What does a home inspector look for when examining a mobile home crawl space?
Thursday, July 19, 2018
The #1 question we get asked when starting a mobile home inspection is: "Are you going to go under it?" The answer is yes, because the crawlspace is an important part of the home inspection.
A quick look at the site can give us clues as to what we might expect to find underneath, and determine areas of concern once inside. For example, a mobile set on a sloped site will be more likely to have ground moisture issues and piers that have moved out of their original positions.
Before removing a skirting panel to enter the crawlspace, we check the skirting for any areas of damage, loose or missing sections, and most importantly, the proper area of cross ventilation. Moisture related defects are one of the most common problems we report on in the crawlspace, especially if the home is set on a difficult site.
Once inside the crawlspace, locating the bathrooms, kitchen, laundry and main drain line is the first order before moving through a systematic checklist:
1) Soil moisture check - We look for standing water (and try to determine the source), dry or active "riverbeds" on sloped sites caused by water running under the home and determine how moist the soil is by trying to make a ball out of soil in our hands. If the soil is exceptionally wet, a moisture meter reading is taken for documentation in the home inspection report. Any wood scraps or discarded items are noted for removal. See our blog posts Is it normal for a mobile home crawl space to be damp in Florida? and How can I remove water under my mobile home? and What are the HUD requirements for site drainage when installing a mobile/manufactured home? to learn more.
2) Steel frame - Corrosion of the steel frame is a common defect and can be problematic when it becomes severe. Heavy corrosion is usually an indicator of a high moisture content in the crawlspace. Many times the detached tow bar is stored in the crawlspace and can be welded back on for moving the unit to a new site in the future.
3) Piers - Over time the stacked concrete block foundation piers can move out of plumb because of settlement or soil movement. The plastic foundation pads, pier block and wood shims are examined for any cracks, loose areas or other defects. Secondary piers are required to support large openings in the wall framing such as sliding glass doors, at "marriage joints", where sections of the mobile home connect and at exterior walls where the frame is cantilevered. Any temporary piers added by the homeowner or a handyman indicate defects in the support structure of that area and are explored. Read our blog post What are the most common defects in mobile/manufactured home foundation piers? for more details.
4) Straps and cross bracing - The metal straps, anchors and connectors play an important safety role for the home during high wind situations. The numerous components and installation details are inspected, spacing measured, and documented. The depth of the anchor in the ground, the angle of the strap and how the straps attach to the frame are a few of the details of the tie downs that are examined. Straps that have been cut or damaged, like in the photo at the top of the page, are noted also. For more about the tie-down requirements for mobile homes, see our blog post What are the tie-down requirements for a mobile home?
5) Belly Wrap - We commonly document damaged openings in the "belly wrap” (vapor barrier) that seals the underside of the floor framing—usually where a plumbing repair has been made. The belly wrap is an important component because it blocks water vapor from entering and damaging the floor framing and sheathing over time. Occasionally we find large areas of damage to the vapor barrier and insulation because there was an opening in the skirting that gave an animal access to the area and an opportunity to pull down the insulation.
6) Visible a/c and plumbing components - Most of the the electrical wiring, plumbing piping and a/c ducts are not readily visible in the crawlspace because of the insulation and vapor barrier, however we examine what is visible for defects such as open electrical boxes, open electrical splices, leaking or poorly supported drain and supply piping and a/c return lines that are sitting on the grade instead of being properly hung from the framing. Any bulges in the vapor barrier are carefully explored because they usually indicate a plumbing leak that is not visible. And of course, we are always on the look out for evidence and damage caused by termites and other wood destroying organisms.
Also, see our blog post Is it safe to go under a mobile home?
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