Seattle Home Inspector's Blog

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Albino spiders are never a good sign!

One of the most common defects on homes is getting the final finish grade too high---or more accurately---building the house too low.  Having built quite a few houses myself, I really don’t understand how this happens.  After all, what would a few more inches of concrete cost?  The vast majority of homes that I inspect, that have siding buried by dirt, walkways and driveways, could have easily been remedied by the house being 5 or 6 inches higher.

I suppose one could argue that it would mean one more step and the step’s associated costs.  But really, will that additional “initial cost” really be that much more than the damage that will be caused from inadequate clearances to finish grade---forever?  This is of course assuming wood destroying insects don’t invade.

Take a look at the following home.  It looks pretty nice at first glance.  Yes?

House buried in asphalt 

On two sides of the home, the driveway/parking area asphalt has been poured right over the bottom of the siding. 

house buried in asphalt 

The first question I have to ask is, why Asphalt-Man doesn’t know this is “wrong?”  What this installation of asphalt does is to direct moisture that is trapped under the asphalt to areas where there is no asphalt---the house structure.

Now, if you will, I would like you to suit up and come along with me into the crawl space. 

As you can see in the next picture the access is super-duper.

Crawl space access 

If you look closely you should be able to see that there are four short deck boards under the end of the hose that can be removed for access to the crawl space.  All that is necessary is to remove the 32, 2-1/2” star-drive screws! 

I am not equipped on a Standard Home Inspection for such an exercise, but fortunately the maintenance person was, and he (albeit reluctantly) took all the screws out for me.  Whenever anyone wants to make it difficult for me to get into a crawl space, I naturally want to know why.

Trust me when I tell you that this is one crawl space that I knew intuitively that I did not want to miss.  (Also note that the writing on the deck surface tells anyone that is interested, that the water shut-off is under there too.  Again, all that is necessary in an emergency is to pull those 32 screws out!)

With the boards removed, we can now see the access.  It is all of 40 inches wide and all of 8 inches high!

Crawl space access 

No problemo!

I don’t even have to exhale to get through 8 inches.  The two beams that I had to get under, to get to the driveway side of the crawl space, did make me exhale however.  The thing about crawl spaces like this one is that if I can barely get into the space, there is a REALLY good chance nobody else has gotten in there.  All of which just reinforces even more the importance of me persevering.

After much effort I was able to get to the other side and found a virtual terrarium of vegetative and insect species.

The following pictures show what the wood structures looked like all along the sides where the asphalt is poured against the building. 

Wood Decay/Fungal Rot 

Wood decay/fungal rot with moisture ants 

Probing the rotten beams showed that there was very little structural support left---barely enough for the armies of Moisture Ants and Dampwood Termites to hang out in and the fungus to cling too.  Here is a nice Moisture Ant nest clinging to the beams and sub-floor in a corner.

Moisture Ant Carton 

Needless to say, this “problem” was a bit more than my buyer was prepared to take on.  It is all fixable---after all it is only wood and nails and concrete.  From the exterior, you can’t really tell the whole building needs a foundation.  But at least a new foundation can be built high enough to get it out of the clutches of the asphalt---and the albino spiders.

Albino Spider

 

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle.

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Comment balloon 53 commentsCharles Buell • August 24 2013 07:29AM

Comments

Looking at the first picture, before reading your post and its point, I noticed the asphalt covered a seam in the siding!

So, really, what's wrong with a little fuzzy, lumpy growth anyway?

And you gotta love those albino spiders.  Was that a White Widow?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

OMG, OMG, OMG, I hate spiders, I saw the last picture and almost fell over. OMG... I don't even know why I came here because of the title... OMG...

Sorry, off to find a paper bag, breathe in, breathe out...

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 4 years ago

Oh yuck.  Just looking at the first picture, it looks odd.  I don't think I've ever seen a house like that in our area.  Where is the grass?

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 4 years ago

Thanks for the incredible photos Charles, it can be very revealing under the building.

