Water leak in crawl space of home I might buy

frontierDecember 25, 2009

I've had a HUD home under contract two months now, just before closing I was informed that the pipe in the crawl space broke at the main and water leaked into the space. I was told that water was pumped out, the furnace turned on and vents opened so the water would drain.

Today I went with the realtor to inspect the house, putting off closing two more weeks. Anyways it appears that the water didn't go too high in the crawl space, the heater was fine, it didn't appear to go up to the insulation. But it was muddy. The plastic was over the bottom of the floor and the inspector/friend of the realtor said that they should have opened up the plastic so that it could indeed dry, and we did that.

Since the house was vacant it's unknown how long the leak lasted or how long the crawl space was wet. HUD does inspections every two weeks of their homes so they caught it in an inspection and the next day a company pumped the water out. Two days later the records at the house say they came back and took out some fans they had. I was told the crawl space was dried out which it wasn't, it was muddy.

Anyways trying to find an inspector to look at it early in the week - they were all busy - some warned me that mold could form later on even after one event like this. And I got a bit spooked so I'm trying to research. Should I wait for the crawl space to dry out and inspect it again putting off closing? I have an extension for two more weeks? If mold is going to grow from this will it show up by then? Or since the leakage didn't reach boards, insulation, etc would I be considered safe? Should I have any mold tests done? Can mold show up later from this, when would it show up?

This house is a great deal but I'm a bit spooked. I know the inspector was buddies with my realtor, they played it down although an inspector I'd called said maybe I should do a mold test, another said mold is over blown... I just don't know what to believe. I'm a first time buyer.

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Lots of different ways this could go, IMO. Yes, mold testing is likely to be inconclusive, as is is EVERYWHERE in our environment.

The worse-case scenario is that a mold bloom couls occur, covering much of the wood, and be quite expensive to eradicate.

What I would do...and this is from a non-professional, and is off the top of my head:

I would have an INDENPENDENT inspector look at the place. Spend a little bit of time over at inspectionnews.net where in my opinion the best inspectors hang out. Heck, most of the pros over there will answer questions from homeowners. One of them may be in your area.

Depending on the answers you receive, and what your inspector says, I'd have the seller escrow an amount that would cover remediation if bad things occur within a reasonable time frame, say a year.

That way, if it is nothing, as they believe, they will get back their money. And if it does, you'd be made whole.

When you propose this, you'll quickly be able to find out if they're being truthful about their opinion of "no problem."

Don't know the climate of your location. It sure would be good to open any foundation vents to get some cross ventilation...but in December that could be problematic.

At the very least a GOOD dehumidifier....they make crawl space models...about $800-1000...not the HD / Lowe's models should be installed immediately.

Merry Christmas!


    Bookmark   December 25, 2009 at 8:02AM
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As mentioned above, a lot depends on where you live.
We've had 'water under the house' issues in the past and once the drainage issue was repaired there were no other problems.

Another example: a few months after DS bought his house they discovered 8" of water under the house after the first rain. It was another case of incorrect landscape drainage but they've never had any problems with mold since then.

It does take awhile for wet soil under the plastic to dry, especially this time of the year but I've never heard that one should remove the plastic to allow the soil to dry since that allows more moisture into the crawl space.

You mentioned that 'vents were opened so water could drain'. What vents? I know in some parts of the country air vents are closed to keep out the cold air so maybe that's what you were referring to.

If you have good air flow under the house, I really doubt you'll have any mold problems from one flooding incident.
As Rod mentioned, definitely use an independent inspector!

    Bookmark   December 25, 2009 at 11:28AM
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First time home buyer and a HUD home with possible mold and definate water issues is a BIG gamble. You'll need to have a lot of monetary reserves to tackle a home like this. Or, you'll need to have a LOT of DIY skills.

Unless you have one (or both) of the above, I'd pass this by and look for a home in a more ready to move in condition that won't tax your money and patience as much.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2009 at 5:09PM
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