Sun, Jul 6th - 4:24PM
Inspecting Century Homes
Inspecting Century Homes
Century homes are a marvel in
construction. People are attracted to these beautiful old buildings and
they usually do not remain on the market long. Most buyers want the
assurance of a qualified home inspector before buying, what could be in
some cases, a potential “Money Pit”. Usually just the age of the
building is a testimony to the quality of construction, but there are
some items that need to be verified prior to committing your hard
Here are some areas of the
inspection that might be of interest to potential buyers. These are
just a brief overview and by no means an indication of what a complete
The grade of the foundation is extremely important to the condition of framing members and perimeter framing etc. Having
a foundation wall that is too low to grade level is just inviting
moisture and water to attack your structural framing members and
Water penetration of foundations is another cause of deterioration which can be repaired but only after removing water source. This
can be caused by improper grading, eave troughs discharging at
foundation or sump pumps discharging beside foundation walls.
This is probably one of the
singularly most important part of the Century Home Inspection. These
homes were built of logs, beams and posts. Most crawl spaces are
usually wet or damp, which can adversely affect the condition of the
wood supporting the structure. Testing all the support and
framing structure in the crawl space will quickly determine the
condition of the wood. Finding a small layer of decay on a log beam is
no reason for concern but rotted beams or framing members can be a
major concern if replacement is required due to limited access to some
Balloon framing is common on
older structures and ensuring that walls are not separating is a major
concern when inspecting these stately old structures. Most people have
seen the rods and bolts running through brick walls on old downtown
buildings, the purpose of this supports is to prevent the walls from
expanding outwards which would allow the interior floors to collapse.
This type of framing is not permitted anymore, more from a fire safety issue than structural. Balloon
framing allowed fire to start in basement and spread up the walls to
pop up anywhere above fire, including the attic. There are many
recorded instances where a fire department put out a fire in a basement
only to be called back hours later because the roof was on fire.
Galvanized plumbing was common
in older homes and has a life expectancy of about 50 years. Insurance
companies are usually reluctant to insure homes with galvanized
plumbing due to the fact that it rusts from the inside and will likely
fail prior to any indication of a problem.
Venting on older homes can also
be a make shift set up. I have come across vents that have been
attached to the exterior of homes and do not continue above roof line.
This is against the plumbing code and should be rectified.
The electrical system in older
houses may also be an area of concern. For example, some older houses
still have only 60 amp service which may not be adequate for modern
living, and which may result in home insurance companies refusing to
ensure until the service and service panel are upgraded to a minimum of
100 amps. In some homes, evidence of the old knob and tube wiring may
Older home could have electrical issues which include wiring done by
home owner or his friends, which may be poorly done and even unsafe.
Many times we encounter ungrounded panels, ungrounded distribution
wiring, overloaded circuits, oversized breakers (which may not trip and
shut the power down in an unsafe situation), unprotected connections
and the absence of GFCI receptacles in bathrooms and exterior
locations. One real estate listing even described a separate 200 amp
panel for a work shop. What they didn’t identify was that
the panel was fed directly from the service side of the existing
distribution panel. This is totally illegal connection in an electrical
panel, contravening the Electrical Code and very unsafe.
Almost all occupied Century
homes have had their insulation upgraded in the attic. Added insulation
can cover up previously installed insulation, which can range from wood
shavings to vermiculite. Vermiculite insulation has a good chance of
containing asbestos which can be expensive to have properly removed and
disposed of. Usually this will be done by company specializing in
asbestos remediation. Most reputable insulation companies would remove
the wood shavings before blowing in added insulation. Wood shavings can cause odour and /or insect problems.
Proper ventilation of your
century home attic is a major concern now that you have upgraded
windows, insulation and HVAC systems. Air, heat and moisture leakage is
impossible to stop in your attic and proper ventilation ensures that
any moisture will be vented out of your attic. Moisture in your attic is the number one cause of mould and this could possibly affect rooms under your attic.
Rodents and bats can take up residence in your century homes attic. This can lead to costly cleanups which can run over $10,000 in extreme cases. A
careful inspection of your attic can identify the presence and degree
of infestation involved. I recently inspected a century home that had
bats discovered in the attic and after the cleanup all that remained
was packets of anti coagulant and a fluorescent light to deter further
Some century homes have very
limited access to attics, which can be built as a cathedral ceiling and
leaving little or no access for inspection. In these situations I
always advise the client to have a qualified insulation specialist do
an basement even going so far as to have an Infrared scan done to
determine heat loss.
Rerember “ Caveat Emptor”, Buyer
Beware – Protect yourself and your investment – use a Professional Home
Inspector and always ask for references and verify experience.
Choose the Barrie Home Inspector for
all your inspection needs in Simcoe County and Barrie, Alliston,
Orillia area. Professional Home Inspections starting at $199.