Please Note that there are more pictures on page 2 of the gallery.
Please Note that this report is littered with hyperlinks that will open in a new tab or window.
Water-Proofing – The lot is flat and composed of “rich” sandy soils. The interior soils of the crawlspace become saturated due to hydrostatic pressure alone. A “Super Sump” has been installed within the right rear corner of the crawlspace where the soil levels are the lowest, and the location is intelligently away from the footings and piers, thus we are using the soils around it as a filter. Unfortunately, the basin is full of mud which indicates there is no filter fabric in place. The float switch activates the pump when the water level rises to approximately 18” below the vapor barrier which is likely a good 3” to 6” below the bottom edge of the footings which are assumed to be level around the entire home. Lush vegetation is helping to absorb water from the lot. It is worth noting the interior soil level does NOT matter at all from a water-proofing perspective, only the elevation of installed drainage systems, or other natural low-points of which there are effectively none. The footing support soils will become saturated with each significant rain event, as the footing excavations are the lowest voids on the lot, and the soil is super-porous. The footing support soils would have to be completely saturated for the water level to rise inside the sump collector, or as this collector is installed, the “sieve” collector. The sump is essentially in a strainer basket. There appears to be no back-up mechanism for the pump if/when the power is out, and not overflow system.
Drainage – Some work has been attempted to give the roof water and standing water a place to go. This effort was minimal, and the logic for the existing front yard drain is questionable, as there appears to be no means for water to enter the system other than pouring over the edge of the drain, which is undersized. All drainage systems that aim to “de-water” the ground must be aggressive about filtration, have plenty of clean-outs, and the materials must be “smooth-walled” where they appear to be corrugated. Corrugated piping should never be used. Also each lineage of pipe should have a clean-out that delineates the direction of flow. You can draw arrows on white pipe! These basins should be placed into a wide ditch lined with non-woven filter fabric, then place the pipes and basins, then fill the voids with washed gravel, then wrap the fabric and finish the burrito. Then you can cover the ditch in dirt, and nothing but water should enter the system, and if the filtration is distributed, the filtration system can last 50 years rather than 2. I only mention this because everyone uses woven fabric socks that are directly around the pipe and the only part that filters anything is the fabric in front of the holes. The ideal yard drain strategy behaves like a big wok with a 40 foot diameter with a fishbone style network of buried perforated piping in surrounds of washed gravel and non-woven filter fabric.
Roof & Gutters – There are no overhangs. There are gutters and gutter guards installed on the home; often gutter guards tend to allow heavy rain to bypass the gutters completely. I would recommend keeping your eye on the gutters for overflows and over-shooting. The downspouts flow into corrugated extensions that are buried. On the roof itself, there are obvious valleys that will require regular up-keep.
Structural – You can tell from inside the home that the footing support soils do not stay dry. Prior to entering the crawlspace I would have been able to sense that the piers were down, maybe unanimously, through the interior. I would guess that this crawlspace spent 20 years where the humidity was excessive during at least 3 seasons of each year. The engineered I-Joists appear to have “relaxed” so that they are down about 1” across their spans. Various efforts have been made to support the floor system with secondary piers and girders.
Crawlspace Environment – The crawlspace is sealed with 12mil re-enforced plastic that has been run up the walls and fastened with concrete nails. The seams have been taped and the piers have been wrapped. All of this work was done in workmanlike manner and there is a sump and dehumidifier working hard to keep the space water free and humidity free. The previous owners did not leave the wireless humidity sensor’s base station, and a new one must be provided so that occupants can monitor the humidity as they watch the ambient TEMPs and RH’s fluctuate. I would definitely recommend some kind of insulation strategy given the previous fiberglass has been removed. It would make sense to keep our eyes on the temperatures in the crawlspace for the next 12 months before decided whether to insulate the floor system or perimeter wall and band-joist. There is ample duct-work in the crawlspace that is excessively leaky which causes the home to be negative.
