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snosurfa7 01-16-2012 10:38 PM

Buckling hardwood floors/foundation? old farmhouse
Looked at buying an old 1924 farmhouse today. Only major issue I saw is the hardwood floors are buckling in two rooms only along the same beam under the house. Maybe a few inches up in each room for a foot or two but still together.

This is just hardwood laid down on joists and beams - no subfloor. Like I said its old and rustic.

I looked under the house - the center beam is actually 3 pieces put together - it looks like the center piece of the beam is slightly shifted out from the other two beams, roughly an inch.

The current owners use it as a retreat but they say no change since they bought the house. Only one door upstairs sticks others all close.

Forgive me for the dumb question but is this possibly a deal breaker? I guess I'm trying to figure out if this is a stable shift, something that happened awhile ago. I'm pretty sure its the foundation and not a moisture issue (despite it being next to a creek). If its shifted and old I really don't care - but if this is something that will be a major safety issue then despite the great price and plat it maybe something I don't want to mess with as foundation repairs are not cheap and beyond my level of expertise.


And foundation is a mix of concrete blocks around the perimeter and rocks acting as a pier and beam system - kind of like you would see on old cabins.

joecaption 01-16-2012 10:53 PM

I hope you buying this really really cheap.
Do you plan on hiring a home inspector?
In any old house like that, that's had no up grades your looking at, no insulation, bathroom and kitchen remodeling, wiring completly needing to be redone, new roof if it's over 10 years old, new plumbing, septic tank work, chimmney tuck pointing and may need a linner installed, reflashing the chimmney.
Termite and powder post bettle treatment. And major foundation, and framing rework.
And lots of plaster repair.
I've done 3, complete remodels on 100 year old houses and the lowest one cost $100,000 for everything including siding.
Just look at the big picture before buying.

Daniel Holzman 01-17-2012 08:29 AM

Certainly joecap is correct, working on an old house can be an infinite regression of costs, I know, I owned an old place in Wisconsin, constant repairs. But on to your question, which is not dumb at all, it is quite insightful.

Part of my career was spent doing forensic investigations of building failures, whether from wind, flood, or impact. It is almost always very difficult to determine exactly when damage occurred, except in the rare case where there was a single catastrophic event (a tree fell on the house). Most settlement or shifting such as you describe occurs over a period of many years. The critical questions that must be answered when looking at such a house are:
1. Is the house stable, or is the shifting continuing?
2. Has the damage reached the point where the house is in immediate danger of structural failure?
3. What are the options to stabilize or repair the damage?

These are not simple to answer, they certainly cannot be addressed over an internet chat forum regardless of how many pictures you post, and they need to be addressed by a trained professional engineer, in my opinion, not a house inspector, who regardless of their level of competency, are not trained to do a structural evaluation of the property.

My suggestion is to find a local structural engineer to investigate the house before you buy. Ask them to perform a thorough investigation, including a written report, and including repair options (if they believe repairs are necessary). Be prepared to pay an appropriate amount for such an investigation, likely at least $500, and understand that this is not going to include soil borings, which may be necessary eventually to determine if the foundation is settling.

snosurfa7 01-17-2012 09:44 AM

Thanks for the advice. Ultimately I do understand I really need to get someone to look at the house but its hard even parting with $500 if I'm not even sure I want to buy the place.

Its actually been pretty well updated. All new wiring, new double pane windows and exterior doors, new kitchen counters/appliances. The septic, well and plumbing were put in during the late 90s. The roof also looks relatively new. They have a termite guy come out and check every year and have no reported activity. I am not an expert but I did not see any soft wood in the house or anything suspicious underneath. It is actually equipped with an external wood burner (bonus!) but I had planned on putting a liner in the chimney and installing a wood stove inside too. Attic is insulated but you are right that is probably about it.

Its 80K on 4 acres, has a very strong creek running though it right near the house (but not in a flood plain) and probably 2 acres of it is a for the most part walkable mountain. I'm sick of paying so much for a mortgage when it really isn't necessary but I do understand the potential for exponential increase in costs of repair for this place.


oh'mike 01-17-2012 10:19 AM

Do you know a good experienced builder or remodeler?

I am asked to look over houses that customers are considering---I will check the structure--plumbing and electrical and let the buyer know if the house has serious structural or system problems.

If it passes that--then they can hire an inspector if they wish---

I do this as a courtesy--knowing that I will get some of the work if they purchase--

joecaption 01-17-2012 10:54 AM

One thing that concerns me is why did they do all that up dating if the bones of the house were in that bad a shape?
Fixing it now may effect some of the other work already done.
Just guessing since I'm not there to see it.

oh'mike 01-17-2012 11:18 AM

Joe--that happens all to often---That's why I suggested a pro with building experience first---check the structure-----

The cart is in front of the horse all to often---

joecaption 01-17-2012 11:21 AM

More fun working on the fofo stuff then fixing the hard dirty stuff that really needed to be done.
I had a lady call me to look at some ceiling that had fallen. When I drove up in the driveway I could see missing shingles, bare wood showing on the roof, there also was missing glass in some of the attic windows.
I bought all this to her attantion and tryed to expain this needed to be fixed before the ceiling because there was water coming in and causing her problums. She went off trying to say I was just trying to rip her off and run her bill up and kicked me out.
Years later I was driving by and saw another contractor on the property. When I talked to him latter the whole ceiling had collaped, the hard wood floors were shot and the ceiling in the room below was also shot. The roof rafters and old 1 X 6 sheathing had also rotted out.
So pay me now or pay me latter, lol.

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