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Entry to a tight crawl space © Daniel Friedman at InspectApedia.comCrawl Space Access FAQs
Q&A on Crawl space accessibility codes, standards, methods

  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about entering crawl spaces and similar tight building areas: what if there is no access or if access is unsafe?

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Access to crawl building crawl spaces:

This article describes the accessibility requirements & codes the required size & location for crawl area openings in buildings, the standards & procedures for entering crawl spaces, and we explain how can we inspect a crawl area and building conditions when safe, ready access are not already provided.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

How to Get Into a Crawl Space That Has No Ready Access

D Friedman inspecing with broken leg Aug 2003These questions and answers about getting into limited or no-access crawl spaces for inspection or repair were posted originally at CRAWL SPACE ACCESS - be sure to review that article.

[Click to enlarge any image]

On 2018-11-15 18:40:33.732890 by Anonymous

Scott

Thanks for the interesting suggestion of a crawl space inspection checklist. Certainly you could go through this article series and make up such a checklist and if you decide to do that and email it to me I'll publish it for others to comment upon.

Watch out: take great care however.

The danger of checklists is that they start as a reminder of things that we don't want to miss.

But they become an inspection guide, especially if they're put in the hands of a beginner or less experienced inspector..

A result is that people start to inspect to the checklist rather than to toe soecific building.

A consequence is that one can fail to see important other conditions that are there bur are not on the list. That's because no checklist can ever be complete.

Watch out: Before entering a crawl space to inspect its condition or to clean up the crawl space or make repairs in the crawl area.

At CRAWL SPACE SAFETY ADVICE we list a variety of reasons not to enter a crawl space. And even if you think the crawl space is not obviously dangerous, limited space or other risks often mean that you should not work alone and not enter the crawl area without assistance and aid standing by.


On 2018-11-15 18:31:51.994366 by Scott Hoenig

Would anybody be willing to share there crawl space checklist, I rarely see them so a checklist may be helpful,

Thanks in advance

On 2018-09-16 01:11:16.624381 by (mod) -

Judith,

You certainly do need a cover over an entrance to a crawl space or a basement from garage floor or even an entrance that's low on the wall because if you don't have that opening air-tight sealed there is a risk that combustible fumes could enter a crawl space and lead to a building explosion or fire

On 2018-09-15 18:29:37.801795 by judith

do we need a cover over the crawl space which is entered from the garage

On 2018-06-27 00:15:52.142156 by (mod) -

We need to have a conversation about balancing costs, risks, and needs. Before starting a very expensive task we need to know that there is evidence of a problem or requirement that makes it Justified. Otherwise we might rely on limited inspection and secondary Clues such as evidence of rot, building movement, insect attack, odors, signs of water in the crawl space at cetera. We might also do things outside to reduce risk of water entry.

An experienced home inspector can help you make a risk assessment and then decide if further investigation or repairs are both justified and urgent.

Contractors shy off because they see a project that's a lot of work and expensive and perhaps figure you're not going to be willing to pay for it.

On 2018-06-26 18:16:06.136383 by JJ

Hi All, I am in desperate need of some crawl space advice. Purchased a 1920's home. Crawl space is virtually inaccessible. However, there is a small access point inside a closet that lets you see about 12 inches of space, with showing you the depth of the crawl space cant be more than 12 inches in depth as well.
I have called countless contractors. No one will take on the project. I am assuming I need get the crawl space accessible, then dig it out enough to hopefully encapsulate it. Is that standard for this type of issue? Is this a monumental feat in labor and cost? I live near DC.

On 2018-06-11 22:19:22.563395 by (mod) -

Anon,

I think you are asking if you can make the space between the framing in the slab so small that it would not require accessibility.

In my opinion, in that case, you will be asking for even more trouble since you are creating a space in which problems can develop and that cannot be inspected nor access for repair.

Even if you frame directly on top of a slab, you can have the problem of water leaking into that space between the sleepers.


