~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Questions and answers relating to houses built in the 1800s and before.

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Michael Junge
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Joined: Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:27 am

~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by Michael Junge »

That title is there to raise interest and get people to read because there are some things that I could use more brainpower than I have...

We are looking at purchasing and renovating/restoring a home in Bristol RI. You can see the realtor's information at http://www.liladelman.com/2-pokanoket-p ... 09/3779485

The pictures on the website were taken five years ago and the home has been let fall into disrepair since then. There's so much little stuff, which all adds up, but is doable with the "one bite at a time" approach.

The two major sticking points for us are electrical and structural. I think I have a pretty good handle on the electrical issues after walking through twice and taking a contractor in (as well as reading many posts on this forum). The structural stuff gives us pause.

Short version: The front walls of the house angle out at the bottom around 5 degrees from perpendicular. What caused it and should we worry about it or bother fixing it if it's stable?

Longer version: The bowing looks to have been there for a long time. Probably 50 years, more likely longer than that. The bowing is in the oldest part of the house and the rest of the square inside and out. Issue is, no one know what caused the bowing. One theory is that the front basement sill twisted and resettled but I have spent hours on the web and can't find a comparable instance of this mentioned.

There are other weird shifts, angles, and bows. We think a load bearing wall was pulled out at some point, and a support post added in, but the post may have been too late or be ineffective.

The entire house, except for the bowed front walls, looks straight and square from the outside.

That's a long post, and about exhausts what I know...we're looking for who to talk to, or what to ask, or how to find out whether this house is structural enough for us to buy, bring back to glory, and live in for twenty years, or more...or if in five years it will roll over into the basement.

Thanks.

Sashguy
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Re: ~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by Sashguy »

Without looking at it, I would guess that this is a pretty good place to start http://www.nachi.org/collar-rafter-ties.htm

McCall
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Re: ~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by McCall »

I don't have anything to add about the bowing other than something that old might never have be square to begin with, but that is one awsome looking property.
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Michael Junge
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Re: ~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by Michael Junge »

Sashguy wrote:Without looking at it, I would guess that this is a pretty good place to start http://www.nachi.org/collar-rafter-ties.htm
Can you elaborate? Do you think the problem may be coming from above and not below?

Texas_Ranger
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Re: ~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by Texas_Ranger »

Michael Junge wrote:
Sashguy wrote:Without looking at it, I would guess that this is a pretty good place to start http://www.nachi.org/collar-rafter-ties.htm
Can you elaborate? Do you think the problem may be coming from above and not below?
Could be, but I'd expect the walls to spread at the top in that case, and both the rear and front instead of just one.

Is the wall bowed or does it actually lean inwards? If it leans, I'd expect a foundation wall that moved outwards at some point, plus gaps (at least patched ones) at each corner.
The bad thing with electricity : it almost always works.

http://whatapigsty.blogspot.com

Michael Junge
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Re: ~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by Michael Junge »

Texas_Ranger wrote:
Michael Junge wrote:
Sashguy wrote:Without looking at it, I would guess that this is a pretty good place to start http://www.nachi.org/collar-rafter-ties.htm
Can you elaborate? Do you think the problem may be coming from above and not below?
Could be, but I'd expect the walls to spread at the top in that case, and both the rear and front instead of just one.

Is the wall bowed or does it actually lean inwards? If it leans, I'd expect a foundation wall that moved outwards at some point, plus gaps (at least patched ones) at each corner.
Thanks for clarifying.

The walls lean in at the top from outside to the inside. If there is any patching it's underneath the current layer of shingles and no one knows when they were put on. But, worth looking at and for.

Texas_Ranger
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Re: ~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by Texas_Ranger »

I guess we can't really give any advice over the internet. Have you had a structural engineer look at the house? That would be the best thing to do in this situation I guess.
The bad thing with electricity : it almost always works.

http://whatapigsty.blogspot.com

Michael Junge
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Re: ~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by Michael Junge »

Texas_Ranger wrote:I guess we can't really give any advice over the internet. Have you had a structural engineer look at the house? That would be the best thing to do in this situation I guess.
Yeah...I was hoping someone might have had a similar experience with a twisted basement sill.

We're in contact with a couple of structural engineers. That's is definitely the next step.

ripfish
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Re: ~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by ripfish »

We have a 1731 historic home in Southern Virginia. When we bought it, we too had concerns about possbile structural problems. At the time, a home inspector could not determine that there was anything wrong. Later, during an extensive renovation, we removed some exterior weather boards to find significant structural damage to one corner of the house. The 14" x 14" sill that sits on the top of the lower floor brick wall had rotted, and with it some vertical structure above.

There is most likely something wrong with this house, you just don't know what. You should request that the seller carefully remove some of the outside weather boards in key places such as corners, and sills exposed. If they don't agree, then I wouldn't buy the house without a significant reduction in price, as you will be assuming all risk. As the seller, they should provide definite proof that the house is ok. If nothing is wrong, the boards can be replaced as is and everyone is happy.

If there are problems revealed, seek a price reduction if you want the house. As the possbile owner of a very old home, you will need to have relationships with skilled old house renovators in your area. We had a great renovator who was able to fix our problems and we love the house. Finally, I would recommend that a skilled renovator with a good reputation for working on old homes give the house a thorough going over. There are considerations for old homes that a modern builder would not be knowledgeable of. You may find, for example, that while the electrical functions, it is a combo of very old wires (e.g. knob and tube), joined with modern wire. As these houses were added to and "modernized" over the past 100 years, you can run into some real elctrical nightmares inside the walls. Our house had its electrical completely gutted and replaced.

James
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Re: ~1680 Home with weird stuff...

Post by James »

Well as the owner of a mid 18th century place I have to say that wall(and floors and ceilings)being slightly off kilter is to be expected. Things settle and shift and things do not stay plumb straight and level over the years. The trick is to know when the problem is more serious, and for that I think you do need either an experience old house contractor or a structural engineer. Good luck.
And ripfish, I want to hear more about this 1731 house in Virginia? Got any pictures?
Locust Quarter, circa 1770 Georgian Gambrel roofed cottage.

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