    There will always be things you cannot see, disclaim it and move on. Just make sure your client knows and understands the ramifications. Manage their expectations and take a few photos documenting the reason you could not inspect an area or component.
    If you inspect in an area with crawls, not inspecting them as a general rule would not be acceptable since you would not be serving your clients interest, IMHO.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  3. #3
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Sean,

    I Got The Call from a Kid with pretty much the same "Issue."

    This crawl was too low ( a kitchen addition ) at some point in it's 60 year life.
    * took a picture wet, wires hanging and running on the ground.

    Kid said You Would Have caught that RIGHT!

    Well kid I disclaimed that in The Inspection Report. You did read it didn't You ?
    * if it's not safe Nobody but me decides if I'm going in.

    First and last call from the kid.
    .
    * the kicker was his Agent paid for the inspection because he refused one.
    .

    Last edited by Billy Stephens; 01-18-2010 at 11:31 AM. Reason: 50 to 60 year, buy to but
    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    I won't crawl through feces for a standard inspection fee.
    I will provide pics as far in as reasonable and describe how far I got, etc.
    Watch out for hidden crawls under additions, those you can miss completely.
    Disclaim inaccessible areas.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    My feeling is that if somebody doesn't do crawlspaces, they better be prepared to pay for the things they could/should have seen. That said, many crawls are not totally observable like you mentioned Sean. Your client is just PO'd because he's stuck with a bill on an unexpected defect. As long as you documented in the report why you were not able to see everything, you've done as much as you can.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    As long as you documented in the report why you were not able to see everything, you've done as much as you can.
    I think it is more than just documenting what you could not inspect and putting that in the report, I think it is in the client's best interest - and that of the inspector - to also actually write it up and recommend a course of action that the client can take.

    Such as: a) have a plumber come out with a shovel and tunnel under there to check it; b) have a plumber put a camera snake down the pipes; have an electrician, HVAC technician, structural engineer, etc. as applicable to what you suspect is under there, to go in and check it - they can follow the plumber's tunneling path.

    That way you are not only telling the client that you could not get in there, but that THEY SHOULD HAVE IT DONE BEFORE CLOSING, and, yeah, it will cost extra to have it done.

    There will be very few times the client will opt to have it done, but ... NOW you have made them aware of the problem AND the expense to "go in there", and when they say "I'll just wait, I can save enough NOT HAVING it done to pay to fix something." they may just be right or not .

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  7. #7
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I think it is more than just documenting what you could not inspect and putting that in the report, I think it is in the client's best interest - and that of the inspector - to also actually write it up and recommend a course of action that the client can take.

    Such as: a) have a plumber come out with a shovel and tunnel under there to check it; b) have a plumber put a camera snake down the pipes; have an electrician, HVAC technician, structural engineer, etc. as applicable to what you suspect is under there, to go in and check it - they can follow the plumber's tunneling path.

    That way you are not only telling the client that you could not get in there, but that THEY SHOULD HAVE IT DONE BEFORE CLOSING, and, yeah, it will cost extra to have it done.

    There will be very few times the client will opt to have it done, but ... NOW you have made them aware of the problem AND the expense to "go in there", and when they say "I'll just wait, I can save enough NOT HAVING it done to pay to fix something." they may just be right or not .
    I agree 100%.
    Or should I say the BTR. AZ Board of Technical Registration agrees.
    In AZ that applies to anything that one could not access.

    Phoenix AZ Resale Home, Mobile Home, New Home Warranty Inspections. ASHI Certified Inspector #206929 Arizona Certified Inspector # 38440
    www.inspectaz.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Sean,

    Your client is just looking to fix blame and shift responsibility. I usually do a pre-briefing explaining what I do and the limitations. Since most houses here have crawlspaces we are pretty clear about how viewable they are and sight limitations. I usually include pictures to show what I was seeing and what it looked like.

    One of the things that I always have to remind myself to document is what I wasn't able to see. Many years ago I had a client call me about a cracked wall in a garage that was built into a hillside. There were significant displacement cracks in the wall. Fortunately I was able to recall that there were shelves against the wall (the shadows helped) and that the owners had placed excess furnishings in the garage. I took the position that the area was not accessible or viewable and fortunately the client accepted it. Pictures and a statement in the report would have been the correct way to handle it. Today that is how I document it and everyone should. It might not keep you out of court but it will substantiate that you were doing a visual inspection.

    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    75% or more of the houses in my area (Oregon) have crawls so this is a VERY familiar issue. It's not even so much of an issue or what you do or don't as it is explaining and documenting what you do an don't do.

    A phrase I use a lot goes something like......... "Adequate clearance throughout the crawl space should be provided and the inspection should be completed. No evaluation or inspection of any inaccessible areas was performed." - This typically follows my description of the areas I couldn't get to.

