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Topic: buying old homes< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 11:13 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It seems the 2 women I have loved in my life both loved older homes.  I am talking about nearly 100 years old.  April and I bought an 75 yr old home and lived in it for 10 years, while Marcy and I bought a 95 yr old farm house.  This topic is about the work it takes to keep one old house habitable.  It may open some eyes of those thinking about purchasing an older home, and save them some $ in the long run.

Both houses had been updated to various extents.  Electrical, interior plumbing, kitchen appliance.  Cabinetry was not an issue, as the old stuff was just fine.  I liked it.  Knob and tube electrical wiring is getting a bad rep on all of the TV shows, but being an electrician, i knew how to judge what needed to go and what could stay.

What has surprised me is the stairways, with low overheads, and the sewer lines.  Needing to duck each time I pass certain points of the descent from the bedroom to the remainder of the house is something I have adjusted to, and it was obvious the very first time we walked through the home.

The sewerage drain was not obvious.  In one old home, the drain worked just fine, until the city decided to move the old sewer from the alley in the back of the house to the street in the front.  It required homeowners to pay for the hook up to the new sewer line, which ran about $7k.  I might have learned something there, but I did not.  

This week, I am paying to have a new sewer drain installed in this home, at a cost of $7K.  I might have avoided buying the home if I had a simple test done of the drain line, or I could have asked that the previous owners pay for it or reduce the price enough for me to have it done.  None of those things happened.  

For $300, a plumbing company will insert a high pressure hose into the drain and clean it out to the municipal sewer line.  Then they will insert a camera down the line and see where any damage has occurred. I highly encourage anyone who is thinking of buying an old home to have this inspection done.  Think of it as a colonoscopy for the house.  A simple test that will reveal anything that might be a problem in the near future.

I learned something from all of this. During the housing boom after WW2, the industry was looking for something other than metal as it was not available in large quantities.  They turned to a product called Orangeburg pipe, which was wood particles held together with glue and the interior coated with liquified pitch.  This product had been in use for nearly 100 years in many other industries, and it began to be used in sewer drain lines from the house to the municipal hook up.

It does not do well over time.  Roots will damage it, and the pipe can collapse if it was not bedded properly.  In my case, it just reached the end of its life expectancy.  I am supposing that my home had a line replaced during that time, since the home is much older.  I am also thinking the previous owners had some problems that they just chose to ignore, or fixed by cleaning the line and not replacing it.  I had no such choices.

So, those of you who wish to learn more about Orangeburg pipe can go here , and the rest of you can thank your lucky stars you have not had to replace your sewer drain.  Oh, my cost was so high on this home because the drain line ran 200 ft before hooking up to the city line.  The property is such that no machinery can get to that portion of the yard. That is a lot of hand digging and replacement pipe.  The new pipe is ABS, so it should last longer than either of the currant tenants, or even the foreseeable time of the next tenants.  


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 11:29 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Plumbing problems are not nice.

Was it an option to line your old sewer pipe?


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 11:38 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

ol-zeke,
I have been there, and feel your pain.
I have spent many a long night working the pipe snake through our sewer line.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 11:42 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah.  Our house is only 60 years old, but we had to replace the line to the street nearly 10 years ago.  Fortunately, it was only about 20 feet, so not that expensive.  

Though it would have helped if, when the builder helpfully marked the connection point on the sidewalk, he'd put it in the right place :p


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 11:42 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

No, Chuck, it was not an option.  So many things were wrong, from tree roots, to open breaks, to what appeared on the camera as a large rock.  I had 3 contractors out for estimates, and none of them could find a solution other than digging it up and replacing it.  Luckily for me, we are not on hard times.  It is a nice feeling to know such repairs are a temporary inconvenience and not a worry as to how they will be paid for.  

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 12:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The way I look at it...  I could buy a new home that looks like all the others near it.  But if the money is there, I'd rather pay a bit more to have a home with some character.  My own home was built in 1937.  Since moving in, I've had to replace the roof, resurface the crumbling driveway and walkway.  But the structure itself is sound.  I love the architecture and the floor plan of my house.

But your pointer to have things checked out before buying is well put.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 12:32 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I've been down the roots in the sewer line journey before.  You can buy a decent cleaner at Harbor Freight and snake it yourself every couple years as a PM.  They have chemical treatments that are supposed to work, but I don't have any experience with those.

On our current house (knob and tube wiring was bypassed, but is still there, and we also have a coal chute) we needed to put in a new septic field.  This was not cheap either.  We also needed to drill a deeper well.

Ah, the joys of an older home.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 12:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Sorry, Ol-zeke, what a pain.  Glad you're finished with that.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 1:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

No more old homes for me. After so much time spent on upgrades and remodeling, I've gotten the message that for the same labor I could start from scratch and build new with far fewer headaches.

You might say, "Been there, done that" over too many years. I've seen too many quirks that come with an aging house. What I have not done is build a small, economical, energy-efficient model from as many recycled materials as possible and designed by my own floorplan. That's one of my little dreams now. Someday.

