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  1. #1

    Default Crawl space debris

    Hi everyone,

    I am relatively new to home inspections but not to residential construction. I ran across a crawl space recently that was just a mess. I wasn't able to make it across all the rocks, concrete and other accumulated stone to do the best inspection I could. This is new construction; a 3 story single family home over a crawl space completed this past August. The home is near the medical center in Houston.

    The "ceiling" above my head was not insulated throughout and there were vents on 3 sides. No vapor barrier was seen. The builder told the buyer that he had brought in all the material to keep water from standing under the home. Since we're in the middle of a drought there was no water found in the crawlspace. I had written up the insulation issues (and a couple of other items). The buyer called to tell me the builder was disputing my opinions regarding the crawlspace and he was unsure who to believe. After discussing the problems of ventilation and insulation I asked him if he ever planned on going under the home to check on his plumbing systems or do any type of maintenance and he understood the issue.

    What do you guys think? How would you have reported this? I'm not going back to the buyer or the builder but I would like to hear from inspectors with more experience than I have. Is there a better way to have handled this?

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    Last edited by Brenda Ledbetter; 10-16-2011 at 09:22 PM. Reason: Clarification
    Inspection Referral SOC
    Brenda Ledbetter, TREC #10619
    Objective Home Inspections, PLLC
    http://www.objective-inspections.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    georgia
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    I would have reported if no under floor insulation was present to insulate the under side of the building envelope, and would have reported that rubble was placed on the crawlspace dirt floor, I would have also checked to see if a vapor barrier was installed below the rubble.


  3. #3
    David Valley's Avatar
    David Valley Guest

    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    Proper insulation methods for a crawlspace will differ from state to state.

    I like to see my clients condition their crawlspace...
    Massachusetts Home Inspection: Your Crawl Space


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Cape Cod, Massachusetts
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    Brenda,

    Crawlspaces should be accessible and safe to enter. That space was neither. You could have been injured entering the space.

    I would have reported that I was unable to enter the crawlspace as it was unsafe.

    Ken Amelin
    Cape Cod's Best Inspection Services
    www.midcapehomeinspection.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Montana
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    I like the conditioned crawlspace as well- but with the caveat that the owner needs to check the crawl for moisture periodically. Even if there is a vapor barrier under that debris (which I doubt) getting around to check would be a trick. Installing a new VB would be hopeless.

    Is that broken concrete in the crawl? The idea of it preventing standing water doesn't ring true. I've seen concrete used as rip rap to hold soil from being washed away, but it certainly doesn't repel water. If you need rip rap to hold the soil in the crawl that's a bad thing.

    Are solid waste disposal rates high in your area?

    You might also want to mention that there's no clean-out on the sweep.


  6. #6
    Rod Smith's Avatar
    Rod Smith Guest

    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    I agree with Greg - it seems to me like the builder has just used the crawlspace as a convienient placeto get rid of a lot of debris. If he did the same thing at any other homes that he built, he could save some additional $$$$, instead of having to pay someone (or someplace) to take it. I think it is also unsafe, and the lack of insulation bothers me...!


  7. #7

    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    The builder has 8 total units in this development alone so I'm sure he's saving big bucks on dump fees. The buyer withdrew his offer on the home based on my report and from what he told me the builder is going to address all the deficiencies and pay to have me do a full re-inspection of the home.

    Brenda Ledbetter, TREC #10619
    Objective Home Inspections, PLLC
    http://www.objective-inspections.com

  8. #8

    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Brainerd View Post
    You might also want to mention that there's no clean-out on the sweep.
    Greg,

    As I've said I'm new to home inspections and as such I need a little bit of shoving in the right direction. What are you referring to? I hate to think I've completely missed something while focusing on the condition of the crawlspace. I did not mention anything about missing a clean out in this area. Thank you for the heads up.