    I'll usually take a couple pictures using my flashlight as a measuring stick and put them in the report. Very often heat ducts, plumbing pipes, dead animals, insulation, rat crap, garbage and other items restrict access. I don't wade through the junk. Just take a bunch of pictures, write it up and move on.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    I've never heard of an inspector that refuses to go into crawlspaces but I have heard of several that don't go in very far.

    I penetrate as far as reasonable and then some at times and clearly include in the report what I could not see and why.

    As someone said, discussing the topic up front and including wording in your contract about such issues does help.

    Recommending it be viewed for addition cost and effort is something I sometimes do but not always. I suppose it depends on my feel for the situation and when I need the extra CYA. How often do any of you call for the further inspection before closing?


  11. #11
    A.D. Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    I've never heard of an inspector that refuses to go into crawlspaces but I have heard of several that don't go in very far.
    TK: I encounter many crawl spaces that I will not enter due to various conditions:

    (1) No access.
    (2) Undersized (not code-compliant) access opening.
    (3) Inadequate head room or clearance, i.e. less than 18".
    (4) Standing water.
    (5) Electric cables on ground - especially in standing water.
    (6) Wild animals, e.g. poisonous snakes, raccoons, opossums, et al.
    (7) Raw sewerage due to openings in the DWV.
    (8) Rigid ductwork - I go until I can't go past it.

    I do not dig.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    ADM: My comment was meant in response to the OP's question if there are inspectors that do not go into crawlspaces. As I read it I took it to mean going into any. I agree with you that that are several reasons to not enter or limit how far you can go. Safety first.

    Hmm....this may be the first time I have agreed with you.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Great comments. I say you must enter if there is 24" vertical clearance (ASHI and New Jersey standard). If less, take a photo and insert in report. Explain in the report why you couldn't get all the way into the space. One more thing; I also state that the space should be "re-inspected when conditions permit" It's not my problem that it will be very difficult to make the area accessible. When asked to explain, I tell them to have the floor removed if you want the space inspected. I know they won't remove the floor, but, again, that's not my problem. I still recommend re-inspecting when modifications are made. When summarizing for the client with an inaccessible crawlspace, I tell them that my biggest concern is the potential for un-detected defects in the inaccessible crawlspace (lowering expectations).

    I try to take at least one photo from the farthest most point into the crawlspace so that if there is litigation, I can't be accused of not going in there.


  14. #14
    Eric Russell's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Here in Tennessee, we have crawls, basements, and slabs, but I've found the majority to be crawlspaces. I've never not went into one, however, I have went in only far enough to take pictures of soggy rotten insulation hanging down and standing water. I've always abided by this rule: Go until you can't go any further, and document why...because I've thought about turning around because everything looked good, and instead kept going, only to find a rotten joist or a displaced block in the wall, or a support pier made from tree stumps. As much as I dislike a crawl, I would still rather be able to see the floor structure as opposed to a ceiling in the basement or a dang old slab!


  15. #15
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by Bret Kaufmann View Post
    Great comments. I say you must enter if there is 24" vertical clearance (ASHI and New Jersey standard). If less, take a photo and insert in report. Explain in the report why you couldn't get all the way into the space. One more thing; I also state that the space should be "re-inspected when conditions permit" It's not my problem that it will be very difficult to make the area accessible. When asked to explain, I tell them to have the floor removed if you want the space inspected. I know they won't remove the floor, but, again, that's not my problem. I still recommend re-inspecting when modifications are made. When summarizing for the client with an inaccessible crawlspace, I tell them that my biggest concern is the potential for un-detected defects in the inaccessible crawlspace (lowering expectations).

    I try to take at least one photo from the farthest most point into the crawlspace so that if there is litigation, I can't be accused of not going in there.

    This is when a piece of chalk comes in handy. I mark my initials on the floor joist or girder beams. I also try and place my name, date on joist nearest the entrance panel. Sometimes, I have forgot my chalk but it seems you can always find a scrap piece of gypsum board on the ground to use a piece to mark with.

    rick


  16. #16
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    A S#@& LOAD I HOPE


  17. #17
    A.D. Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Hmm....this may be the first time I have agreed with you.
    TK: Oops, I must be slipping . . .


  18. #18
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by fritzkelly View Post
    John, how much is the extra charge for crawling through feces?
    I charge on a sliding scale!
    Based on quantity and quality ! (you could call it the species of the feces clause!)

