And we should all be thankful for that!
As a home inspector one phrase I hear time and again is, houses were built better (insert an age, time frame). There certainly is no question that older houses still standing now, often have great details and character. These relics often have beautiful trim work and interior finishes fitting of the period, which are naturally not found in today’s construction. But what about the actual house construction? The bones to use a common phrase. Eye candy is what we see, what of the stuff that really matters, that we can’t typically gaze upon?
There seems to be a certain nostalgia for older houses. I think we may tend to romanticize our past, our childhoods, the house we grew up in. Or maybe it was Granny’s house we fondly remember. No matter, the mind has a way of painting beautiful pictures.
And playing tricks on us.
One common method in older construction I find is a minimally framed roof. I see this again and again in older homes. If the house were built today, the framing would most likely not be approved. And yes, they are still functioning. However, these older, they-don’t-build-’em-like they-used-to roofs are showing why they are no longer built in this fashion.
During a recent inspection of an older house built around 1917, I found the roof framing to be as expected when checking the attic. 2″ x 6″ rafters spanned about 24″ inches apart. The spanning on these older houses tends to be a bit loose. Another common characteristic I find, is the original roof covering, cedar shingles, are still on the roof. Which means there are a lot of layers of roofing on an older, over spanned roof.
With just a quick look around, it is quite apparent the rafters are bowing. Again something I find to be quite common with older houses of this construction. A simple trick I came up with demonstrates the rafter bend is to place my laser pointer from my infrared thermometer along a rafter. One can easily see the light does not touch the member along its full length, thus indicating a bow. Here the light fell at the bottom most point over an inch below the rafter. Several more of the rafters were in similar condition, with one found to be cracking.
While the interior finishing’s of these older charmers may be beautiful, the over all construction at times leaves much to be desired.