What I'm Seeing Now


Beware The Slick Contractor!

A phone call came in from a client for whom I did an inspection in 1997!  Someone was doing work on the house and informed them that they had a lot of moisture in the crawl space and should call such and such company to evaluate it for them.  Neither is able really to go under there, or desires to.  So they had to trust what they heard.

Can I say something before we begin?  When you are informed of a problem, or even have a perceived problem, before you call a contractor, why not call a home inspector to have a look?  There are good reasons why.  Here are just a couple.

  1. For a look see at a specific problem, his rates are likely to be much less than for a full inspection.
  2. A home inspector is objective because he has no financial interest in his findings or recommendations.
  3. He will not ask for money beyond his fee.
  4. There is no collusion with other parties.  He may refer you to another company or engineer, but that is as far as the relationship goes.  There would be NO kick back from the other party.  He will ONLY refer you to someone he trusts, necessarily.  I have a VERY small cadre of referral companies.

It could be my client's contractor had a relationship with the company he referred.  It all fit together too nicely.  The company that showed up, the "basement waterproofing company," said that there was NO vapor retarder over the soil and there was an extreme amount of water every where; the insulation was saturated and falling down all over the place; the concrete block foundation walls were so full of water that holes had to be drilled to eliminate the moisture inside.  Now it could be that I am not up on all the recent keep-your-foundation-dry technologies, but drilling holes in the foundation wall is a new one for me.

Their solution?  Same old, same old - put in canals to divert the water into a sump pump and send it out.  Their fee?  $11,000.  That did NOT include the insulation replacement or the electrical for the sump pump wiring.  But they could recommend people to do that, for additional fees.

NOTE:  They did not identify the problem.  What is the problem?  THE SOURCE OF THE WATER!  To fix this crawl space, the source of the water has to be identified and eliminated before anything else can be done!!

The contractor was all smiles, very smooth, very matter of fact, good sense of humor and tried many times to get them to sign a contract now, now, now!  They just happened to have a free crew and an open slot next week and could get it done then!  How very, very convenient!

They felt uneasy.  Thinking about it, they decided to call me.  Well, good for them!  Here is what I found.

I see a vapor retarder. Picking it up there is not much moisture underneath.

The far center is the only insulation that is falling anywhere.  What you see on the far left is what is against the wall.  The insulation is not saturated, but dry.

The concrete block not only looks dry, it was dry.

The HVAC ducts are well insulated.  The space is well vented.

It looked like a regular crawl space to me.

It is not over the top in any way.  And no black widows!

There is something growing on or in some, but not all, of the floor joists.  I am asking around to have that identified now.

A termite guy, coming for his regular visit, said it looks like some form of mold.  I am not sure.

They are complaining that the room above is cold in the winter.  I did recommend that they replace the insulation with paper-faced R-30, tightly installed all the way to the rim joists and touching the underside of the floor. My IR camera found the bay window seat, walls and ceiling to be well insulated.

Jokingly, and with a smile, I tried over and over to get them to agree to have me dry out that crawl space for only  $10,000!  And that I could draw up an estimate right then and there!  Hey, I'm saving them $1,000!!!    ;~)

My recommendation:  CALL A HOME INSPECTOR FIRST!  You might just save a few thousand dollars in the deal!






Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 11 commentsJay Markanich • May 16 2010 09:36AM


Contractors of any ilk that have a contract in hand that needs to be signed today should be sent packing immediately.

I agree with you that inspectors for the most part have no stake in the deal other than their disclosed fee and their reputation.

Good advice.

Posted by Glenn Roberts (Retired) over 10 years ago

Glenn - I have never had a stake in anything I have referred other contractors for, except as you say, my reputation!  And the "repairs" always seem to be the same, canals and sump pumps!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

If only you could see what I am thinking

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Sadly I have seen this exact thing, and I advised my client that the "contractor" seemed to be more of a pitch man, whose job was to make the unsuspecting terrified of the supposedly needed repairs. As he was touting that the foundation problem made the garage slope away from the back door, I innocently asked if that was not a planned slope to divert water dripping from wet vehicles during snow and rain? I don't think he liked me. I kept advising the lient to keep shopping...

Posted by Bill Saunders, Realtor®, www.BillSellsHotSprings.com (Meyers Realty) over 10 years ago

Charlie - if I point my arrow at your cloud, does it reveal that you are thinking?

Bill - that is probably very sound advice!  I see this over and over.  I am very glad they called me.  And I'm still willing to do it all for $10K!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Great idea to refer clients to inspectors instead of contractors. It's always good to get an unbiased opinion.

Posted by Julia Odom, Chattanooga Homes for Sale (Select Realty Professionals) over 10 years ago

Thanks Julia.  That's our job!  The client is always the process, not the money.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago


Agreed. Too many contractors have too much to gain getting the job to be objective.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Objectivity is the key to our business, Steve.  And we have everything to lose!

Stay busy, my friend.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Contractors, particularly those who specialize, always have the right fix for the problem. The repair just so happens to be what they're selling.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

That's it in a nutshell, isn't it Jim?  And that they just happen to have a crew available in the next couple of days!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

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