Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


I am not Superman---I actually CANNOT see through walls.

This post will be an attempt to clarify the title of the post. 

While this simple fact may seem obvious, we constantly hear stories about what the inspector should have been able to see, superman style, when the remodeling starts.

In the best of scenarios the inspector will note the warning signs that might be an indication of hidden issues, but sometimes this is not going to be anywhere close to representing what is really going on.

One of my favorite such scenarios is “sleeper floors.”  Sleeper floors are floors that have been built over other floors.  Sometimes it is simply a means to level other floors that slope too much, or people don’t want concrete floors, or they want to raise the floors for plumbing and heating components. 

They are not always installed because of something negative going on underneath them.  A common use of a sleeper floor is when the garage is converted to living space. 

They all have one thing in common however.  It is not possible to tell what is going on underneath them! 

I cannot tell you what kind of materials were used, whether vapor barriers have been used, whether there is moisture underneath, whether there is wood decay/rot present, whether there is wood destroying ant activity, or whether there is any other kind of floor underneath.  There is the dreaded scenario of their being nothing but dirt underneath.  At the very least such floors will be reported as conditions conducive to wood destroying organisms.

Here is a picture from a recent inspection showing the finished basement room.  Again I could not answer the question of what was going on underneath and the owner took it upon themselves to remove all the wood paneling and wood sleeper floor to see what was going on because at one corner there was elevated moisture present.

sleeper floor
This next picture shows the same room.  While it is hard to see in the picture, the slope across the concrete floor, from where I took the picture, is about 5 inches.  This badly settled floor is consistent with the rather large crack visible in the picture that was certainly not visible when the paneling was present.  I knew the house had settled, because of the sloping floors above and surmised that this settlement accounted for installation of the sleeper floor.

What is under the sleeper floor
The point of the post is to show how much more becomes apparent when you can tear things apart. 

Before the demolition, one could not even tell if there was any concrete under the sleeper floor. 

When your inspector reports, “hidden concerns may exist and only become apparent during invasive investigation.” 

He likely means exactly what he says.

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Seattle Home Inspector


The Human Rights Campaign   QR code for Charles Buell Inspections Inc


WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board

28 commentsCharles Buell • April 18 2015 02:35PM
I am not Superman---I actually CANNOT see through walls.
This post will be an attempt to clarify the title of the post. While this simple fact may seem obvious, we constantly hear stories about what the inspector should have been able to see, superman style, when the remodeling starts. In the best of… more
All houses are money pits—some pits are just deeper than others is all
When things need to be fixed or replaced we either fix them or repair them ourselves or hire someone that can. Sometimes we even build additions onto our homes—hopefully by qualified parties, but that is not the point. All of these… more
Dang roofers anyway!
The roof was replaced 15 years ago. The roof surface was in very good condition, with not much to write home about. In the course of the inspection I like to verify that all exhaust equipment terminates where it is supposed to terminate… more
What it means to be a home inspector
Most of us that have been in the real estate industry for any period of time have witnessed a shift in what it looks like to be a home inspector. While I was not a home inspector 35 years ago, I know some that were. 35 years ago there were… more
Logic and building things.
Take a look at this nice bench seat in a large custom shower enclosure. It may or may not jump right out at you but there is something seriously wrong, seriously illogical, about the installation. The problem is the glass does not sit.. more
What is it with kids and ladders?
We have all heard about how the building codes are a “minimum” standard. One of my favorite examples is related to guards (barriers). Guards are required at decks, balconies, stairs and other similar areas where protection against falls is… more
Your electrical system will never be safe!
We go to great lengths to make homes safe electrically. The truth is, for both electric shock and fire, we have actually done a very good job. With all we have done however, our home’s electrical systems are only “safer”---not “safe. ” … more
The ice cube trick
Broken seals on windows can be hard to detect or easy to see if they are badly fogged up. Sometimes they show up when the sun shines on them and other times they do not show themselves at all. Sometimes the seals fail and moisture, either… more
Solid evidence of the crime.
Home inspectors will often look for “circumstantial evidence” of issues around the home. Things like water stains will be identified as evidence of at least past moisture conditions or possibly ongoing moisture issues. For example if it has… more
Carpenter Ants and Grow-Ops
Seems like this would be an odd juxtaposition because the last thing our houses would need would be Carpenter Ants on drugs. Carpenter Ants are interesting because they don’t eat our houses they merely mine the wood and other materials as a… more