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  1. #1
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    Default Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    I did an inspection on May 5th of a home with a crawlspace. I came across several foundation cracks with some bearing seepage stains. The crawlspace floor was dirt with plastic covering it. I did see some dried, pooled seepage stains on some of the plastic from some of the foundation cracks.

    This past Wednesday, we had a terrible storm here in the Chicagoland area with Tornado warnings, Flash flood warnings, the works, etc. The client now has about 2" of standing water in the crawlspace and the client called me today asking me why didn't I include this in the report because if it happened once, it was probably a recurring problem which should have been caught.

    I did not see any signs of a chronically wet crawlspace other than the foundation cracks that were included in the report. Under what circumstances does something like this happen and could it be an isolated "Act of God" type of situation. I've talked to the client once and I wanted to provide some info that despite an inspection that a situation like this can legitimately happen.

    Thanks,

    Sean Bacon

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  2. #2
    Kary Krismer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    This area has a lot of wet crawl spaces, although 2" of water is a bit extreme. I doubt though that all that water came through cracks. It probably came up from the dirt or if the slope is bad, through a vent.

    One of the easiest to fix types of things to check is the gutters. If they are clogged and the water runs over, it's just like having no drainage system at all, or worse if it is spilling over only on one side of the house.

    I came across one house where the drainage system was actually somehow draining the water under the house, and that could be determined just by running a hose.

    Also, there are slope issues. One of my oft-repeated stories is of a new construction that flooded the very nicely finished basement. The alley sloped almost a block toward this property, and the houses on the other side of the alley drained to the alley. The new driveway didn't do anything to deflect the alley water away, and then they built up the grass on the low side of the lot so that all that water had no where to go. Top that off with one of those stupid never need cleaning gutter system that couldn't handle the flow of water into the gutters, and you had most of the water from on top of the house flowing over too. It took a lot of mistakes to cause that flooding, although the main one was probably the grass landscaping.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Bacon View Post
    I did an inspection on May 5th of a home with a crawlspace. I came across several foundation cracks with some bearing seepage stains. The crawlspace floor was dirt with plastic covering it. I did see some dried, pooled seepage stains on some of the plastic from some of the foundation cracks.

    This past Wednesday, we had a terrible storm here in the Chicagoland area with Tornado warnings, Flash flood warnings, the works, etc. The client now has about 2" of standing water in the crawlspace and the client called me today asking me why didn't I include this in the report because if it happened once, it was probably a recurring problem which should have been caught.

    I did not see any signs of a chronically wet crawlspace other than the foundation cracks that were included in the report. Under what circumstances does something like this happen and could it be an isolated "Act of God" type of situation. I've talked to the client once and I wanted to provide some info that despite an inspection that a situation like this can legitimately happen.

    Thanks,

    Sean Bacon
    Sean,

    Not sure what your laws are in IL, but here in sunny CA sellers are required to disclose things of this nature. If this is the case, then I would approach it from this angle. Certainly, go to the home and take a look. Ask to see the seller's disclosure paperwork and notify them that this was not obvious when you inspected.

    Then again, maybe they are correct and you should have caught it.

    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  4. #4
    James Duffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    I would go look at the crawl space to see where the water is coming in. That's the only way you going to be able to tell what happened. You need to go before the water is absorbed into the ground if you can. Was the dirt in the crawl space dry at the inspection?


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    I came across several foundation cracks with some bearing seepage stains. The crawlspace floor was dirt with plastic covering it. I did see some dried, pooled seepage stains on some of the plastic from some of the foundation cracks.

    Sean, did you mention all of this in your report? If so, how did you word it and what verbiage did you use?

    Assuming the client was present at the inspection, did you explain to them what you saw in the crawl?


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    @Nick, it was in the report including several pictures of the foundation cracks with the seepage stains. I did put it as a high priority item requiring immediate attention. This was an item that I discussed with the client in depth.
    @Gunner, yes we have those same disclosure rules here in IL as in CA
    @James, the dirt was dry under the plastic except in a couple of areas that seepage came from some the foundation cracks.

    I use discover horizon software which allowed me indicate that the foundation was cracked and I indicated that there were 8 cracks and where each crack was geographically located in the crawlspace (.ie. south wall) I also included the additional verbiage:

    Additional Conditions:
    Seepage noted at some of the crawlspace cracks

    Here's a link to the storm: Chicago area battered by two waves of strong storms - Chicago Breaking News


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    wrong link from storm, sorry


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    Sounds like you covered your bases Sean.

    As for the client asking why you didn't mention the 2 inches of standing water in the crawl being a possibility, you told her there were signs of seepage.

    "My inspections are 3 hour snapshots of the conditions that exist at the time of inspection. All I can tell you is what I saw during the time I was there. Being able to predict future performance of a property or a specific area of the property is well outside the scope of what I can do part of a visual inspection. Evidence of moisture penetration was observed and mentioned in the report and verbally at the inspection. It was noted in the report as a high priority item. What was said by the professional who you hired to assess the crawlspace issues as I suggested?"

    Prepare to hear crickets.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    All really good advice so far. Mainly the gutters, drains and grading... those items will be the cause of at least 75% of crawl space water (at least in my area).

    The other times you're just stuck in a low lying area and you need a drainage design - trenches, perf. pipe to low point drain or sump pump.

    By far the best tool you have to recognize past water is mineral deposits on the vapor barrier. It's similar to what you see inside a failed thermal pane window... only the repeated moisture accumulation and leftover minerals are on the plastic. Also, look for high water marks on posts and the foundation wall.

