Foundation Inspection Tips For Buyers and Sellers

Whether you’re buying or selling, the basis of your real-estate transaction depends heavily on the foundation of the home. Be prepared for the home inspection and buying/selling process with these tips:

Buyers

Read your Home Inspection report very carefully. Foundation settlement is a structural concern and can diminish the value of any home. If there is the slightest indication of a foundation issue, call a local, trusted foundation repair contractor for assistance. A reputable contractor will give you a fair and honest assessment of the property.

Examples of some of the warning statements in a home inspection report:

  • Some evidence of settling was observed.
  • Foundation movement may exceed FHA/VA standards.
  • Cracking of floor slab noted.
  • Cracks in brick/floor/wall/ceiling.
  • Fascia/trim separation.
  • Windows difficult to open.
  • Caulk separation at windows or doors.
  • Recommend contacting a foundation repair contractor.

Don’t be fooled by a Home Inspection report, which is typically written in more general terms and may occasionally gloss over foundation problems. Remember that the home inspector’s role is to report on the general conditions of a home not provide a structural report.

Sellers:

Here are some helpful things to remember:

  • A good foundation repair company can typically complete a repair within 1-2 days.
  • FHA/VA and conventional loan approvals are no problem when the foundation is properly repaired and backed up by a lifetime warranty (always check to see if your contractor offers a lifetime transferable warranty)
  • The best way to avoid last minute closing problems is to have the foundation inspected before you put the house on the market. A local foundation repair specialist will be happy to provide you with a no cost evaluation and assessment.
  • If you are owner financing the sale, you may sell the property without foundation repairs as long as you disclose what you know about the foundation. Homes that need foundation repairs generally sell at a discount far below the cost of repairs.

Home Inspection Tips – Moisture Problems and Crawl Spaces

Any home inspector can tell you that most crawlspaces have moisture problems. There are two different types of crawlspace setups–vented and non-vented.

Vented crawlspaces have vents that allow for cross ventilation and the home’s sub floor is insulated along with the pipes in the crawlspace to prevent freezing. There’s a vapor barrier on the ground and vents are closed in the winter time. A small heater or heat tape may also be used to help keep the pipes from freezing in addition to insulation on the pipes.

With non-vented crawlspaces, foundation walls are insulated, but the sub-floor isn’t. The vents are blocked off with insulation all year long, and a vapor barrier is in place on the ground. Air is conditioned with a dehumidifier. A small heater and pipe insulation may still be used.

Problems arise when there are inadequate or no rain gutters. Did you know the average roof lets go of 1,000 gallons of water during 1 inch of rain? You can keep water from falling along the foundation and finding your crawlspace by using solid rain gutter covers to cover the gutter opening. This allows water to come in by curling under the cap. Unfortunately, mesh and screen covers get clogged up or collapse.

Do downspouts end along your foundation? They need to let water run 6 feet or more away from your home.

Does your terrain slope toward your foundation? Water must be directed away from the home because water can cause serious foundation damage.

Do you remember to open the vents when weather warms up? Your house needs to breathe. Low decks and shrubs can block vents and make them useless. Your home’s crawlspace needs a minimum of 1 square foot of ventilation for every 150 square feet of crawlspace floor area. Vents should be within 3 feet of the corners allowing for cross ventilation.

Could your insulation be installed upside down? You may have insulation in the flooring. The paper side of the fiberglass insulation should face the heated living space and be placed against the sub flooring. Otherwise it will trap moisture between the sub floor and the paper and hide moisture damage. A properly set up non-vented crawlspace won’t need insulation.

Is your moisture (vapor) barrier damaged or loose? It should be a 6 mil thick poly vapor barrier on your crawlspace ground and should be overlapped and sealed around columns and walls. This keeps ground moisture vapors from rising up into your framing.

If you have a sump pump installed, make sure it is at the lowest point in the crawlspace. All areas should easily drain to it. Inspect your pump regularly. Does it work automatically? It should be in a plastic cylinder in the ground and eject water outside, away from the building and not into the septic or sewer system.

If your crawlspace is non-vented, you must have a dehumidifier, and the collected water should be piped to a sump pump or condensate pump. If you don’t do this, you’ll have to dump water daily, and who wants to do that? Incidentally, buy a good quality dehumidifier with an adjustable, automatic setting so it does not run all the time.

Is your crawlspace kept neat, clean and accessible? Inspect it often for signs of moisture or mildew. Check with the local code official for any repairs you might need. Don’t underestimate the importance of your crawlspace and what you can do to prevent that all too common moisture damage.

Home Inspection Tips – Radon Testing For Sellers and Buyers

A home inspection is important whether you’re buying or selling a home. Where does radon testing fit into the picture?

Let’s look first at considerations from a home seller’s perspective. If your inspector or another qualified professional has already tested your home for radon, the buyer wants assurance the testing was done correctly. She may ask that testing be redone if certain conditions aren’t met.

Did testing comply with the EPA radon checklist or your state’s protocol? Was testing done within the past two years? Have you made any renovations on your home since testing was done? Does your prospective buyer want to live in a basement or level lower than where testing was done?

She may also ask for a new test if your state or local government requires the disclosure of radon information to buyers and that disclosure hasn’t been made.

If you haven’t yet had your home tested for radon, have it done as soon as possible. Test in the lowest level of the home that can be regularly occupied. Test in an area such as a basement or playroom area if that area could be used by your buyer.

If you do the radon test yourself, carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or EPA’s Radon Testing Checklist. If you hire a contractor to test your home, you’ll protect yourself by hiring a qualified individual or company.

How do you find a qualified professional to do the testing? Ask your home inspector. Also, your state should have an office that deals with radon issues. They may be able to provide you with a list of testers in your area. Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified, or registered.

If your state doesn’t regulate radon related services, ask your home inspector or a reliable contractor if he holds a license, or a proficiency or certification credential. Has he completed training in measuring radon and properly dealing with radon issues? You may also want to contact the American Society of Home Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors, or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

Let’s look at the other side of the coin. What if you’re buying a home? The EPA says if you are thinking of buying a home, you can choose to accept an earlier test result from the seller. Or you can ask the seller for a new test to be done by a qualified radon tester.

Before you accept the seller’s test results, ask a few questions. What did previous tests show? Who did the actual testing? Where in the home was the previous testing done? Was it in the level in which you plan to live? Have any changes been made to the home since it was tested? For example, have there been any alterations to the heating and cooling systems?

If you accept the seller’s test results, be sure the test complied with the EPA checklist or relevant state protocols. If you think a new test is needed, discuss it with the seller as soon as possible. If you decide to use a qualified radon tester to have it retested yourself, contact your state radon office for a copy of their approved list of radon testing individuals and companies.

If the seller hasn’t had the home tested, ask that it be done as soon as possible. Consider including radon testing provisions in the contract. Note where in the home the testing will be done and who will do the testing. Also note the type of test to be done and when it will be done. How will the seller and buyer share the test results? Who pays for the cost of testing?

You’ll want to be sure radon testing is done on the level you intend to occupy, whether it’s the first floor or basement area. If you decide to finish or renovate an unfinished area after you buy the home, a radon test should be taken before starting the project and again after the project is finished. Generally, it’s less expensive to install a radon-reduction system before (or during) renovations rather than afterward.

To view more complete information on radon testing from the Environmental Protection agency, go to http://www.epa.gov/radon/radontest.html.