Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

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genjix
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Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by genjix » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:17 am

Hello all

I'm in the market in purchasing a new home and one caught my eye. It's a colonial built over 100 yrs ago. Love the high ceilings and the architecture it has to offer.
It does need a lot of updating.

Bathroom
Kitchen
Remove wallpaper on almost all rooms
Sand the floor

My primary concern is going down a rabbit hole. For example once I hire a contractor to redo the bathroom and cut the floor open to add pipe to a separate bathtub, will they say "oh these old pipes are not up to code. We will need to redo all the plumbing".

And with the wall paper, if it's too difficult to remove or after removing, we realize it all needs skim coating, we may go the route of putting up thin 1/4inch sheetrock to cover it. Is this now considered structural change that requires permits?

Anyone have experience with renovating old homes and some gotchas you encountered? Any regrets?
This is in NJ btw.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by Raybo » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:24 am

I live in a 100+ year old home in San Francisco. The biggest problem we've had is fixing the stupid (non-permitted) things previous owners did. The house sagged due to the idiots cutting through and eliminating beams between the garage and the first floor to create a stairwell. We had to redo the foundation (during other renovation work) to fix it.

Our furnace's pipes were wrapped in asbestos, which had to be removed by white suited workers.

That said, the actual wood framing of the house is full sized redwood beams. Unfortunate for the forest, but solid building material nonetheless.

My suggestion is to budget to replace pipes and wiring (ours still had knob and tube) whenever you do any work on the house.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

Mr. Rumples
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by Mr. Rumples » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:47 am

Yes, we renovated a home that was 80 years old. It took 10 years, we pretty much did one major room at a time. I'll just make a list that might clarify things:

1) skim coating on the wallpaper didn't work. It soaked through the wallpaper and then came off in sheets. The "glue" however was flour based, that might have been the reason. With the exceptions of the bathrooms and kitchen, all the ceilings were papered. It took a lot of razor blades but when soaked, the flour based glue released easily.

2) Two electricians said the old knob and tube wiring was sound so we left it.

3) The old coal furnace was converted to oil and covered in asbestos. The tank was in the basement. The conversion to gas was handled by the new HVAC company which arranged for the asbestos removal according to code and the removal of the oil tank which was also considered hazardous waste as I best recall.

4) The plumbing was original and mostly sound except for a few pin holes in exposed pipes in the basement. Indoor plumbing was new then. There was only one bathroom originally on the second floor. The pipes were set in concrete (4" as I recall, but it may have been more). We never had issues, but my neighbor had a leak and the entire bathroom eventually crashed into the first floor under the weight of the concrete.

5) There were a number of folks familiar with renovation. Those familiar with the bathroom suggested not taking out the old subway tile but tiling over it which we did with no issues.

6) I remember once noticing the hardwood floors. Red oak strips up to 25' long, you don't find that anymore.

7) We moved the kitchen without an issue since all the plumbing was accessible through the basement.

8) Old light fixtures remained, we just cleaned them up.

9) The old interior doors were painted. They were too dented and messed up over the years to otherwise save.

10) In the reception hall (a large foyer) and the stairway going up and the upstairs hall, we had 1/4 drywall put up. It was a good choice. I had a guy who could restore previous plasterwork including the arches in the house.

11) The chimney's needed to be relined at about $5,000 each.

12) The original metal and slate roof leaked but we dealt with the leaks.

13) The bricks in the basement had to be replaced and repointed in places.

14) Our house was state of the art for the time, electricity, indoor plumbing and a telephone room. We restored the telephone room to its original condition.

15) I learned that I can do plaster repairs fairly well. Old plaster walls are not perfect and hence very forgiving and plaster has a much longer working time than joint compound and spackle. Where the plaster "keys" had failed, I learned there is no perfect solution: plaster washers, replacing areas with pieces of drywall were all used.

The house was very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.

In short, it was a lot of work but worth it. We sold the house during the housing meltdown a decade ago. It wasn't on the market. We sold it for 3x what we paid and put into it and lived there for 12 years. It was a good investment.

We were lucky in a way. The folks who lived in it before us, we were the third owners, didn't make many changes. It had not been subdivided into apartments, and the family of the previous owners were welcome guests. The house had a lot of love, it was the neighborhood house where all the kids hung out as Mrs.... liked to give them cool aid. Her picture hung in the house.

Note: my cousin renovated a home of a similar age in San Francisco. The biggest difference was in how the plaster was done. We had three layers, the middle layer was mixed with horsehair. His had just two layers with canvas. Can't recall exactly how.

Also remember, the plaster walls were not generally designed to take nails. If you have it, stick to picture molding; if having pictures on the wall, predrill into the plaster...its like drilling into mortar however and can cause the plaster keys to fail.
Last edited by Mr. Rumples on Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:03 am, edited 4 times in total.

