There are people who love new things and people who love old, and some like a mix of both….that’s what makes the world go ’round. When it comes to houses, a television show on PBS – “This Old House” has been a very popular source of information and inspiration for people who love to remodel and renovate old houses. In its 39th season, This Old House sometimes discovers the possible pitfalls involved with old properties, and you should consider a structural inspection if you own an older house or building to make sure it is safe for occupancy.
Cracked floor tiles and plaster are to be inspected in old properties, as are wiring and plumbing issues. But major structural issues often lurk under floors and behind walls where normal visual inspections will not catch them.
Very old homes (over 100 years old) often have structural issues that would not likely be detected by a routine home inspection. Structural beams in old homes are often made of wood that is not graded like more modern lumber is. A structural engineer has the knowledge and experience to understand construction practices and principles used in old times. It’s possible that a structural engineer may find the existing beams, columns, and other structural components are perfectly adequate to support existing and possibly even additional loads. Or, an engineer may determine additional support will be required.
You do not want to be the owner of a home that has a floor or roof so weak it may collapse.
Hidden Problems in Old Homes
Foundation Issues – An old foundation may be damaged or crumbling, and effects can transfer to the entire structure above. It’s very common for an old home to have foundation issues and only a structural engineer can properly inspect a foundation.
Roof Issues – New roofs are usually built with engineered wood trusses and these components rarely have problems unless they are damaged by a storm or other catastrophe. Newer roofs are also built using graded wood, stamped with type of wood and certified. Very old homes have been known to have roofs supported by tree logs and branches! An engineer should always inspect your roof for safety.
Other possible problems with an old house include:
- Drainage and flooding problems.
- Doors and window frames that are uneven and won’t close.
- Modifications to walls and beams that compromise structural integrity.
Old House Inspections
It’s very important if you own an old home, or you’re thinking of buying one, that you contact a structural engineer about inspecting your investment. Justin Hall, P.E. has been working with buyers and owners for many years who are mesmerized by old homes. They wisely chose peace-of-mind over saving a few dollars and hiring someone unqualified to do a thorough inspection. You can reach Justin at 501-436-0091.