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  1. #1
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    Default Buying a house built in 1850

    Hello again,

    My house search has now led me to a home built in 1850. I was very skeptical at first but decided to go check it out anyway. Needless to say I was very impressed! The house is occupied by an older couple that has lived there for over 40 years. The gentleman somehow used his backhoe and completely "modernized" the basement with cement walls and floors. They only left the stone part of the wall on one side of the basement (see pictures). There was one crack towards the corner of the foundation but I'm not sure this is a big deal. The house has been tapped into the gas line and also has central air. He stated he used romex wiring to ground the electrical and stated this house does not have K&T. They had the whole house insulated and changed the plumbing to PVC pipes. They showed me the bills and everything seemed to check out (Electric about $80-100 and Gas budget for $120). The house is 1900 sq feet not counting the basement. What else do I need to find out about a home built over 150 years ago? Does the basement look OK from the few pics I provided? Thanks!

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    1. Corner crack likely due to former downspout discharging against foundation. Where is the current discharge going to below grade, dry well, weepers?
    2. Budget for replacement of furnace.
    3. Stone rubble and header will be cold due to lack of insulation.
    4. Plumbing is a mess, that is not a professional job.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Why are you insistent in leaving a home inspector out of your equasion.
    that's just plain stupid.
    The owner said what?
    Let him put it all in the contract, along with,
    there is no structural damage or concern with the home due to my playing with a back hoe in the basement.
    The asbestos i covered with foam and insulation will not kill you
    the knob and tube wiring covered with insulation in the attic won't burn down the house
    the poweder post beetle damage in the usness area of the floors will never cause problems

    You know the house has NO insulation in the walls right?

    I've inspected hundreds of antique houses,
    even the ones that have complete renovation have intrisic defects that you should know about.
    Where are you.
    Your question to us should be.
    Who is the best inspector in my area?


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Wayne, is it really necessary to call Alex stupid? (NO! it's just rude.) I, for one, wouldn't want to call in an HI about every house I was interested in, either. What's the problem with identifying areas of concern and asking about them here? That doesn't mean he won't ever get an HI to come, if the process goes that far.

    Alex said the house had been insulated and the wiring is not K&T. How do you know the asbestos hasn't been removed, or even if it is there somewhere, that it would be a problem? Plenty of newer houses have asbestos, too. Do you see evidence of powder post beetle damage?

    So, what are the intrinsic problems with old houses?

    Houses that old are rare around here, but I'm often very impressed with the way houses from around 1900 have held up when properly maintained, often with fewer problems than houses built in the last half of the century.

    Do not think of knocking out another person's brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago.
    - James Burgh, 1754.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Quote Originally Posted by wayne soper View Post
    Why are you insistent in leaving a home inspector out of your equasion.
    that's just plain stupid.
    The owner said what?
    Let him put it all in the contract, along with,
    there is no structural damage or concern with the home due to my playing with a back hoe in the basement.
    The asbestos i covered with foam and insulation will not kill you
    the knob and tube wiring covered with insulation in the attic won't burn down the house
    the poweder post beetle damage in the usness area of the floors will never cause problems

    You know the house has NO insulation in the walls right?

    I've inspected hundreds of antique houses,
    even the ones that have complete renovation have intrisic defects that you should know about.
    Where are you.
    Your question to us should be.
    Who is the best inspector in my area?

    Does it make you feel good yelling at someone on a message board? Hopefully that helps you sleep better at night.

    Anyway, of course I'd get a home inspection. I was just asking some basic questions before I get that far in the process. I have very limited knowledge of older homes so I wanted some advice. Obviously no amount of opinions on a message board is an acceptable replacement for a home inspection. So let me get this straight, the house has no insulation in the walls even though they have the receipt of a professional blowing insulation throughout the house? I also saw their gas bills and they were budgeted at $120 a month (low 80/highest 170). Are you saying it isn't possible to insulate these types of houses? Is this due to the way they were built?

    Raymond you bring up a good point about the plumbing. They stated it was all replaced with PVC but I'm not sure how well that was done. That picture of a furnace was a burner not the gas one. They have a gas heater that was bought in the last 7 years. I'm not sure about the former downspouts but its something I'll look into.

