Do you have a crawlspace?  If you do then this article is for you.  Are all crawlspaces bad?  This was the question I received from my client from a recent home inspection in Northbrook, Illinois.  Their are no “bad” crawlspaces.  I believe that there are certain components of a crawlspace that should be installed to prevent water or moisture issues to develop in the crawl space and /or in the home.  Moisture issues can develop into mildew or mold issues in the future if not monitored and prevented.  There are all types of crawlspaces and all systems in these different crawlspaces should be installed for different types.

The crawlspace that I found at the Northbrook home inspection was a gravel crawlspace with no vapor barrier, no insulation in the floor joists and other issues I will talk about in this article.  I will outline components that you should find in your crawlspace to prevent an unhealthy crawlspace.

  • Vapor barriersare a must especially if your crawlspace is a dirt or gravel crawlspace.  Dirt and gravel are components of a biological system that are known for decomposing.  Dirt and gravel can allow radon gases to enter your home along with mold, ground moisture, pests, bugs and so on.  I’m a big fan of concrete slabs for the flooring in a crawlspace.  This will eliminate all of the above issues that could be active now in your crawlspace.  The installation of 6 mil plastic vapor barrier can be installed for under $500.00 in a good sized crawl space.
  • Insulation with a moisture barrier should be installed in the floor joists of the ceiling of your crawlspace to keep your heat in the home and to prevent moisture to enter your home.  I would also put plastic over the insulation in areas with high humidity to prevent mold growth on fiberglass insulation.
  • Ventilation in a crawlspace is a must to prevent stagnate air and the build up of moisture and humidity that may give a great breeding ground for mold to grow and mature.  The Northbrook home inspection did not have ventilation for the crawl space to the exterior of the home.  The had heat ducts that serviced the home.  This could be good and bad.
  • Heating in a crawlspace is done if there are plumbing pipes located in the crawlspace.  There should never be a return vent in a crawlspace.  If you have heat in your crawlspace then you must make sure that there are vapor barriers and moisture barriers to prevent the moisture from the earth to condensate in your ducts and possibly developing into mold.  If you do have heat in your crawl like the Northbrook home inspection then you will need to get the moisture barriers and vapor barriers installed as soon as you can.

As you can see there are many types components to a crawlspace that can allow the wrong type of element to grow in you crawlspace if not installed.  My clients from the Northbrook home inspection were amazed that there was so much involved in a crawlspace that could cause structural, cosmetic and possible health issues if not inspected on a regular basis.  Most people dont like to go in their crawlspace because it is usually dark and smelly.  If this is the case then you probably need to hire a home inspector to give you the details of your crawlspace.

Crawlspaces can be tricky to inspect and if you need help please contact me at The Thermal Home Inspector or 312-961-4228.

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe.

Jim Kolke

  If you are buying a home larger than 3500 square feet than you will probably want to read this article.  This article was written for my client from a home inspection In Evanston, Illinois.  My client was moving from a smaller home in Northbrook, Illinois that was 2500 square feet and did not have 2 heating systems.  As you will see homes that are larger than 3500 square feet will generally need to heating systems.  Heating systems that are installed in any floor other than the basement have requirements that they must adhere to for the protection of the building components.  If you are a home buyer then use my list below when looking at your possible new home.

  • Overflow pans are a must for any furnace / air conditioning system installed on any floor other than the basement.  This pan protects the floors below it from possible water damage from condensate lines that may back up.  The Evanston home inspection did have an Overflow pan.
  • Overflow pan limit switches are a must and are code in every village and town in Illinois.  The overflow pan limit switch is installed to the control board of the furnace and blower when engaged will shut off the furnace and air conditioner until a heating technician services the overflow pan limit switch.  I find that over 50% of the homes I inspect are either missing these switches or they need to be replaced.  The replacement cost for the overflow pan limit switch is $350.00.  Unfortunately the Evanston home inspection had an overflow pan limit switch that will need to be replaced.
  • Duct work in attics must have insulation and a vapor barrier to prevent condensation from the duct work that will eventually drip and cause water issues and possibly mold issues in an attic.  The only way to tell if these vents are insulated properly is either by visually inspecting every duct or by the use of a Fluke thermal imager.  We use a Fluke thermal imager on every inspection to make sure all of are clients are protected.  We were able to see with our Fluke thermal imager that there were ducts that will be needing repairs at the Evanston home inspection.
  • The flue from a heating system can be either metal or pvc.  Either way you want to make sure that the roof penetration is not leaking or does not have past water staining around the piping and flashing.  If this area has active leaks or past water staining than I would prepare for roof repairs.