    Last edited by John Kogel; 01-18-2010 at 03:07 PM.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    This is when a piece of chalk comes in handy. I mark my initials on the floor joist or girder beams. I also try and place my name, date on joist nearest the entrance panel. Sometimes, I have forgot my chalk but it seems you can always find a scrap piece of gypsum board on the ground to use a piece to mark with.

    rick
    RH: I used to go behind the agents' pet in Preston Hollow and the Park Cities (you likely know who I mean), who had that same habit, and clean off his markings as I proceeded through the space. Like inspectors who leave their business cards in electrical panels - I toss them out.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    This sub-topic may have been mentioned, but do you charge EXTRA for crawlspaces? I've heard it's common to tack on an extra $40 or so, which to me seems a bit unfair. I crawl creep climb and shimmy into any area I can safely observe to inspect.. $40 extra because my knees get dirty? Really? I mean, I agree that there are safety limitations on entering and going deep into a crawl space, but asking for extra money? Am I the odd one out here?


  21. #21
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by Jesse Hall View Post
    This sub-topic may have been mentioned, but do you charge EXTRA for crawlspaces? I've heard it's common to tack on an extra $40 or so, which to me seems a bit unfair. I crawl creep climb and shimmy into any area I can safely observe to inspect.. $40 extra because my knees get dirty? Really? I mean, I agree that there are safety limitations on entering and going deep into a crawl space, but asking for extra money? Am I the odd one out here?

    Charging extra is easy, unless you want to give a credit to those buying houses on slabs because you did NOT have to crawl a crawl space.

    I started out charging an extra $50 for a crawl space, quickly went to $75, then to $95 for a crawl space, then after a few years I went to $150 for the crawl space.

    Why would you NOT charge extra for something not every house has and which takes a long time to do?

    Do you not charge extra for older homes for that same reason?

    Do you charge extra for pool inspections? Termite inspections? Etc.? If it is 'out of the normal' then charging extra is EXPECTED. Do you think you can go to the local tire store and buy LARGE truck tire for the same price you can buy a SMALL car tire for? Of course not.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  22. #22
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    $100 extra for a crawl for me but that is not really enough. Of course if I ever saw a crawl that was 24 inches tall I might not charge as much. Most of the crawls here are more "slither" than "crawl". I suit up head to toe and come out a sweaty, dirty, mess looking like a powdered donut. Come to think of it, I might raise my rates!

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  23. #23
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Very few crawl spaces here in MN. The ones we have are in 100+ year old buildings with only 8 inches of clearance between the dirt and joists, generally not accessible and noted in the report.

    The others have 3 feet of clearance and concrete floors. Not a problem to access. We don't charge extra.

    MinnesotaHomeInspectors.com
    Minnesota Home Inspectors LLC
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  24. #24
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    TK: I encounter many crawl spaces that I will not enter due to various conditions:

    (1) No access.
    (2) Undersized (not code-compliant) access opening.
    (3) Inadequate head room or clearance, i.e. less than 18".
    (4) Standing water.
    (5) Electric cables on ground - especially in standing water.
    (6) Wild animals, e.g. poisonous snakes, raccoons, opossums, et al.
    (7) Raw sewerage due to openings in the DWV.
    (8) Rigid ductwork - I go until I can't go past it.

    I do not dig.
    Agree except for #2..... and I agree that it should be the right size but they often are not. With 75% of the houses in my area having crawls and probably 25% being old and/or undersized, I'd be doing nothing but driving around for re-inspections and pissing off my clients and others involved.

    Ultimately, if I refused to go if they were undersized, they'd just find someone willing rather than expand the opening and I'd lose face, clients and money.


  25. #25
    Ken McConnell's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    I always think safety first before entering a crawl space area. The next thing is what is best for the clients interest, which is to inform them weather the crawl space was accessible and what was found or viewed. Explain as much as possible of the condition you observed, venting, vapor barriers, insulation, wood condition, ect. and also any obstructions or inaccessible areas. Take pictures if necessary to show those obstructions or inaccessible areas to document what was observed to show the client and if you ever end up in a suit. But always safety first, if you are ever injured in any way, most likely there is no one around to come to your rescue, so always think every situation through first before entering. You are number one and without you being able to preform inspections everyone is at a loss. But always use good documentation to in this matter. The big question in inspecting a crawl space is interuptation of what is accessible or inaccessible and then explaining that to your client.

    Ken McConnell
    Quality Home & Building Inspection Consultants


  26. #26
    A.D. Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    Agree except for #2..... and I agree that it should be the right size but they often are not. With 75% of the houses in my area having crawls and probably 25% being old and/or undersized, I'd be doing nothing but driving around for re-inspections and pissing off my clients and others involved.

    Ultimately, if I refused to go if they were undersized, they'd just find someone willing rather than expand the opening and I'd lose face, clients and money.
    MF: A code-compliant opening is the minimal standard as regards safety. It is the owner's responsibility to make the house safely accessible for inspection, not mine. I inform everyone of the need for this prior to the inspection. If I arrive to find an access opening the size of a place mat, I do not enter the crawl space and do not charge the fee associated with me doing so. That applies to the other seven reasons that prevent me from entering.