So you might consider that design only in a location where you are absolutely certain that there will be no risk of water, insect attack, rodents, or any other issues under your floor. In my opinion that's kind of a dream.

On 2018-06-11 21:38:22.691086 by Anonymous

Is there a dimension for space below framing material to the top of the slab so I don't need access

On 2018-05-30 22:43:30.409131 by (mod) -

You physically can, D.D. but Watch out: if the garage-to-crawlspace access is not absolutely gas and air tight there is a risk of explosion should gas fumes from a vehicle leak into crawl space (or basement or other area) that is lower than the upper surface of the garage floor.

People build a protective curb or take other means to prevent that hazard. See what your local building department will accept.

On 2018-05-30 22:03:07.157719 by DannyD

Can I provide access to a crawl space under a living space from an attached garage?
If so, does the access door have to be fire rated or sealed on a specific way?
What build codes cover this installation?

On 2018-04-24 20:34:54.419014 by (mod) -

No specifically, I know. But there are building codes for scribing moisture control ventilation and a requirement for a real Foundation. I would very much like to see pictures of the dirt Foundation that you described. You can use the picture frame icon next to a kind of button to attach photos to come in or you can find our email at the page top or bottom contact link

On 2018-04-24 20:29:42.303060 by stanley Hammer

I live in Monroe Township in a senior development. I have a crawl space under my house with a dirt foundation.There is also a sump pump. The foundation is dirt with a plastic covering it. Is there any building code that the crawl space must have a concrete slab?

On 2017-11-26 by Rick Bunzel, Pacific Crest Inspections - rules governing entry to confined spaces

I have been a firefighter for 42 years and have had confined space training. There are lots of rules that govern first responders when it comes to confined spaces.

For those inspectors who go into smaller openings consider this. If you were to be injured, have chest pains, shortness of breath or become dizzy, could you get yourself out of the crawlspace? Most fire departments are not equipped to do confined space rescues and will have to call a department that is.

For someone who is struggling to breathe or having a heart attack it will take that much longer to extricate them.

Here are some references

http://www.firehouse.com/article/10545453/confined-space-rescue-operations

OSHA Rescue Requirements for Confined Space Retrieval

Firl, Craig, Rick Argudin, NEW OSHA RESCUE REQUIREMENTS FOR CONFINED SPACE RETRIEVAL: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW [PDF] , 2015/11/01, retieved 2018/12/22 original source: https://ohsonline.com/Articles/2015/11/01/New-OSHA-Rescue-Requirements-for-Confined-Space-Retrieval.aspx

On 2017-10-20 15:25:29.305273 by (mod) - must the inspector examine where the foundation contacts the soil?

Jodi,

OPINION: A home inspector cannot and should not be held liable for failure to *inspect* any system or component that she cannot inspect or cannot inspect fully because of lack of access, safety concerns, or inability to operate.

That includes foundation defects in areas of the foundation that are not accessible.

Examples of inaccessible foundations include a basement whose walls are covered with finish materials like drywall and paneling, and outside portions of the foundation that are below ground or are inaccessible for any reason, including perhaps dense shrubbery.

Those rules apply to deck support as well.

However, when an inspection is limited there are other things an inspector should do and should be held accountable for:

1. if there is visual evidence of a likely foundation defect, such as evidence of structural movement (cracks, out of level, gaps, separation of framing members, sagging, even a very bouncy floor, or evidence of repeated repairs), and when such evidence can be observed simply by directing one's visual attention to it, then that should be reported along with an explanation of its significance or import.

2. For any of the required inspection components (listed in home inspection standards and laws including New Jersey's) for which inspection is limited, the inspector must tell you that her inspection was limited, explain why, and where there is evidence such as in the example I just gave above, the inspector must tell you (or her client) that additional steps to obtain more information are warranted (in her opinion).

On 2017-10-20 by Jodi

LEGALLY - is INSPECTOR in NJ liable to observe/notice foundation/whatever connects deck to ground, even it there is landscaping present?