Attic Environment – The attic is vented and insulated with R-30 Blown Yellow Fiberglass. Yellow Batts were used around the perimeter so that loose fill would not disrupt the venting around the perimeter. The duct leakage is also excessive in the attic, especially around the supply plenum, leaving the house negative. The chimney chase is leaky enough that all of the heat can escape into the attic in the winter, and in the summer, the walls around the chimney attract heat from the attic. There was a dark stain on the attic door side of the roof deck next to the chimney, which may have been repaired already, if you happen to have a roofer out, make sure he checks the chimney flashing. During the audit I re-aligned the bath fan duct which had come away from the roof penetration. The top-plates are leaky on both sides and the wiring penetrations are un-sealed. (you can tell the wiring holes are not sealed from the bottom because you can move the wires up and down freely. The “yoga room” was a screened room, and is now insulated with ~R-25 Blown Cellulose, but they failed to install baffles or batts around the perimeter so the technician who blew the insulation tapered it away from the perimeter leaving 10 – 20 SF of un-insulated ceiling. This room has a 6” supply duct, but has no return capacity installed, which causes the home to be even more negative when the upper unit fan blows.
Indoor Environment – Adam’s nose is sensitive to the smell of mildew, mold and fungus, and no such smells were noticed. From a comfort & flow perspective, it would be advantageous to have fewer windows in the living room in favor of regular drywall, insulation, studs and siding from hip level down. Less is more. Also for comfort, it would be better to have returns in every room; monitor the comfort in the rooms and try to determine if the rooms are more or less comfortable with the interior doors open. In general, it is better to leave all vents fully open, and all doors fully open to avoid pressure differences where the rooms are positive and the central areas are negative. In summer, when the doors remain closed only the cool air can be removed from the rooms, and the heat gets trapped. You can tell when you remove the floor vent that a bunch of crap has been collecting in the vents. I would recommend having the ducts cleaned soon and once every 4 years. The dirtiest part will be the radius in the 4 feet closest to the floor vent. You may be able to clean this by hand or with a vacuum.
Clothes Dryer – As soon as possible, replace the dryer venting system and route it the shortest and straightest way possible.
It is always tricky to make a prioritized list. For now I am going to assume that there is a limited opportunity to have some work done in April by Adam, and that this work takes the highest priority and is listed first
1) Duct Sealing and Air-Sealing in the attic and crawlspace. Using orange can foam, seal all the collar connections that are accessible. Seal all accessible plumbing, electrical and HVAC penetrations in the floor and ceiling with orange can foam. Tape all the floor register boots from above with metal tape or Nashua Duct Tape. Caulk, Foam or Tape all ceiling registers where the boots meet the drywall, as well as the bath fan housings do the same. Use a flexible insulative material and a staple gun to seal the massive air-leaks beneath the master tub. There is insulation wrapped externally around the metal plenums and return boxes. Sealing these leaks means destroying much of the insulation so some “in the heat of the moment” decision will need to be made if the leaks in the metal to metal connections appear to warrant ruining the insulation around the joints. Attic decking surrounding the attic return box needs to be removed to allow for sealing of the box-to-drywall joints and for this we recommend a cordless circular saw set to the proper depth and foam/mastic/both may be needed to seal it effectively. [Some of the crawlspace air-sealing will be redundant if later the floor is insulated with foam.]
2) Clothes Dryer – By code, only metallic duct is to be used for dryer venting. There are contractors arguing that flexible metal ducts can be used when the ducts remain accessible. I believe that the dryer duct is much less likely to clog if the duct is insulated because the steam will remain steam rather than condensing against the inner wall of the duct. Dust sticks to water but does not stick to steam. Steam actually help carry dust or lint. Replace the dryer venting system altogether with a short, straight, insulated duct and new penetration/hood that allows for annual cleaning. If flexible metal duct (NOT ALUMINUM CRUNCHY DUCT LIKE THE ATTIC BATH FAN) is to be used it will not have insulation, but you can buy 4″ insulated flex and dispose of the inner liner and slide it over the metal flex.