JackoC
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by JackoC » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:48 am

genjix wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:17 am

Anyone have experience with renovating old homes and some gotchas you encountered? Any regrets?
This is in NJ btw.
Might not be directly comparable though also in NJ. Stone/brick flat roof row house ('brownstone') was 92 yrs old when we bought it, 118 now. Despite the different design I think a lot of it comes down to the unknown of what really needs to be done once you get into it. Ours had a lot work done ca. 1981 (from manufacture dates on fixtures I later replaced, probably when it was converted back from three family to one, it was a two family in 1940 I know from the Census, might have been a one family originally) and was billed as new plumbing and electrical subsequent to that. Those representations proved mainly true, no big unexpected cost so far due to system or structure failures. We did do fairly extensive work after a serious fire not long after we bought it (not the house's fault) then many years of creeping DIY projects plus some more extensive contractor stuff (complete kitchen gut/redo, dealt with deteriorating chimney) in last few years. I really love this house, it's a work of art not just a place to live. But if it had turned out more of a pain in the butt I might not feel that way as much. :happy

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teen persuasion
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by teen persuasion » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:52 am

And with the wall paper, if it's too difficult to remove or after removing, we realize it all needs skim coating, we may go the route of putting up thin 1/4inch sheetrock to cover it. Is this now considered structural change that requires permits?
We've found that wallpaper comes off plaster pretty well. Putting up 1/4" drywall and then skimcoating will cause issues with baseboard and other trim reveals. Modern method of making walls is put up drywall floor to ceiling, then nail trim ON TOP. Old plaster walls have thicker trim nailed to studs, and plaster is run just to the edge, not behind. On the outside, putting vinyl siding over old clapboard does the same thing - window and door trim gets buried by the extra depth of the new siding.

One big issue is insulation. Old houses often have little. Roof insulation can be blown in the attic, but walls are tough without removing a layer. I don't want to tear out any good plaster to insulate and replace with drywall - plaster has much better sound dampening.

Unremuddling is another big issue - I'd prefer to leave as much in it's original state as possible. I'd like to have words with whoever thought new vinyl replacement windows were a good idea in our 1840s Greek Revival. Or whoever sealed over doorways, and a whole stairway! So we are slowly discovering surprises as we clear out some stuff. Like a 6' wide built-in pantry cabinet complete with original raised panel doors, nailed shut and hidden behind drywall and a fridge. :annoyed

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by fru-gal » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:58 am

Mr. Rumples wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:47 am
Yes, we renovated a home that was 80 years old. It took 10 years, we pretty much did one major room at a time. I'll just make a list that might clarify things:

1) skim coating on the wallpaper didn't work. It soaked through the wallpaper and then came off in sheets. The "glue" however was flour based, that might have been the reason. With the exceptions of the bathrooms and kitchen, all the ceilings were papered. It took a lot of razor blades but when soaked, the flour based glue released easily.

2) Two electricians said the old knob and tube wiring was sound so we left it.

3) The old coal furnace was converted to oil and covered in asbestos. The tank was in the basement. The conversion to gas was handled by the new HVAC company which arranged for the asbestos removal according to code and the removal of the oil tank which was also considered hazardous waste as I best recall.

4) The plumbing was original and mostly sound except for a few pin holes in exposed pipes in the basement. Indoor plumbing was new then. There was only one bathroom originally on the second floor. The pipes were set in concrete (4" as I recall, but it may have been more). We never had issues, but my neighbor had a leak and the entire bathroom eventually crashed into the first floor under the weight of the concrete.

5) There were a number of folks familiar with renovation. Those familiar with the bathroom suggested not taking out the old subway tile but tiling over it which we did with no issues.

6) I remember once noticing the hardwood floors. Red oak strips up to 25' long, you don't find that anymore.

7) We moved the kitchen without an issue since all the plumbing was accessible through the basement.

8) Old light fixtures remained, we just cleaned them up.

9) The old interior doors were painted. They were too dented and messed up over the years to otherwise save.

10) In the reception hall (a large foyer) and the stairway going up and the upstairs hall, we had 1/4 drywall put up. It was a good choice. I had a guy who could restore previous plasterwork including the arches in the house.

11) The chimney's needed to be relined at about $5,000 each.

12) The original metal and slate roof leaked but we dealt with the leaks.

13) The bricks in the basement had to be replaced and repointed in places.

14) Our house was state of the art for the time, electricity, indoor plumbing and a telephone room. We restored the telephone room to its original condition.

15) I learned that I can do plaster repairs fairly well. Old plaster walls are not perfect and hence very forgiving and plaster has a much longer working time than joint compound and spackle. Where the plaster "keys" had failed, I learned there is no perfect solution: plaster washers, replacing areas with pieces of drywall were all used.

The house was very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.