    This is not different than arriving to find a 3000-lb. gun safe placed against the main distribution panel door; a 200-lb. rabid pit bull in the back yard; a meth lab in the garage; ice on the roof; et al.


  27. #27
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    I agree with A-man on this subject. Our main goal should be safety for ourselves and make it back home at night to our families.

    I'm not going to enter a crawlspace undersized. Once I remove the panel, it only takes a few seconds for me to realize I'm not going below the house.

    Years ago in my younger days, I might have risked it by squeezing under some ducts, or girders. I've also noticed that when I go to crawl back out I seem to have pumped up my body a bit and some of those places I went under I can't get back through now.

    Once I thought I was going to have to ask the client to call the fire dept. to come and get me as I was so exhausted and feeling out of breath.

    That was a lesson learn. Don't over extend yourself. If you can't safely enter an area just be sure to document it on your report. Say where you went and where you couldn't get access to. I've never had one incident where someone came back and tried to hold me liable for something I stated that I could not physically get access to.

    Be safe out there.

    rick


  28. #28
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    I'm not sure when the exact code for crawl access hatches came about but I'm pretty sure it hasn't been around for long.

    Kind of like old stairs.... am I not suppose to inspect the top floor of a house because the risers are off? Or, maybe I can't even walk up to the house because the trip hazard on the sidewalk is too high?

    Trust me, I'm the first to not enter a crawl if there are the other things on AD's list but not entering a crawl because the access is 17" instead of 18" is just over the top IMO. There are many instances where I won't go because it's too small but it's more of a common sense thing and what I feel comfortable fitting through.

    I do see the point and wish I could get away without squeezing into tight spaces but it's a way of life around here... maybe another "crawl space land" inspector can chime in.


  29. #29
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Some people just need to get rid of those big ole beer bellies they're carrying around!

    Ya know, those who can't even see their belt buckle!


    -

    Erby Crofutt, Georgetown, KY - Read my Blog here: Erby the Central Kentucky Home Inspector B4 U Close Home Inspections www.b4uclose.com www.kentuckyradon.com
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  30. #30
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    Hi, All &

    (Think this has been said before, but...)

    Good idea to carry a spare set of coveralls & just hand 'em to your Client, along with a spare flashlite and say (with a polite smile, of course) "You first".

    That's assuming you have indeed done your very best under the circumstances and just couldn't do it all...


    CHEERS !

    -Glenn Duxbury, CHI

  31. #31
    Terry Neyedli's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    [QUOTE=Glenn Duxbury;117005]Hi, All &

    Glen:
    Added to all this is the fact that when you are on your own, phone a reliable contact before you enter and after you exit.
    A trick of the trade is to attach your bussiness card daydated and take a picture of your travels in the crawl.

    Terry Neyedli CHI
    www.alphahomeinspections.ca


  32. #32
    A.D. Miller's Avatar
    A.D. Miller Guest

    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    [quote=Terry Neyedli;117057]
    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn Duxbury View Post
    Hi, All &

    Glen:
    Added to all this is the fact that when you are on your own, phone a reliable contact before you enter and after you exit.
    A trick of the trade is to attach your bussiness card daydated and take a picture of your travels in the crawl.

    Terry Neyedli CHI
    Alpha Home Inspections - Port Alberni, BC
    TN: I also prominently post this at the access opening to prevent space cadet clients and agents from inadvertently coming down for a visit, and then speed-dialing 911 and their attorney:

    Attached Files Attached Files

  33. #33

    Default Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    I do exactly as Matt F. does, and assume the risk. I also come out a little grouchy in some of these. I can understand older inspectors not wanting to squeeze into tight areas, as emergency personnel need to be able to get you out if there's a problem.

    It's usually the crawlspaces that are very difficult to enter/ crawl around in that have the most problems.


  34. #34
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    Angry Re: To Crawlspace or Not To Crawlspace

    I'm new to home inspections, and would like to know how you guys address the possibilities of snakes in the crawlspace. In Mississippi, we have a variety of poisonous snakes, and I'm know some people to have rattlesnakes deans under their homes. I'm not a trained snake handler and you can's run fast enough under a crawlspace. Just curious.........

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    I'm not sure when the exact code for crawl access hatches came about but I'm pretty sure it hasn't been around for long.

    Kind of like old stairs.... am I not suppose to inspect the top floor of a house because the risers are off? Or, maybe I can't even walk up to the house because the trip hazard on the sidewalk is too high?

    Trust me, I'm the first to not enter a crawl if there are the other things on AD's list but not entering a crawl because the access is 17" instead of 18" is just over the top IMO. There are many instances where I won't go because it's too small but it's more of a common sense thing and what I feel comfortable fitting through.

    I do see the point and wish I could get away without squeezing into tight spaces but it's a way of life around here... maybe another "crawl space land" inspector can chime in.



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