    I've never really bought into the whole idea of water coming through cracks in the foundation. Sure, it happens but if the lack of a crack is the only thing keeping the water out you have other issues. Another way of looking at it is that a foundation is not a water tight system (same reason why all the "goo" to paint on the inside of a basement wall won't keep the water out). A coating of moisture block is good... if that doesn't do it, you've got larger problems.


  10. #10

    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    Did you report in writting what you saw at the time of inspection? if so you most likley are clear, However I would keep all the weather reports from that time available. (just in case)


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    A foundation specialist came in and recommended an interior drainage system to the tune of about 6K. The house is approximately 42 years old and up to this point did not a have a drainage system (sump pump & tiles). What is the likelihood that now it is necessary to have this installed? I've been in some seriously crappy crawlspaces with immense moisture problems which I called out. This crawlspace was nothing like those and did not have any evidence of having chronic moisture issues. What am I missing here?


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    I don't believe I missed this issue but being a professional like othere on the board, I don't necessary like the perception that I missed anything either. Because it was an immense crawlspace, I was in there about 45 minute alone going through the entire crawlspace.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    I've been in this EXACT scenario before and it was as simple as a clogged gutter downpout on the uphill side of the house. You can discard the drainage guy for the time being since he's got a $6,000 carrot in his sights.

    Get back on site and check out all the roof drainage. Use a hose if you have to so you can simulate a heavy rain. If the crawl space didn't show signs of being historically wet and it just filled up with water something had to change.

    Invest some time and truly try to help.... these situations can often turn out to benefit you when you solve the problem by pulling a wad of pine needles out of a rain drain. Everyone thinks you've got super human powers.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    Matt,

    I'm going out tomorrow to do exactly what you suggested, thanks for the advice.


  15. #15
    Kary Krismer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Bacon View Post
    That last story I told, about the basement damage, was also the result of a record storm. Seattle gets a lot of rain, but this event was a lot of rain in a very short time.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    Sean, I was in your town last week when some really bad storms came through. Out in Rosemont at my hotel we had right at 3" of rain in an hour, it took out some windows in the building next door and we lost power for a few hours. It was a bad storm!

    Anyway, you noted in the report that the crawlspace had a problem and that it needed to be addressed. What you did not note was "Standing Water" in the crawlspace? Why? Well for starters there was not any water present in the crawlspace! You can not report what you can't see.

    I agree that you should go back out to the home and try to help if possible. But, I would also stand my ground because you told them in the report they had a problem.

    Tell your client that in order to report that water is in the crawlspace you need to see it! Tell them that you reported signs of past water problems and that they needed to have it corrected. Then ask them why they did not have it corrected!

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  17. #17
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    You have pictures of the crawl

    You made not of past water

    You noted that this needed to be addressed, further eval, corrected, repaired etc

    To go back and look at water......not sure why. You covered all the bases from the sound of it. Further inspection and evaluation would be on them to pay you.

    You did the inspection on May 5th and this past Wednesday was well over a month later. Did they already do their follow up as you suggested? I doubt it or they would not be calling you.

    They are looking for a pay out and they blame game has started.

    You know and had pictures that there was no standing water at the time. You noted the situation needed to be addressed. ou are done with your paid for obligation. The more you get involved at this point is fruitless to say the least.

    Phone call..."Sorry folks I already noted all the concerns and it is up to you to follow the concerns up as noted in the report. Please call me if I could be of further assistance." I will be happy to come and look at water but will you have cash in hand for xxx.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    It doesn't sound like you missed the issue. It sounds like you didn't put the issue in strong enough terms for the client to fully understand the conditions. Based on the wordings you mentioned, the client may not have gotten the message properly that the crawlspace, HAS, DOES and WILL LEAK.
    When I do crawls like that my report includes the usual condition statements and a warning that makes sure the client understands:
    There are signs that this crawlspace has taken in water through visible foundation cracks in the past. This crawlspace probably takes in water every time it rains depending on the amount of rain. Assume the worst and consider proper repairs depending on the amount of flooding that occurs.
    Crawlspaces typically take in water either through walls or up from ground seepage. Not dealing with this problem will likely lead to structural deterioration, home contamination and increased repair costs.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    I don't know about saying Sean didn't word it strongly enough Markus. He said above "I did put it as a high priority item requiring immediate attention. This was an item that I discussed with the client in depth.".

    High priority item.....requiring immediate attention. Sounds pretty clear to me.

    The buyer hired Sean to perform an inspection and document defects and areas of concern which he did. How the buyer does or does not use the information contained in the report is out of our hands.


  20. #20
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    Talking Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    As you know Sean, we haven't had dry ground for several weeks. The weather last week was exceptional and everyone one of us with below grade areas cross our fingers in such weather. It sounds like you reported what you could without predicting future events. As for the foundation "specialist" - he's recommending a repair that deals with the water AFTER it's already entered the crawl - DUH! Besides, any contractor who says he can waterproof a below grade area is full of it.

    You said that you saw no indication of a chronic problem. That's a big plus when I find such crawls and I emphasize that with clients. Sounds like you need to kindly go back over with the client what you wrote in the report and explain how they can reduce (not eliminate) the potential for water entry.

    A few years ago a client called with the same complaint. When we went back out it was pouring rain. The gutters were overflowing, the grading was back pitched and water was ponding against the foundation. We didn't even bother to look in the crawl. We basically told the client to read the damned report and stick it in his ear. It was one of those moments to live for.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  21. #21
    James Duffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wet crawlspace and I get the phone call

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    You have pictures of the crawl


    To go back and look at water......not sure why. You covered all the bases from the sound of it. Further inspection and evaluation would be on them to pay you.
    A home inspector is supposed to do more than cover their butts...they are supposed to help too! I'm going to help anyway I can. It has worked out so far doing it this way so I guess I will continue this way until I see it is no longer working.


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