Questions about (ancient) basement

steelmagnolia2007May 10, 2007

I'm interested in a house that was built in the 1840's. In this part of the country, only extremely old houses have basements, so I'm clueless about how to spot potential trouble. Because of the rarity, I'm also a little concerned that an inspector might not know a whole lot more than I do.

The house is brick, and so is the basement--floors AND walls! (I would imagine that's pretty unusual wherever you live.) Anybody have any advice on what we should look for? Would some mold be normal in a house this age? If there's not a lot of mold and we check it immediately after a hard rain to be sure there's no standing water, do you think that would be sufficient?

Sorry if these questions are real dumb, but I'm lost. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Brick is a pretty hardy product, above ground. I don't know if they manufactured foundation bricks to a different standard. How does it look after 147 years? Can you post pictures?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 7:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for responding, ron. Actually, I haven't even seen it except for a glimpse inside the entrance. I was wearing flip-flops and was afraid of critters since the place has been vacant so long. The real estate agent was a wimp, too, but assured me it was in fantastic shape when she last went down there. But that was several years ago.

From what I could see, it looked just like the brick used for the house, walkways, etc. It's Federal-style, and it's a beauty. Somehow I don't think they would have skimped on the quality of the foundation brick. Nothing about it has that 'skimpy' feeling, you know?

I've decided any major problems will most likely be visible. The hardest part will be getting up the nerve to check it out after the next gully-washer since it's snake season here. Ewww....

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 9:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Just curious, how long has it been on the market if it was several YEARS ago the agent was last down there?
(sorry, can't answer you question about bricks)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 9:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What do you suppose was used for foundations and cellars before we had concrete blocks and poured concrets? Bricks!! or possibly limestone blocks.
There is no reason for that foundation to be in any worse shape than any other foundation fo that age....and probably better than most.
I have been in a house with a part basement of brick. The house was built in the 1830's and the story says that the basement was used as part of the underground railway. It was several layers of brick thick.
Screw up your courage, buy or borrow a huge flashlight or 2 or 3...find some tall mason's rubber boots and go check it out!! The house sounds too good to let get away!
Linda C

Here is a link that might be useful: brick foundation

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 11:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Look for some one who specializes in restoring old houses to take a look at the house to get an idea cost wise what you are looking at for repairs and problems.
A restoration specialist is use to dealing with old houses and old house problems. A genral contractor will see your house in a totally different light. Most aren't trained to deal with old house problems all they know is rip, tear and replace. The concept of refurbish is totally forgein to them

If it's just the brick you are concerned with I'd be incline to call a brick mason to check it out. Brick work hasn't changed that much over the centuries. what worked a hundred years ago pretty much still works today.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 12:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for your interest and input, everyone.

bas, it's sort of a strange situation. It's been vacant for 9 or 10 years. A great deal of restoration work was done at first, but it was almost all 'outside' stuff -- repointing the bricks, replacing rotten eaves and windows, installing a new roof and central a/c, landscaping and adding an automatic sprinkler system. In other words, the dirty work was mostly done. (And done well, I might add.) Then the new owner's honey advised him she'd die before she agreed to move to a sleepy little Southern town. He chose her instead of the house. He could afford to walk away, so he did. However, there's been a caretaker of sorts. Vacant, but not totally abandoned. It's not even on the market. It was sort of like, "If somebody is interested, I'll consider an offer." In all these years, I think I was the first fool who showed up. :)

carol, that's such good advice. In fact, I'd been thinking along the same lines. I inquired this weekend, and it turns out that a very well-known architectural historian bought a house in the town several years ago and restored it. He likes the community so much that he's recently bought another one in order to save it. Sounds like someone who's become 'invested' in the town and would be happy to steer me to a knowledgeable brick mason. Maybe I can even sweet talk him into checking the house out himself. What a resource he would be!

lindac, my first instinct was to think that a brick basement was a great asset. I guess I started worrying just because of fear of the unknown. Because I'm such a wuss, I handed the boots and the flashlight to one of my sons and sent him down into the nether regions yesterday. Sooo anticlimactic! lol There's an 'anteroom' at the foot of the stairs that now holds the heating and a/c equipment. Beyond that, a larger room that's empty. All seemed to be in perfect condition. Because the only entrance is inside the house, I assume this was the 'larder', used for storing canned goods, cured meat, etc. And you're right that it's too good to let it get away. I'm hoping against hope that the guy is getting bored with maintaining it and my (low-ball) offer will be accepted... Hold a good thought for me, please!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 4:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok, I'm just here perusing the forums and saw this post and am now dying to know, did you get the house??? Don't leave me hanging!



    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 10:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm dying to know, too! Update please!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 4:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Steelmagnolia did you get the house? Question mark? Question Mark?


    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 12:23AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Craftsman tile question
I recently visited a friend who lives in a beautiful...
Adding a full bath to an old house.
Hello, first post in this forum. I am relocating and...
Plaster stamped like tile?
My house was built in 1915. I am tearing out some 60s...
Need color help with exterior paint on 1902 Victorian with bad siding
We have a 1902 victorian in a small town in Iowa. Unfortunately,...
Jennifer Weinman
Hot water radiators
We own a 1900 home which has forced hot water heating...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™