Saw the 1880 house - are these signs of poor foundation?

quilt_mommyAugust 12, 2009

Well, since the house is empty we went and drove by the 1880's house to peek in the windows. Hubby is not thrilled. Lol* I love the charm of the house but red flags were going up everywhere. :( It looked as if the vinyl siding was pulling off of the house in the back - at the TOP. The front porch slopes - this makes me think foundation, but I know nothing about that sort of thing.

Could it be just a crappy porch or is that sloping, almost like it's falling away from the house be a sign of foundation problems?

There is old wallpaper hanging on the walls in the "master bedroom" (which they say is a 5th bedroom but really, when you're there, it's more of just a second living room or a great room)...the wallpaper is starting to fall off - is this just from age or could that also be foundation? I read on one of your posts or sites that the foundation repairs did something to the old wallpaper, so now I can't get that out of my head!

The pro's are there are newer windows throughout except for one small window in the back, the roof looks good, it has new carpet and an updated kitchen. It appears to have recessed lighting in all of the rooms downstairs.

Con - The bathroom is SMALL for a 5 bedroom house, and there is only 1.

Another con - it's two houses down from an OLD cemetary. Small...but still adds a bit of creepiness to the house. It was dusk when we went and I was a little creeped out with it being empty and old and all! LOL*

Any thoughts or input are appreciated...thanks for all of your help so far!

I'd really love an older home with some interesting history, and we desperately need more space than our 1974 ranch provides. Hope that the poor housing market and our high expectations don't do us in. :(

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All houses settle. After 130 years, nothing is straight, level or square. Lots of cracked plaster or masonry should be red flags for foundation issues. Pealing wallpaper should not.

If the porch is falling away from the house, it probably isn't actually tied into the house's foundation. If it was 100% masonry, I'd be concerned. If it is wood sitting on piers, then it might just be that the piers sank independent of the main foundation. Either way, you would need a professional to determine what the problem is adn how costly it would be to fix.

Siding that has failed would be a concern. If water gets behind siding it can cause major damage. You'll definitely want to check that out. It may just require a couple nails to fix or it may be hiding a problem.

As for new recessed lights, you'll want to see if the electrical was permitted. Major electrical upgrades are great - as long as they were done properly.

As for the cemetery, some people love them and some people hate them. If you are creeped out, there is probably no talking you out of it. However, cemeteries will always be open space and some people appreciate that certainty.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 11:28AM
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Wall paper will eventually delaminate. That's just the nature of the beast.

The cemetery at least guarantees you of quiet neighbors.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 3:53PM
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You can't possibly judge this house properly without an inspection by a structural engineer and a good home inspector. Porches are supposed to slant (a little) away from the house for drainage and often they are not tied to the house. I wish my wallpaper was peeling off; it would have made it soooo much easier to get it off!

If your husband doesn't want to take on this house, maybe you should keep looking. You have to want to deal with all the old house problems when you buy one, otherwise it just isn't worth it.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 6:31PM
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Diane - thank you for your sincere response, and I agree with you, I couldn't possibly judge the house without a professional...that was not at all my intention in asking questions here. I can assure you I do not plan to base future home purchases off of a few comments I read on Garden Web. I think this can be a wonderful resource to increase knowledge and help people to learn what to look for, and at least feel like I have a slight advantage when the time comes to speak with that professional.

Ok I really regret mentioning the wallpaper because apparently I sound like an idiot. LOL* I had followed a link from a Garden Web member here in the home forums some time ago and it was to a web site documenting a major renovation of a very old home. There was mention of the wallpaper falling off of the wall in large pieces after having the foundation rebuilt, and I was just curious if a bad foundation could also cause the wallpaper to fall off in chunks that way...I didn't mean to ask if 80 year old peeling wallpaper had any connection to the foundation. Geez! LOL*

My Dad and I also talked about the "slight" slope a porch should have...but this is quite pronounced and as I said it's as if it's falling away from the house. A section of the roof is attatched to the deck and so it does in my uneducated mind make me think foundation, but from your posts it sounds like this is equally difficult to judge without a professional.

Thank you all very much for your responses.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 11:46PM
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I agree with all the above comments.

Just have to add that unless the house is being marketed as "fully updated/restored" there's a good bet it's not in perfect condition and is going to need work. A closer look will tell you just how much (well, it'll tell you something, reality will probably hit later when you find out how much more ;))

The wallpaper issue is probably that with shifting foundation walls crack, causing wallpaper to bubble and start peeling off. It can also peel off just because it's old - but we found wallpaper from probably then 1920s under layers of other junk that wasn't about to ever come loose!

I think the cemetary would be cool, actually. My FIL lives in a little village and the old cemetary is on the hillside just above his place. We like walking there and sitting and enjoying the view (you can see the Alps).

If you're hesitant - or at least your husband is, then be wary. You both have to be committed to this, and to all an old house entails. FWIW - my sister loves old houses and for years each time they moved, insisted on buying an old house because she wanted the 'character." Her husband acquiesced, each time getting more and more frustrated with the 'character.' The last 2 moves have been to brand new houses ;)

Old houses - and the work they involve - are not for everyone, esp. if it's not already fully restored. It's rare that an old house has *just* cosmetic issues to attend to.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 8:04AM
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The back porches on our 1920s house were falling away (upstairs and down, but mostly the down!) Dh had propped them up with a railroad jack for some years until we could afford to have the work done. Turns out that for the porch foundation the original builders had filled old nail buckets with concrete and used them for footings! A lot of water flows under the back yard and they had shifted. I kept one concrete shape in my yard, lol. We had a bunch of other things done at the same time but I think it was 3 or 4 thousand dollars to have old footing dug out (we did 3 on the back porches and one on the front) and replaced. Problems with accessibility and the fact that we have double decker porches may have made it more expensive tho.
Have you checked to see if the floors are level inside the house?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 12:50PM
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Is the house brick or frame? If it's brick, obvious cracks in the outside walls might indicate foundation problems. Porches falling off are not unusual in 100+ year old houses & are relatively minor (& I stress the word 'relatively') compared to foundation problems. Do any of the windows look decidedly crooked - that's usually another sign of foundation problems. Do any of the walls look out-of-plumb? If the house is frame, are there any large gaps at the corner joints? Does the ridge line of the roof have any obvious spots where it sags?

Just because someone else started work on this house is not necessarily a good thing - there are a lot of people who don't have a clue what they're doing & many developers who put a new, cheap house in an old shell & sell it as old. The fact that you said there is a modernized kitchen & only 1 bath tells me that the plumbing hasn't been updated - otherwise they would have at least roughed in new bathrooms. Personally, I wouldn't consider new windows, vinyl siding, & carpeting to be pros but that's JMO. I'd consider them coverups for bigger problelms.

Have you owed or lived in an old house before? Houses of this era are not fixer-uppers; be prepared for a complete renovation & ask yourself if you, your husband, & family are mentally, physically, & financially prepared for this.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 2:05PM
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