In short, it was a lot of work but worth it. We sold the house during the housing meltdown a decade ago. It wasn't on the market. We sold it for 3x what we paid and put into it and lived there for 12 years. It was a good investment.

I miss that house in many ways. .
Wow. I envy you this house. I would never have moved.

It all sounds like what I would have done, except I am somewhat more conservative about keeping the old stuff. I would not drywall over plaster unless it was absolutely necessary, for example. A telephone room!

Some real attention to insulation, drapery, interior storms, etc could help a lot with temperature.

OP, I would have a chat with your town's building inspector about the bathroom before doing anything.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by chw » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:09 am

I'm not saying don't buy this old home, but generally old homes (100+ years) are money pits. The best ones to buy, are the ones already updated when you buy them, and even then bizarre stuff can go wrong. Had a friend with one recently- found out the water supply line from the street to the home was mostly a lead pipe and needed to be replaced to avoid lead leaching into the water used in the home (cost to replace was over 10k).

Your initial concern is accurate. I would say if you go forward, whatever you come up with for updating expense, double the cost.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by renue74 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:12 am

I renovated a 95 year old craftsman bungalow a couple years ago. I got it at a good deal, and did about 80% of the work myself.

It's not "those stupid previous owners sucked at rehabbing," for me. It was the house had never really been renovated and a lot of the building practices from 1935 don't work today.

We ended up gutting it, removing the original cedar shingle siding, plaster/lath walls, and old electrical/plumbing. The ceiling joists were sagging 2x4s because of the weight of the plaster ceilings.

I went back in and reframed window openings and installed modern Anderson 400 windows, added hardieplank and shakes, repiped the plumbing and rewired the electrical.

The only thing we kept was the original heart pine floors and old doors.

We were going to make it a rental property, but ended up making it too nice and made it an airbnb. It grosses about $2K-$2.8K per month...but we are always worried about people ruining the floors...which is inevitable with soft pine flooring.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/23562920

If I could find a similar project house in my town today, I would do it again. I actually looked forward to the weekends I worked on the house.

If I had to buy a house AND live in it while renovating....I would never do it. Timelines are always stretched and I don't think I want to live in a state of disrepair like that.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by forgeblast » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:21 am

I helped a buddy of mine renovate his grandfathers home. I wish he subbed it out but he was short on time and money.
The electrical had to be gone over, outlets and gfi's added to bring up to code. Might need a new larger box.
The plumbing also had to be redone, had some weird pipe connections and some that were galvanized and almost rotted. Swapped out for pex in most places.
The walls with its lath and plaster had to be taken down, then after plumbing and wiring done. we had to use shims to get some type of level on the boards as they were all different sizes, that took forever.
Windows, doors etc some were standard, some were not meaning custom work.
Just realize once you start opening up walls you have to keep going and fixing the problems.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by Mr. Rumples » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:32 am

There is no way I could do it again, working all day and then renovating until bedtime. That is why we just did one room a year. Good contractors are the key. We did not install central AC. The only real option was a high velocity system with the unit on the roof. Did not like the look of the mini-split systems at the time. We opted for just one large window unit upstairs and let the cold air "fall" down the stairs. Not perfect in the south, but when you are younger you make do. We love the look of the old radiators and I learned I could make radiator covers...the down side was that I experimented and hence they were all different.

As an old house with just one original upstairs bathroom, it just has two risers for water which would made repairs - which were never needed -a bit simpler. The room below it, when we redid that ceiling we installed a trap door, so if there was a leak - there never was - we were hoping we could see the extent of the damage to the concrete bathroom floor. Now that I think of it, there was one plumbing failure, it was the new faucet in the bathroom we put in when we replaced the sink. We had the tub reglazed, not the best solution but it was OK. Ripping out the old tub could have caused unforeseen issues, so we let it be. In a pantry on the first floor we installed a toilet and sink, but it was tight.
Last edited by Mr. Rumples on Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by dm200 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:38 am

genjix wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:17 am
Hello all
I'm in the market in purchasing a new home and one caught my eye. It's a colonial built over 100 yrs ago. Love the high ceilings and the architecture it has to offer.
It does need a lot of updating.
Bathroom
Kitchen
Remove wallpaper on almost all rooms
Sand the floor
My primary concern is going down a rabbit hole. For example once I hire a contractor to redo the bathroom and cut the floor open to add pipe to a separate bathtub, will they say "oh these old pipes are not up to code. We will need to redo all the plumbing".
And with the wall paper, if it's too difficult to remove or after removing, we realize it all needs skim coating, we may go the route of putting up thin 1/4inch sheetrock to cover it. Is this now considered structural change that requires permits?
Anyone have experience with renovating old homes and some gotchas you encountered? Any regrets?
This is in NJ btw.
The house I grew up in (family farm) was built in the early to mid 1800's. The house my mother grew up in (and was home to my uncle - mother's brother) and aunt was built between 1820 and 1830. it is this era that I think of when I hear 'older home'.

