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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    BC Canada
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    368

    Default 100 yrs house mystery

    I just inspected a 1900 built rancher my first time seeing a 100 yrs old house in Vancouver BC. Shallow crawl built on muddy not accessible; poured concrete foundation; bad wood siding deformed & shift, tilted floor, cracks on interior wall, peeled bath wall tiles, possible structure issues.

    The owner offered me an inspection report by a well known local inspection company who did 4 yrs old. The report said downspouts drained on the ground & no perimeter drain.

    My questions are:

    1, was the perimeter drain installed 100 years ago on the houses? the attached pictures show the visible underground draintile & another DS drain on the ground. Did these mean the perimeter drain was in place but some sections might have failed?
    2. Was the cast iron pipe the original vent in the 3rd pic?
    3. What is the wood covered pit by the foundation? It was just soil inside. I did not find storm sump which was not mentioned on the other report either. I know the city still has combined sewer system in some area. Is it possible no sump on old houses. In this case, was there smell from the draintile above ground?
    4. I added a disclaimer about buried oil tank. The owner said oil fuel started from 30s. It would not be possible to have a buried tank after building built 30 yrs. Does it make sense?

    Thank you

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Southern Vancouver Island
    Posts
    4,549

    Default Re: 100 yrs house mystery

    1. Forget someone else's report. Say what you saw, not what someone else saw. There appears to be some perimeter drain pipe, looks like clay tile. You can't say much more than that, can't see below ground. I will sometimes pull the downspout and take a picture down into the pipe. If there is a T down there, it shows in the pic. Of course some of the original drain pipes are full of mud. They always are. A drainage contractor can check with a snake, but there is no doubt the pipes need to be replaced. Yes, perimeter drains were in use in 1912.

    2. Chances are, there was no indoor toilet in the original house, or there was one but no proper plumbing vent. The vent up the wall works. It may have been added in 1917, who knows?

    3. We can't see what the pit was for. Maybe a shutoff valve.

    4. The original fuel was wood or coal. Oil furnaces and oil burning space heaters came later. That doesn't mean it is not possible to bury an oil tank beside an older house.

    I'm not sure why the owner is telling you how to inspect his house, but you need to be sure of your facts and then ignore what he says. You are looking out for the buyer, correct?

    Last edited by John Kogel; 10-27-2012 at 11:17 PM.
    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    BC Canada
    Posts
    368

    Default Re: 100 yrs house mystery

    Thank you John. You mean 1900 house had a chance to be without perimeter drain. If that draintile goes to city sewer, it will be smelly, right?

    The seller just want to push for sale.


    This house has potential serious structure issue. I believe the seller knew.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Caledon, Ontario
    Posts
    5,005

    Default Re: 100 yrs house mystery

    No. 3
    Old shute for coal.
    or
    Former cistern.

    Take your pick.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Southern Vancouver Island
    Posts
    4,549

    Default Re: 100 yrs house mystery

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Louis View Post
    Thank you John. You mean 1900 house had a chance to be without perimeter drain. If that draintile goes to city sewer, it will be smelly, right?
    Whether it had drainage originally would depend on where it was built, which part of the Lower Mainland. Some houses from that time had very good footings and foundations and some were just concrete and rubble mixed in a tub and poured into a ditch.
    This house has potential serious structure issue. I believe the seller knew.
    The crawlspace with no access means there are problems under there. I might have tried to get my camera in thru that vent.

    Sloping floors and a bit of cracked plaster are perfectly normal for a house like that. I will push up on a cracked ceiling to see if there is movement - loose plaster is bad news. Otherwise it is just cosmetic.

    Look for rot from soil in contact with wood and from roof leaks that were ignored for years. All the wood is old growth Douglas fir. Hard as nails and very strong.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Chicago IL
    Posts
    1,984

    Default Re: 100 yrs house mystery

    I would agree the old clay and cast were most likely for bathroom, toilet plumbing rather than some sort of perimeter drain. Fairly typical around here. Actually have a house in my neighborhood that still had an old cast stack going up the side of the house until a couple years ago.
    The pit area was probably for coal or some sort of clean out.
    One of the things to keep in mind is that often times grading around 100 year old + houses was much lower than it is now. We have neighborhoods here were the original 1st floor is now below grade and essentially a basement due to grading changes as streets and sewers were developed.
    Forget the other guys report, skim it to see if there is anything interesting and then forget about it.
    Had an agent tell me last week on an inspection, "This should be quick, we had another inspector here a couple weeks ago and he only found 1 thing wrong in the whole house".
    I found 3 major issues before even walking in the front door.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    7

    Default Re: 100 yrs house mystery

    Not my area of expertise, but with the seller telling you how to inspect, an inspection report that is different from what you see with your own eyes, etc. I would take a real jaundiced eye toward what he says. In particular I refer to there being or not, a underground tank. As someone else mentioned, there is nothing to stop someone from putting in a tank next to an existing home. Only recent codes. I get the feeling that he is trying to keep you from finding the one he knows about. I hope I am wrong.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: 100 yrs house mystery

    I agree with the other comments. The other report is worth reading but follow your own nose and instincts. Communicate your concerns to the buyer. And anything that you can't opine on with certainty, call for further evaluation by the appropriate expert. For questionable drains, recommend having them scoped.

    I love these older homes, even if they frequently make for a long day. I inspected what is believed to be the oldest home in Denver. They can certainly cause you to pause for reflection on what the h**l you are looking at.


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