May 2016: Home Foundation Inspection

Ask The Inspector

Q. What will my home inspector check on my home’s foundation?Ask The Inspector

A. The structure of a home’s foundation depends on several factors, including soil type, climate, structural materials, building footprint, topography of the area and age of the building. Whether you have a basement or a slab, a good foundation is essential to a safe structure.

A home inspector will visually inspect the interior and exterior of the house to determine what type of foundation was used, including the materials. The inspector will also assess the current condition of visible areas of the foundation, including noting cracks, leaks, and areas where shifting or settling are visible. Home inspectors are not engineers and are not licensed to discuss the structural integrity of a house or areas that cannot be visually assessed, so in some cases your inspector may recommend further investigation by a structural engineer.

What your home or commercial inspector can do is point out problem areas, check the grading slope, assess the drainage of areas around the foundation where water ponding may cause leaks, and point out conditions that may become dangerous. For example, standing water in a basement or crawls pace, evidence of previous water damage, or water damage near electrical elements can be safety issues for anyone occupying the home.

Be Advised

What Home Owners Should Know About Wastewater, Sewers and Septic Systems

Be Advised

Water that flows down any drain in a house is wastewater — water that must be cleaned before being returned to the environment. Depending on where you live, wastewater may be treated at a municipal sewer plant or on your own property, through a septic system.

If you live where a municipal system is in place, wastewater leaves your home through a series of pipes below the street. Using gravity or pumps, the water flows through increasingly larger pipes until it reaches the treatment facility to be properly cleaned. Some municipalities have separate systems of pipes for sanitary sewer waste and storm water. Storm water systems carry rainwater that flows off of roofs and concrete through a series of separate pipes. Eventually, this water enters a stream or river.

If you do not live in an area where a sewer treatment plant is available, you will have a private septic system, a large underground tank and absorption field, on your property. Septic systems must be professionally pumped and inspected periodically to remove solids and help microorganisms clean the wastewater more effectively.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. Nothing. Styrofoam is an efficient, cost-effective filler in a solid poured concrete foundation wall.
  2. Closed-cell foam, not Styrofoam, is the correct foam for this project.
  3. They used polyisosanurate foam instead of expanded polystyrene foam.
  4. This is Styrofoam, which is not acceptable for use as a filler in a solid poured concrete foundation wall.

Correct Answer D. The photo shows Styrofoam used as filler in a poured concrete foundation wall of a house in an area of California at risk for earthquakes. As you may have guessed, Styrofoam is not an acceptable filler in this situation, and the home inspector recommended further evaluation by a qualified structural engineer.

Maintenance Matters

Planning Your Landscape


Spring is in the air, and many home owners are eager to get outdoors and work on their landscaping. Even in the colder regions of North America, mid-May is usually past the period for freezing temperatures and a good time to start planting. So, get your gardening tools ready; it’s time to spruce up your yard.

To better define your project and your goals, take 10 or 15 minutes to carefully consider your yard before beginning a landscaping project. Look at the property from across the street. Walk up to it from several angles. Consider how your house looks with the existing vegetation.

Gardens, or landscapes, come in many varieties: oriental gardens, cottage gardens, herb gardens, even butterfly gardens. As you decide which fits the style of your home and family, first consider the broadest categories: formal gardens and informal gardens.

A formal garden or landscape is symmetrical, usually planted along a line, or axis, and centering on the front door. A secondary axis, or cross, may be designed in the backyard, perpendicular to the initial axis. Formal gardens usually include carefully tended, geometrically shaped flower beds with hard-surface paths in between each.

An informal garden is generally asymmetrical, with curved pathways and plants allowed to grow to their natural height and fullness. Plantings are more haphazard, but they can still include both native and non-native plants. Paths may be natural surface, grass or a hard surface.

Did You Know?

Keep Your Dishwasher Humming

The first motor-powered dishwasher was unveiled at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. An electric model followed in 1908. Silverware baskets were added to the door in 1969. It seems like even a century ago people despised washing dishes by hand.

Today’s dishwashers have come a long way, with self-cleaning features, hard-food disposers, china-cleaning modes and energy-saving settings. Modern dishwashers appeared in around 50 percent of United States homes in 2001, according to Energy Information Administration statistics.

For many people, dishwashers made “dishpan hands” obsolete; however, keeping them operating well takes a little maintenance.

Clean the filter: Many dishwashers, especially older versions, have a filter near the bottom of the machine to keep food particles off the motor. Clean this filter as needed or according to your maintenance guide.

Clean the spray arms: A dishwasher sprays water onto dirty dishes through small holes on the spray arms. These holes can become clogged with food and other particles. To clean them, remove the arms according to the maintenance guide, and use small, stiff wire to clear the holes. Dip the arms in warm water and white vinegar to remove calcium deposits.

Fight odors: To remove odors from a dishwasher that hasn’t been operated in a week or more, place a cup of white vinegar in a small container on both the top and bottom racks. Run this through one normal cycle.

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Monthly Trivia Question

What is the term for deliberate improvement of homes and commercial properties in urban areas to increase property values?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.