Do-it-yourself home check

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I had put it off as long as I could  — that most terrible of tasks dreaded by every homeowner whose home has one — a visit to the crawl space. I knew I might encounter spiders, odd odors and other unpleasantries. And I knew as an energy auditor that I would have to go there as part of my home’s energy-efficiency check. I also knew that catching problems early on is key to maintaining a healthy, comfortable, energy-efficient home, as well as minimizing repair costs. 

Despite making this one of my yearly resolutions, I procrastinated until finally a home project required me to go spelunking under the home. While there, I decided to grit my teeth and do my inspection. I am so glad that I did! I found a small pool of water and a wet joist that could have spelled disaster if left unchecked. Luckily, I caught it early, so there was minimal damage and it was a simple fix. My resolve renewed, I inspected my attic, where I discovered a minor roof leak over the porch. Another simple fix, thanks to catching it early on! If you don’t mind getting a bit dirty and are physically able, you too, can possibly discover some issues related to your home’s energy efficiency, as well as potential moisture and pest problems.

Crawl space

  • When in the crawl space, check and make sure that the vents are unobstructed, allowing airflow

    Caulking is an easy, low-cost way to seal air leaks around pipes, sinks and other areas of your home.

    through the area to prevent mold and mildew. The exception to this rule is if your crawl space is encapsulated and has a dehumidifier, but that is rare. 

  • Check for signs of mold, mildew or moisture.
  • Check for droppings, food debris or other signs of rodents and other pests. If you notice signs of rodents in the crawl space, it’s a very good idea to look over any pipes or wiring with extra attention, as these critters love to gnaw on those, which could lead to catastrophe! 
  • If your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) unit’s ductwork is in the crawl space, be sure to check it. Leaky air ducts are one of the primary causes of high utility bills. It helps if you make sure your unit is on, and you should be able to see, hear or feel any major leaks. 
  • Check for any septic or sewer smells; they should never be present in a crawl space. 
  • Check for drooping or missing insulation on the underside of the floor. 
  • If you have other equipment in the crawl space, inspect that as well. 

Attic

  • First of all, pick a nice cool day before heading into the attic! Summer in the attic is tough duty as

    Blown-in cellulose insulation is a good option for insulating attics.

    temperatures are often much higher there because most roofs absorb heat from the sun. When in the attic, check that vents are unobstructed by insulation. A properly vented attic will help maintain a healthy, energy-efficient home. Check that turbine vents or “whirly-bird” vents, are unobstructed and able to spin freely. 

  • Check your attic insulation. Typically, it is located on the attic floor. You want your attic insulation to be fairly even throughout the attic, and it should typically cover your ceiling joist or rafter beam (that is the long, horizontal board at the bottom of each rafter). 
  • Be sure to check any knee walls for insulation as well. A knee wall is a vertical wall visible from the attic that has conditioned space on the other side. 
  • Check the roof decking, rafters and insulation for signs of water intrusion, such as stained boards. 
  • Check your HVAC ductwork if it is in the attic, again with the unit running.
  • Check any vents coming through the attic to ensure they are properly vented to the exterior of the house. 
  • Check for attic fans or attic accesses that are unsealed and uninsulated. 
  • If you have HVAC equipment or water heaters in the attic, check those as well.

If you find any issues that you don’t feel comfortable tackling, please contact a professional to help you remedy them. Also, your local electric co-op can provide information on energy audits. I hope this resolution will help you maintain a healthy, comfortable and energy-efficient home. To help with your DIY project, use the home inspection checklist.

Home Inspection Checklist

Item to Check Issues Present?
Crawl space
Vents obstructed? Yes       No
Signs of mold, mildew, or access moisture? Yes       No
Signs of rodents or other pests? Yes       No
Air leaks present in ductwork (check with unit running)? Yes       No
Sewer or septic smells present? Yes       No
Leaks in plumbing found? Yes       No
Any damage to electrical wires found? Yes       No
Any drooping or missing insulation? Yes       No
Issues found with any other equipment? Yes       No
Attic
Vents obstructed? Yes       No
Attic insulation uneven or roof joists visible, knee walls missing insulation? Yes       No
Signs of water intrusion? Yes       No
Air leaks present in ductwork (check with unit running)? Yes       No
Vents not properly connected or not exiting the attic? Yes       No
Uninsulated/unsealed attic fans or attic accesses? Yes       No
Issues with HVAC equipment or water heater? Yes       No
Issues found with any other equipment? Yes       No
Other
Utility closet issues found? Yes       No
HVAC equipment issues found? Yes       No
Water heater issues found? Yes       No
Refrigerator gasket not sealing properly when closed? Yes       No
Other appliance issues found? Yes       No
Any leaks noticed under sinks, toilets, or around tubs or showers? Yes       No
Any gaps present in walls or floors under sink or where pipes enter home? Yes       No
Gaps present around doors or windows? Yes       No
Roof shingles damaged or missing, or roof sections seem warped? Yes       No
Damaged or missing siding? Yes       No
Signs of water intrusion around exterior of the home (especially around doors and windows)? Yes       No

Mitch Ross is energy efficiency manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC), which provides power to the state’s 17 electric distribution co-ops. 

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