As more people are looking for properties closer to downtown, some are opting to keep the historic homes, instead of tearing them down for a town home.
I imagine patterns with my home inspections, but I am not sure if what I am seeing is a trend or not. I ended up spending a great deal of time in the area near Durham and the I-10 this weekend. From home inspection jobs to visiting with family and friends, I felt that I was living in the area. One job was for a home built in the 1920s. When I thought about jobs that I have taken inside the 610 loop, the breakdown becomes almost fifty-fifty historic homes and town homes. This did lead me to think about what you may expect when buying a historic home, so here is a list for your consideration.
1) Framing– as our wood supplies and building techniques have changed, you will find home inspectors commenting on the framing not meeting current standards. This does not mean that there is automatically a problem, but you should be aware that his means some precautions should be taken during a remodel. or adding features to the home. New heavy equipment in the attic may need additional framing for support. This is not always the case though.
2) The electircal system- you may find knob and tube wiring. This is not accetable for our current safety standards. If this wiring is active, you may have problems. The real problems comes with adding modern electric appliances and equipment. It is not the voltage or amperage in the line, per se, but the amount of equipment that you may want to install, and the electrical outlets that you will need. You will also note that home inspectors will mention GFCI, AFCI, tamper resistant outlets, and weather resistant outlets. These are all new types of electrical outlets which improve safety.
3) Energy efficiency– most historic homes in Houston will be pier and beam. This means that the house framing sits on beams which rest on piers. The framing below will probably not be insulated. You can also assume that the walls are not insulated, and the attic will probably not be insulated well. The windows are often single paned with a wood frame- better than aluminum single paned, but still not the best at efficiency. They do typically have higher ceilings which help with efficiency.
4) Under the house– just an odd tidbit, but I find a good deal thrown under these homes. There have been times that I cannot move, because of all the stuff.
5) Ventilation-attic vents are often blocked. Proper attic ventilation will help efficieny. Most of these homes were never meant to have washing machines and dryers, which means no dryer vent. You were meant to open a window when cooking or bathing to vent moisture. Since most people are not into this habit, you may have to consider mechanical ventilation for your bathrooms and kitchen. Also, windows are either painted shut or missing parts.
6) air conditioning– some homes will have newer HVAC systems in place, while others will rely on window units for cooling and gas space heaters for heating. If you notice gas valves in each room, this are for the older gas heaters. Modern versions are made, but you should consider the dangers of these space heaters. They will be hot to the touch, but the fumes will not be vented. You shoud find units which vent the combusition gas out of the home (if you aregoingto use them).
6) Plumbing– I find problems which are found in any other home inspection. So far, in the homes that I have inspected, most of the plumbing has been updated.
7) Asbestos and lead– lead paints will be found and you may find asbestos in various places. The older style cement tiles for the roof will have asbestos, as well as the insulation There may be other places..
You will find other issues that are common in any other home inspection, but this list shoud give you some special items to consider. I like historic homes. Each time period has its own style, but I find that homes built before 1960 have character. There was an attention to detail. My 1964 home was built during a time when the builder was developing this area quickly, which means that character to a large extent is lost. Over time, with different owners, the home has gained character. What is nice in my neighborhood is that the builder did allow a degree of individuality to come into play when he was constructing these houses. I do not see this happen in many new neighborhoods. Maybe a historic Houston home is for you.