Cracks in a foundation can be very serious.  How serious the cracks are depends on their location and the condition they are in.  When I find a crack in a basement the first thing I look for is if there is any history of water penetration.  The next concern is if there is displacement or shifting of the foundation walls.  This is exactly how I what I did while performing the home inspection in Chicago for my clients.

There are two types of cracks.  There are structural and non stuctural.  I talk about the non structural first.  Non stuctural cracks are cracks that can develop from settling of the foundation, settling of a homes structure and expansion and contraction of the concrete that the foundation is made of.  Most of the  cracks that I see in a basement foundation are non stuctural but may still need attention.  These cracks can develop from poor grading along the foundation of the home, window frames in the foundation walls, loading from beams and poor compaction of the material under the foundation footing walls.  The foundation walls of the Chicago home inspection had cracks in the foundation that derived from poor grading and concrete expansion.  These cracks did not have past or present water penetration.

If you do find a crack that does or does not have water issues I still advise to repair it.  These cracks can become active and repairs are minimal most of the time.  Depending on the size and water penetration of the crack will determine what type of repair the contractor will do.  Foundation repairs generally cost $200.00 a crack.  You can see other repair prices at ~  Repairs can be done quickly but the cause of the crack will still need to be corrected.  This is the same advice I gave to my clients from the Chicago home inspection.

Structural cracks are the more serious type and if found should be evaluated by an structural engineer.  Structural cracks could have been non structural cracks that were left not repaired and developed into structural cracks.  If you see horizontal cracks or bulging of the foundation that is the first sign of structural issues.

These type of issues will require more investigation and probably more costs to repair.  My Chicago home inspection did not have any structural type cracks.  If you see these type of issues and need immediate help contact me ~  Letting these issues go without repair can possibly cause damage to the structural of the home that you own.

As you can see cracks in a foundation should not be left active.  Repairs to the issues that helped create these cracks also will require repairs as soon as possible because they still may allow they cracks to continue developing.  If you still need more help contact me at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke

So your buying a foreclosed home?  That’s great!  You are probably getting a great deal.  Plenty to be had.  This article will explain through a Chicago home inspection why having all the utilities on will save you time and money in the future.  This is very important.

If you are buying a foreclosure you already know that there is a good chance you will be doing work on your new home to get it the way you want it.  The question is how much work will you have to do to get it the way the bank/underwriter want it?  That is a trick question.  They want it to be functional depending on what type of loan vehicle you go with.  That’s a whole other article though.  The bank generally sends an appraiser/inspector  to represent their interest (your loan) in to inspect your home with the inspection report that your inspector has produced on your behalf.  Most of the time the owner (bank) knows what is wrong with the property.  They just want you to find it for yourself.  Sometimes they will give you allowances for repairs because they know they will be found during your inspection.  Before I was able to perform the home inspection in Chicago I had to schedule getting the utilities turned on with the bank, listing realtor, buyers realtor and my client.  I personally want all the utilities on for a home inspection to protect and educate my client of potential costs.  The utilities that need to be turned on are plumbing supply, electric and gas.

The electric is generally never turned off.   The banks have gotten smart and left that utility on so that the sump pumps don’t overflow and cause water, mold and other damages to the property.  The gas on the other hand is generally shut down and/or lock out by the gas company.  Generally the gas company wants some sort of security deposit to turn this on.  Sometimes this is a past due bill that they want paid prior to turning the gas service back on.  So be prepared for that.

The final utility is in my opinion the most important.  The plumbing!  The plumbing can cause the most damage if their are issues that are active or issues that have happened prior to the foreclosure process.  The biggest issues I find in our foreclosure home inspections is poor winterizing of the plumbing system.  Primarily the water supply system.  If the winterizing company does not blow the water supply lines out with a compressor the lines will freeze at the lowest area and break.  So when you do turn on the water supply service you will have water leaks.  These generally can be found near the water supply angle stop for the toilets.  This is the lowest area in the bathroom and kitchen water supply system.  These areas generally can be fixed by a licenced plumber or a handy homeowner.  The issues that your finance company will have is that they want prices for these repairs from a licensed plumber.  This is very important!!  There are home inspectors that have plumbing licenses that can do this for you for FREE if you hire them for the home inspection.  I know this for a fact because I do this and I’m a licensed plumber ( Chicago license # pl194988).  You can see all the other licenses at ~   This was the main reason my clients hired me for their Chicago home inspection. Believe me when I tell you that you need someone with this license in your corner advocating with the underwriters.  If we are doing it here then someone will have to do it for you.

If you have other questions about foreclosed home inspection or regular home inspection please contact us at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke

Recently on a home inspection in Chicago I had a tub that was starting to back up because of a blockage in the plumbing waste line.  My client was concerned on how to clear the line so that the water would flow freely from the tub to the sewer system.  The first thing I had to explain was the two type of drain traps that were installed  in old buildings. 

The newest trap that is being installed and is code here in Chicago is the P trap.  The P trap is easy to pass a plumbing rod through and is easily installed.  This type of trap comes in brass or pvc.  The pvc seems to be the type of material most easiest for home owners to use.  The second type is a drum trap and that happened to be the trap that was installed in the condo building that was built in 1915.  The drum traps are cumbersome and can be hard for homeowners to operate and clean.