    One final question I had was about the poweder post beetle damage. What is the "usness area?" The floor is completely cemented like a normal basement. Above where there is wood it is re-enforced and I didn't see any holes or damage. This brings up a good point that if I do make an offer maybe I should also write in there I want an exterminator to check the place out as well (if this tends to be a big concern with older homes?)

    Again I just wanted to find out what I should be looking for/asking before moving on in the process. I appreciate everyone's insight so far, thank you!

    Last edited by Sam Alex; 04-12-2012 at 04:50 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Very sorry I got your name wrong, Sam. Didn't mean to call you by your last name.

    What did the owner mean when he said he used romex to ground the electrical? And you might ask why the one stone foundation wall was left, while the others were replaced (why were they replaced? Problems with the rest of the structure?).

    Do not think of knocking out another person's brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago.
    - James Burgh, 1754.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    From my experience, homeowner DIY projects often equate to problems/defects/safety issues. They are often done without permits or full knowledge of the scope of the project.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Sam, I was trying to give you good advice.
    I didn't YELL at you
    Geez,you asked for advice
    If you had forworded that this is pre hiring a home inspector, i never would have said a word.
    Sorry, didn't see the part about owner upgrades.
    My post worked in the sense that you are thinking in more detail now,
    so your welcome.
    I did not mean to offend you.
    I meant to bring you back to reality.
    Get out of the dream and into real life.
    I deal with many customers that jump into deals blindly and need a good slap to wake up.
    I mistakenly thought you were one of them.
    My apologies.
    On spelling also
    The powder post beetle damage in the (unseen) area of the floor.
    A WDI report may be required by your bank. Ask them.
    HAve you checked for building permits?
    Is there any structural report or permits for the basemnt dig.
    You can PM me with the address and I can access an online database with Permit information.
    Blown in insulation settles over time.
    Balloon framing, which is more than likely, allows this further due to no stops or fire blocks
    Kristy, we are talking about an 1850's house, not 1900's
    BIG difference
    And your right, many older houses, typically from 1920 to 1938 were very well built
    Do you know why?
    Look it up
    I love your questions and interest.
    That's great, except for one thing

    You have no idea what it takes to juggle a home inspection and customers onsite at the same time while trying not to miss a single item.

    You don't do home inspections

    Sometimes customers are so lost in the dream, they don't listen, they don't read the report, nothing.
    But 6 months later, "why didn't you tell us about the Asbestos?"
    My reply " SO you still haven't read the report have you?"


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Quote Originally Posted by wayne soper View Post
    Sam, I was trying to give you good advice.
    I didn't YELL at you
    Geez,you asked for advice
    If you had forworded that this is pre hiring a home inspector, i never would have said a word.
    Sorry, didn't see the part about owner upgrades.
    My post worked in the sense that you are thinking in more detail now,
    so your welcome.
    I did not mean to offend you.
    I meant to bring you back to reality.
    Get out of the dream and into real life.
    I deal with many customers that jump into deals blindly and need a good slap to wake up.
    I mistakenly thought you were one of them.
    My apologies.
    On spelling also
    The powder post beetle damage in the (unseen) area of the floor.
    A WDI report may be required by your bank. Ask them.
    HAve you checked for building permits?
    Is there any structural report or permits for the basemnt dig.
    You can PM me with the address and I can access an online database with Permit information.
    Blown in insulation settles over time.
    Balloon framing, which is more than likely, allows this further due to no stops or fire blocks
    Kristy, we are talking about an 1850's house, not 1900's
    BIG difference
    And your right, many older houses, typically from 1920 to 1938 were very well built
    Do you know why?
    Look it up
    I love your questions and interest.
    That's great, except for one thing

    You have no idea what it takes to juggle a home inspection and customers onsite at the same time while trying not to miss a single item.

    You don't do home inspections

    Sometimes customers are so lost in the dream, they don't listen, they don't read the report, nothing.
    But 6 months later, "why didn't you tell us about the Asbestos?"
    My reply " SO you still haven't read the report have you?"
    "Get out of the dream and into real life"? That's a pretty half-baked apology.

    And Wayne, I do home inspections. A different type of inspection, but they are inspections, and the homeowner has to be with me at all times I'm in the house, so I DO know what it's like to juggle him/her and try not to miss anything. Some of my inspections are detailed enough that they take an hour and a half, interior alone, and come with 17 pages of paperwork. What's the point of bringing that up anyway? It's totally irrelevant to the rest of the conversation.

