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When to report the lack of insulation as a defect?


Chris Bernhardt
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Recent inspection on a 1986 house, client emails acknowledging that I reported that the crawlspace didn't have any insulation but is asking why I didn't write up the fact as a defect.

I imagine that the floor assembly had an R-13 requirement back then but I don't know how far back does that go? into the 70's?

Do you write up no insulation in the crawlspace as a defect? I say it that way because the SOP only requires reporting on the type thats there and if there are any absences. But then again why wouldn't you consider it a deficiency by todays standards just like we do with safety issures? Over thinking, over thinking...

How far do you go in commenting on deficiencies with the visible insulation?

Does anyone point out that the insulation levels are below todays norms? The norms at the time of construction?

I have only had this come up a couple of times and always with old farts.

As I was considering this stuff I could hear Jim K.'s voice reminding me "Chris, tell the client as much as you can about this house. He wants to know what things are wrong and what he ought to do about them".

Chris, Oregon

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Unless you have absolutely encyclopedic knowledge, I don't see how you can remember what was "required" in any given year in any given municipality. I suspect a lot of areas had pretty lax insulation requirements until fairly recently. On items like insulation, I say something to the effect that the level of insulation was common for the time the home was built. However, with rising energy costs, today's standards would require more insulation in the (fill in the blank) area. Adding insulation to bring it to the appropriate level is advised where possible since this will reduce heating and cooling costs and prolong the life of the HVAC equipment.

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I keep it real simple.

"There's no/inadequate insulation in the xxxxxxxxx. The lack of adequate insulation can result in much higher than necessary heating & cooling costs. You should install insulation @ the xxxxxxxxxxxxx. Check the heating/cooling bills to determine the energy costs for this property."

Or something like that. I've been talking about insulation for 25 years, but no one has ever cared until the last 6 months. I get the feeling folks are getting religion again (energy efficency religion, that is). I'm beefing up my insulation comments in this slow period, 'cuz folks are going to care about it.

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After reviewing your question, Chris, is this a result of the lack of insulation not making it to the "summary" page? Sounds like the client is kind of brain-washed into thinking that if it doesn't appear on some sort of summary page, then they're not allowed to ask for anything during the negotiation.

I hate that.

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Maybe it's just me, but I lean in the direction of something like:

"There's no insulation in the crawl space. If you want the benefits of insulation (energy savings, warmer floors, maybe lower noise levels), you'll need to have insulation installed."

That's adequate warning.

We don't have to command 'em to get insulation. We just need to tell them that they don't have any, and having some would probably be good.

Depending on where a person lives -- and whether or not they have carpet on their floors -- insulation may not be worth the cost and/or hassle.

Livin' in a 94-year-old house with mostly uninsulated walls and uninsulated floors,

WJ

PS: If you tell 'em to get floor (batt) insulation, be sure to tell 'em about the mice that'll move into it, the mouse pee that'll drip out of the insulation, and the toxic mouse poop that will accumulate in the crawl space...

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Yea, I didn't report it on the summary page. I have a table where I list all of the items of the inspection as per Oregons SOP. In the same table, where applicable, I provide the required descriptions or notices. It was in that table in the insulation section answering the notice as to whether there were any areas adjacent to conditioned living space without insulation.

If insulation would have been there and portions were missing or damaged etc. I would have reported it in my findings section. Now of course if there was no insulation in the attic I would have reported it also in the findings section as a defect.

The issue here is it a defect because it was required by code?

Or is it simply a notice, hey! You got no insulation in your crawlspace. When this home was built energy was cheap; now its not. Talk to an insulation company or two about options and costs for installing insulation under floor and other improvements that could save you money.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Maybe it's just me, but I lean in the direction of something like:

PS: If you tell 'em to get floor (batt) insulation, be sure to tell 'em about the mice that'll move into it, the mouse pee that'll drip out of the insulation, and the toxic mouse poop that will accumulate in the crawl space...

You be correct on that count except that in some areas Norway Rats move in with the mice.

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Hi,

If I know, I tell them whether or not they have insulation above the ceilings, in the walls, or under the floors. I also tell them what type it is, and approximately how thick it is and I'll report when I find it dislodged or swept back, ruined by rodent urine and compaction, hanging down, etc..

Its pretty common here to find houses from the 60's or older without insulation in the walls or below the floors, so, when I know it's missing, I stick in a little blurb recommending that they consider having insulation added at those areas if they want to try and reduce their energy consumption.

Except for when it's vermiculite or has been ruined by rodent urine or feces, people around here don't seem to care a whole lot about insulation.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Recent inspection on a 1986 house, client emails acknowledging that I reported that the crawlspace didn't have any insulation but is asking why I didn't write up the fact as a defect.

I'll bet he's also wondering why you didn't warn him not to bite his tongue when he chews his food.

I imagine that the floor assembly had an R-13 requirement back then but I don't know how far back does that go? into the 70's?

It's hard to say. In the mid '70's everyone started to install insulation everywhere regardless of whether or not it was required. Same thing in the early '80s. I don't know when it went into the codes. I have the CABOs going back to the mid '70s, but insulation wasn't part of the CABO code then, you had to use the energy code. I'm sure that there was *some* requirement for insulation in 86. Mostly, the cheap builders insulated the perimeter foundation walls though.

Do you write up no insulation in the crawlspace as a defect?

I do.

I say it that way because the SOP only requires reporting on the type thats there and if there are any absences. But then again why wouldn't you consider it a deficiency by todays standards just like we do with safety issures? Over thinking, over thinking...

Stop trying to pigeon hole it in terms of whether or not its a deficiency. Instead think about whether or not it would be good advice.

How far do you go in commenting on deficiencies with the visible insulation?

I comment on pretty much anything that's less than it should be with insulation: compressed attic insulation, missing sections of crawlspace insulation, mouse-pee-contaminated insulation, ineffective perimeter insulations, etc, etc.

Does anyone point out that the insulation levels are below todays norms? The norms at the time of construction?

I don't always compare it to today's norm. For instance, if there's R-19 in the attic, it's not going to pay to add more insulation in our area. The payback period is too great. Otherwise, I like the word, "skimpy." As in, "The attic insulation is skimpy. Add more insulation to reduce energy costs and improve comfort."

I have only had this come up a couple of times and always with old farts.

As I was considering this stuff I could hear Jim K.'s voice reminding me "Chris, tell the client as much as you can about this house. He wants to know what things are wrong and what he ought to do about them".

That's pretty good. Did I say that?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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  • 2 weeks later...
Originally posted by AHI in AR

Unless you have absolutely encyclopedic knowledge, I don't see how you can remember what was "required" in any given year in any given municipality. I suspect a lot of areas had pretty lax insulation requirements until fairly recently. On items like insulation, I say something to the effect that the level of insulation was common for the time the home was built. However, with rising energy costs, today's standards would require more insulation in the (fill in the blank) area. Adding insulation to bring it to the appropriate level is advised where possible since this will reduce heating and cooling costs and prolong the life of the HVAC equipment.

I do the same. If the basement is missing insulation (I see this commonly here in PA), or the attic insulation R value is lower than today's standards, I note it in the report and recommend adding more insulation to help lower energy costs. I don't make a big thing out of it, unless it was a hour newer than 20 years, and the attic insulation was missing, for example. I have seen new homes totally missing attic insulation.

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