Plumbing, sewer, and electrical have all changed over the decades, but so have wall thickness, insulation, heating, roofing, flooring and so on. And a smaller proportion of houses are currently "stick-built," that is, with studded walls. I like the idea of a log home but insulated panels within a timber-frame structure may be the better way to build.

Then there are innovations like geo-thermal heating, heat sinks and solar-propelled air circulation, wind and solar power and so on. One of my pet peeves on even newer houses is the absence of a centrally-located utility room with access to plumbing and electrical grids. I'm tired of muddy crawl spaces, poorly-built attics, and having to tear down a wall to fix a plumbing leak.

I also appreciate detailed blueprints for the house I live in, and that's something rarely available for older houses. Finding pipes and wiring is too much guesswork that may involve tearing something up just to find the hidden structures of the house.

Finally, in my area an easy way to drain the plumbing would allow me to shut down in winter if I chose, but most houses are designed to be kept at least moderately heated no matter how long left vacant. I'd like to know I could be gone for two months without wasting heat to keep the water pipes from freezing. But with a good design, I could quickly bring all back to full functionality when I returned home.

Someone needs to live in old houses. I've spent my time. But my innovative mind would like to try something new. I don't want to be doing repairs on some old relic of a house when I'm 85.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 1:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Finding a home inspector who will actually check all this stuff is difficult to find.  Most will check the usual, but many either don't know about old homes or just don't want to take the time.  Knowing the history of an areas building practices is also important.  

Conversely, many home buyers just want to get the most inexpensive home inspection.  This is especially true of first time buyters, who usually don't have a lot of extra money or are unaware.  It is well worth the money and time to find a very good and thorough home inspector, especially when purchasing any home over 15 years old.

Rumi


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 1:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A city sewer... what's that? :p

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 2:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I love the idea of living in an older home full of character and remodeling it to make it your own...  

But, the reality of both of us working full time jobs, and becoming parents - uh, no, we barely have time to do laundry!  So we bought a new house with a warranty, and have added character to it with the furnishings :)  I also like that it's a very thermally efficient  house, being that we live in the high desert.  It has to get quite warm before we need air conditioning, or quite cold before we need the heater.  Our one project was planting the backyard, which was bare, and that was fun enough for me.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 2:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

WWBF, those fancypants city folk have them.

My house was built in 1885-1886.  The original privy is still out there in the yard.

If those spiffy sewers are that much trouble, you can keep them.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 2:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I had my sewer line replaced last year for $5,000. That was for only about 12-15 ft of repair.  Roots kept getting into it via  2 old downspout lines that went into it. The previous owners had just cut the downspout lines off about 2ft down from ground level and so tree roots kept going down the pipes and plugging up my drain line.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 3:18 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(spindle @ Mar. 20 2013, 11:04 am)
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My house was built in 1885-1886.  The original privy is still out there in the yard.

Pic?   :;):

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 5:16 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

If it's any consolation, it could be worse... you could have a generic ranch built in the early 70's with the disintegrating sewer line running *under* the house. Diagonally.  The long way.

Right beneath the part that you just had completely renovated.

We do the "in denial" ritual snaking once a month.  :(


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 5:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TravisNWood @ Mar. 20 2013, 10:05 am)
QUOTE
No more old homes for me. After so much time spent on upgrades and remodeling, I've gotten the message that for the same labor I could start from scratch and build new with far fewer headaches.

You might say, "Been there, done that" over too many years. I've seen too many quirks that come with an aging house. What I have not done is build a small, economical, energy-efficient model from as many recycled materials as possible and designed by my own floorplan. That's one of my little dreams now. Someday.

Plumbing, sewer, and electrical have all changed over the decades, but so have wall thickness, insulation, heating, roofing, flooring and so on. And a smaller proportion of houses are currently "stick-built," that is, with studded walls. I like the idea of a log home but insulated panels within a timber-frame structure may be the better way to build.

Then there are innovations like geo-thermal heating, heat sinks and solar-propelled air circulation, wind and solar power and so on. One of my pet peeves on even newer houses is the absence of a centrally-located utility room with access to plumbing and electrical grids. I'm tired of muddy crawl spaces, poorly-built attics, and having to tear down a wall to fix a plumbing leak.

I also appreciate detailed blueprints for the house I live in, and that's something rarely available for older houses. Finding pipes and wiring is too much guesswork that may involve tearing something up just to find the hidden structures of the house.

Finally, in my area an easy way to drain the plumbing would allow me to shut down in winter if I chose, but most houses are designed to be kept at least moderately heated no matter how long left vacant. I'd like to know I could be gone for two months without wasting heat to keep the water pipes from freezing. But with a good design, I could quickly bring all back to full functionality when I returned home.

Someone needs to live in old houses. I've spent my time. But my innovative mind would like to try something new. I don't want to be doing repairs on some old relic of a house when I'm 85.

Absolutely!
New homes can be just as charming and much more livable.  I have a realtor coming out in a few minutes to show me some potential properties on which to build a new efficient home.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 10:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I hear you Zeke. Our house was built in 1932.  It's certainly got a lot of "character". Enough said.  Been an interesting and educational experience living here the last 34 years.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 10:38 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Lamebeaver, don't you have any teens? When I was a young teen we needed a new septic tank and drain field. Dad handed the 3of us kids shovels. . .