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genjix
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by genjix » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:44 am

Thanks for everyone's detailed comments and experience.

Yeah while I would renovate over time and not so rushed, my wife doesn't feel the same way. And the asbestos thing would be concerning, especially with my two yr old. Wouldn't want disturbed asbestos flying around.

I guess I may have to abort my dreams. At least that's the way it's looking now. I also don't want to buy fully renovated because my wife wants an all white intererior ( like kitchen) and a lot of homes don't have that. So we'd essentially be paying for already renovated only to renovated over it. I guess I will have to find something in the middle. House that only needs bathroom and kitchen work. (And not 100+ yrs old)

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by barnaclebob » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:46 am

The main thing I would look for is if the home seems to have been cared for aside from needing updating. You'll never know if the house is a money pit or not but I would expect any major renovations to need improvements to the various utilities affected. Each time you do one of these it will be one less thing to worry about in your awesome house. If your financially comfortable and an $10k surprise on a project just makes you roll your eyes, sigh, and say, "well that sucks" then your probably in the right frame of mind for a house like this.

Start watching "This Old House" to see what kinds of things can happen.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by winterfan » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:54 am

We renovated our 100+ year old home top to bottom and did most of the work ourselves. We removed wallpaper, stripped all the beautiful woodwork that was painted, renovated the bathroom, kitchen, floors, etc. It wasn't terribly expensive, just time consuming. I would do it again, if it was the right house, but we don't plan on moving now. Sometimes I'll look at houses built in the 80s and 90s and I feel like the whole houses have to be renovated from top to bottom since they look so dated. I'd rather just have a historic house with character.

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genjix
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by genjix » Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:04 pm

barnaclebob wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:46 am
If your financially comfortable and an $10k surprise on a project just makes you roll your eyes, sigh, and say, "well that sucks" then your probably in the right frame of mind for a house like this.
I never owned my own home soon not sure what projects cost. Only know from hearsay and some internet searches. My budget would be 100k for renovations. My guesstimate is 25k for kitchen, 12k bathroom, 4k floor sanding (two floors). We only went to open house so not sure if we need to up the circuit breaker to 200 amp. Not sure if it's oil and we need to switch to gas. Not sure if the roof will need to be replaced. And they have in Wall air conditioners, we'd like to remove them, cover the hole it creates and get a split ductless system for cooling. could I push it to $110k sure, but certainly don't want it to go to 200k

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by barnaclebob » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:10 pm

genjix wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:04 pm
barnaclebob wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:46 am
If your financially comfortable and an $10k surprise on a project just makes you roll your eyes, sigh, and say, "well that sucks" then your probably in the right frame of mind for a house like this.
I never owned my own home soon not sure what projects cost. Only know from hearsay and some internet searches. My budget would be 100k for renovations. My guesstimate is 25k for kitchen, 12k bathroom, 4k floor sanding (two floors). We only went to open house so not sure if we need to up the circuit breaker to 200 amp. Not sure if it's oil and we need to switch to gas. Not sure if the roof will need to be replaced. And they have in Wall air conditioners, we'd like to remove them, cover the hole it creates and get a split ductless system for cooling. could I push it to $110k sure, but certainly don't want it to go to 200k

Given your wifes desire for a "white kitchen" I'm guessing 25k for a kitchen is pretty low. Cabinets alone commonly run that much but could maybe be 10-15k on the lower end but better than ikea. Granite/quartz is 4-10k, plumbing and electrical might be another 2.5 - 5k each, then you've got flooring, tile setters, light fixtures and we haven't even purchased appliances yet.

redoing a bathroom while keeping the same configuration can probably be done for 12k depending on surprises. If you are re-configuring the bathroom then 12k is going to be tough.

4k for floor refinishing is probably in the ballpark.

Oil furnaces are still very common in the northeast but if gas is available then its probably a good investment to make the switch.

If you ever get the breaker box replaced then for sure go with 200A. If the panel doesn't need replacing then its possible to live with 100A but you probably wont be able to have too many high draw electrical appliances or take up welding as a hobby.

A good inspector should be able to tell you about the roof and other parts of the house but the inspection reports are not the end all be all. They have language to protect the inspector and there is a lot an inspector just cant see. Good realtors can also give advice on whether the house seems to be in typical overall condition for its age.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by dm200 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:24 pm

I would especially look for "upgrades", remodeling, and so on - that have been done on the house over the decades - and that there were not "shortcuts" or other problems introduced long after the house was built.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by onthecusp » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:25 pm

Take care regarding potential lead paint as well. Use paint stripper and scraping rather than sanding. I loved our old house but wonder what I might have exposed myself and the family to years ago.