3) Plumbing – First, the main water lines need to be properly supported, so they don’t crush the flex ducts in the crawlspace. Second, the accessible hot water lines should be insulated with the “Rubatex” $1/foot – good stuff, not pool noodle crap. 3rd, the spigots should be moved to better locations and generous service loops should be installed so that they can be replaced without entering the abyss crawlspace. Forth, the toilet to tank connections to me seem like potential failure is possible due to regular use. See this link for an explanation: Toilet Tank Connections in general toilets need to re-built due to the harshness of city water every 5 years, and if you re-build them right, it is better than buying a completely new toilet, because the new ones don’t come with all the parts plumbers need to make them bullet proof.
4) Drainage – Given the long term vision for the home, i do think it would be worthwhile to install the following systems: A) A yard drain system consisting of perforated (but with a minimum 1″ weir) 4″ pvc that has one leg starting near the driveway, running around the front of home to the right rear corner, another leg starting near the outdoor HVAC compressors or the side door running around to the right rear corner, consisting of trenches dug into virgin soils with a “tumor filtration system” so that water can enter through the yard drains, through the sides of the yard drains, and the pipes themselves, where only filtered water can flow through the system, once the pipes are linked together a determination can be made as to where to take the water and the contractor should be able to assess the situation in the rear so that all the pipes can flow at 1% or greater. It would be awesome to have all the gutters placed into a solid pipe in the same trench directly above the yard drain pipes that accepts the outflow from the sump as well.
5) Electrical – I do believe it is warranted to install ample crawlspace and attic lighting. Currently when an unknowing person enters either crawlspace access it is only after you have crawled 20′ or so that you realize you missed the switch for the lights. We prefer to install the switches in the vertical plane, and the outlets in the vertical plane, like everywhere else in the home.
6) Crawlspace Doors/Access – Both crawlspace doors have issues. I do like that the doors are PVC because otherwise they would rot, however, the peel and stick weather stripping does not stick to PVC, and no attempt was made to staple or fasten it mechanically. Install new weather-stripping, staple it if you can, and adjust the barrel bolts so that the gasket is compressed. This will reduce the amount of drying needed. Also, we believe it is unwise to have “lockable” crawlspace doors in this location, under these circumstances. Finally, it is the opposite of that “welcoming” feeling entering the crawlspace; with the mud, smallness of access, and items in your way. These are reasons that during the contract period and move-in process the new owners have yet to fully enter the crawlspaces. I would highly recommend the installation of a treated U filled with gravel or concrete that either has drainage piping or is sloped so that even when it is raining a technician does not have to get filthy before entering the crawlspace.
7) Crawlspace Insulation – Currently the crawlspace has zero insulation. In our opinion there are two good strategies, and one has been effectively removed by the installation of the vapor barrier up the crawlspace walls. Ideally we would recommend closed cell spray foam be applied up the crawlspace walls and into the band joist cavities. I don’t think the foam would adhere very well to the vapor barrier, so I would recommend using OPEN-CELL-SPRAY-FOAM to insulate the floors of the home to a minimum of R-19 so that in the summer, the cold air within the home, that sits on the flooring like a liquid, will not radiant into the crawlspace. Also, the heat belched out by the dehumidifier will not enter the home so easily. As a detail of our installation we generally insulate the whole band-joist cavity too, R-19 is only 4 inches of Open Cell and that 4 inches should be applied to the entire ban-joist. [ —— ] vs [/——\] Floor Insulation Strategies
8) Duct-Work – Some of the ducts are 25 years old. In general we prefer light-weight duct systems. Currently the main trunks are metal, and excessively long. We recommend a single extended plenum so that all the ducts can be flexible ducts originating in one location. A radial layout allows for the whole home to be heated evenly, and keeps the air-flow from fooling the thermostat into thinking the home is uniformly heated when it is not. If for whatever reason the air-handler(s) can not be located in a central location, you can install a long 16″ piece of flex duct to a distribution box in a central location. HVAC companies have a bad habit of cramming the collars closely together. This makes the collars hard to seal, and hard to work on, and the insulation gets compressed and sweating is possible then. I would suggest there be a minimum of 6 inches between take-off collars so that the flexible ducts can be installed as to not touch the others. Always run new flex ducts as close to the floor system as possible to allow for maximum crawling space, and in the attic run them as low as possible to allow for crawling over them, and potentially to be covered in loose fill insulation.[Not a valid template]