Home Buying in 94539>Question Details

Crystal, Home Buyer in Sunnyvale, CA

standing water in crawl space

Asked by Crystal, Sunnyvale, CA Thu Sep 9, 2010

I am purchasing a home in warm spring and found this in the termite report.
Should I be quite concerned:

"There is standing water at the low area of the subarea,
from soil drainage under the vapor barrier"
"In our opinion, this is a not a commonly controllable moisture conditionand
since no damage to the structure is evident caused by the condition"

Help the community by answering this question:


hi my name is jesse and i live and work in boise idaho this is a big problem up here. I work for D&R Drainage Systems and this is what we do we remove water from crawl spaces by putting in automated systems in that catch the water and pump it out into a dry well away from the house. Please check us out we have a web page just google D&R Drainage Systems or call 208-713-7555 ask for dan to learn more we give a 5 yr warrenty on all of our systems. We charge from $2000 to $6000 to fix this problems and we always get the job done right everytime.....thks
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 5, 2013

In the Bay Area, there are MANY different reasons for water in a crawlspace. It’s a very common occurrence that, if not properly remediated, can cause severe damage. There are three primary sources of water:

(1) Environmental,
(2) Poor building and/or landscaping practices,
(3) Damaged plumbing systems.

As suggested below, water under the home can have the following effects:

(1) Make proper access to the crawl space very difficult, making it hard to properly inspect or repair the property,
(2) Promote the possibility of mold/fungus,
(3) Cause musty odors and air quality problems,
(4) Cause swelling in hardwood flooring,
(5) Promote deterioration of the foundation and subarea structural components,
(6) Promote subterranean termite populations.

There are a variety of reasons for water in a crawlspace – here are some typical ones:

(1) Proximity to subterranean water supplies (streams, high water table). Homes near the bay can have high water tables; homes in the hills can have active subterranean water sources.
(2) Poor soil conditions.

(1) Broken or leaking water supply lines or irrigation lines,
(2) Broken or leaking drain pipes in the crawlspace from showers, etc.,
(3) Water directed against the foundation (sprinklers, improperly designed or clogged gutters and downspouts, sloping landscaping, etc.),
(4) Improperly graded hardscape (sidewalks, patios, driveways, etc.)
(5) Soil piled against the foundations higher than the tops of the foundation walls,
(6) Lack of attention paid at the time of construction resulting in improper drainage around the perimeter of the property (foundations drains, French drains, active drainage systems for roof water, etc.)

If the water is coming from a readily fixable source, great! However, IF the source is determined to be environmental, then there are two fundamental methods of dealing with the moisture:

(1) Provide EXTERNAL remediation: divert water sources, add perimeter drainage, add French drains, coat the exterior of the foundation with water resistant coatings, etc. These are frequently the most expensive options.
(2) Provide INTERNAL control: active sump pump systems (recommend battery back-up options), drainage channels, vapor barrier (only as a last resort – this can actually make the problem worse if not properly installed), dehumidifier systems.

Step 1:


(1) If excessive water is called out in an inspection report (termite or property), discuss the situation with the inspector – they will usually have opinions about the source, which, in turn, can direct your next steps.
(2) Based on their opinions, order additional inspections to verify the source. These could include:
a. Soils engineers
b. Foundation inspectors
c. Moisture remediation companies

Step 2:


(1) If you need additional time, have your Realtor prepare an Addendum extending your Inspection Contingency time periods.
(2) If the seller will not allow the extra time, move on.

Step 3:


(1) I’d recommend getting two opinions – they may differ quite a bit in scope and cost.
(2) Make sure the remediation costs come with guarantees.

Step 4:

Use the information gained to make an informed decision about the purchase of the home, including negotiation repairs or remediation. If the home is located in a hilly region, then ground water issues may point to move substantive issues such as soil instability. This could, in turn, lead to cracked foundations, sloping and a range of other extremely expensive issues.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 13, 2010
Standing water is bad news. Do they have a sump pump at all, because it's going to be messy if they don't? I wouldn't buy the house if there is standing water, unless you are in an area that all the houses use sump pumps. http://www.ctridaho.com
Flag Fri Mar 20, 2015
Hi Crystal, as suggested below, you really need to get more clarification on the significance of the issue and the cost of remedying the situation. Most of the Warm Springs area sits on adobe soil, which is very dense and does not drain well.