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dm200
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by dm200 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:35 pm

I might also look for similar vintage houses in the area as well - and see what those owners have experienced.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by genjix » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:40 pm

barnaclebob wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:10 pm
genjix wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:04 pm
barnaclebob wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:46 am
If your financially comfortable and an $10k surprise on a project just makes you roll your eyes, sigh, and say, "well that sucks" then your probably in the right frame of mind for a house like this.
I never owned my own home soon not sure what projects cost. Only know from hearsay and some internet searches. My budget would be 100k for renovations. My guesstimate is 25k for kitchen, 12k bathroom, 4k floor sanding (two floors). We only went to open house so not sure if we need to up the circuit breaker to 200 amp. Not sure if it's oil and we need to switch to gas. Not sure if the roof will need to be replaced. And they have in Wall air conditioners, we'd like to remove them, cover the hole it creates and get a split ductless system for cooling. could I push it to $110k sure, but certainly don't want it to go to 200k

Given your wifes desire for a "white kitchen" I'm guessing 25k for a kitchen is pretty low. Cabinets alone commonly run that much but could maybe be 10-15k on the lower end but better than ikea. Granite/quartz is 4-10k, plumbing and electrical might be another 2.5 - 5k each, then you've got flooring, tile setters, light fixtures and we haven't even purchased appliances yet.

redoing a bathroom while keeping the same configuration can probably be done for 12k depending on surprises. If you are re-configuring the bathroom then 12k is going to be tough.

4k for floor refinishing is probably in the ballpark.

Oil furnaces are still very common in the northeast but if gas is available then its probably a good investment to make the switch.

If you ever get the breaker box replaced then for sure go with 200A. If the panel doesn't need replacing then its possible to live with 100A but you probably wont be able to have too many high draw electrical appliances or take up welding as a hobby.

A good inspector should be able to tell you about the roof and other parts of the house but the inspection reports are not the end all be all. They have language to protect the inspector and there is a lot an inspector just cant see. Good realtors can also give advice on whether the house seems to be in typical overall condition for its age.
Thanks for the insight. Yeah for the kitchen we might be able to use the existing layout somewhat but replace their small island with a larger one and replace all the cabinets and countertops. So plumbing and electrical might be able to remain unchanged or minor changes. There was an extension added on to the house (in the 80s?) and the kitchen may have been part of it as it has hardwood floors that look on the newer side compared to the rest of the house. So for this reason we may just keep the wood floors in the kitchen even though it's not ideal and prone to water damage if anything spills and left there by accident.

Bathroom is full of tiles. We'd like to remove them get an all glass shower and a separate bathtub (like the claw foot type).it's a pretty big bathroom. So there would be additional plumbing work required for the tub, but for tile work we would only tile the shower and floors and might have to cover the rest of the walls with thin sheetrock since the tiles have been removed unless it's better to throw sheetrock over the tile as I think one poster above might have mentioned

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by fru-gal » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:44 pm

renue74 wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:12 am
I renovated a 95 year old craftsman bungalow a couple years ago. I got it at a good deal, and did about 80% of the work myself.

It's not "those stupid previous owners sucked at rehabbing," for me. It was the house had never really been renovated and a lot of the building practices from 1935 don't work today.

We ended up gutting it, removing the original cedar shingle siding, plaster/lath walls, and old electrical/plumbing. The ceiling joists were sagging 2x4s because of the weight of the plaster ceilings.

I went back in and reframed window openings and installed modern Anderson 400 windows, added hardieplank and shakes, repiped the plumbing and rewired the electrical.

The only thing we kept was the original heart pine floors and old doors.

We were going to make it a rental property, but ended up making it too nice and made it an airbnb. It grosses about $2K-$2.8K per month...but we are always worried about people ruining the floors...which is inevitable with soft pine flooring.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/23562920

If I could find a similar project house in my town today, I would do it again. I actually looked forward to the weekends I worked on the house.

If I had to buy a house AND live in it while renovating....I would never do it. Timelines are always stretched and I don't think I want to live in a state of disrepair like that.
This is the worst thing one can do to an old house. If you aren't willing to treat it with respect, for example, restore the original windows instead of installing modern ones that will last only 1/3 to 1/4 as restored windows, please do not buy a house like this and treat it like that. The word remuddling was invented for a reason. Let people who respect old houses buy them.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by fru-gal » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:46 pm

winterfan wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:54 am
We renovated our 100+ year old home top to bottom and did most of the work ourselves. We removed wallpaper, stripped all the beautiful woodwork that was painted, renovated the bathroom, kitchen, floors, etc. It wasn't terribly expensive, just time consuming. I would do it again, if it was the right house, but we don't plan on moving now. Sometimes I'll look at houses built in the 80s and 90s and I feel like the whole houses have to be renovated from top to bottom since they look so dated. I'd rather just have a historic house with character.
Yes, This is what to do with an old house.

renue74
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by renue74 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:38 pm

fru-gal wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:44 pm
renue74 wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:12 am
I renovated a 95 year old craftsman bungalow a couple years ago. I got it at a good deal, and did about 80% of the work myself.

