When home buyers think of the worst-case scenario, it usually includes something to do with the Structure. Let’s start at the bottom…the Foundation.
What type of foundation does the structure have? Is it a slab, raised crawlspace…full or partial basement…stone or boulder? The predominant foundation in the Las Vegas area is a slab, due primarily to the hardness of the compacted desert ground, called Caliche. Slabs come is two basic varieties; Concrete with rebar, and Post Tension. Concrete with rebar is the old stand-by. It has been used for decades, even centuries, all around the world. It is a good base, but has it’s limitations. Especially in areas with expanding or shifting soils, concrete slab foundations can heave, crack, split, move, even have trees growing up through them. Post Tension slabs have wound cables running through them instead of rebar. The cables are placed in position prior to pouring the concrete mixture. Then, each cable is torqued up to 30,000 pounds, and held into place. The concrete is poured, allowed to dry, and the tensioners removed. The effect is a spring-loaded slab that is resistant to any movement and most cracks.
Post tension slabs must be marked or stamped with an identifier placard, as they cannot be drilled or cut into by a lay-person. A foundations expert must do the drilling or cutting, after first locating the cables. If a cable is damaged or cut inadvertently, it could tear up through the foundation, releasing the wound tension, and cause severe injury or death, and compromise the foundation of the home.
Raised crawlspaces are more common in older homes, and in modular and manufactured homes (mobile homes). A raised crawlspace is inspected by direct entry. The home inspector enters the crawlspace area, and visually inspects the entire accessible crawlspace, searching for moisture intrusion, cracks, shifting or settlement, and all visible plumbing, electrical, drains, insulation, and floor decking. In manufactured or mobile homes, specific foundation securing is required to meet local codes for a permanent structure. These requirements are also visually verified. Any concerns with the above listed items are identified and reported upon in the written report, complete with digital photography.
Basements are the most recognized type of foundation in most parts of the country…except Las Vegas! Our hard and compacted soil makes digging basements very expensive. As a result, most homes do not have basements. The homes that have basements are usually high end homes, and basements typically are media or theatre rooms. Basements, when inspected in Las Vegas, are inspected to the same standards as they are inspected to in other parts of the state and country. Moisture intrusion is, of course, a major concern in basements. Proper drainage, sump pumps and drainage removal, and foundation/basement walls are inspected for damage and function. Keep in mind that this is a visual inspection. Anything that cannot be seen, cannot be inspected.
Wall and Roof Framing
The framing is the skeleton or backbone of the house or structure. It sets upon, and is attached to the foundation. All other construction elements and systems attach to and through the framing. Construction standards regulate the methods of attachment and seismic securing to the slab or foundation.
Types of framing include Engineered frame members/trusses (most common), Engineered Wall Units, and conventionally framed wooden members/studs. Concrete Masonry Units and Engineered Wall Units (as used in the reconstruction of New Orleans after Katrina) are becoming more common, and Masonry or Cement blocks are also used. All are inspected to local construction standards, as outlined by the American Society of Home Inspectors guidelines, which is a national standard for home inspections.