Splitting at the Seams: Warning Signs to Watch for in Older Homes
Ask anyone who has one…older homes appeal to people for lots of different reasons. They exude a certain charm and character you just don’t get with new houses. The attraction might come from living in a particular neighborhood, love of a certain type of architecture, or it may be that the house is a jewel that’s been passed down from generation to generation in a family. When looking from a practical point of view, older homes can, but don’t need to be, a source of trouble to an unsuspecting homeowner. Whatever the reason for owning an older home, with a little bit of savvy most problems can be avoided, and the life of the home extended for years to come. Here are just a few of the things to look for.
A FIRM FOUNDATION
Take a quick walk around the outside of the house, looking for any evidence that your foundation is in trouble. If there are signs of cracked blocks or bricks, bowing walls, or missing pieces, a professional should be consulted. Trouble can also show up in the interior; cracking plaster, separated drywall joints, and doors that don’t close properly can all point to instability in the foundation. The bottom line? An unhappy foundation equals an unhappy house.
PUT ON A SWEATER
Much the same way layers of clothing trap insulating air on a person, insulation in a house provides a temperature barrier. The two easiest areas to check are the attic and under the ground floor. Insulation ratings are different depending on where you live, but check on the website http://www.energystar.gov/?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_insulation_table to see what’s recommended. If your siding is ever replaced, be sure adequate insulation is installed. Depending on age, many older frame houses have little to no insulation in their exterior walls!
READING BY CANDLELIGHT
Improperly sealed doors and windows can be a major cause of heating and cooling loss. Rather than spending money on a costly energy efficiency evaluation, a simple initial test is to hold a lighted candle around the edges of doors and windows to see if the flame wavers, a possible sign of air leaks. Golden Windows Ltd recommends you look at the tops of windows and the bottom of Waterloo doors. The presence of spiders or insects in the house could also indicate gaps.
IS YOUR HOUSE SICK?
Just as with people, excessive moisture and mold can make a building “sick” as well. If there’s mold in your basement or crawlspace, there’s mold in your house. A simple plastic vapor barrier installed in your crawlspace could prevent rotting joists and mold growth. Buy an inexpensive mold test kit from the hardware store if there’s any doubt.
While it isn’t within the scope of this article to identify absolutely every potential problem in a house, the major issues have been called out. With just a few quick diagnostics you, as the owner of an older home, could be saved from a world of trouble. Your house, your environment, and your wallet could be better off for it in the long run.