[10 on Tuesday] 10 Tips on Inspecting Historic Homes Before You Buy


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In our ongoing series about buying a historic home, we've covered how to find a historic house, determine its architectural style, and finance the cost. Today we're on to the next step in the process -- how to inspect the house to make sure it is in good condition.

Of course, a professional inspection -- which will cover many of these same areas, but with greater depth and accuracy -- is necessary once you move from looking to buying, but knowing what to look for while you're shopping around can help you make your decision.

For more toolkits, visit http://blog.preservationnation.org/category/10-on-tuesday/.

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[10 on Tuesday] 10 Tips on Inspecting Historic Homes Before You Buy

  1. 1. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation10 Tips on InspectingHistoric Homes Before You Buy
  2. 2. Before you get started, make a list of all theareas you want to look at, including theroof, chimney, interior and exteriorwalls, porches, windows anddoors, foundation, fireplaces, attics andbasements, bathrooms, etc. This will helpensure that you dont miss any criticalelements, and can also help you prioritize thework that needs to be done once you becomethe owner.1. Make a list.Photo courtesy Alan Cleaver, Flickr
  3. 3. Having photos to refer back to will help you remember whatyouve seen. (Be sure to ask the owner or their representativefor permission first!)2. Take pictures.Photo courtesy Mr. T in DC, Flickr
  4. 4. From a distance, examine the roof andchimney. Look for a saggingroofline, leaning chimney, and any sortof obstructions. Closer in, examine theroof shingles or tiles for signs ofrotting, cracking, or other damage.Check the chimney for loose or missingmortar, and verify that the flue liner isintact.3. Start at the top.Photo courtesy happy via, Flickr
  5. 5. Like the roof and chimney, a houses walls needto be looked at both from near and far. Differentkinds of exteriors (wood, masonry, stucco, etc.)will show different kinds of wear, but signs ofwater damage and cracking are rarely goodsigns. And dont neglect the interior -- whilepaint color and wallpaper are easilychanged, make sure those aesthetic choicesarent covering up signs of leaks, looseplaster, or other damage.4. Examine the walls.Photo courtesy chiptape, Flickr
  6. 6. And not, alas, just drinking iced tea andreading a book. Look for weak floorboards and peeling paint, which are signsof rot, and take a moment to lookunderneath to make sure the piers holdingup the porch are stable and not pullingaway from the house. Also, make sure thestairs are in good condition; be on thelookout for missing or damaged railings.5. Spend some timeon the porch.Photo courtesy Indabelle, Flickr
  7. 7. Are they original? Moreover, are they in good shape -- no crackedor broken glass, or damaged sills or rails? If the windows are notoriginal, are they compatible with the house?6. Look out the windows.Photo courtesy PreservationNation, Flickr
  8. 8. In other words, pay attention to thefloors and the stairs. Listen for squeaksand feel for springiness, sags, and tilts.Pay particularly close attention to thefloors near sinks and tubs -- is therewater damage? Peek under the carpetwhen possible to assess the state of theflooring below, and look along thebaseboard for ridges that indicate a floorhas already been sanded down. (Mostcan only be sanded one or two times.)7. Walk around -- and upand down.Photo courtesy Craig Tebon, via National Trust Main Street Center
  9. 9. How is the basement? Keep your eyes peeled for signs of waterdamage -- both obvious and hidden. Puddles, clogged drains, or asump pump make it clear that water has been an issue, butstealthier signs often include furniture and books up on risers ratherthan on the floor.8. Go underground.Photo courtesy howzey, Flickr
  10. 10. Dont forget to look at the basics that we all takefor granted: heating, hot water, and electricity.Many houses that have been renovated havenewer systems, but not all will. Youll want to besure that everything is functional and safebefore buying the house.9. Are all systems go?Photo courtesy subzi73, Flickr
  11. 11. There are several key things to payattention to in the upper reaches ofa historic home: making sure theresno wildlife (look for signs of animaldamage, nests, or hives), holes inthe roof not visible from outside, orwater damage -- and thatthere is climate-appropriateinsulation.10. Dont forget the attic.Photo courtesy jessamyn, Flickr
  12. 12. Ten on Tuesday features ten preservationtips each week. For more tips, visitblog.PreservationNation.org.