    Brenda Ledbetter, TREC #10619
    Objective Home Inspections, PLLC
    http://www.objective-inspections.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Utah
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    Quote Originally Posted by Brenda Ledbetter View Post
    Greg,

    As I've said I'm new to home inspections and as such I need a little bit of shoving in the right direction. What are you referring to? I hate to think I've completely missed something while focusing on the condition of the crawlspace. I did not mention anything about missing a clean out in this area. Thank you for the heads up.

    I don't see where a clean-out is required.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    At a minimum there should be a vapor barrier and now it can't be installed due to the debris under the house and the walls of the foundation should be insulated. I don't know if you have ducts or water supply lines under there but that would just make it needed even more. The debris prevents a safe place to work. I would call the local building department and ask them about it. That way you will know what is normally accepted in your area. Regardless these people are paying you for your opinion. I would be surprised if this is all that was wrong with the house.

    Nevada IOS#1730
    Nevada Energy Auditor #30
    775-342-4767 www.homecsi.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
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    Michigan
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    As someone that has built hundreds of homes. I would never use broken concrete as a way to hide possible standing water.

    Randy Gordon, construction
    Michigan Building Inspector/Plan Reviewer

  12. #12
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    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    A few things... I lived in Houston for about 15 years and medical center area is an old swamp. You have good old stinky gumbo clay a few feet down so it is going to be damp most of the time. The reason he used old broken concrete is that crushed rock is expensive in the Houston area. In my area it is cheap, but then we also hit rock when we scrape away the topsoil!

    * You need to see a complete wall to wall moisture barrier in the crawlspace.
    * Insulation is not really needed and could cause problems in the humid climate of Houston. Unless you know it was suppose to be installed, I would simply say the subfloor is uninsulated(it is called a subfloor and not the ceiling above my head ) and leave it at that.

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

  13. #13
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    Quote Originally Posted by Brenda Ledbetter View Post
    The builder has 8 total units in this development alone so I'm sure he's saving big bucks on dump fees. The buyer withdrew his offer on the home based on my report and from what he told me the builder is going to address all the deficiencies and pay to have me do a full re-inspection of the home.

    If the builder was expecting a lot of water in the crawl then he did not do his job properly or take the precaution of a sump pump if the area is truely that wet. And, If it is truely that wet then they should not even be able to build in that area. You cannot "expect" standing water in a crawl. There were things that could have been done before hand to keep this from happening and in case of serious rain and thee is a lot of standing water in the entire neighborhood then again, a sump pump would be in order.

    As far as the debris? He was hoping to get rid of it and that you would have thought it not worth writing up. Crushed stone at best. Vapor barrier, yes. Sump pump, yes, If a lot of moisture is expected a crawl space fan that operates o the level of humidity. As far as insulation, I just told some folks up he in the Weatherford area to have all theirs removed. It was paper faced and installed upside down.

    The home was 107 with no stem walls and water went in riverlets every time it rained from one side of the crawl to the other. I suggested a concrete trough around the home so all water running to the home and falling beside the home the water would flow around the home instead of under it.

    No builder should be "expecting water in the crawl. He should have built the property up or something to keep this from happening. If this is truely the case thgen your clients should keep walking and find themselves another home. It will only be a nightmare over time. Why would anyone want to buy a home with wet soil under it?


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    The debris is to help keep water from standing under the home? That's a good one. Since when does broken concrete repel water and act as a waterproof barrier? The only thing all that crap in the crawlspace will do is hide any water. Of course the buyer will never see any water. The broken chunks of concrete are 2+ feet deep. I sure as hell wouldn't want to buy a home with a crawlspace that had all that junk in it.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    The only fill (and that is what he is using those rocks/concrete debris for) allowed around plumbing piping is "clean fill".

    Those broken up chunks of concrete, with rebar sticking out, could easily crack or break the PVC.

    I suspect the builder used the crawlspace floor as a dumping ground for used concrete material, his or someone else's.

    You were correct to report it, and I would have driven it home with a 3 pound sledge hammer - the crawlspace *is not supposed to be used as a construction material landfill dump.

    From the IRC: (underlining and bold are mine)
    - P2604.1 Trenching and bedding. Where trenches are excavated such that the bottom of the trench forms the bed for the pipe, solid and continuous load-bearing support shall be provided between joints. Where over-excavated, the trench shall be backfilled to the proper grade with compacted earth, sand, fine gravel or similar granular material. Piping shall not be supported on rocks or blocks at any point. Rocky or unstable soil shall be over-excavated by two or more pipe diameters and brought to the proper grade with suitable compacted granular material.
    - P2604.2 Common trench. See Section P2904.4.2.
    - P2604.3 Backfilling. Backfill shall be free from discarded construction material and debris. Backfill shall be free from rocks, broken concrete and frozen chunks until the pipe is covered by at least 12 inches (305 mm) of tamped earth. Backfill shall be placed evenly on both sides of the pipe and tamped to retain proper alignment. Loose earth shall be carefully placed in the trench in 6-inch (152 mm) layers and tamped in place.

    - R408.5 Removal of debris. The under-floor grade shall be cleaned of all vegetation and organic material. All wood forms used for placing concrete shall be removed before a building is occupied or used for any purpose. All construction materials shall be removed before a building is occupied or used for any purpose.


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

  16. #16

    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    I appreciate all the help and guidance. I felt confident I was correct and the builder was trying to justify bad building practices but it's always good to have other professional's opinions and code references.

    Thanks everyone!

    Brenda Ledbetter, TREC #10619
    Objective Home Inspections, PLLC
    http://www.objective-inspections.com

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Central Virginia
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    In your third photo: Are those protruding nails at the crawlspace entrance? Simple fix but Yikes!

    The full loathe honey, but to the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    Quote Originally Posted by Franz Bailey View Post
    In your third photo: Are those protruding nails at the crawlspace entrance? Simple fix but Yikes!

    YES! Wasn't that a nice touch on the builder's part. He has conceded the nails are a needless hazard and will remove them. Wow!

    I've debated on returning for the re-inspection but it's kind of like driving past an accident; you just have to look to see what the heck happened and how does this all end.

    Brenda Ledbetter, TREC #10619
    Objective Home Inspections, PLLC
    http://www.objective-inspections.com

  19. #19
    Join Date
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    Vancouver
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    i have read all the posts and I think the referance to the clean out is for the first pic pipes. if they are drains and get cloggs, it would be nice to be able to access them to snake them out under there, however not sure I would want to go there to do it based on the crap that is there to work on. even a plumber wouldn't want to work under those conditions. Also I agree the builder was just being sloppy in dumping and wants to get away with it with nice cheap words. You have proven your point to the people who hired you and Good on you for standing your ground. Don't be afraid of telling it like it is and be proud of who you are!!


  20. #20

    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    Brenda: it is not nessary unles required to have insulation in the sub areas unles required by code or problems excist! ask your bld department if this was required at the time of building. I agree that the concrete could have been a dump area for the builder. That said you should watch out how you report these items, I would have said no underfloor insulation was noted, I recommend having the building department or an applicable contractor evlaute and advise on this. I also would have refered the concrete to the building department to advise if this was required for this home. This would cover you because if you say the wrong things the builder could come after you and or the home seller!!! My opinion!!


  21. #21
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    Brenda, Came upon this post just recently. In my neck of the woods, Washington State this would be totally unacceptable.

    Our state define a crawlspaces needs to be free of debris that can compromise a vapor barrier which this material would, plus it has to be safe to access which this would inhibit inspection.

    I would worry if this is his practice what other areas is this type of proactive being deployed.

    Like stated above if there is susceptible water issues then there must be method to address it.

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  22. #22
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    so so, California
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    Default Re: Crawl space debris

    My knees hurt just looking at that...

    The MAZZA INSPECTION GROUP
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