I too have often wondered why homes just weren't built higher.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 4 years ago

Hi Charles,

A crawl space will always have spiders and the occasional wet spot. But this one is something. It has it all. Kinda like going to the big box store.

Stay away from the spiders though. They are some nasty looking creatures.

Have a good saturday in the Seattle area.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 4 years ago

Andrea - those cotton candy spiders are delicious!  Especially when they come on a stick!

You can color them pink and blue too...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Charles -- that is one big problem, caused by person who wasn't thinking (asphalt man/homeowner).  Interesting spider, with only six legs....

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 4 years ago

OK, Jay just had to say that to me. Now I won't eat dinner tonight. (which might be a good thing after all) But what I did notice, after calming down, was that there is no lawn... another spectacular idea for the home owner that has no time for lawn maintenance but doesn't want to live in a condo.

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 4 years ago

I identified what it is in #6 Steven!  The special six-leg White Widow Candy Spider!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Hi Charlie: I'm a novice when it comes to home construction, but I totally get this one and always wondered when I've seen similar homes that cover the siding with concrete or asphalt. Crawl spaces will always have their inhabitants, but ant nests, termites and a burgeoning crop of fungus... I don't think so. 

Posted by Rene Fabre, Marketing in the Digital Age (First American Title) over 4 years ago

you aren't paid enough.

Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Coldwell Banker Residential) over 4 years ago

Charles, I agree with Alan, you are certainly NOT paid enough. Not by any stretch of the imagination!

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 4 years ago

Jay, could be :)

Andrea, Andrea, Andrea---its dead! :)

Debbie, this was not an ordinary residence and there probably used to be grass.  It is a small duplex structure on the same property with a normal house---with grass :)

Tom, it just doesn't make any sense to me

Clint, and someone is going to be going to the big box store in the near future for this house too

Jay--I think they come in green too---for all the greenies :)

Steven, I think the one at 2:00 is actually 2 legs and then it is missing the 8th.

Andrea, asphalt is pretty maintenance free that is for sure

Jay, at least it can no longer be a "widow maker"

Rene, while I appreciated the blog fodder, this space was a bit much for me---and much of it I could not get myself into

Alan, I have noticed that

Andrea, I can set up a PayPal account if you like :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

Charlie, I hope you had a good air mask, because I'm thinking the quality of the air under there could not have been good at all.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 4 years ago

Liz and Bill---just like being inside a sumo wrestler's sock

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

Charlie, That is a very nice crawl. You do get the better moisture ants than I do.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Charles - thanks for crawling into the abyss for your client (and the photos).  I admit, I didn't catch the asphalt in photo 1 being over the the siding... but never again!

Posted by AJ Heidmann ~ CRS, YOUR Alexandria & Arlington, VA Real Estate Expert (McEnearney Associates, Inc.) over 4 years ago

Ugh it is creepy under there! I do not envy your job one bit Charles.

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) over 4 years ago

Charlie: It was time to run when you saw the first picture. What a difficult job you have and this inspection truly proves it. This asphalt job wasa job of not being aware whatsoever. If I was the owner I would panic.

Posted by Jimmy Faulkner, The Best Of St. Augustine (Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 4 years ago

Charles

Yuck. I hate spiders, but the whole scene is pretty disgusting...and scary. So what did the homeowner have to say?

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad (Solutions Real Estate ) over 4 years ago

Spiders freak me out!  I bet you have a lot of amusing stories to tell as an inspector.

Posted by Rosie Moore (Serving Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City) over 4 years ago

Just too crippy for me, I hate spiders as well, that's just too nasty or as my grandbaby says, (CaCa Nasty).  I truly admire you for what you do and what you have to go through.  But I guess that saying is true, Someone has to do it - Glad it's not my job, I'll stick to selling...

Posted by Graziella Bruner, Associate Broker - Serving Wayne & Oakland County (NCS Premier Real Estate) over 4 years ago

The first spider that bit me was pure white, really small, and really painful.  I've been biten by others since, but none have been as painful as the albino spider bite.