It's not "those stupid previous owners sucked at rehabbing," for me. It was the house had never really been renovated and a lot of the building practices from 1935 don't work today.

We ended up gutting it, removing the original cedar shingle siding, plaster/lath walls, and old electrical/plumbing. The ceiling joists were sagging 2x4s because of the weight of the plaster ceilings.

I went back in and reframed window openings and installed modern Anderson 400 windows, added hardieplank and shakes, repiped the plumbing and rewired the electrical.

The only thing we kept was the original heart pine floors and old doors.

We were going to make it a rental property, but ended up making it too nice and made it an airbnb. It grosses about $2K-$2.8K per month...but we are always worried about people ruining the floors...which is inevitable with soft pine flooring.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/23562920

If I could find a similar project house in my town today, I would do it again. I actually looked forward to the weekends I worked on the house.

If I had to buy a house AND live in it while renovating....I would never do it. Timelines are always stretched and I don't think I want to live in a state of disrepair like that.
This is the worst thing one can do to an old house. If you aren't willing to treat it with respect, for example, restore the original windows instead of installing modern ones that will last only 1/3 to 1/4 as restored windows, please do not buy a house like this and treat it like that. The word remuddling was invented for a reason. Let people who respect old houses buy them.
Thanks for the insight. The home was owned by a 95 year old women who hadn't lived in it for 20+ years. She had rented it out and had incurred so much deferred maintenance. We took the essence of this home can kept it. Unique exterior, floors, doors, 10' ceilings, etc.

But, we chose to involve modern building science...you know...things like electrical wiring that wouldn't burn the house down. (removed the Knob&Tube)....we added R15 insulation to the walls (as opposed to no insulation). We chose to add LVL beams sistered to the knee walls in the attic (as opposed to letting the roof cave in).

Just because it's an old house, doesn't mean you have to clean the coal burning fireplace and find a place in town to sell you coal for winter heating.

ScaledWheel
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by ScaledWheel » Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:53 pm

I love old houses and think your price estimates are probably in the right ballpark, though I'm not familiar with NJ contractors. You can save a lot of money by doing things like demo-ing yourself, though of course be aware of the lead-related issues in old houses.

Finding good contractors makes everything so much better but is also hard to do.

Removing wallpaper can be done more easily with a sprayer filled with water and fabric softener with a wallpaper scraper. With 10 foot ceilings, get yourself some ladders and scaffolding, so much easier than walking down and moving the ladder every three minutes.

This all being said, living in a renovating house is pretty awful. If you have the ability, doing it all in one shot is going to be a lot easier than trying to do it room by room. That is something we regret doing, but we didn't have the financial ability to pay rent and a mortgage. It took my wife and I almost 1.5 years to do this and put a lot of strain on us individually and our relationship, although nothing we couldn't handle.

GrowthSeeker
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by GrowthSeeker » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:14 pm

Things to be aware of:
Lead paint. Not just walls, but the wood around the windows.
Asbestos wrapped pipes in the basement.

Note on repairing old plaster; lath-and-plaster. It can be done. I learned to do it. I found this site to be excellent, both instruction on how to do and has a line of products. Expensive plaster material especially for repairs; and industrial adhesive: but it works well. You can save walls where the keys have failed and large sections of plaster are generally intact but wiggle in and out when you press on them.
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get you.

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genjix
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by genjix » Fri Oct 11, 2019 4:15 pm

fru-gal wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:58 am
Mr. Rumples wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:47 am
Yes, we renovated a home that was 80 years old. It took 10 years, we pretty much did one major room at a time. I'll just make a list that might clarify things:

1) skim coating on the wallpaper didn't work. It soaked through the wallpaper and then came off in sheets. The "glue" however was flour based, that might have been the reason. With the exceptions of the bathrooms and kitchen, all the ceilings were papered. It took a lot of razor blades but when soaked, the flour based glue released easily.

2) Two electricians said the old knob and tube wiring was sound so we left it.

3) The old coal furnace was converted to oil and covered in asbestos. The tank was in the basement. The conversion to gas was handled by the new HVAC company which arranged for the asbestos removal according to code and the removal of the oil tank which was also considered hazardous waste as I best recall.

4) The plumbing was original and mostly sound except for a few pin holes in exposed pipes in the basement. Indoor plumbing was new then. There was only one bathroom originally on the second floor. The pipes were set in concrete (4" as I recall, but it may have been more). We never had issues, but my neighbor had a leak and the entire bathroom eventually crashed into the first floor under the weight of the concrete.