    If you make a statement like "many older houses, typically from 1920 to 1938 were very well built," you should be prepared to explain it. Aren't we here to share knowledge? It could take me hours to find out what you mean. I've tried Google, didn't get far. And what are the BIG differences between houses built in 1850 vs. 1900? Enlighten me.

    Do not think of knocking out another person's brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago.
    - James Burgh, 1754.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    1850s sound very cool and it is obvious maintenence care has been in play. One of the pluses of an older home is the lumber often has better structural strength than today's, ( straight grain old growth vs multiple knots in younger trees dried too fast. I lament the absense of character and craftmenship in today's construction. Stone foundations warrant investigation. There typically is no footing spread so any evidence of settling, the soil type, the topography / apparent drainage, etc can help you evaluate it's future. In 1850 just isolation from the wind was a big plus, but insulation is a big player w/ today's energy costs. Utility companies in harmony w/ Federal programs can often help w/ that. Pay attention to potential earth to wood contact and for any WDO evidence, as a lot can happen in 160 years. Noticed some stains on the concrete floor - - - U/G fuel storage tanks can make some people nervous, but there are reasonably priced mitigation services available. U/G tanks can be pumped out, filled w/ slurry and capped for less than $ 1,000.00 by certified pros. Roofs and windows can be money pits. Also be sure there are no galvanized water lines in use because they rust themselves closed and do not always show how bad that is from the outside. Good luck !


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Sam,
    Something else, That wood stove you are showing a picture of is not the main heat source correct?
    Where does it vent to?
    You will typically find in an 1850's house that the chimney may be unlined and is being shared by all equipment.
    See if you can see the flue liner tops above the chimney and count them.
    There should be one for every combustion unit, including fireplaces, except the weater heater which can share a flue if installed properly.
    If you can't see the flue liners( red terracotta), someone should be getting up there to check it.
    If it's unlined, you will have to install stainless liners, (not cheap)


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Quote Originally Posted by wayne soper View Post

    .
    Something else, That wood stove you are showing a picture of is not the main heat source correct?)
    .
    Well how do you Know it's a Wood Stove Mr. Smarty Pants ?
    * just because it's Sitting on a Piece of Wood.
    ** That Heating Unit Could have been Updated to 90% Efficiency Energy Star Rated
    *** More Likely Just a Fire Hazard .
    .

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Kristy,
    TAke a look at my avatar.
    I know I am one sometimes, that's why it's there.
    In the period I mentioned, and it's actually wider than that, immigrant laborers that were very skilled in their work built many fine houses,
    In the period going into the war, during and after, building practices declined due to the war effort and then the need to build homes fast to fill with baby boomers
    Lumber was also of better quality because it came from first growth hard wood trees.

    Intrinsic to 1800's
    1850's whether water heated, or forced air, will more than likely have asbestos, even if removed, it will still be in the walls, and if an air system, still wrapped around the old ductwork, clients should be made aware of the possibility.
    There are different opinions on this but, it is possible to pull the asbestos into the duct work with the air moving through the duct.
    Like say if someone stuck a big screw for a shelf through the wall and into the old duct.
    The same goes for knob&tube. Just because you can't see it in the basement doesn't mean it's not there.
    Insulation added over knob and tube is dangerous, allowing the wires to overheat. Not good!
    Look for tube holes, tubes, knobs, look in the attic under insulation.
    Galvanized main water lines or supply lines may still be in use.
    Brass water lines may be in pretty bad shape by now.
    There is lead in brass also.
    Lead paint issues.
    Framing may include log beams and joists, which will almost always have powder post beetle damage.
    Load carrying walls do not all line up from top to bottom and deflection in floors may be extreme.
    Walls may have been removed improperly.
    Minimal or no footings may be found on support posts, piers or foundation walls.
    Additions with no basement or crawl area have been suported with dry stacked rocks.
    Old exterior porches turned into living space and added up to 2nd floors will not have proper footing depth to handle loads and and may settle.
    If the third floor has been finished it more than likely does not have proper venting behind the insulation, or may have no insulation at all.
    Sometimes abandoned cesspools, septic tanks will be present and not abandoned properly, People fall into these every year and get hurt.
    Abandoned and hidden oil tanks can be present
    Houses treated with Chlordane Termiticide may have the poison in the soil around the house where kids can play in it
    Not good, I like my mud pies without it.
    There is alot more but I have to go to work now


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    You too! HAHAHA
    Hows life in the swamp gatorboy?