Posted by Raymond Denton, Shady Canyon Homes (Wholesale Capital Corporation) over 4 years ago

Wow, I have never seen that. Thanks for the photos, they are amazing. You really never know without a thorough inspection!

Posted by Kelle & Kevin Wirt, "There is a new Horizon in Hill Country RE!" (The Wirt Team - Horizon Realty) over 4 years ago

Bless home inspectors--your job is essential in helping us serve our clients well.  Those are some mighty creepy photos, but I was fascinated and they definitely had me leaning in to get a better look.

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) over 4 years ago

Charles, 

This is why we have so much respect for thorough inspectors.  Thank you for your hard work!

Posted by Sheri Sperry - MCNE®, (928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR® (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 4 years ago

Yikes!  Very informative blog.  Thanks for being so clear and using so many pictures!

Posted by Allan Sanchez, Rocklin & Roseville, Short Sale Agent (Roseville CA & Rocklin CA Short Sale Agent) over 4 years ago

Damn,  You have pictures of things I didn't even know existed!

Glad it was you and not me!!  Looks like "lipstick" has worked well for that old hag.

Posted by John Dotson, The experience to get you to the other side! (Preferred Properties of Highlands, Inc. - Highlands, NC) over 4 years ago

I came along with you into that crawl space, as requested, and ewwww, I wish I had waited outside!   Yuck.  I don't know many buyers that would have wanted to deal with an asphalted-in house with bugs below.  Thanks for sharing (I think)

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) over 4 years ago

Charles: What a wild tale! ...and I am still curious; how did you get in again?

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, Sr. LBA,, ...Finding Your Place In The sun! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Wow, those pictures really tell a scary story. You home inspectors are really worth every penny. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Jill Winchel, We make it easy. You make it home. (Royal Shell Real Estate - Koffman & Associates ) over 4 years ago

I have found the same thing.  The harder they make it to access, the worse it is.

Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) over 4 years ago

Oh my lord!  Looks destroyed.  I am sure the local zoo would love to have a look at the micro-forest of plants and insects under there.

Posted by Jay & Michelle Lieberman, Creating Calm in the Buying and Selling Chaos (Keller Williams World Class) over 4 years ago

Sorry madam. .

I got some bad news. .

have you heard about sink holes?

yeah. .this is worse!

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 4 years ago

We had our contractor built in much larger access points on our deck, and when we went to remove one for our septic inspection, guess what?  He had used star screws! Why do those even exist?  Grr... Luckily, we're well-equipped and had proper screwdriver to remove them, but still a pain.

Great pictures - thanks!

Posted by George Roth and Don Elliott, Real Estate Brokers (Coldwell Banker Bain) over 4 years ago

Charles, I always enjoy reading your posts. It's so fascinating what you find and share. Also..I didn't know there was such thing as Albino Spiders. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Tamra Lee Ulmer, FORCE~NRBA ~ Over 1000 REO Assets SOLD! (Arizona Resource Realty) over 4 years ago

I had never seen an albino spider before your blog-- yikes! That thing looks creepy! Thanks for the great blog and pictures.

Posted by Ralph Gorgoglione, Hawaii and California Real Estate (800) 591-6121 (Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes) over 4 years ago

Oh disgusting! You had me at albino spiders.

Posted by Kelly Taylor (Keller Williams) over 4 years ago

In a word...ick.  Would not want your job but thankful you do it :)

Posted by Brenda Mullen, Your San Antonio TX Real Estate Agent!! (RE/MAX Access) over 4 years ago

I am just amazed with the albino spider. Oh I freak over them but the weird ones are just so fascinating. You must come in contact with all sorts of creepy crawling things

Posted by Christine Farkas, Awesome Customer Service Experience (Keller Williams Western Realty) over 4 years ago
Did you taste that brown stuff to see what it was? ;)
Posted by Juan Jimenez, The Richmond Home Inspector (A House on a Rock Home Inspections LLC) over 4 years ago

Don that is OK---I will let you keep your subs

AJ, asphalt it just one material that gets installed over siding---concrete it even more common

Suzanne, not even a teensy weensy little spider bit?

