The foundation is the most critical component of a home or commercial property. Before buying a new home or purchasing a new business space, insurance companies are more and more frequently requiring home inspections so as to protect the buyer against potentially expensive repairs in the future. So what exactly does a home inspector look for when evaluating the foundation of a property?
The first thing they do is take a look at the foundation itself and other support components. If the foundation is crumbling or has shifted and cracked over the years this could be cause for concern. A solid foundation is crucial for the structural integrity of a property. Foundations can shift or bulge or even float, meaning the soil below wasn’t properly packed down before the foundation was laid and now has settled, leaving portions of the foundation literally floating in air. The type of soil underneath the property can also affect the stability of the foundation. Soil can pack down, or be displaced, or if sprinklers are close to the house, water damage can slowly erode the foundation. As part of the foundation inspection, wood separation from soil will also be examined.
Another component to look at is whether or not an addition has been built onto the existing home. If so, how is the current structure supported. Was the entire foundation replaced, or was a new foundation laid solely to support the expansion? If a patio was built in without a slab or footing, what is supporting that structure?
Under-floor ventilation is examined to make sure it is up to spec. Under-floor areas are required to be ventilated. This takes place through openings in the exterior foundation walls. They must provide cross ventilation and have a net area of 1 square foot for each 150 square feet of under floor area. Each opening must have corrosion resistant wire mesh with openings of 1/8-inch minimum. There must be access for people to craw through of at least 18″ x 24.” The under floor area must not be blocked by obstructions or ducts, according to Scribd.com.
Drainage systems, sewer lines and sump pumps will be inspected, as they are located inside the foundation footprint. As houses shift with time, piping leading to and from the house may be compromised.
In California specifically, seismic anchoring and bracing components will be examined and must be up to code to ensure the safety of the property in case of an earthquake.
While inspecting the foundation is just a small section of what a home inspector does, it is a crucial one.