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There are several different ways that the support structure of the home is built.

They include steel I-beams, steel columns (or steel screw jacks), wood support walls, laminated beams, floor joists, and block or poured concrete support posts.  All of these different systems work very well if they are properly installed.

 

Properly Installed Support Beams

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Steel I beam, this is used as the main support beam in the basement.  These steel beams are still used today but were commonly used in older homes.

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New installation of a laminated beam.

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Steel supporting post.

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Engineered floor joist.

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Web floor joist.

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Standard floor joist

 

While it is difficult to specify exactly what to look for, we will provide several different ideas of common problems.

Look closely to where homeowners may have cut out some 2 x 4 or 2 x 6’s in a supporting wall to add some additional space.  We recommend looking at every floor joist for cracks or home owner cutting.  These can generally be repaired fairly easily by sistering another board to them.  If several have been cracked in a row then you will need to hire a licensed contractor to make repairs.

Many times steel I-beams are installed and not properly fastened to the wall above them.  This can cause a weakness in the overall structure if the beam begins to slip out of place.

Another very common area to find problems is in the basement or crawl space under every door & sliding doors.  Most doors will leak at one time or another, and directly below them in the basement and the crawl space should be checked closely.  Look behind the insulation in the rim boxes area (we don’t recommend removing blown or Styrofoam insulation to view rim boxes) as this is a common place for moisture and termites.

 

Below are pictures of common structural problems:

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Cracks in your basement floor: are very common, this happens because when concrete is poured it is moist and when it dries the moisture goes away and cracks form.  Some builders will have expansion joints installed to try to control where the cracks will appear, this system works great but it is not a perfect method.  There is no 100% flawless way to control concrete cracks.

 

Proper insulation in basements and crawl spaces: is just as important as with the rest of the house.  Crawl spaces are one of the most overlooked and un insulated areas in the home and can become a danger area for excessive heat loss, moisture build-up and pest infestation.  There are several different ways to insulate and protect your basement and/or crawl space:

Basement Walls Inspection

There are primarily three different types of foundations that are used today in building basement and crawl space foundations: concrete poured walls, block walls and concrete slab foundations.  Occasionally you will see wood foundations and in older homes there will be stone foundations.                                      

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Concrete poured walls.

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Block walls.

Pre-cast Concrete Garage Floor

Pre-Cast concrete garage floor.

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Stone foundation

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Pre-Cast foundation wall.

Concrete Slab Foundation

Concrete slab foundation.

*Pre-Cast Concrete Garage Floors are not commonly found in homes.  This is primarily used in an industrial setting, but when used in homes they are installed over the top of a basement foundation to allow additional storage below a garage.

 

Every basement wall should be looked at closely for cracks and movement. 

One way we recommend viewing every basement wall is by standing in the corners and looking straight down the wall for movement from each of the corners.  Movement can include bowing or bulging, tilting or sliding of the wall.  Most cracks found in basement walls are not of any structural concern, but they may be a concern for leaking.  If water stains or signs of water are found we recommmend having the crack repaired by a water proof damping company.  If you have found the basement walls are not straight when viewing we recommend having a professional review to make sure you have no major structural concerns.  Whether a basement is finished or unfinished, it has been estimated that 90 to 95 percent of basements will experience some kind of water penetration problem.

 

Here are common problems with basement walls:

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You should always look at basement stairs to make sure they are structurally sound, have no severe movement and the treads are secured.  Every set of basement stairs that have over 3 steps should have railings installed for safety.  Make sure all railings are secured to the wall with very little movement. 

Basement and Crawlspace Insulation Inspection

Spray foam walls

In our opinion, spray foaming the walls and ceiling is the best way to insulate your crawl space for energy efficiency.

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Foam insulation on a crawl space/basement foundation walls.

Crawlspace with reflective insulation

Crawl space with reflective insulation.

Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass Insulation on the walls of a crawl space.

Fiberglass Wall Insulation

Fiberglass wall insulation with paper moisture barrier.

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Spray foam insulation in the rim box, insulating the rim box is very important, it is considered a large area for heat loss.

 Problems With Under Insulated Areas

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No Insulation in the rim box, we recommend that the rim boxes are insulated around the entire basement or crawl space.

Rim Box Water Stains

Evidence of a water stain found behind the insulation in the rim box in the basement, the leak is either coming from above or is coming from the exterior of the home.  It is very important to look behind the insulation in every basement rim box.

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Whenever you have walls that are insulated make sure you check behind them to see if there is water leaks or possible mold.

 

Basement Windows Inspection

If you have old basement windows, we recommend replacing them with glass block windows for better energy efficiency and safety.

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Typical glass block window.

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Glass block window with venting.

 

Basement Window Leaks:

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Glass block windows leaking.

Old basement window

Old basement windows should be re- placed for safety and energy efficiency.

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Leaking water from a basement basement window.

 

Basement Water Stains and Current Leaks

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Basement De-Watering System Inspection:

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Gray area around the wall represents a de-watering system that was installed.

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Metal baseboard drain represents another type of de-watering system.

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The basement floor concrete was cut and a de-watering system installed then re-filled with concrete.

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This is another type of a de-watering system that we have found while doing inspections.

Always look at the base of the supporting post, base of the staircase, base of the furnance if it is old, or any work benches or storage units that have been installed.  These items have normally been in the home for a long time and tell you a lot of what is happening with water in a home.