Jimmy, it is sure going to cost someone something

Jeff, I am rarely privy to what the homeowner has to say---especially when my buyer walks away

Rosie, no shortage of blog fodder

Graziella, I like CaCa-Nasty---just about that bad

Raymond, this big fellow was no real albino however

Kelley, and lots of these spaces don't get inspected without proper access

Norma, it is the car wreck scenario---hard not to look

Allan, it would be hard to get the full effect of this without pictures

John, beware the lipstick they say

Kat, I know mine did not :)  Now you can go wash your coveralls---I recommend washing them separate from the rest of your laundry

Paula, yup---through that 8" x 40" slot

Jill, but we have all the fun :)

Randy, absolutely

Jay & Michelle, yes--the whole house will need to be jacked up and a proper foundation put under it.

Fernando, that is basically the scenario :)

George, typically they are used where ready access is not only not required but where it is discouraged

Tamra, hopefully no one actually things that is a live spider.  It is a dead spider and the high moisture conditions allow it to be covered with mold

Ralph, hover your mouse over the picture and you will see it is not a real albino spider---just mold covered

Kelly--this one needs a leash :)  Have you heard about those spiders weave a web to catch Bats?  Now that is a serious spider!

Brenda, I am so grateful that we all have different interests and skills :)

Christine, I see these guys quite often in really wet crawl spaces.  They are like a barometer of the space, telling me how wet it is.  Of course they are all dead and just mold covered

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

Juan, I have never been into fungus eating :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

All I can say is I hope you have your breathing ventilator on, and your coveralls the essential haze mat suit of the inspector -- YIKES.  And why would they pour the asphalt on to the siding? Poor, unsuspecting home owners.

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, Principal Broker (503) 810-7192, Buyer Focused ~ Buyer Results (BuyersAgentPortland.com | Portland Metro Exclusive Buyers Agent | 100% Buyer Representation ~ 100% of the Time) over 4 years ago

I think this inspection was worse than the one on a home I had hoped to purchase a month ago.  How a homeowner doesn't know what has happend to their house is an issue is beyond me.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 4 years ago

You are a brave man, Charles Buell.  I have chills reading this post .  Spiders and crawl spaces are not my thing.

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) over 4 years ago

Charles, you couldn't pay me enough to do your job!  Guess who is going to have nightmares tonight?

Posted by Bette Gottwald, "Bet"on Central PA Real Estate! (UNITED REAL ESTATE | Central PA) over 4 years ago

NAS T and that is flat NASTY!!!

I see this and worse viewed a home that the basement had CIELINGS 6ft high? ummm I couldnt even stand up straight! Not only does the home need to be higher get those ceilings up too!

Posted by David Shamansky, Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg (US Mortgages - David Shamansky) over 4 years ago

Carla, no clue why---just a case of not knowing what they do not know I guess

Cindy, I would be willing the bet that the vast majority of homeowners have many things going on in their homes that they are unaware of.

Sharon, I can understand not liking crawl spaces but spiders?  :)

Bette, the crawl space is the nightmare---you don't need them too

David, you put wood that is not growing in the ground it will try to grow things :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

Now you know why I don't do home inspections!!!  That is crazy!

Posted by Gary Frimann, REALTOR and Broker (Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates) over 4 years ago

It makes you wonder who the brilliant contractor was behind all of this-perhaps it was a mad scientist seeking a safe place to breed albino spiders.

Posted by Michelle Carr-Crowe-Top 1% Diamond Certified Real Estate Team Sells Cupertino San Jose Homes-Just Call 408-252-8900, Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years (Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900!) over 4 years ago

Such a nice science project. So 32 screws is not readily accessible :)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

Hey I found one of these Albino spiders in my basement in Massachusetts. In English please why are they bad and any more about this spider

Posted by EJAE 6 months ago

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