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Old 12-15-2010, 06:36 PM   #1
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Buying a house from 1860


Hi Everyone,

I'm looking at a house built in 1860...it's very well done inside, lots of renovations.

What questions should I ask? (I know to ask about Knob and tube wiring)

What can I look for in the foundation?

I'm going to get a building inspection done before I buy it, but I would like to know what to look for when I'm doing a walk through with the sales agent.

What type of maintance would I be looking at?

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Old 12-15-2010, 07:25 PM   #2
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Buying a house from 1860


If you know someone with old house knowledge--bring them with---The foundations were often less than great---A house is a wood box sitting on a stone or brick base---

Start with the outside--sight along the foundation--look for bulges--that is a sure sign that the foundation has moved---was it stabilized after it moved?

Next sight along the walls of the house--once again look for bulges,sags or twists---

Then stand back and look at the peak if the roof---Is it reasonably straight or sagged like and old horse?

Next go inside and see how level the floors are--If they are way off try to figure out weather the center beam sank or the foundation dropped--or the wood sill was eaten by bugs--

I think you get the idea----look at the 'Bones' of the house first---if the place is still structurally sound--then it will be worth the effort to upgrade any mechanical or electrical --

Those old places can be wonderful --if and only if--the Bones are good---Mike--

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Old 12-16-2010, 07:10 AM   #3
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Buying a house from 1860


I'd ask if the plumbing has been replaced. You don't want lead or galvanized plumbing that's 100 years old.
Insulation in a house this age can be non existant unless someone did something.
How easy it is to maintain also depends on the exterior and what shape it's in.
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Old 12-18-2010, 11:56 AM   #4
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Buying a house from 1860


Certainly take someone with you who has worked on old houses. All those recent renovations done to the house may mask things that need to be fixed or those things that can't be fixed. They camaflouge all the bones and may have to be removed to merely find out what's not working.

We just bought a 1926 house that needs plenty of work and fortunately we are able to access all the bones without taking the house apart, that's any more than we want to for our own renovations. That's -I hope.

Post some pictures of the house, particularly if there's cracks in the concrete, sloping floors, cracks in the walls, sags in the roof, that kind of thing. And of course post a picture of the front of the house. I'd like to see it's charm.
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Old 12-22-2010, 11:06 AM   #5
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Buying a house from 1860


Did you buy it?

We have a 1733 home and love it.

No regrets, but like the other posters pointed out, experience really pays off. I'd be better at looking it all over now that I've lived in one for a couple of years.
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Old 12-22-2010, 12:18 PM   #6
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Buying a house from 1860


Quote:
Originally Posted by tbeaulieu View Post
We have a 1733 home and love it.
I'd love to see a picture of it's front, and any other historic architectural detail. Please!
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Old 12-22-2010, 12:43 PM   #7
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Buying a house from 1860


Hi Hugger,

The house is one of the oldest in town, but is not Historic. The entire neighborhood is built on the original 70 acres, but we have but a single acre at this point! It's not too fancy, but we love it. Love the old barn with sliding door. We're slowly and manually regrading the yard, built a cobble walk and hope to install granite posts with white pickets in the front. We have a picture of the house in 1896, I think, and it's remarkably unchanged. We may even model the fence after the one in the photo.

The upstairs seems pretty much untouched. In fact, the rumor is that the house was raised and the now-first floor inserted some time way back. The attic framing, most likely cut down onsite, still has bark. Wooden spikes hold the mortises and there are super wide floor boards up there. I'd love to use them for something in the living area, but at the same time I hate disturbing them! The curse of respecting the past!

Downstairs, much of the charm is gone, but it's not too bad. I'd say the primary theme is victorian influence, but I'm no expert. I think we intend to try to return some of it, if possible.

The plaque on the front (wings/crest) is hand carved. I restored it and it looks awesome. The Colonial Manse plaque was hand carved by me, replacing a crappy old sign. I don't like the bare wood look, and will probably paint it. I have a post card addressed to the house simple "Colonial Manse, North Reading MA". I think it was from 1940.

Oh, we took down the shutters, which needed painting even worse than the house, and are still debating whether to put them back up. I like the first floor w/o, actually.
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Old 12-22-2010, 01:06 PM   #8
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Buying a house from 1860


Thanks for all the information guys... based on the information after looking at it I put an offer on it. It is conditional on building inspection however. Will keep you all posted.
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Old 12-22-2010, 01:15 PM   #9
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Buying a house from 1860


Don't rely 100% on the inspector.

Do some digging yourself. Crawl around in any crawlspaces, looking for rot/insects. Literally dig around, poke the wood. Be serious about it. The first spring I found that ants had eaten a load bearing outer sill beam to nothing .. that's years of work and the inspector did not find it. I had to jack the house up and replace it.