5) There were a number of folks familiar with renovation. Those familiar with the bathroom suggested not taking out the old subway tile but tiling over it which we did with no issues.

6) I remember once noticing the hardwood floors. Red oak strips up to 25' long, you don't find that anymore.

7) We moved the kitchen without an issue since all the plumbing was accessible through the basement.

8) Old light fixtures remained, we just cleaned them up.

9) The old interior doors were painted. They were too dented and messed up over the years to otherwise save.

10) In the reception hall (a large foyer) and the stairway going up and the upstairs hall, we had 1/4 drywall put up. It was a good choice. I had a guy who could restore previous plasterwork including the arches in the house.

11) The chimney's needed to be relined at about $5,000 each.

12) The original metal and slate roof leaked but we dealt with the leaks.

13) The bricks in the basement had to be replaced and repointed in places.

14) Our house was state of the art for the time, electricity, indoor plumbing and a telephone room. We restored the telephone room to its original condition.

15) I learned that I can do plaster repairs fairly well. Old plaster walls are not perfect and hence very forgiving and plaster has a much longer working time than joint compound and spackle. Where the plaster "keys" had failed, I learned there is no perfect solution: plaster washers, replacing areas with pieces of drywall were all used.

The house was very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.

In short, it was a lot of work but worth it. We sold the house during the housing meltdown a decade ago. It wasn't on the market. We sold it for 3x what we paid and put into it and lived there for 12 years. It was a good investment.

I miss that house in many ways. .
OP, I would have a chat with your town's building inspector about the bathroom before doing anything.
What would be the potential issue with not consulting the town building inspector?

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6miths
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by 6miths » Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:45 pm

We are on our second 'old home'. Our starter was 90 years old and was great. Wiring and plumbing had been upgraded before we purchased. We finished the basement, pulled the double oil tanks and converted to natural gas. Finished the attic. Repaired the plaster - which I so love compared to drywall. Replaced a couple exterior doors. Windows had been done. Current home of 25 years is 110 years old. Double brick similar to the first. Was gutted by fire 10 years before we bought it so all interior components were new. We slowly upgraded trim and returned the second floor to the original farm house layout. Had an apartment above the garage addition that we converted to the master and a guest room with two ensuites. The house is fine but the acre lot with creek running through is too much. Also we put a pool in which was great for 20 years when the kids were young but now I could do without it. We are going to be downsizing soon and I wouldn't have an issue with another older house.
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Hillview
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by Hillview » Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:53 pm

we have a 100+ year old house. It was in pretty good repair but we needed to
- replace the roof
- replace the gutters
- regrade the backyard
All of this got rid of flooding in the basement

then we
- updated the electric (it was not knob and tube we just needed more power for an AC unit)
- renovated the kitchen
- added central AC
- renovated the master bath
- resanded the floors
- renovated the basement (put in a french drain, dehumidifier and went from a basement with just utilities to usable space) -- this was by far the biggest project
- new hot water heater
- new furnace

We did these projects over 10 years. You need to be ok with a good sized project every year and have enough money for unexpected things (hot water heater replacement for example). You also need to be ok with things being a little less fancy

cashboy
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by cashboy » Fri Oct 11, 2019 6:02 pm

genjix wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:17 am


Anyone have experience with renovating old homes and some gotchas you encountered?
i have not done this, but i do have some feedback for your consideration.

have you considered having that house built 'new'? you would have an 'old house' but it would be built to current codes with current materials. just an idea.

these links are just for ideas. i do not know anything about this company.

http://historicaldesigns.com/index.php?action=index

http://historicaldesigns.com/index.php? ... istingID=4
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musicmom
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by musicmom » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:17 pm

DH and I bought our first home in early 1980s when we were just married, raised two kids in it and just reluctantly sold it last year to retire to a much smaller 1930 something house in a lake community.

That first house was built in 1790 by the grandson of one of the original families of the town, not far from Washington's encampment at Jockey Hollow in northern NJ.
When we bought it, we had a love of old houses and almost no idea what we were in for.

Luckily, much of what we wanted to do was cosmetic/unremuddling.
Remove massive amounts of wallpaper from every room, repair plaster walls, pull ORANGE wall to wall carpeting in LR, DR, up a wonderful curved staircase, and all 4 bedrooms to reveal original hardwood and pine flooring.

We had rose colored glasses and it was dumb luck we didnt drown addressing the more urgent issues.

In first few years we replaced the huge scary 60 yr old gas furnace, had insulation added to all exterior walls, gutted the ONE and only bathroom located upstairs by bedrooms, restored window in bath that had been walled over in the 1950s.
Had all asbestos on pipes in basement professionally removed, updated wiring and electric service.

Then as our family grew, we built a first floor addition to add living space and the much needed full bath.

