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Yesterday's house had a horrible mess of SPF between the floor joists in an open crawl. This is a hot/humid climate and Dr. Joe advises no insulation there. I've written up most points about it but I'm unsure about the sub-termite/polyurethane angle.

Do sub-termites eat polyurethane?

Marc

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I've never seen anyone do foamed joist cavities here so I haven't researched it. But I would suspect that while they can't actually eat/digest the foam, I would bet it's likely that they can tunnel through it. They do through Styrofoam/EPS, anyway.

Is that a new home? Considering that it's a brick foundation and it looks like it's possibly a rough sawn floor joist I see, I have to assume that it is an older home. And if it is, who's to say what sort of damage they covered up with the foam?

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Built around 1905. The SPF was done around 2006. The stinkin' workmanship isn't limited to the SPF. It's there on the electrical/plumbing upgrades, developed attic and a rear addition, all done at the same time. Not a flipper. This was a very sturdy and fine house. It's a sad story that I'll have to give my buyer.

Marc

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Marc, I would not even address the termites unless you are also doing a termite inspection. Let the PC contractor worry about that with the foam mess you have in those pictures.

While I do not agree with everything that Dr Joe says, I do agree about the subfloor insulation in the South. I have seen more problems with subfloor insulation in the South than any good that it could provide. Now with foam, I have not idea if it could cause the same issue as fiberglass batts but my bet is that it could.

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  • 1 month later...

I came across this site with great interest as we are working through a purchase of an old home (built 1893). I hope it is appropriate to pose a few questions. The home is in the western Maryland area.

Does anyone else have additional thoughts or references to other articles as it relates to spray foam and inspects? The home in question has a cellar and the WDI report notes (and it's rather obvious) past termite activity. There were no "visible" signs of active termite damage. While the details are not known, there is evidence of past treatment (e.g. bored holes in a porch slab, etc). We had considered ccSPF on between the rafters but I was concerned that it could mask issues. At the same time, it seems that an inspector could find the tubes going up to the foam since the foam would not full fill the joists (given depth of foam and joists).

Also, I know this is a million dollar question, how do inspectors deal with situations where termite damage is found but the extents of the damage can't be determined without invasive measures? For example, this house has an original beam sitting on the staked stone foundation that tucked back far enough that it's near impossible to see beyond an obvious area of damage. What are logical next steps in these situations? I know each situation is different. Is it purely a judgement call when it comes to gauging the true extent of damage or making the decision to probe further (e.g. open walls)?

Another hard question, from my experience, it seems the WDI isn't too much more than a walk through of the house (attic, basement, etc). It seems if there is any insulation, a shelf, etc, it's noted as an obstruction. I had visions of the inspector checking each accessible sill box in the cellar, probing each joist, probing moulding or walls for softness, etc. In this case, it's almost as if the moment they saw a few areas with damage it is assumed treatment is necessary (which I understand) and there is no point doing further investigation.

How are these situations typically handled? It may be it's too general to comment on. I was just curious to get some thoughts. We like the house. The home inspector feels the termite inspector is correct that the damage is from the past and there is no sign of active termites. He also agrees treatment is advisable (and required for the loan). But to the question of "does the damage go further", it seems that can't easily be answered. I tried to ask more from our termite inspector.

Again, I hope my questions aren't out of line or off topic. Thank you.

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Also, I know this is a million dollar question, how do inspectors deal with situations where termite damage is found but the extents of the damage can't be determined without invasive measures? For example, this house has an original beam sitting on the staked stone foundation that tucked back far enough that it's near impossible to see beyond an obvious area of damage. What are logical next steps in these situations? I know each situation is different. Is it purely a judgement call when it comes to gauging the true extent of damage or making the decision to probe further (e.g. open walls)?

If we are smart, we point out that there is a high probability of more damage that can't be seen, and possibly even insect activity that couldn't be seen by us or the WDI guy, and we recommend an invasive inspection to determine the full extent of damage, repair it and then eliminate all pest-conducive conditions that led to the infestation and damage in the first place.

If we're not so smart, we declare that all insect activity is probably gone and tell the client not to worry about it and we don't recommend the above.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Point well taken. In the case of a home purchase, as a buyer, how often are invasive inspections carried out? Meaning, is it reasonable to make such a request? I suppose it is simply a matter of us, as buyers, deciding if we would purchase without the additional investigation. I get the feeling the termite inspectors, at least the one I used, doesn't care all that much. It seems they draw a quick conclusion, write up an estimate for treatment, and call it a report.

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You are right; they really don't care. Caring what you do after the inspection is not really part of the gig; is it? The job is to inspect the home for indications of WDI and WDO and provide you a report. What you do after that is up to you.

Sometimes buyers throw it all back at the sellers; basically, "If you want me to buy this home, you're going to have to find out how much of it is damaged and get that damage repaired. I don't want to buy a damaged home."

Sometimes sellers tell the buyer to go ***k himself; sometimes they agree to do the work themselves (never recommended IMO); sometimes they agree to have someone else do the repairs (best if it is someone YOU choose, not them); and sometimes they give the buyer a credit toward getting the inspections and repair work done; hoping to low-ball the buyer so that once the home is closed on they are free and clear.

Sometimes - very rarely - they'll agree to do an invasive inspection and then report the results of the invasive back to the buyer and will try to negotiate a repair or the sale without the repair based on what they've found out.

You need to understand something about inspections - whether they are bug inspections or home inspections - the process is far from perfect.

Inspectors are limited to what they can see, touch, smell and hear and easily uncover without damaging the home. There is an awful lot that can be hidden in a home that an inspector can't find no matter how good he or she is. An inspector seeks to help you limit your risk but can't eliminate all risk for you. I'm absolutely certain that every single home I've inspected over the past 16-1/2 years had some sort of latent issue that couldn't be found and I'm certain that some of them were probably major issues; that's just the nature of the beast. That knowledge is tempered by the fact that, without ever even trying, every single job seems to result in at least one issue that completely justifies my clients' fee.

Understand that and adjust your expectations so that the inspection process won't be so disappointing for you.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I don't know about anywhere else, but anything I see in the 1893 vintage always has some unseen termite damage somewhere.

If it's real damage, it's usually very obvious.

If you're truly an old house person, it turns into arithmetic to determine if the cost of repairs skews the house value significantly. After that, fixing the odd termite damaged area in a house usually isn't particularly complicated; it's usually a good opportunity to replace old wiring and plumbing.

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