Saturday, November 28, 2009

Restoration of a Queen-Choosing the Queen You Wish To Serve-Part I

This week we discovered that one of our favorite houses in town has come up for sale by owner.  It's a fantastic Queen Anne that sits back a ways from the road on a two and a half acre lot in town. 

Some friends who own an antique store that we frequent have been looking for a larger home and have yet to find the "perfect" fit.  When they heard this one was for sale, they called and we went to have a look.  If there was a house in town that I would want to live in besides ours, this one would be it.  But a house can look nice from the street and still be a bad deal.  So, here's a list of some of the things to look for when considering an old house.

One of the most important considerations is the roof.  If the roof is bad, everything below it may be compromised.  In our area as well as many areas of the south, termites are always a concern because our summers are humid and water that gets into the house may stay moist longer than in other climates.

Water runs downhill.  If there's any kind of water penetration, it's going to go into the house somewhere and not necessarily straight down.  A leak in a roof may look like it's coming from a corner, but may actually be coming in from an entirely different angle and running down the trusses until it reaches a nail or other protrusion then drops onto the ceiling below or runs down the wall at a framing point. 

Plaster falling from the ceiling is often an indication of a leaking roof.  Wallpaper falling off the ceiling isn't necessarily an indicator, so while it looks scary, you'll want to investigate further.

Chimney, valley, and wall flashing are some of the most common points of water penetration into old houses. Over time, the old flashing can just deteriorate at the bend and even though the roof looks good and the area look flashed, under the shingle there may be nothing left at the junction.

Check for sagging in the middle of the roof.  This can generally be seen from a distance and can be pretty easy to spot.   An inspection of the underside of the roof from the attic will help determine how severe the problem really is whether it's cracked trusses or possibly a bad foundation.  So...

The next thing to look at is the foundation.  Foundation problems are often water-related as well.  If it's a brick foundation, time and the elements can break down the original mortar between the bricks as well as the bricks themselves.  Failure of the external brickwork doesn't always mean the house is going to fall down any time soon, as the brickwork around the foundation is sometimes purely for aesthetic purposes.

To make a good assessment of the foundation, getting under the house and inspecting the piers around the foundation as well as those supporting the floors will give you a better idea of its true structural integrity. 

This is an area under of what appears to be the foundation for our front porch.  If a person were to give it a little kick, the whole wall would fall down.  It looks quite bad, but in reality, the entire porch is supported on piers from below and this brickwork is merely a cover over the open space between the porch and the ground, much like latticework can be seen on old houses.  It doesn't actually support anything, so an urgent repair isn't required.
Failure of brick pointing-also part of our foundation.  Some of it is clearly from the tampering of the wall during vent installation.  The other is probably moisture related.  There are a few spots like this around the house, but nothing to get in a twist about.   

As you look down the wall you can see where there is a small bow where the brickwork touches the aluminum band below the siding where the whitish streaks are.  Something is amiss here but isn't affecting the entire wall and under pressure, the area doesn't move, but is something that should be corrected if there is any additional movement.

The roof and foundation are the two most important things to consider as failure in these  areas are the most compromising to the house, making any other improvements a waste of time.  From above, roof leaks will ruin the floors, walls, and ceilings, and from below, jacking up part of floors to make repairs may crack walls and ceilings, change the operation of doors and windows and totally undo any repairs you've made.  Making these repairs can be expensive, but are the most important things that need done.

The following information came directly from the Bonded Applicators, Inc. website and helps identify things to look for regarding roof condition.

Warning Signs of Roof Failure

Warning Signs of Roof Failure

Look for...

  1. Shingles that curl on ends.
  2. Shingles that show signs of buckling
  3. Shingles that are missing altogether.
  4. Roof debris in gutters and yard.
  5. Excessive amounts of granules in your gutters.
  6. Frequent roof damage due to winds.
  7. Leaking at roof penetrations, vent pipes, and skylights.
  8. Signs of leaks at wall-ties and chimneys.
  9. Loose metal counter flashings at chimneys.
  10. Age of your roof is 20+ years old.
Here is some pretty interesting information regarding foundation assessment.  Lots of good information on the site on variety of other topics as well.

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