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renovated 1800 colonial


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I'm doing a renovated 1800 colonial this evening. What were the typical foundation and structure methods of that era? What are some things I should be looking out for?

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John,

I am sure Bill K will chime in with some specifics. I spend lots of time talking with my clients about methods and materials and being sure they don't apply today's standards and expectations to an older house.

From an inspection perspective I think the most important issue is to remember "things" are not going to be straight and plumb and the inspector must respect components that have worked for years, even though they are wrong! Work within a time-line. Remember plumbing and electrical were added; so look for good workmanship and be sure they didn't destroy framing when adding.

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I'm doing a renovated 1800 colonial this evening.

How can you possibly do even a crappy inspection when starting it in the evening? Are you going back the next day to complete it?

What are some things I should be looking out for?
Umm, some training and experience with historic buildings. Before I inspected my first old building I had extensive hands-on experience and had studied hundreds of historic buildings in my area. For that building, you need to know everything about stone foundations, local mortar formulas, English timber framing techniques and the possible failures that can occur with each. You need to know what all the bad things are that happen over 200 years with fire, water, insects and contractors retrofitting new systems into a building that wasn't intended to have them. The fact that it is listed as "renovated" could be worse damage than any caused by nature. You also need to know how to educate the buyers on how to reclaim, restore and maintain the original historic character of the home.

Sorry to be harsh, but I regularly follow HIs (even with many years of experience) that shouldn't be accepting money for inspecting buildings that they don't understand. They usually miss issues that will cost tens of thousands, even though the reports are full of "further evaluation" ('cuz they don't know how to interpret old building techniques and hand-made building materials). They also often call for repairs that aren't necessary or are inappropriate for an historic building. I get calls at least twice a month that begin: "Hi Bill, my attorney suggested we contact you. We bought an historic home last year and the home inspector..."

Maybe I'm wrong, John. Maybe you're the best guy in the area for the job. I know you're fairly new, but have worked very hard to learn all that you can. If someone moving to your area asked, I wouldn't hesitate to give them your name, if the house was built within the past 60 years.

Check the mortar between the stones. You don't want powder.
In the mid-Atlantic area you won't find anything but "powder" behind the pointing mortar in a stone foundation. http://www.oldhouseweb.com/how-to-advic ... rtar.shtml
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Same here. Powder.

I don't think you were harsh. You were reality check. I didn't even begin to provide depth in responding, and probably would have been better saying nothing.

I'm pretty good from about 1850 on, but much before that I'd defer to the East coast folks.

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Hey Les, good to see you back. I trust you're well?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Thanks Jim. Not at 100% but well enough to think I can post a semi cogent reply!

Bill makes a very good argument. I happen to agree with him, but would add that most areas do not have an inspector that has expertise in old structures. Structure is a weak word to use when describing how to inspect an old house. You must know old structures (methods and materials) in order to inspect any old house.

You really need to feel comfortable with the old stuff.

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50.85 KBBill,

I started the inspection at 4pm with plenty of daylight remaining. 4pm is considered evening isnt it?

Can you give a referral to a qualified person in the area of Sykesville MD?

I read the article you posted. It is a slam dunk for describing the mortar I found on this stone foundation. From what I saw, there are areas that need work.

I told my client early on that there were things that needed to be understood about this place. I offered to end the inspection on the spot and give them a chance to get a person who had enough knowledge to conclude on the issues regarding to the historic nature of the property. I told them I would be recommending that the foundation issues be further evaluated because I did not have the knowledge to conclude. They seemd to respect the offering. They decided to let me continue with the rest of the inspection.

Here are some pictures. The cellar was under half of the original structure with the other half having about a 1 foot space to grade. One of the cellar walls had been heavily parged and you can see in the pictures that there is water moving through the wall from the outside.

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Everywhere I had a chance to see some of the main floor wood components, wood rot could be seen. Work had been done but maybe not all that should have been. Also, I saw quite a bit of what looked like powder post beetle activity in the original floor timbers. Probably some termite activity in there too.

BTW, there are not very many historic aspects remaining. All new floors, gypsum walls, fixtures, windows...etc...all modern. Just the stone foundation, floor timbers and a few timbers in the attic remain as originals.

So, as the far as the historic nature is concerned, it's been molested I suppose.

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Bill,

I started the inspection at 4pm with plenty of daylight remaining. 4pm is considered evening isnt it?

