Structure

Basement/Crawl Spaces

Crawlspaces

If you have the inverted T-foundation, you have a crawlspace. This became a very popular mass production method for house foundations after WWII. Crawlspaces are the areas between the ground and the framing of the first floor.  Crawlspaces and attics are defined as confined spaces that have access for inspections but are not suitable for human occupancy. The typical crawlspace is ventilated with screened openings around the perimeter and is accessible by a hatch somewhere on the exterior or interior of the home. The number and size of vents and access hatches is dictated by code, but this is an area where I have seen many violations. Access to the crawlspace means that inspections, repairs and modifications can, in theory, be made to that area.  Unfortunately, many of these areas were not built with proper clearances so that human access is actually possible. Some have blocking structural members, exposed ducts, standing water, hanging wires, building debris, rodents, asbestos and other dangerous things further making access (or a hasty retreat) impossible. Crawlspaces should be cleaned up and made accessible. Poor ventilation, standing water, darkness, and rodent access in these areas create a witch’s brew of mold, dry rot and extremely poor and even dangerous air quality. This can be a serious health concern because most floors in older homes are neither insulated nor well-sealed allowing air from the crawlspace to easily flow into the living space where unsuspecting humans are taking it in. If air quality is bad in the crawlspace, you can be sure that air quality is bad inside the house too. The crawl space is not intended as a storage area, especially for items that could be damaged by moisture. Wood stored in a crawl space will attract termites. 

To-Do

  • Your crawlspace should ideally be clean, dry, well ventilated and sealed off from the interior of the home.
  • Have your crawlspace inspected and make corrections as needed to get it into shape.
  • Soils in the crawl space may be slightly damp but should not have standing water.
  • Proper downspouts, drainage systems and landscaping that is correctly installed will helps prevent excessive amounts of water from entering your crawl space.

Maintenance

  • 1x per year: Inspect the perimeter of the foundation for cracks and photograph and note the location and size of any cracks for future comparisons.
  • 1x per year: Inspect the foundation vents around the perimeter of your home for breaks in the screen and repair.
  • 2x per year: Inspect the perimeter downspouts, drain connections and splash blocks to make sure no water is allowed to pool around the foundation.

Basements

Basements are basically the same as crawlspaces except they have taller clearances and headroom. They also usually have a concrete floor and are sometimes completely finished for living. Basements are quite common in some areas of the country, especially where there are severe winters (why)*. Some building sites are not suitable for basements, for instance those built on solid rock or where there are high water tables. The key to a successful basement is waterproofing. Basements must be properly designed from the beginning with good waterproofing and drainage systems because it is extremely difficult and expensive to correct these deficiencies after construction. If basement floors are at a depth at or below the level of the home’s sewer line or septic tank, then any bathrooms or drains there will require a special pumping system to move the waste water out. This condition may also possibly require a back-up power supply to ensure the pump will work during a power outage. Modern building codes require that finished basements have light wells and secondary escape methods for safety.

Maintenance

  • 4x per year: Inspect for moisture around the basement interior and check the operation of any ejector pump(s) and any safety escape apparatus on a quarterly basis.
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