I like Travis' vision of a new house.  Not an option within biking distance of the spousal employment, though.  Maybe after retirement.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 10:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(hikerjer @ Mar. 20 2013, 9:24 pm)
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I hear you Zeke. Our house was built in 1932.  It's certainly got a lot of "character". Enough said.  Been an interesting and educational experience living here the last 34 years.

Just for you.   :;):



*from the movie 'Mr Blandings builds his dream house'


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2013, 11:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

ol-zeke - I feel your pain, just spent the day flushing the pipes and water-heater, Seems Citywoman does not like taking a shower in rust colored water.  Who would have known? Our house is only 20 years old, not sure it will standup to the test of time.  Owned an old house build in the 30s way back when ....., done that, been there. :D

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(RebeccaD @ Mar. 20 2013, 8:38 pm)
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Lamebeaver, don't you have any teens? When I was a young teen we needed a new septic tank and drain field. Dad handed the 3of us kids shovels. . .

I like Travis' vision of a new house.  Not an option within biking distance of the spousal employment, though.  Maybe after retirement.

It would have been a lot of digging....engineered field.  They dug a big rectangular hole, lay thee lengths of plastic pipe with holes it, then a layer of shredded tires, a layer of garden mesh (so dirt wouldn't fill in the media, then covered it back up.

This was a few years ago...the kids were pretty young.  I did need to dig up the tank.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 21 2013, 8:48 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

We had a family friend growing up that lived in a house built in the 1760's... maintaining it was their part-time job, but that's what houses like that are about... an expensive hobby.

If you have the skills, an older home is perfectly fine, otherwise you're hiring it out ($) to a person of unknown skill and integrity. But there are very good contractors out there, you just have to select carefully. Very carefully... but really, no different than selecting a doctor. There are good and bad.

I like new, but I design and build my own, which isn't really a practical option for most... just because a home is new doesn't mean it's well made.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 21 2013, 10:21 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Here are my old home woes for this morning.....

We heat our house with wood.  We have an old forced air heater that is inside the ac unit, but we haven't turned it on in 2 years.  Since we are going out of town for a long weekend, I decided we better run the forced air heater while we are gone to keep from coming home to a frozen home.

I should have done this earlier in the week, but I turned the unit on last night and woke up this morning to a cold house.  Went outside this morning to check on it and it had blown a circuit breaker.  Of course this isn't something you can get at the local home improvement store as well.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 21 2013, 10:47 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

As a kid growing up, I had the mistaken idea that a home was kinda permanent fixture and really didn't take much care.  But of course that is wrong.  A new home often gives the ownmer a false sense about not having to do much maintenance or care because most everything is new and hpefully up to date.  But it really doesn't take long for things to start breaking down and needing care.  After five to ten years of coasting without any significant care, a house can develop some serious issues.  

Taking care of either a new or old house is a matter of being proactive.  Thus one needs to keep an eye on things, anticipating issues, setting aside money for repaires and upgrades, and preventing small problems from snowballing into major repairs.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 21 2013, 10:59 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I remember as a kid having the foundation shift on a new home my parents bought left a lasting impression on me (that state still has no geological survey - just pour enough concrete and man-up, heh).  Enjoying travel and backpacking, putting time (and money) into maintenance just doesn't do it for me, but it might have been my Dad showing the travel on the gas meter as the house shifted over 4 years ...

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 21 2013, 11:00 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(RumiDude @ Mar. 20 2013, 1:23 pm)
QUOTE
Finding a home inspector who will actually check all this stuff is difficult to find.  Most will check the usual, but many either don't know about old homes or just don't want to take the time.  Knowing the history of an areas building practices is also important.  

Conversely, many home buyers just want to get the most inexpensive home inspection.  This is especially true of first time buyters, who usually don't have a lot of extra money or are unaware.  It is well worth the money and time to find a very good and thorough home inspector, especially when purchasing any home over 15 years old.

Rumi

Hi...


As a former home inspector of eighteen years, I can only agree with both statements.

Today, a competent home inspection is a given. And, as with so many other things, you get what you pay for.

NOTE: home inspections are based on items that can be SEEN.

For underground sewer lines, for example, you might want to consider having those further examined by a plumber with a camers suitable for such evaluations. This is something that most home inspectors do not have.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 21 2013, 11:37 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(SW Mtn backpacker @ Mar. 21 2013, 10:59 am)
QUOTE
I remember as a kid having the foundation shift on a new home my parents bought left a lasting impression on me (that state still has no geological survey - just pour enough concrete and man-up, heh).  Enjoying travel and backpacking, putting time (and money) into maintenance just doesn't do it for me, but it might have been my Dad showing the travel on the gas meter as the house shifted over 4 years ...

I just spent 5 grand leveling the slab on my house, one corner had dropped about 6 inches.

Next project is new siding.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 21 2013, 6:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Chuck D @ Mar. 21 2013, 10:37 am)
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one corner had dropped about 6 inches.

I call that "summer" ... this old house rises and falls with the river.  ;)


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