A large majority of issues with homes begin (or are first detected) in the basement or crawl space. This is due to gravity, house construction and the fact that most basements are the foundation for the home. If your home has no basement, the crawlspace provides access to systems. If you are a new homeowner, you should consider the basement and crawlspace inspection as top priority. Both you and your home inspector should know what to look for in the basement or crawlspace of your potential new home. How do I know all this? I really listened to my home inspector as we were doing our walk through.
Cracks, Breaks, Crumbling, Bows and Slopes
These are all indications of damage to the foundation. When a foundation begins to fail, it will bow and crack. As time goes by, cracks will widen and floors will buckle. A sloped floor in the basement of the home may indicate soil shifting. You and your home inspector should look for all of these things during a home inspection. Both old and new homeowners should have their home inspected yearly as well.
Water Damage / Mold
Water damage and mold often appear in basements and crawl spaces before anywhere else in the house. Why? Home construction leads all water downward, as does gravity. New homeowners, doing a walk through of their potential home should watch for signs of water damage and mold everywhere, but particular in the basement and crawlspace of the home.
Laundry Leaks and Drains
The laundry room of most older homes was traditionally located in the basement. It’s quite common to have leaks and drain blockage in the laundry area. To check drains, run the washer until full and then drain. As the washer is running, check connections for leakage. Your home inspector should know how to check for leaks and drainage problems when no washer is in place.
Plumbing Supply and Drain Lines
The water mainline is normally located in the basement. When there is no basement, a crawlspace provides access. All your plumbing supply lines and drains should be readily accessible. Inaccessible pipes could mean costly repairs when something goes wrong. New homeowners have enough expenses without additional worries. You and your home inspector should carefully inspect all pipes and drains for leaks and blockage as well.
Lead Pipes / Sump Pit
Most older homes have a sump pit. This is used to keep basement from flooding and foundations stable. Many newer homes have them as well. Your home inspector may need a licensed plumber to inspect the sump pit, or they may know how to do this themselves. While you and your home inspector are in the basement, check for lead intake pipes. These are a health hazard, but were once commonly used.