Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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

Now that you've had a look at some of the major areas, you can start looking at other things.  Before going into the house to start your inspection inside, take note of the type and condition of any exterior siding, wooden posts and other wooden elements, porch flooring, etc.  Stand at the each corner of the house and look down the house wall from top to bottom for bulges in the house walls.  Bowing or bulging walls can be in indicator of foundation issues or extensive water damage.

When I look at old properties,  I like to go after or during a significant amount of extended rain.  Viewing a property during or just after a good rain can reveal things that you can't see when it's dry.  You can get a good assessment of the land itself during a rain as you will be able to see how the water flows away from the house.  You can see the low points in the yard and see where the water tends to accumulate on the lawn.  If it stops raining while you're making your assessment, you can also determine how long it takes for the water to drain or be absorbed into the ground.  You will also be able to determine whether the gutters are doing their job and if standing water next to the house is a problem.

I made several visits to a property one time, the last after it had been raining for several days.  The entire yard was a swimming pool and was standing several inches deep around the foundation of the house and running under the house through the foundation vents.  After some investigation, I determined that its location on a corner lot and the height of the streets on both sides was causing the problem.  The runoff from both streets was being deposited directly into the yard.  The walk to the front door was standing in a foot of water and being lower than the street, there was nowhere for the water to go.  On previous visits I had noticed that the ground was damp and that the lawn was pretty much entirely mud and weeds, so I was curious as to the cause of the problem.  The house itself wasn't in great shape and since correcting the water problem would involve regrading the entire property, I decided it would be wise to move on.  So, even though it isn't nice to visit a place in the rain, it can be incredibly revealing both inside the house and out.

Many old houses have water spots on ceilings from roof leaks and sometimes its hard to tell if they are old leaks or if the roof is actively leaking.  Older leaks tend to be more heavily discolored than active leaking.  This ceiling is a good example of wallpaper falling due to an old leak.  Notice that the roof failure is around the chimney, the likely cause is improper flashing at the junction of roof and chimney.

This is an example of an active leak.  There is a fireplace directly below the large wet looking area against the back wall.  Again, the culprit is probably flashing at the chimney.  In the foreground, there is a large area around the ceiling fixture that is mildly discolored.  This is also caused by a leak somewhere but probably hasn't been leaking as long as the one above the fireplace because its color is more faint.  There was an upstairs dormer on this house and I suspect the flashing where the wall meets the roof is the cause of this issue.  If you notice, these areas actually look wet.

So, these are some of the reasons I like to visit a property after or during a lengthy period of rain as it helps separate old roof problems from the active ones.

The house that I am demonstrating was built in 1929.  In our area, it isn't all that uncommon for the older houses to be built with tongue and grove pine floors, walls, and ceilings and this house was a classic example.  Being made of solid wood components, deterioration is different than it is with plaster.  With the evidence of considerable water damage over a prolonged period, plaster would have deteriorated and chunks from the ceiling probably would have been on the floor.  Since this house was constructed in wood, rot, mold, and termite damage were major concerns.  This was a water damaged area next to a window and close enough to inspect, so I pulled back the wallpaper and cloth to have a good look at the condition of the wood wall and discovered no damage at all to the wall surface.  While most people are skeptical about wooden interiors and consider them undesirable because you can't just paint them and have a smooth wall, this is one area where they exceed the desirability of plaster.  It was actually a very good house although it did need a competent roofer. 

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