Seattle Home Inspector's Blog

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Are you getting better with age?

     Sooner, later, or too often, inspectors hear, "but it has been that way for  a gazillion years, what is the problem?"  Well, while some things can get better with age, like friendships, marriage, and Miso----some things just plain don't. 

     Knob & Tube wiring, while being an excellent method of wiring in its day, is not likely getting any better with age in your attic----especially with Rocky the Squirrel eating the covering off of it.  And certainly not with the bathroom receptacle improperly spliced into it----and the two teenage girls trying to dry their hair at the same time.

knob & tube wiring 

     That old octopus furnace in the basement that was converted from coal to oil 69 years ago and then to gas 20 years ago is not likely improving with age either.  

Octopus furnace 

     If the furnace was original to the house it would have been 102 years old.   It may be growling away in the basement providing plenty of heat to the home but that black soot at all the registers is not likely a good sign.

     Check out this permit for the coal to oil conversion from 1939.

 Furnace converted from coal to oil in 1939

      In Washington State we are required to report on conditions that are conducive to wood destroying organisms.  One such conducive condition is untreated wood in contact with the ground----or even too close to the ground.  Certainly wood structures of the home that are sitting directly on the ground fit this requirement.  If it is new construction you can tell your buyer that this wood will decay in a month, or a year, or ten years.  What do you tell them when it has been in contact with the ground for 107 years?  Sometimes the right soil conditions can be very forgiving of wood.  Sometimes wood just gets lucky.  Typically wood in contact with the ground in the North West does NOT get lucky

     The wood supports for this crawl space post have been in direct contact with the ground most likely for the life of the home----107 years.  No concrete footing----no moisture separation----heck they didn't even know what a moisture barrier was in 1901.  This support has withstood several major earthquakes, 107 years of rainy seasons, and showed only minor decay at the time of inspection----the minor decay most likely due to  the nasty looking ground cover that had been added around the support.  The ground cover helps to focus moisture toward the wood support, "improving" the chances of decay, but not life expectancy. 

Wood support post in contact with the ground 

     So who says things don't get better with age? 

     Well, in this case----not even this.

    

Charles Buell 

     PS, for those of you that are new to my blog (or for some other "unexplained" reason have never noticed)sunsmileall  pictures and smiley-face inserts (emoticons) (when I use them) have messages that show up when you point at them with your cursor.

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Comment balloon 13 commentsCharles Buell • September 01 2008 09:15AM
Are you getting better with age?
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Sooner, later, or too often, inspectors hear, "but it has been that way for a gazillion years, what is the problem? " Well, while some things can get better with age, like friendships, marriage, and Miso----some things just plain don… more