Expect the unexpected: old house quirks

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Musings

When you buy an old house, you will be told over and over again that you absolutely must do a few things: You must hire a home inspector, preferably one with good experience in older homes. You must hire an electrician to look things over. You must put away a good chunk of savings to handle the "little" things that will inevitably come up after the purchase.

Most of all, you must be prepared to live with the quirks of an old house.

5 old house surprises

You already know that old houses are notorious for squeaking floors and drafty windows. You have likely heard that there could be leaks under the eaves, mice behind the baseboards and perhaps even ghosts in the attic.

But what about the things that nobody tells you? As someone who has spent most of her life in old houses, I'm going to give you the low-down on the things you don't know about living in a century-old charmer.

  1. You won't have enough closet space. If you are lucky enough to have closet space, rest assured it will be barely larger than a postage stamp. You will find yourself paring down your wardrobe because you hate switching out your summer and winter clothes. The good news? The bedrooms might be big enough for lovely antique armoires.
  2. You will have a drawer dedicated to extension cords. Old houses rarely have enough outlets for modern conveniences, so you might find yourself buying extension cords on every trip to the store. Finally content that you have all the power you need, you will then plug in more than three things at once and blow every fuse in your scary basement.
  3. You have fun-house floors. Floors in old houses are notorious for their interesting slants. Drop a marble on any of your floors and watch it roll like crazy. Not only do they slant, but they slant in every direction, even in the same room. You might also discover mysterious humps in your hardwood floors, which you will forget about until you trip over them.
  4. Everything in the house slowly moves. Thanks to the way every bump and thump travels through the house, everything is eventually going to end up somewhere other than where you put it. The tiny vibrations from your footsteps can be enough to gently rattle the fine china to the edge of the shelf or move the lamps across a table. Those vibrations can also gradually work your wine bottles from their rack, which happens to sit above a stone floor, and they shatter when they fall, and it happens to be the middle of the night, and it scares everyone but most of all, leaves you with an expensive mess -- sorry. You get the idea.
  5. Your house will talk to you. Old houses have a personality, and it shines through. Those little creaks and moans become familiar. That rickety railing becomes a part of the charm, and you deliberately choose not to tighten it. You come to know every corner and sound so well that you can actually spot trouble before it gets out of hand -- like that little sound from the attic that alerts you to a leak long before it has a chance to stain the ceilings. You will become confident in how well you know your old house.

But here's the biggest surprise of all: You will fall in love.

First you will be uncertain. There will be times when you are dismayed, disappointed and even alarmed. But over time, you will come to feel a fondness for all those crazy quirks. And one night, you will walk across your uneven floors and watch the moonlight make shapes through the drafty windows, and sure enough, you will realize that you couldn't bear to leave. This is home, and you love it -- quirks and all.