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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 earned dollars.


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 inspection entails.




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 subsequent rotting.


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.


Crawl Spaces


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 crawl spaces.




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 exist.

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 infestation.


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.

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