How to Look

at a House

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Welcome to our blog!
We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

  1. The type of building components still in place in the home can tell a story about the age. Electric wall receptacles have a technological timeline, for example. If the receptacle has only two slots, and they are both the same height, it is non-polarized, and pre-1920. When the receptacle has two slots and one is slightly taller than the other, it is polarized, and pre-1960. If the receptacle has two slots and a round hole below, then it is a grounded receptacle and post-1960.
       Asbestos siding, terra-cotta drain pipe, and linoleum floors each peg a house to a particular era if they are original to the construction. OSB (oriented strand board) was not developed until the 1980s and, at the other end of the timeline, indicates that a house is newer.

  2. The architectural style of the home and construction type tell their own story. Heavily textured stucco over wood lath on the exterior walls dates a home to the 1920s or 30s, and a low-slope gravel roof on a long and narrow home with minimal trim means it’s from the 1950s or 60s.

  3. Check the electric meter, if original. It will be marked with a date of manufacture.

  4. And last, pulling the lid off the toilet tank and looking for a date stamp underneath is a favorite technique among real estate appraisers.

   After looking at thousands of houses, a home inspector develops an intuitive sense for the age of a house, along with an understanding of what is the original part of the home and where the later additions begin. Plus, every once in a while, we come up with evidence that a home could not possibly be as young as it is portrayed to be.

   If you wan to learn more about investigating an old home to learn more about how it was built, sorting out the older and newer parts, and the lifestyle of the original owners, we suggest reading an article by an architectural historian for the National Parks Service, entitled “Understanding Old Buildings - The Process of Architectural Investigation.” Here’s a link to it:

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
©2015 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection.

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