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Question DetailsAsked on 3/26/2017

Just got a 150 year old home in Northern Michigan

I just inherited our family home in northern Michigan. My great grandfather built it in 1888. There is no water damage, bug or mold problems. It has a full basement, the electrical was updated in 1985 and the roof is about 10 years old.
It has original wood flooring throughout. The windows are the original as well. The foundation seems to be solid.

I just asked a specific question about siding but thought i should ask this general one as well. What can i expect from this house? What can i expect to have to refinish, replace, update. What's important to know going in?

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Other response to your first posting here -

Things I would possibly expect (depending on when last inspected/maintained/updated) in this old a house -

1) if on septic - septic system/cesspool quite likely has not been pumped recently, and leach field may or may not be past its life - so anywhere from $500-$10000 range commonly to rehab those, assuming conventional septic system is still allowed in that area

2) If not done in last 10 years or so, I would have the sewer lines (at least underground ones) routed out and a camera run to inspect for condition (typically $350-500 range for these items if done at one visit), dislocated joints, corroded pipe, root intrusion etc - because if there are serious issues you want to fix those, or at worse replace the pipes, before you start upgrading other things in the house which would be damaged by any backup of sewage. If there is a backflow preventer on the line, I would have it especially carefully inspected and if old/corroded have it replaced, because you do not need a sewage backup into your home

3) inspect basement and any crawlspace for any signs of water intrusion - through foundation walls or floor, or maybe due to dampening of the soil during certain seasons causing possible mildew/mold in overhead wood or walls, and remedy as appropriate. Lots of previous questions with answers in the Home > Mold and Home > Basement Waterproofing links under Browse Projects if you do see signs of a problem - chronic or maybe seasonal.

4) certainly HVAC system should be fully inspected - both for functionality and opeating safety and also for any possible flue/duct leaks which could be dangerous from a carbon monoxide standpoint. Any private fuel supply system should be checked out to - fuel oil or propane or such, or possibly even coal if original system (yes, there are 150 year old coal fired boilers out there). IF previously coal but now more modern, any coal pile should be removed - if it gets to a certain moisture level (varies by coal type) it may be subject to spontaneous combustion.

5) water piping should be inspected for condition, and for whether it has lead or asbestos pipes, any of the polybutylene or PEX piping which is of defective manufacture, etc - again - to remedy that before leaks can cause damage to new finishes or before you refinish interior wall surfaces and have to tear into them again

6) you said no termite risk - but I would have at least a home inspector or GC check around carefully in the course of their normal inspection for you for any signs of insects (including carpenter ants and post beetles for example, which can damage a house just like termites, just usually not so quickly) or for signs of gopher, squirrel (tree or ground), coon, possum, bird, bee, bat, etc invasions of walls or attic or any crawlspace

7) check any ground-close or in-contact wood for rot or insect damage - be it siding, trim, door sills, or porch/deck support posts, or crawlspace/basement support columns or posts. Wood wall framing/siding should be at least 4" above dirt level (preferably 12-18" in termite country), and any accumulations of leaves, snow drifting, firewood, yard junk, etc should be kept at least 6 and preferably 12-24 inches away from the siding to promote rapid drying after it gets wet.

8) check roof runoff is properly controlled so it does not get/sit against foundation, which can cause foundation deterioration as well as wet crawlspace/basement.

9) check attic for signs of moisture issues - either from roof (hopefully not with 10 year old roof), or due to inadequate ventilation (lots of previous questions with answers/suggestions on ttic ventilation issues in the Home > Roofing and Home > Insulation links under Browse Projects, at lower left.) Check all fan ducting (bathrooms, kitchen, etc) go all the way to the outside, not terminating in the attic where the grease/moisture accumulation will not do any good to the attic framing and insulation

10) have drain lines check from washer for adequate size - many modern washers need 2" or even larger drain standpipe for the washer - smaller (commonly 1-1/4 or 1-1/2" in older houses) or standpipe leading indirectly to the main stack (which will be 3" or 4" drainline - probably 3" if yours is original) can cause backup because modern washers can pump out the tub full of water faster than old ones.

11) fire/smoke/carbon monoxide alarms likely not modern and batteries may be dead

12) entry locks if old may not be very secure - replacing locks and maybe latch plates for highker security may be a priority

13) garage (if any) door springs, if old, may need replacement or adjustment - or door may at least need lubrication and maybe adjustment to work smoothly

14) if basement/foundation walls are mortared brick or fieldstone (likely at that age) they should be inspected by a structural or geotechnical engineer (probably structural because unless it has had one in last 30 years or so, would be a good idea to have all-over structural inspection by one anyway so you don't have any surprises down the road or do interior finish upgradesonly to have to tear into them to fix a structural problem) - and this inspection should include recommendations on tornado/windstorm protection also, because it likely does not have hurricane ties on the roof rafters and things like that - simple and cheap to put on considering they can keep your roof from becoming airborne.

15) depending on where you are located, consider natural risks around the house - erosion or flooding from nearby waterways, wildfire safety clearance, wildfire spark intrusion prevention, lightning rod protection system, uphill landslope instability possibility, dead trees or very old large ones which could cause damage in major winds, etc. And bug screening on eaves/soffit openings.

16) evaluate insulation you have versus heating costs or comfort factors suitable to your case - for that old a house unless there have been upgrades the walls possibly are uninsulated or filled with straw or newspaper, and attic insulation is likely to be poor and likely a lot of penetrations which have not been sealed, letting a lot of household moisture into the attic and a lot of lost energy from conditioned air escaping to the attic.

17) this should probably be #1 - make sure to get it insured properly - you may be able to extend your mother's policy while held by the Estate, until it is transferred to you legally

18) attention should be paid to property lines and any infringements or shared responsibilites (like fencing on the line) and address them ASAP - sad but true that neighbors will sometimes try to take advantage of people taking over an inherited property and crown the property lines or even move property corner stakes - if there are infringements, address them ASAP.

Good Luck

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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