The ugly kitchen we lived with for 25 yrs came next. It had orange, yellow and white vinyl flooring; brown swirly formica counters and a sink that sat at an angle making it painful to use.
We installed a Rohl apron sink, wood flooring, maple cabinets, medium granite counters and porcelain backsplash.
Obviously not authentic 1790 but we enjoyed the result for 15 yrs and no one complained about it when we sold.

One of the last changes we made was moving the washer and dryer from basement to a small mudroom off kitchen. Much more user friendly for my aging bones.

We miss that old house a bit but it was time to downsize.
Happy that our realtor found a young man who appeared to be as much an old house lover as we are.

Hard to resist the appeal of the old beauties.
Best of luck whatever your decision.

afan
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by afan » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:40 pm

Buying an old house and renovating can be a good deal if there is some combination of

Deteriorated house in a high priced neighborhood. You can get it at a discount because of condition, renovate and get your money back as the value catches up with the neighborhood.

You really love the old house look and can preserve, or afford to recreate, the period design elements.

You enjoy the control and process you get by doing the renovation.

You have PLENTY of money to deal with unexpected expenses. Like doubling or more of your expected costs.

You may be able to get some idea of asbestos from a simple inspection.
You can try to figure out when the last gut and complete plumbing renovation was done. If you do not need to do this you will save a fortune.
Same for the need to gut and rewire. Extremely expensive if you have to do this.

It could be harder to get an idea about structural soundness. You can look for sagging floors and out of plumb walls. But with the walls closed you will not know what the framing looks like. 100 years leaves a lot of time for problems to set up and expand.

You can try to get an idea of the state of the foundation.If the basement is not finished you have a chance to inspect for cracking.

In my area 25k would be a very low budget to renovate a kitchen. Even with no need for new electrical or plumbing work, cabinets and countertops would soak up all of that cost before labor.

In my area you essentially need a permit to change a light bulb, so we figure anything we might do will require one.
Resanding floors cost depends on how much area you need covered. Plus you need to refinish after sanding. In our area 4k would cover one medium sized room, nowhere close to a whole house.

Best would be to find a builder and go through the house together. They can see what would need to be done and give you a rough estimate of what it would cost. Have a generous contingency fund. Some of the things you could find may leave you with no choice about repairing.

Depending on your skills and time, you may be able to save a lot of money by doing much of the work yourself. Not all of it requires a lot of skill. But for electric, plumbing and structural work you need people who know what they are doing.
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Watty
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by Watty » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:19 pm

One thing that has not been mentioned is to a hard look at how the neighborhood since it may have changed a lot since the house was built. If the other nearby houses are also the same age then take a very critical look at them to see if they are well maintained and have been renovated. It they are not being well taken care of then in 20 years the neighborhood may have declined.

Also pay a lot of attention to the parking. Houses that old would not have had garages and many of the houses may not have ever had a garage added so people may be all using on street parking.

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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by oldcomputerguy » Sat Oct 12, 2019 4:55 am

Make sure you check for termite damage.

Before I retired, I worked in this 1893 building. The business was bought by new owners in 1994. One of the things the new owners did was to put down new carpeting in some of the offices (which in their original life had been bedrooms). When they pulled up the old carpeting, they encountered wood flooring which had termite damage; pulling that up, they found 4x10 floor beams (yep, 4x10) that were signficantly chewed. Remediation took months.
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winterfan
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Re: Purchasing an old home 100yrs +

Post by winterfan » Sat Oct 12, 2019 6:25 am

fru-gal wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:46 pm
winterfan wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:54 am
We renovated our 100+ year old home top to bottom and did most of the work ourselves. We removed wallpaper, stripped all the beautiful woodwork that was painted, renovated the bathroom, kitchen, floors, etc. It wasn't terribly expensive, just time consuming. I would do it again, if it was the right house, but we don't plan on moving now. Sometimes I'll look at houses built in the 80s and 90s and I feel like the whole houses have to be renovated from top to bottom since they look so dated. I'd rather just have a historic house with character.
Yes, This is what to do with an old house.
I wasn't clear- our house had all the charm taken out some time in the 50s or 60s. All the woodwork was painted (beams, columns, windows, stairwells, etc.). They make a lot of horrible design decisions too. We spent most of our time making it look like it did originally. It took a few years. When people come to our house, they say how nice it is that it was never renovated (eyeroll). There was a lot of deferred maintenance that I didn't bother listing. We still aren't done, but it's been livable.

This wasn't our ideal house, but it's getting harder and harder to find older homes that still have charm. It seems like most of them have had their built-ins ripped out and have been Pottery-Barned or midcentury-ized. I guess I"m in the minority, but I hate that look. I think a 1920s bungalow should look like a bungalow, not a downtown loft or new build.

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