Crawl Space Versus Slab Foundations
In North Carolina we see both crawl spaces and slab foundations in residential homes. In some areas, such as Florida, pretty much all homes are on a slab foundation as the water table is very high. Here, in NC, I mainly see crawl spaces, but slabs are pretty common as well. It is less expensive for a builder to build a home with a slab. A crawl space foundation is where the foundation has bricks/cinderblocks built up to a certain height depending on the lot elevation and then the subfloor is built upon floor joists...giving you room to go "under" the house once complete. You can access water pipes, ducts, water heaters, etc. in the crawl space. A slab foundation is simply a concrete floor and the house is built up from there. The water pipes come up through the concrete and all other components of the house are above the cement foundation.
Concerns with Home Inspections
The post is about home inspections and what you may find in the crawl space and the actual foundation walls. Obviously, when buying a home you would want to have a home inspection....whether the home is on a slab foundation or a crawl space.
The things to look for on a slab foundation are cracks around the perimeter and any leaking pipes coming up through the floor. With a crawl space foundation there are many other concerns such as moisture and humidity levels, mold, piers moving, foundation cracks, rodents and vermin...sounds pretty intimidating huh? For the most part, all crawl space foundations are going to have certain moisture and humidity issues, settling and possible animal life. Fortunately, we don't live under there so the animal life isn't too much of an issue and all of these concerns can be controlled.
Most home inspectors, if they see a crack or high moisture levels, will put on the report it is best to consult a crawlspace technician or even a structural engineer. I have seen it all whether there is a $15,000 structural issue or standing water with high moisture levels that really only needing better grading outside of the crawlspace or putting down a new vapor barrier; adding a dehumidifier. If you are looking to buy a home where any of these issues has clearly been corrected, do not be intimidated. The home is likely in better shape than any of your neighbors.
Though there are many scenarios of how a foundation's health may be interpreted, it is always best to consult a specialist if there is an issue from a home inspection. Most of these issues are minimal and can be easily corrected, but be sure to do your due diligence in getting a professional opinion and taking their advice. Remember, all homes have issues, once corrected you should not worry.