Recently I received a call from a perspective client, who claimed that he had water infiltration issues that seemed to be coming from the foundation.  I’ll give you a little info about the property before I go into details.  The Lake Bluff, Illinois home inspection  was done on a home that was only 5 years old with superb finishes.  The home boasted 5 bedrooms , 5 bathrooms and a finished basement to die for.  That’s where the problems started.  The basement was getting water near the sump pumps.  The water was definitely coming from the slab and foundation connection but did not seem to be substantial.

As most of you know, not only am I a Thermal Home Inspector,  but a licensed plumber (pl-194988).  So when I enter a home, I think very deeply with the plumber part of me of what could be causing this water infiltration in the basement.  I check the water main to see if there is any movement on the main service.  The next place I look in the Lake Bluff home inspection had to be the best place for my clients.

The sump pump had recently been replaced with a new Zoeller sump pump about 5 weeks ago.  It seems that the plumber installed a piece of mesh screening over the drain tile line that enters the sump pit.  This piece of screening was loaded with mud and dirt that would cause the 4″ drain tile line to be totally filled with water to the point that the basement floor was inundated with water below the concrete which was seeping up from the lowest areas in the basement.  We had 1 major rain in the Chicagoland area about 3 weeks ago prior to my inspection of the Lake Bluff home.

I’ve never came across the installation of a “screen” over a drain tile system that entered into a sump pit.  My advise to any home owners that see this in their sump pit is to remove the screen  and have a Zoeller battery back up sump pump for the times that the electric goes out or if your main sump pump fails.

My clients from the Lake Bluff home inspection were ecstatic that the problem was something so small and something that could be corrected so easily.  They were preparing to spend thousands in repairs.  In this case they spent under $200.00 for the diagnosis and the repair of their problem.

Hopefully you never have problems like this in your home.  If you do and you need help with these issues please contact me at The Thermal Home Inspector or 312-961-4228.

Thanks for stopping by and be safe.

Jim Kolke

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

While performing a home inspection in Waukegan, Illinois my clients asked me if their new homes basement got water before.  This a very hard question even to the most seasoned home inspectors in the industry.  It is easy to throw a blanket statement out to your clients to appease them.  I want to give them the most honest answer I could come up with.  To do this I must inspect the exterior of the home and the interior of the basement walls withe moisture meters, thermal imagers and with my prior experience to possible inform me of past water inclusions.

When you look at the exterior of a home you want to look at the soil or grass that is touching your foundation.  The dirt or grade should be pitched away from the home.  One of the first reasons you might get water in your basement is from the lack of leaders on your downspouts.  Leaders should be 4′ – 6′ long and pouring on a splash block to allow the earth around the home to absorb the rain water.  If you don’t have these installed and want to know pricing for these issues you can see them at ~

The leaders, gutters and grading are some of the main reasons for water issues in basements.  If these items are in the proper order then the chance of these items being the culprits are very limited.  The next reason for water issues in a basement are due to sewer back up.  Sewer back up is when your sewer literally backs up into your home through a floor drain, toilet or shower drain.  The only way this can be stopped is by having a back flow prevention device built into your sewer system.  These systems can cost any where from $7000.00 -  $15000.00 depending on how elaborate the system needs to be.

The next issues would be cracks or penetrations in the foundation.  Depending on where you are at in the country this could be a big issue. If the basement walls are all drywalled over then the use of a thermal imager with moisture meters is the only way to inspect for possible issues.  If you bought a home recently and the basement was recently painted you could still see past evidence of water issues on base boards, door frames, doors, mechanical systems, piping and more.  You just have to be patient and the answers will come to you.

Hopefully this will help you stop water issues in your basments but if you have more questions you can contact me at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke



If you have window wells on your home then this article is for you.  Window wells are meant to protect your home from water entering the windows.  The best thing you could do to protect your home from water issues is to cover the window wells.  I was hired today for a home inspection in Elk Grove Village where on arrival I was faced with issues immediately.  If you are in the Chicago land area you would probably guess that there was a water issue because of the terrible storm that rolled through the area the day before. 

The Elk Grove Village home inspection had window wells that were not covered.  That is not a problem as long as you have window well drains.  I should say window well drains that are not blocked with debris.  The debris blocking the window well drain can cause severe issues when the water enters the basement area.  This was the case at the Elk Grove Village home inspection.   Rain water was entering the basement window that was saturating the carpet, walls and all the building envelope materials.  

I continued at the home inspection in Elk Grove Village, my biggest concern I had was to get the water out as fast as possible to prevent mold issues.  If you have window wells make  sure that these areas are cleaned out regularly.  This homes window wells will need to be roded by a plumbing contractor due to debris blocking the drain line inside the piping.  These are areas  that we inspect.  Check out the other areas we inspect at~    We have videos so you can see all the areas we inspect for you. 

If you have questions on what to look for in a property inspection please contact us at~ 

Please leave a comment or question so we can help you with issues you might have in your home.   Thanks~  Jim Kolke

One of the most asked questions when I’m in a basement is “has this basement had water?”  A large percentage of the homes we inspect are 25 years old or more. So telling my clients that the property hasn’t had water damage in 25 years, I had better be real sure what I tell them.  This question did come up on the home inspection in Arlington Heights, Illinois.  My clients hired me to inspect a home that was built in 1967. The home was a solid built raised ranch that is frequently seen through out the Chicago land area.

We were in the basement and the water question did come up and I explained that it is almost impossible to tell if the home had water intrusion in 43 years. What I could tell them, was if there was any recent water damage in the basement of the  home inspection in Arlington Heights. I scanned the whole basement with a Fluke thermal imager to see if there were any areas showing temperature variances.  The next test was to do a visual inspection of the baseboards and drywall of the basement walls to see if there were any water stains that stood out.

In the case of the home inspection in Arlington Heights there were water stains 3″ off of the floor.  They were definitely old stains.  How old?  I couldn’t  tell, honestly.  I took out a radio wave moisture meter (tramex)  that I used to scan the basement foundation perimeter to see if there were any readings detected.  The meter came up negative for moisture readings. My clients from the home inspection in Arlington Heights were still seeking the answer to the “has the basement had water before?” question.

By following “due diligence” and probing deep into the basement the answer was “yes”.  The reason I gave was the sump pump gave out years past and there wasn’t any mold or water issues at this time.  My recommendation was to put a battery back up sump pump to insure that this didn’t happen again. The back-up pump will start up if the 1st pump fails.  This will provide protection also when the electricity is lost with the battery back up.

If you have questions on your home or a home you are buying has water intrusion issues, contact us at~  Jim Kolke