If you’re thinking of buying a home with a wet basement this is right up your alley. There isn’t much more that will make a home buyer more nervous than a wet basement. So, lets take a quick dive into wet basements.

Wet basement home inspectionOlder – pre 1970’s basements were not really designed to be finished basements. Most basements were built using unfinished expectations and construction standards.

Along comes a more modern era where every square foot of unfinished space is being eyed with the hope of being finished, livable space, and we run into a few challenges.

Older style stone and concrete block (CMU-Concrete Masonry Units) basement walls are built with porous materials. Brick, stone, concrete, and similar materials are porous. Porous means that the material will absorb water – like a sponge!

In today’s basement construction a heavy tar/bitumen type application is sprayed onto the outside of the basement before the builder backfills (puts dirt back around the foundation/basement walls) around the basement. This tar seals the exterior and prevents the porous material from coming into contact with the exterior moisture. Waterproofing wasn’t done to most homes prior to the 1970’s. And if it was – like everything else, as it ages, it stops performing like it did when it was new.

So where does that leave us?

Let’s first recognize that it’s the moisture outside the basement that’s the issue. Hydrostatic pressure to get technical! Understanding the buildup of water pressure helps us find the solutions. When the pressure is greater outside the basement than inside the basement, what’s outside is being pushed inside.

You need to know this:

1. Starting with the gutters; gutters that are missing, blocked, or in need of maintenance are a major cause of wet basements. Roofs can shed a vast amount of water and when gutters aren’t installed or acting as intended, they dump all that water at the outside of the basement walls.
2. Grading. Grading is another word for slope. When the grading or slope around a home is towards a home, it will carry surface water towards the exterior of the basement.
3. Saturation. We all have experience with a basement that has let water in during extremely wet periods. In a part of my own unfinished basement, when the exterior ground was heavily saturated, there was a pinhole sized hole that squirted water in like a small water pistol. Since fixed! When the ground is saturated due to heavy rainfall, thaw and freeze cycles or the water table, there is immense water pressure outside of the basement walls. This can lead to what is referred to as, “seasonal moisture”.

Most of what we see when looking at moisture in a basement is related to seasonal moisture. Can it or should it be addressed? We will dive into that next time. In the mean time if you need a thorough home inspection reach out to Ian at Smart Choice Home Inspection.

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Best Home Inspectors

Did you know there are no Michigan licensed home inspectors? What? There are no licensing requirements in Michigan. So, I hear this from realtors all the time. “There’s been no consistency from inspectors and inspection companies in the area for years”. “You never know what you’re gonna get from the bigger companies.”

Here’s some Michigan home inspection facts:

Michigan is one of only 14 states that does not have any type of licensing requirement for home inspectors. There is no minimum qualification, no minimum education. That’s why I choose to be licensed in Indiana (#02200088) and Illinois (#450.012596). Like realtors I take continuing education to stay licensed. It keeps me on top of my profession. I’m also nationally certified by InterNACHI as a Certified Professional Inspector…

Michigan has no licensing standard, they also have no minimum standard for a home inspection. I use the largest association of professional home inspectors (InterNACHI) – Standards of Practice – as my base for all inspections. This is the same Standards of Practice that has been adopted and used in most states.

Most states require three types of defects to be categorized and reported within the Home Inspection Report: Minor, Material, and Major. There is one type of defect that does not need to be reported: Cosmetic.

Minor defect: A condition of a system or component that renders it non-working, non-performing, or non-functioning, and may be repaired, corrected, or replaced by a professional contractor or the homeowner.

Major defect: A condition of a system or component that renders it non-working, non-performing, non-functioning or unsafe, and requires a professional contractor to further evaluate and repair, correct or replace.

Material defect: A specific issue with a system or component of a property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people. The fact that a system or component is near, at or beyond the end of its normal useful life is not, in itself, a material defect.

Cosmetic defect: A superficial flaw or blemish in the appearance of a system or component that does not interfere with its safety or functionality.

You don’t have to know what a home inspector knows. But you should know if you are using a Certified Professional Inspector that uses a recognized Standard of Practice.

Great licensed home inspectors know that while most defects aren’t deal breakers – nor should they be, defects do affect the perception of value. We should all know a home’s value is directly tied to its perceived condition.

Perceived condition can change with a home inspection that’s one-and-only purpose is to provide the buyer with fair and accurate information about the condition of the home, so that the buyer and their realtor can make an informed buying decision. That’s what a Smart Choice Home Inspection does!

Something happens to the buyer when they read a home inspection report when home inspectors aren’t taking the time to frame the defects in the report. Smaller or simple maintenance defects can become overwhelming to an already emotionally overloaded buyer.

Personally, I love to take the buyer around the home to make sure they UNDERSTAND the nature and severity of a defect. It’s one of the things I love most about being a home inspector. I take pride in being able to help the buyer understand the true meaningful nature of the condition of the home, which leaves the buyer’s agent to be the buyer’s chief negotiator and advocate.

I want every home I inspect to be awesome, to be within the buyer’s comfort zone – defects and all! But that doesn’t always happen. Not every house is what the buyer and the Realtor had hoped it to be. But, I don’t think I’ve ever had a buyer walk away from a home I’ve inspected that wasn’t an actual money pit. And I never impart a buying opinion onto a buyer. When a buyer has walked away (the few that do) from a house, they have then gone on to immediately select, inspect and close on a home that was still inspected by me and still represented by their agent. That’s how it should work.


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It’s not every day you get to see the picture on the bedroom wall from the crawlspace: The entire floor of this rambler was rotten. The home was built over a crawlspace that had no vapor barrier and no ventilation. Water had been running in and under the home. The moisture content of the crawlspace had created an environment of dry rot throughout the home. The floor joists had substantial rot.

Several joists were not structurally safe. The subfloor was made up of particle board. When particle board stays wet it becomes mush. The only thing saving the occupants was the carpet and vinyl flooring.