On 2017-10-08 by (mod) -

Dan,

You don't state where you live, and that may be important and answering your question since the local building code official will have the final Authority on just what building parameters are acceptable or not.

Frankly I would be surprised at a requirement that a building be modified to increase crawl space height.

Let's find out if what you're told is actually what the inspector intended to say. For example a home inspector may decline to inspect an area that she considers inaccessible because of such low height.

On 2017-10-07 by dan

I am selling my home and the purchasing home inspector states I have an area under my home that has a clearance of 12 inches and it needs to be 18. It is one area and it can literally be accessed on both sides of the section that is at the 12 inches.
Thoughts

On 2017-01-13 by (mod) - on site the inspector decides what is safe to access

Nena

I cannot assess the accessiblity of your crawl space from a simple e-text.

There may be no legal requirement that you make it easier to access the crawl area, but it would certainly make sense. Crawl spaces are notorious as problem areas specifically because it's hard to get into those spaces so nobody does - at least not often - so problems like leaks, rot, mold, insect infestation can develop for a long time before anybody notices.

Home inspectors are permitted, indeed expected, to make individual decisions, on the job, at the site, about what they can or cannot safely access.

I participated in changing the ASHI Standard to this effect many years ago after a Canadian inspector fell to his death while climbing an access ladder that he had already described as unsafe and one that he did not want to go-up. He felt compelled, He died.

However the inspector is certainly not an authority who can (nor should) require you as a seller to do anything.

He or she should, however, warn of an unsafe condition if one is observed, and for the inspection client, he or she must do more than say "not-accessed" and must help the client understand what that means and what should be done about it.

On 2017-01-13 by Nena

I am trying to sell my house. There is an opening to the crawl space that a 5'9" person can get into. An inspector said that I have to make a bigger accessible opening in my house...do I need to do this?

On 2016-07-11 by (mod) -

I have listed for you what a competent home inspector, and one who is working for you not for the seller or realtor, can do to help address the level of risk and the decision to explore further (or to defer it) for any building with any inaccessible area.

If an inspector refuses to answer questions about or to interpret or clarify his or her inspection report I would ask for a refund of the inspection fee.

On 2016-07-11 by Vicki schneider - inspection report states "crawl space not inspected, not accessible."

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your response. My inspection report states "crawl space not inspected, not accessible."

That's it. He didn't warn me about any of the issues you mentioned, but I knew they could have these issues. That's the main reason I wanted the home inspected.

I didn't know it would be inaccessible!

Frustrating! The only thing I learned is it has yellow insulation!

I'm not feeling very comfortable buying the house not knowing what might be lurking beneath.

Possibly the village building inspector could give me information on how the crawl space was built? Would he have inspected it before it was closed up to know if it has a dirt floor, etc? I'll go there in the morning and see if there's anything in the village records.

Regarding getting out of my contract, I was referring to my contract to buy the house, not the inspection agreement, which, by the way, he gave me to sign after the inspection!

On 2016-07-10 by (mod) -

Vicki,

There are few building defects or repair needs that are so costly that one could say categorically that a home shouldn't be purchased.

But certainly your inspector would be expected to have

1. warned you about the possibility of water, mold, structural problems, insect damage, rot, etc. that are at risk whenever there is a building area that can't be entered, particularly at a crawl space.

2. told you what external evidence can be seen (drainage towards the building foundation, cracks, movement, odors, visible signs of water entry in the crawl from the limited access port through which the inspector took photos

3. based on the above, given you an opinon about the importance of further investigation that is or is not justified before buying the home.

If your inspector can't or won't answer questions about the meaning of his/her observations, I'd ask for my money back.

On 2016-07-10 05:39:13.388351 by Vicki schneider

The house I have an accepted offer on has just been inspected. It has a basement except one room has an inaccessible crawl space. Too small to get into so the inspector took pictures of the batting insulation.

No idea if it has dirt floor, plastic covering, mold or rodent issues. Should I, can I, back out of my contract?

...


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