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Crawl Space Safety: What to Know Before Heading In

CRAWL SPACE SAFETY: WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE HEADING IN
 November 16, 2021 |  Business Tips, Inspection Tips |  inspection industry, client satisfaction

By Jon McCreath, NPI, Inc.'s Technical Supervisor & Training Administrator

Performing a complete home inspection means you could find yourself in some tight spots, one of these being the crawl space. Like the attic, crawl spaces can be intimidating, since you don’t know what’s in there until you look for yourself. While you want to inform your clients of any dangers in their new home, you also need to prioritize your safety.

Crawl spaces can be full of hidden dangers.
Crawl spaces are one of the most forgotten and neglected spaces in a home. Chances are most homeowners have only been in their crawl space a few times (if at all), and likely only for emergency maintenance. In most cases, you’re essentially going in blind, and there are a variety of dangers you can encounter: 

  • Loose wiring 
  • Nails, screws, and jagged wood 
  • Wildlife such as spiders, snakes, rodents, or raccoons 
  • Mold, radon, asbestos, and other toxins 
  • Unstable foundation and underfloor framing 
  • Water and mud 
  • Inadequate access 
  • Personal belongings and various debris 

Each home can vary in terms of what you might encounter in the crawl space. In older homes, you may need to prepare for a more deteriorated underside with rotting wood and substandard framing. If you’ve noticed animal signs around the home, it’s a safe bet you’ll encounter something furry or slimy in the crawl space.

Always use your best judgement and your SOPs.
First and foremost, use your knowledge of the situation to decide whether or not it’s safe for you to enter the crawl space. You should get an idea about the home’s structural integrity based on your initial walkthrough. If you decide that it’s safe, then proceed with the inspection as normal. But if you realize it’s unsafe to enter or if you’re on the fence, then refer to your Standards of Practice. ASHI and InterNACHI both state that inspectors are not required to enter if inadequate access or, in the inspector's opinion, an unsafe condition exists. Taking a preliminary look inside the crawl space with a flashlight can help you cement your decision. Remember to document your report with notes and photographs as to why you couldn’t safely complete the crawl space inspection, so you can effectively explain the situation to your clients.

Gear up with the right equipment.
To stay safe from hidden dangers when you enter the crawl space, check that you’re wearing the right PPE. Here are a few items you should consider for your checklist: 

  • Coveralls 
  • Flashlight or headlamp 
  • Goggles 
  • Gloves 
  • Hardhat or other protective headgear 
  • Respirator 
  • Radio or phone to call for assistance if needed.

What to do if you encounter a hazard.
Even if you think you’re going into a perfectly safe crawl space, always assume you could come across a problem. That way you won’t be caught off guard if you do. If you come across a puddle of water or a different liquid, try to take a picture of it and avoid the area. If you spot an animal or a nest, don’t fumble with a camera. Slowly back away from the spot and exit the crawl space. Be sure to properly document the situation and try to snap a photo once you’re at a safe distance near the exit. (To circumvent having to carry a bulky camera into a tight crawl space, consider opting for a compact body camera.)

Cover yourself in case something goes wrong.
On the administrative side, protect yourself through your insurance provider. Crawl spaces are just one of the many risks you can encounter while on a job site. As an inspector, the best way you can limit your liability and ensure coverage in case something happens to you is by choosing the right provider, and the right coverage.

Questions on conducting an inspection? Contact Jon McCreath at jon.mccreath@npiweb.com.

 

About the Author
Jon McCreath, Technical Supervisor & Training Administrator
A former NPI franchise owner and real estate agent, Jon joined the NPI corporate team in 2019. With his inspection expertise and foundation in classroom instruction, Jon teaches and mentors new franchisees during their two-week training course in Omaha. He also handles technical support calls during and after office hours and guides franchisees through the state licensing process.


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