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[10 on Tuesday] 10 Tips for Finding Clues to Your Home’s History


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Once you've decided whether to restore or rehabilitate your home, the fun really begins, since it involves playing detective. There are clues all around to what your house may once have looked like; you just need to know where to look.

We covered the go-to-the-library angle before in our 10 Ways to Research Your Home’s History toolkit (, so today we’ll look more closely at what your house and its immediate surroundings might be trying to tell you.

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[10 on Tuesday] 10 Tips for Finding Clues to Your Home’s History

  1. Photo courtesy Big Dave Diode, Flickr10 Tips for Finding Clues to YourHome’s History
  2. Is the outside of the house all one architectural style, or are there acouple of different styles visible? More than one architectural stylemay signal a later addition to the original structure.1. Inspect the exterior.Photo courtesy wallyg, Flickr
  3. If the inside of the house has a section in adifferent architectural style and the outside doesnot, that suggests a major remodeling in onearea, but perhaps not an addition.2. Match up the interior tothe exterior.Photo courtesy robholland, Flickr
  4. Are the exterior walls all made of the samething? Or are they different? Anydifferences -- even subtle ones like largeror smaller clapboards -- could indicate anaddition to the house.Tip: This might not apply if you bought aQueen Anne-style house, as they areknown for incorporating many differentmaterials.3. Know your materials.Photo courtesy smilla4, Flickr
  5. Is the layout of the house consistent with its style? For example,if your Georgian house -- which should have a symmetrical floorplan -- is asymmetrical, that would imply a significant alteration.4. Examine the floor plan.Photo courtesy Will Scullin, Flickr
  6. Are the walls uniform, or are there thinner orthicker areas that could show a door or windowhas been filled in? What about the floors? Dothe boards all run the same direction within aroom? Are they the same size throughout?Inconsistent walls and/or floors can hint at anearlier design.5. Check out the walls andflooring.Photo courtesy rduta, Flickr
  7. Are there changes in ceiling height? This could demonstrate severaldifferent things: that a wall has been removed, an addition built, ormechanical systems added.6. Look up.Photo courtesy Steve Snodgrass, Flickr
  8. Clues about old paint colors and/orwallpaper are often lurking behindmolding and switch plates, which cansuggest both the earlier look of a roomand what its original use was.7. Peek behind moldingand switch plates.Photo courtesy dianecordell, Flickr
  9. A change in baseboard trim, window/door frame styles, orother altered embellishments can lead you to either anaddition or a thorough remodeling.8. Investigate interior trim.Photo courtesy Steve Snodgrass, Flickr
  10. Or, more specifically, on their property. Are theirwalls and fences identical to yours? This couldreveal that a larger property -- perhaps yours, ifyour house is the oldest -- was sub-divided fordevelopment.9. Spy on your neighbors.Photo courtesy thelehegarets, Flickr
  11. Are there changes in grass color,depressions in the ground, or othermarkers indicating a lost wing of thehouse or an outbuilding? Is thereany abandoned, overgrown, orclearly removed foliage? This couldhelp you locate a garden or orchard.10. Scour your yard forclues.Photo courtesy Wouter Kiel, Flickr
  12. Ten on Tuesday features ten preservationtips each week. For more tips,