Look for signs of water/new repairs/patches. Look at the structure. (foundation/attic, etc.) joints/sagging, etc.

I found serious, but repairable, structural issues with the barn, where the mortises pulled out (roof spreading, walls spreading) and ripped the joints out. I have to jack the roof and pull the walls back in and repair the joints at some point. Had to install emergency cross ties in hopes to prevent further spreading. Inspection didn't see that.

The barn also appears to have suffered some foundation and beam post collapse. The installed lally columns, but are there propper footings under the dirt floor? I have no way of knowing w/o digging it up.

My house is sagged about 2" from the wall to center. It's been shored up with lally columns, but are there propper footings under the cement floor? I have no way of knowing w/o digging it up.

The way buyer and seller are kept apart these days stinks. Never got a valid and essential information handoff from the sellers.

At this point, what I wish I had the most is just information. The history of repairs made.
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Old 12-22-2010, 06:18 PM   #10
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Buying a house from 1860


we did that once,,, did you know the joists & window framing's usually cut from rough cut lumber ? hair plaster is thicker than drywall,,, running new electric used up a bodacious bunch of drill bits,,, the laid up stone foundation walls had no footer,,, roof sheathing's rough cut boards, too did i mention balloon framing ?

great experience but i wouldn't want to invest 2yrs of our lives doing it again good luck !

ps - our barn was worse & the ice hous - don't ask
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if you hear it from a guy in the apron store, be VERY suspicious the mtl/method will work,,, when it time to build something together, they won't answer phones NOR help
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Old 12-29-2010, 06:32 PM   #11
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Buying a house from 1860


Hey Guys,

Put a offer on the house, and had my inspection today... I have 3 concerns...

a) There is `four`parts to the house. The main log house, the addition on top of it, and then two separate two story additions. On one wall the wood is getting pushed out... now by 4cm. see picture:

What options do I have to fix this? The crawl space below the original log house is so small (There is a full basement in the other two additions), I can't get in to see the exact extent of the issue or to add jack braces.

b) there was a fire in the attic 10+ years ago. Since then we have had record snow fall and there was no issues with the roof. The charred part of the wood has fallen off in some places and it was only the bark that burned, solid wood in the rest. - anything to be concerned of?




c) Where the floor joists meet poured concrete in the basement, it is almost completely rotted off the outside wall. Would simply putting cross brasses to the floor suffice?

Additional high resolutions pictures available if needed.

Thanks for all the help guys!

p.s. I'm looking for feedback here, I know no one has the 'one' right answer.

Last edited by thedead; 12-29-2010 at 07:15 PM.
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:34 PM   #12
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Buying a house from 1860


Just found out the fire was from 1953...looking to get more information on it. Not as concerend now because it's been so long and it's still standing.
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Old 12-30-2010, 08:26 PM   #13
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Buying a house from 1860


If you're going to put an offer on it, it would behoove you to spend the extra money to have an engineer look at the problem areas. You're going to inherit everything that's good and bad about the house, so you might as well know up front what the risks are and how urgent any repairs will be.
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Old 12-30-2010, 08:40 PM   #14
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Buying a house from 1860


i would say unless you have deep pockets and are specifically looking for a big project because it excites you, to avoid this house!

i just helped a friend buy an 1820s timberframe house. it had a home inspection. the inspector of course didn't crawl into the crawl space, and missed some MAJOR damage that i discovered. i alerted the homeowner and in this case it didn't stop her from buying.

i'm GC on the renovations now, and the place is a complete wreck. multiple sections of rotten sills, had to completely gut and reframe floor in three rooms including new foundation for the crawl space.

there is major settling on one side of the house. we're talking like 3-4". as such, there is nothing even remotely close to level, plumb or square in this place, except for the new floor i framed above the crawl space.

there's probably not a speck of insulation anywhere in your place, and it's probably had so many cobbed together repairs and additions over all these years.
from the picture i would say you've got some serious issues there, not the least of which will be rotten sills.

i would not buy this place unless you relish the thought of doing lots of work and spending lots of money. or until you can confirm structural soundness.

also, boiler/plumbing/wiring.

just buy something post 1900, should be fine.

Last edited by wombosi; 12-30-2010 at 08:47 PM.
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Old 12-30-2010, 10:57 PM   #15
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Buying a house from 1860


Hi Guys,

I'm going to get a structural engineer take a look at it...keep you guys posted

boiler/plumbing/wiring/roof is all new.

Insulation is good, they have re done it recently, I have the receipts and the thermal test (it's winter now) shows there is good insulation.

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