A few weeks ago I inspected a single family home built in 1957. Of course, there were issues as one would expect in a 63 year old structure. Most of them typical, like electrical outlets with dubious grounding and sloping floors. It had a beautiful brick fireplace in the living room. Its chimney, that was originally on the exterior wall, was now almost completely surrounded between the original house and an addition. Everything looked fine from both the outside, inside and in the attic with exception of a few cracks that could easily be repaired. But there was one other vantage point where I could get a different look at the chimney – the crawlspace.
I know a lot of home inspectors don't inspect crawlspaces or they have an add-on charge that makes choosing it cost prohibitive. When and if the client chooses to pass on the crawlspace option, that act waives the inspector's liability for that space. This is a mistake - keep reading.
The crawlspace entry was super tiny (13 x 14 inches) and if I chose not to squeeze inside, no one would blame me as the minimum requirement is 20 x 18 inches. I decided to go in and we were all glad I did. Way on the other side of the house I was able to get a look at the chimney footing. What I found was that the entire footing had collapsed and one of the adjacent piers had split down the middle.
Apparently, the only thing holding the chimney upright was the structure around it. That chimney could come tumbling down with the next earthquake and take a good portion of the house with it.
The prior week I discovered that the main air duct had completely fallen apart and probably because the installer cut into it to make it fit around a steal beam. Half the house was getting no conditioned air at all. The HVAC was blowing cooled/heated air under the house. Not only was this wasting energy and money, but warm air is moist and if left undiscovered it would have caused all sorts of issues in the subfloor.
Not all information gained from inspecting the crawlspace is bad. I often find that the old iron drain pipes have been replaced with ABS which is very good news for the buyers. I often find subfloors under bathrooms that have been replaced, and replaced properly – another bit of good news for the buyers.
What I’m trying to point out is that if your home inspector isn’t willing or able to get under the house, you should really consider finding one that is.