The best way to explain how to clean a drum trap is to literally take it apart.  That is exactly what I did at the Chicago home inspection.  The first thing you want to do is have all your tools ready.  You will need a 5′ 3/8 tub rod, drum trap wrench (google that term and you will find many places to purchase this), flat head screwdriver, pipe dope, towels.

First take off the trim plate with the screw driver.  You then get your drum trap wrench and insert it into the proper fitting of the drum trap cap.  You might have to put a wrench on this cover and untwist it.  Sometimes these can be seized closed.  When you get the cover off you can insert the tub rod towards the tub side of the drum trap and see if you can clear the line.  Next, you rod towards the sewer until you feel as though you cleared the blockage.  To test your work you must install the drum trap cover and run the water in the tub.  If the water goes down, apply pipe dope on the threads of the drum trap cover and re install the cover.  If the drain is still plugged then more attempts will be needed until water runs freely.

My client at the Chicago home inspection were so excited to be living 1 block off of Lake Shore Drive that the issues with the old condo did not even waver his decision making.  His condo is in Andersonville which is a highly sought after community in the Chicagoland area.  Andersonville is blocks from Wrigley field  and close to everything.  Transit to the downtown can be done via bus or the el.  My clients father said the Chicago home inspection was an education for his family. You can see other ideas we have at ~

If you have questions on how to operate your drum traps contact me at

Please leave a comment.  Thanks~ Jim Kolke

Some people love the idea of  owning a huge home.  What do I mean by “huge home”?  I mean a home that has the need of multiple split heating systems that have zones to accommodate the size of the home.  Generally homes that are more than 3000 square feet need to have multiple split systems.  My home inspection in Chicago was a 4000 square foot home nestled in Roscoe Village.  Roscoe Village is a great neighborhood just west of Lake View.  The Roscoe Village neighborhood is known for its trendy restaurants and happening corner pubs.

My clients from the Chicago home inspection were definitely excited to move to their new home.  This was the last hurtle to home ownership here in Chicago.  I explained that this inspection would take longer than an average single family home inspection.  When you have a home the size of my home inspection in Roscoe Village you have to set aside at least 3-5 hours to ensure proper investigation of all components.  One of the most important issues that I need to concern myself with is furnaces and a-coils in attics.

The proper way of installing a furnace and a-coil or split system in an attic is with a flood pan with a drain and a buoy limit switch that will prevent water damage to the rest of the home below that portion of the attic.   My Chicago home inspection explained why I’m so serious about this portion of the home inspection process.

There was no pan for the split system and water was found on the sheathing of the attic floor.  The condensate drain was installed by an amateur or at least in an amateur style.  My advise to my clients from the Roscoe Village home inspection was to have a overflow pan with limit switch installed immediately by a licensed HVAC contractor.  My clients were very lucky that we caught this before they purchased the home.  The repairs were only $645.89 but there could have been water issues or even worse mold.  In their case it all worked out and they are enjoying the Roscoe Village neighborhood.

If you are buying a home with multiple split systems make sure all the issues in my blog are covered by your inspector.  If you need further help with these issues please contact us at~

Please leave a comment or a question we can help you with.

Thank you~ Jim Kolke


Spa tubs in a home or condo can be a real treat to enjoy and relax.  These type of tubs are great to have when they work properly.  There are multiple things that can go wrong with these tubs that can cost the home owner quite a bit of money though.  This was definitely the issue on my recent Chicago home inspection.

My Chicago home inspection was a apartment building that was recently converted to condos in 2008. There are quite a few buildings like this in the Lincoln Square neighborhood in Chicago.  The Lincoln Square home inspection neighborhood is known for its first original settlers which were Germans.  You can still see some of the remnants of this nationality by there stores in the Lincoln Square on Western and Lincoln.

The condo that I was inspecting had never been lived in.  In fact out of the 6 units only 2 were occupied.  This condo building was definitely feeling the effects of the poor housing market conditions.  Concerns for further condo associations were definitely a issue with the lack of condo owners this left the costs to the 3 tenants.

Minimal issues did come up but are easily remedied at the home inspection in Chicago.  There was 1 issue that could have caused serious damage to the condo unit below if  my client would have opted out of the home inspection process.  While filling the spa tub I noticed that there wasn’t an access panel to service the motor, heater, piping or electric under the tub.  This is very dangerous which is proven by this inspection.   The tub was filled past the aerators or blowers so that water could be circulated.  I engaged the air switch which allows electric to the blower motors.  The spa tub seemed to be running normal until I heard running water and the level of water falling in the tub. Luckily the builder of the home inspection in Chicago was on premises while the inspection was being done.  We went into the unit below and found that water was coming out of the bathroom light fixture.  We got towels from my bag and started to clean the water up.

My advise to my client of the Chicago home inspection was to have the builder supply an access panel to inspect the spa tubs inner working.  The tub would definitely need to be pulled so that corrections could be made.  If an access panel would have been installed repairs could have been made immediately.  The builder was especially thankful that the inspection found these issues before the building was totally occupied.

If you have any questions about jacuzzi tubs or other home inspection issues please contact us at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke