January 31, 2011

Crawl Space Encounter...

No matter who you are…crawling under a house is no fun at all! Any home inspector will tell you that having to crawl under a home may be one of the worst parts of the home inspection. I have yet to find an inspector who absolutely loves to crawl under the house.

It is the duty of the inspector to complete a detailed and thorough evaluation of the visible components of the raised foundation area…all while trying their very best to crawl and maneuver around in a poorly lit and cramped space filled with dirt, dust, spider webs and so many other little yucky things you find under the home.

Even though crawling under a home may be the least favorite part of the job for the inspector…it is also the most important part of the job. Inspection of the raised foundation area of the home is crucial in making sure there are no moisture related conditions, the home is secure to the foundation, and there is proper ventilation and insulation. It is also important for home buyers to know if any wood destroying organisms like Carpenter Ants or Termites or any other pests like mice or rats are under the home.

Besides evaluating the efficiency of the ventilation, the foundation sill plates, framing posts and beams along with other items…the inspector never knows what they may run into under the home!!

It was one of my first inspections as a newer inspector and I had officially taken ownership and had been awarded my franchisees from WIN Home Inspection. Being a newer inspector I was prepared to run into potential issues in the homes that I had not experienced yet…but nothing would prepare me for what I was about to see on this inspection!

I had already completed my evaluations of the exterior, roof, decks and other components on the outside. After an extensive inspection of the interior areas and major systems of the home with the two wonderful first-time home buyer clients and their selling agent (who referred my services)… I found myself on the side of the house standing next to the crawl space access getting my “Under the Home” gear on. Coveralls…check. Flashlight…check. Camera…check…Respirator, knee-pads and gloves…check, check, and check….all set and ready to get dirty! I entered the crawl space area the same way I entered all the previous crawl spaces…feet first and holding my breath.

I was expecting to see and hear the usual sights and sounds of a crawl space…vapor barrier, drain lines, ductwork and more. With the sounds of scattering small rodents and mixed with the sound the plastic vapor barrier made with every one of my movements muffled by the insulation material installed above. All of that was present on this inspection; however, there were some extra noises that were not being made by myself or some small rodent… and as I followed along the foundation wall and turned the corner to the right I came face-to-face with none other than a shaggy and scary looking homeless man. He appeared to be in his 50’s with a shaggy, brownish-gray beard, wearing tattered jeans and old dirty clothes…obviously in need of a shower.

Here I am taken by complete surprise, heart rate racing and at the same time…trapped with limited options. He looks at me and I look at him, neither one of us speaking for what seemed like eternity while we both assessed the situation. It was obvious that he had been living in the area for sometime, with an area covered by a large piece of leftover carpet from the recent remodel of the home. He had his sleeping bag laid out on top of the carpet with two or three smaller, but obviously stuffed full, back-packs and a make shift bathroom consisting of a large pot. Some other trash items were thrown about here and there…but you could tell he had made his home. He sat there smoking his hand-rolled cigarette and listening to an older portable CD player with headphones that were being held together by duct tape.

What do you do when there is an unknown, possibly crazy man under a home, potentially dangerous with an unarmed home inspector with the exit not in sight? You move slowly…I removed my respirator and studied him very closely as I spoke   “Ummm I don’t think your suppose to be down here.”   He replied in a low, but rough voice, “I know.”   In turn I say,  “You know I am doing a home inspection, don’t you?”   He hesitates and says,   “Yeah…I heard you up there, but I didn’t think you would come under here.”  He continued to say,   “The owners are okay with me being down here.”

Not knowing what to say next…I start to back away slowly telling him  “Just stay there until I leave.”   He hesitated again for a moment, but eventually said,  “You don’t have to tell anyone I’m down here do you?”   I say to him,  “I’m going to have to tell them something…sorry.”  I continue to watch him as I backed away, not knowing if he would start freaking out on me or not, after all he was living in the crawl space.

I returned to my waiting buyers and referring agent to report my findings of the crawl space. Needless to say…they were not too happy with some of the findings. The agent immediately got on the phone to call the police, while the buyers and I finished up with the home inspection. Keeping an eye on the crawl space access we waited for him to emerge from under the home, but he didn’t do so until the police arrived. He came out when the Sheriff’s Deputy asked him.

Later it was revealed that the current homeowners did not know anything about the man under the home. I crawled back under the home with the officer, when we also discovered that the unwanted "house guest" had made several small holes in the floor boards and through register vents in order to gain visual access into the home with at least one opening big enough for him to squeeze through into the interior of the home. The single mother renter of the home was not too happy when she found that out!

The first-time home buyer clients of mine did go and buy the house. They later told me they learned a very valuable lesson of the importance of regular evaluations of the crawl space areas…I have been back under there home four times since they bought the house.

Have you inspected your crawl space lately?

Joshua Roberts,
Inspection Monologues


Nathaniel said...


Father Maurer said...

"You don't have to tell anyone I'm down here do you?"

Too much!