As you can see there are some major questions that need to be answered when looking at a heating system of a home larger than 3500 square feet.  The most important portion of a heating system in my opinion is the overflow pan limit switch.  If this switch is missing or inoperable then you might not know for weeks that damage is being done to your home that may cost you thousands.

This article was written for new home buyers, old home owners and for my readers that just like to know about construction.  If you have further questions about heating systems then please contact me at The Thermal Home Inspector or 312-961-4228.

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe.

Jim Kolke

Cracks in an exterior of a home can mean alot of things or nothing at all.  The only way to tell how severe the cracks are is by inspecting the homes structure.  Recently, I was inspecting a home in Northbrook, Illinois and I thought it would make a great topic for all of my readers.  The home I was inspecting had multiple cracks in its brick exterior.  The home is a frame built home with a brick exterior skin.

The cracks over the windows had developed over many years due to rusting lintels.  Lintels are made of steel and support the brick over a window openings.  Rusting lintels are the number one reason cracks occur above window frames. This generally is not a structural issue, but can develop into a structural issue if left unrepaired.  These repairs can be costly.  We developed a cost to cure page that you can see at ~  This page can assist you in getting an idea of  how much repairs may cost.  If you need further help, contact Jim Kolke at ~  This is how my clients from the Northbrook home inspection found me.

The only true way to tell if a crack is active is to install a crack monitor.  The proper way to install a crack monitor is to epoxy the monitor to both sides of the crack and leave on the wall or foundation for as long as you can.  As you see in the image supplied, the monitor’s measurements are down to mm.  This is done so that measurements on cracks can be measured in short periods of time.  The Northbrook home inspection will possibly need a monitor installed at various crack locations to determine if repairs are warranted.

The structural cracks can cost thousands to rectify.  I did find a possible strucutral crack above a garage door opening.  The reason this crack occured is because the 2″ * 12″  that was doubled up to make a wood beam was not  installed far enough into the pocket and started to crack.  The Northbrook home was built in 1957.  That means that this is a very slow crack, but it is at a point of no return and structural repairs will be needed.

My suggection to my clients from the Northbrook home inspection was to get a framing contractor involved.  They needed a ball park number for the repairs for their antorney/inspectionperiod of their contract (when after the contract is signed by both parties, but when the buyer has 5 days for review from an attorney and a licenced home inspector to protect their purchase of the home).

Lally columns would be needed to reinforce the garage opening so that the existing beam could be removed.  A steel beam with lally columns installed in the walls along side of the garage door opening would have to be installed to support the beam and prevent further cracking issues.  The exterior brick skin would have to be removed and replaced  after the repairs were completed.


As you can see, cracks in exteriors can be simply a crack or possiblely  alot more.  If you need further help with these issues or issues pertaining to your home please contact me at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke

Foundation cracks are generally major concerns for clients who are buying properties.  We try to inspect these walls  when possible. In the instance of  a home inspection in Northbrook, Illinois the  client explained to us that the basement was totally finished.

Traditionally we inspect the exterior of the home first.  We look at many components of the home to verify the integrity of the structure of the home.  At the home inspection in Northbrook, there was an issue with the grading that was marginal.  This means that the grading needed to be increased  to prevent rain water from pooling around the foundation walls. In this case, it was pitched away from foundation but could use a little attention.

We used a thermal imager at the home inspection in Northbrook to verify insulation content through the home along with possible water intrusion.  There was no water intrusion or missing insulation seen throughout the home.

The final portion of  the home inspection in Northbrook was the basement which was totally finished.  I started to scan the basement walls and saw that a small area in a corner  showed a positive for a change in temperature.   We also use Tramex wall moisture meters.  The meter we use scans 4″ into the wall surface with radio waves.  The meter showed a positive for water penetration.  This was documented and the client was informed about these issues.

This is not always a costly repair.  In this case a portion of the wall had to be removed so the concrete repair company could evaluate and repair the foundation wall.  The cost for the crack was $325.00  and the drywall repairs were $235.00.   The grading was increased by a landscaper for $75.00 and everyone was happy.  Total cost $635.00 for all repairs.

If you think you have water penetration in your basement and the basement is finished contact us for thermal imaging at