Seattle Home Inspector's Blog



Most people have seen "efflorescence" even if they didn't know what it was or that it even had a name.  The whitish build-up visible on masonry structures is caused by moisture moving through the material.  As the moisture evaporates from the surface, the salts carried in the moisture builds up to create what we call "efflorescence."  It is very common on foundations below grade that have not been adequately sealed on the exterior or that are for some other reason being impacted by sub-surface water.  Moisture can also wick up through the foundation footing and then evaporate out through the wall.  While mostly cosmetic (in some cases it can lead to spalling and weakening of the concrete or brick structures), the main thing that is indicated by efflorescence is:  "there is moisture in the material."  The picture at left shows typical efflorescence on a basement wall.  The picture to the right shows where efflorescence was created in areas that were not covered by the plastic ground cover (the plastic ground cover has been removed for picture taking purposes).


 basement efflorescencefooting efflorescence










This next picture shows a "close-up" of the delicate structures that are sometimes created.  The picture on the right is severe efflorescence on the face of a fireplace.


close up of efflorescenceefflorescence on fireplace 










Efflorescence is also very common on the faces of brick chimneys.  This is usually the result of failing chimney mortar caps, missing flue hats, failing mortar joints and/or cracks that can also allow moisture into the chimney structure.  The moisture can then travel through the chimney structure and come out in other parts of the chimney where efflorescence will build up (it might only be visible in the basement or crawl space).  The chimney in this next picture almost looks like it had been painted white and now most of the paint is gone.  But this is also efflorescence---due primarily to a mortar cap in poor condition and no hat on the flue.

 efflorescence on face of chimney



Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Seattle Home Inspector


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Comment balloon 6 commentsCharles Buell • January 15 2008 09:25AM
Most people have seen "efflorescence" even if they didn't know what it was or that it even had a name. The whitish build-up visible on masonry structures is caused by moisture moving through the material. As the moisture evaporates from… more
Efflorescence on Chimneys
Efflorescence on chimneys (See the above blog Efflorescence ) can also be caused by condensing exhaust gases of gas and oil fired appliances. This "condensate" is slightly acidic and when this moisture moves through the brick… more
Painted receptacles
On yesterday's inspection I was reminded of a common electrical issue---painted receptacles. Receptacles should NOT be painted. When they are painted the surface of the receptacle from prong-to-prong can become "conductive" and… more
Rats in the Attic
The previous blog, RATS!…, talked about rats in the basement. This time I will talk about Attics, where infiltration by rats and other vermin into the home is perhaps the most prevalent. Often there is a network of trails visible in the… more
RATS! ---This blog is NOT for the squeamish!
It is hard to align oneself on the side of the everyday rattus rattus or others of their kind. I sort of lost respect for rats "back on the farm" in rural upstate New York. One day as I went to remove a dead rat from a trap, all… more
Closet fire hazards
A lot of older homes still have porcelain bulb holders in them. Too often they are located such that stored items can come in contact with the bulb----creating a fire hazard. These old bulb holders should be replaced with fixtures approved… more
Does your inspector get on the roof?
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When do I have to be careful?
This is a continuation of the theme started in the previous blog: " Electrocution hazard " It is very important that proper clearances be maintained for the electrical service wire coming to the home from the street. Trees need to… more
Electrocution hazard.
Inspectors find all kinds of electrical issues during an inspection. Some can cause fires while others lead to electrical shocks. Few of these issues rival the shock hazard of uncovered utility company splices. In the picture below the… more
Continuity of Electrial Bonding---shock hazards!
As previously discussed in the blog: Plumbers aren't Electricians I mentioned that the continuity of the metal piping systems in the home is important and that replacement of sections of the pipe with plastic can result in loss of continuity… more