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.
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.
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
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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board