It is very difficult to make suggestions without seeing the property; however, the solution to the problem may be simply making sure downspouts are directed away from the structure, the installation of a perimeter French drain (a trench with gravel), or a sump pump system under the home.

The vapor barrier is an indication that drainage has been an issue in the past; however, in regards to the "...standing water at the low area of the subarea from soil drainage under the vapor barrier", the vapor barrier itself may be preventing the natural drying process of the moisture under it.

Best, Steve
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 12, 2010
I think you should try and get a company in for water removal. Water can really do a lot of damage. I wouldn't buy it until the water has been taken care of. It's a bad idea to buy a house that has known problems, because there will probably be more unknown problems that you find later. http://longislandrestorationnow.com
Flag Mon Jan 26, 2015
Hi Crystal, call and ask the inspector what he thinks. Ask him where he thinks the water is coming from, what kind of damage it can do to the house and how much it will cost to fix the condition and stop the water from accumulating there. If it is more then you are willing to pay talk to the sellers to see if they will pay all or some of the costs. If they refuse then you have to decide if you are will to pay it all, (that is assuming the standing water is in a spot that will cause damage to the home.) WHAT EVER YOU DO, DO NOT SIGN THE RELEASE OF CONTINGENCY UNTIL YOU HAVE WORKED THIS OUT TO YOUR SATISFACTION. That way you can cancel and still get your deposit back....Hope this helped...Dawn
Web Reference: http://DawnRivera4Homes.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 9, 2010
To temporarily remove water from crawl spaces, the most affordable method is to go down there with a bucket vacuum and suck out the water into buckets. Afterwards, you can throw a couple industrial fans down there to air out the crawl space. To prevent future floods and leaks, I would look into getting a new vapor barrier for the crawl space as well. You can also consult a building inspector to investigate where your specific leaks are occurring. The most important thing to do is address the issue as soon as possible so mold does not start to grow.
Flag Fri Nov 14, 2014
Yes, it can be a significant problem as this is also the driest time of the year to sell. I just had the same issue come up with a home in Moraga for buyers I was representing last week. We did the following:
*Asked sellers questions about the standing water for more description and general knowledge about drainage.
*Discussed issues with the Home Inspector. Asked if they thought there was mold growing. If any indication of Mold (a four letter word in Real Estate), then bring out a Mold specialist.
*Brought out an engineer and drainage specialist (most important) to crawl around in the subarea and evaluate the drainage. Cost is generally $250 for verbal consult and $500 for a written report.
Water in subareas is common in Alameda and can sometimes be a quick fix (i.e. install a sump pump, divert downspouts or sprinklers away from home). After all, the water table in Alameda is quite high. But at the same time, this could be a significant cost.

In my case for my buyers in Moraga, it is a $45,000 issue as there was a spring just yards away causing the issues and insufficient drainage. The end result is that the sellers wouldn't reduce their price and we walked away. Better safe than sorry!

#1 agent in Prudential East Bay
#3 Buyer’s agent in all of Alameda and Contra Costa County
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 9, 2010
Crystal -

Not uncommon for this area. Recognize that standing water now, particularly not in rainy season could be a sign of drainage issues around the home. Foundations and wood can deteriorate over time when exposed to constant water. Also, fungus (mold) can grow and cause issues for anyone living in the home.

The questions become:
1.) How to assess what damage (if any) has been done to the structure due to the standing water?
2.) How to create (cost of) proper drainage so the problem is resolved?

Resources you can tap to find out the answers (not referrals - info only)

Hope this helps.
Web Reference: http://www.TalkToCJ.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 9, 2010
Talk to your inspector to best understand the issue and what can be done to remedy the problem. If necessary consult a structural engineer.

Good luck to you,
Jeanne Feenick
Unwavering Commitment to Service
Web Reference: http://www.feenick.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 9, 2010
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