  15. #15

    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Sam,

    You just posted four photos and gave a short story with some information and history and there are many issues from these details alone as result. Too many to cover here and think that everything is covered.

    It would be best to hire an experienced inspector as well as requesting all paperwork the owner has in their possession. Visit the local municipality or whoever has the responsibility for code enforcement and acquire any and all records. Based on the information presented it is likely many changes were made by non professionals over the years and permits were likely not part of the equation. A quality home inspector as well as other appropriate professionals should be used. A home like this given it history and age may run in excess of $1000.00 for all of the professionals needed to evaluate and report its current condition accurately.

    Jeff Zehnder - Home Inspector, Raleigh, NC
    http://www.jjeffzehnder.com/
    http://carolinahomeinspections.com/

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Quote Originally Posted by wayne soper View Post
    You too! HAHAHA
    Hows life in the swamp gatorboy?
    .
    ....
    .

    ***IMPORTANT*** You Need To Register To View Images ***IMPORTANT*** You Need To Register To View Images
    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Wayne, thank you for going into the details, now I know the kinds of things you were talking about. I already was aware of most of those issues, and it seems to me they are often applicable to houses built in 1900 (and later) as well. Things like galvanized pipes and K&T wouldn't be original to a 1850 house anyway, nor would gravity furnaces, so there wouldn't be any (original) ductwork to spread asbestos, if that does indeed happen. So some of the things you mention as being intrinsic to a 1850 house would have actually been installed at a later date.

    I was also aware of the changes which occurred around 1940, but didn't know about the influx of skilled craftsman before then - that's an interesting point.

    Anyway, thank you for elaborating, I appreciate the time you've taken.

    Do not think of knocking out another person's brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago.
    - James Burgh, 1754.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Wayne - no offense taken.

    Well you guys have scared me to death about an 1850's home. Lucky for me a home in my dream city that was built in 1978 went on the market today. I went and checked it out and fell in love. 1600 sq feet upstairs with another 1000 sq feet in the finished waterproof basement. Has a huge timberline deck on the back, a big pole barn, AND an acre of land out in the country! Unfortunately there were 2 other groups of people looking at the house at the same time (and it just went on the market today!!). Needless to say I got my offer in and am hoping for the best. This house was only 8,000 more than the one built in 1850 so I think this will work out better! Thanks for all the opinions/advice as well. I always get a lot of good responses on this site and really appreciate it.

    PS - I still plan on getting a home inspection if I get my home built in 1978


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    1978. OH NO! HAHAHA just kidding, Good luck to you, like I always say.
    Good things come to those who wait.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post

    PS - I still plan on getting a home inspection if I get my home built in 1978
    .
    My understanding is this Lead Based Paint Program | Region 4 | US EPA was still on the shelves along with a wide range of Products containing Asbestos in use several years After 1978.
    .
    .

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Stephens View Post
    .
    My understanding is this Lead Based Paint Program | Region 4 | US EPA was still on the shelves along with a wide range of Products containing Asbestos in use several years After 1978.
    .
    .
    Haha I'm not too concerned.. I have one of the best inspectors in Ohio, I'm very confident he will find anything wrong with the property therefore I had no second thoughts about offering contingent on an inspection. I've been looking for 7 months and this was the first house I walked in and knew "this is it." It's a great home.. now I just have to hope no one else puts in an offer in the next 24 hours!


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Buying a house built in 1850

    Well I may just give up my house hunt. Someone else submitted a lower $$ offering but without a septic and well inspection and they took that bid. This is the 2nd home I've offered more money on and lost because I wanted septic/well inspections (neither were bank owned either). I don't understand why someone would buy a house without having the septic or well checked. Both houses were good deals but not ridiculously cheap. The first house I tried to buy received an awful home inspection so I had to pass on it too. I'm 0/3 and just about done looking at this point


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