If any home or building is over 80 years, I won't start later than noon. Over 150 years and I won't start later than 10:00 AM. Occasionally, I get home home by dinner. [;)] Keep in mind, most homes I'm in have at least 5 additions to the original house.
Can you give a referral to a qualified person in the area of Sykesville MD?
I could do it, but adding the travel expense to my typical inspection fee would cost 'em more than a half a years mortgage payments.
I read the article you posted. It is a slam dunk for describing the mortar I found on this stone foundation. From what I saw, there are areas that need work.
I don't see anything in the pics of the basement foundation that would have me telling the buyers to run away screaming. What you found is described here: http://historicbldgs.com/stonefoundations.htm
The cellar was under half of the original structure with the other half having about a 1 foot space to grade.
The foundation in that crawlspace however, wasn't laid by the mason that built the foundation for the basement. It was likely the farmer and his neighbors that built an addition. There probably never was a coating to maintain and no one has been in there to do anything since it was built. Someone has to get in there now and fix it.
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I saw quite a bit of what looked like powder post beetle activity in the original floor timbers. Probably some termite activity in there too.

PPB damage to hewn timbers is typically limited to the sapwood (outer rings of the log). If the top and bottom of the timber is hewn down to the heartwood, there usually isn't any repairs needed. Termite damage is a different story.

I hope you could access and probe all of the sill timbers. They're almost always heavily damaged and rotating outwards.

BTW, there are not very many historic aspects remaining. All new floors, gypsum walls, fixtures, windows...etc...all modern. Just the stone foundation, floor timbers and a few timbers in the attic remain as originals.

So, as the far as the historic nature is concerned, it's been molested I suppose.

It lost its chimneys and some windows too.
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How can I help them find someone who is qualified to do what needs to be done and not mess things up?

Anybody know someone trustworthy in my area?

Find and ask Doug Reed of Preservation Assoc. Inc. He's somewhere in northern MD, but knows everyone involved with historic buildings. Another resource would be the field office of Preservation Maryland.
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Bill,

Your articles are very informative and interesting to me. The learning continues. I'll pass the links on to the client as well. With the help I get here and my own sense of reason, I think I'll have them pointed in the right direction.

Keep learning and adding fuel to an appreciation of historic buildings and we'll see your name here soon: http://inspecthistoric.org/
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Bill,

Your articles are very informative and interesting to me. The learning continues. I'll pass the links on to the client as well. With the help I get here and my own sense of reason, I think I'll have them pointed in the right direction.

Keep learning and adding fuel to an appreciation of historic buildings and we'll see your name here soon: http://inspecthistoric.org/

I love historic buildings. It must be an honor to be on that list and it seems pretty far from my reach. You all must really enjoy what you do. I wish I knew all that you did.

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Bill,

Your articles are very informative and interesting to me. The learning continues. I'll pass the links on to the client as well. With the help I get here and my own sense of reason, I think I'll have them pointed in the right direction.

Keep learning and adding fuel to an appreciation of historic buildings and we'll see your name here soon: http://inspecthistoric.org/

My interest in old houses was piqued about 15 years ago when I flagged the approx. 3' drop off the side of the front porch as a safety hazard, same drop off down/onto to the driveway that led back to the old carriage house. The homeowner graciously explained why there was such a tall drop off. (House circa 1890)

I know Bill K. knows why.

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My interest in old houses was piqued about 15 years ago when I flagged the approx. 3' drop off the side of the front porch as a safety hazard, same drop off down/onto to the driveway that led back to the old carriage house. The homeowner graciously explained why there was such a tall drop off. (House circa 1890)

So occupants could step out of the carriage without stepping down?

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Bill,

Your articles are very informative and interesting to me. The learning continues. I'll pass the links on to the client as well. With the help I get here and my own sense of reason, I think I'll have them pointed in the right direction.

Keep learning and adding fuel to an appreciation of historic buildings and we'll see your name here soon: http://inspecthistoric.org/

My interest in old houses was piqued about 15 years ago when I flagged the approx. 3' drop off the side of the front porch as a safety hazard, same drop off down/onto to the driveway that led back to the old carriage house. The homeowner graciously explained why there was such a tall drop off. (House circa 1890)

I know Bill K. knows why.

We have that here, too. I always enjoy splaining it to folks. That, and why there's a dingy old commode stuck in a dank corner of the basement.

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Here in the equally scandalous North, we call it "grandpa's throne".

Most houses only had one crapper. Grandpa'd put one in the bsmt., usually up on a concrete lift, so he could sit and read in "private".

I looked at a place years ago that was an old 6 flat apt. bldg. (2 tiers of 3 apts.). There was a single water closet on 2nd fl. landing for all apts.

Can you say "hold it, I'm almost done?". [:-scared]

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