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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Old house blues

If I needed a reminder as to why our new old houses are such a hit, all it takes is to delve into a remodel of a 100 yr old house to remind me. The thing about old houses is you never really now how old they are, or how they were constructed, or what you are going to find. Even to a old vet like myself, each one is a real challenge and budget-buster.

More or less, just the opposite of the homes we sell, - where any uncertainty to the price or product revolves only around the bedtime debates of our clients as to whether the cedar shake siding is worth the expense, or whether foundation and chimney stone veneer is in the cards. Other than owner-inspired upgrades - which, surprisingly, are relatively rare - we come in right on budget - and when I say right on budget, I mean to the penny, and frankly (honk honk) it's unheard of in construction.

An old house, however, is only for those with lots of tolerance for the unknown. For instance, this frickin farmhouse on Crawford Rd was thought to be around 100 yrs old. Turns out to be more like a 140 yrs old, before standard framing wood was available. So we are finding tree limbs for roof rafters -

And 3 layers of roofing materials. The roof on this house reminds me of one of those archeological digs, or geology projects, where you tell the age of civilization by the layers in the dirt.

On this house we started with regular old worn out shingles, which are a breeze. But not when the next layer is old school standing seam metal roofing (see sample on front porch), below that is very uncommon cedar shake roofing (probably the mid-1800's original) and under that nothing but some bridging (usually you would find some solid sheathing).

Looking up through the roof from the 'master bedroom'.

And then the roof rafters being constructed of tree branches, about 3 inches thick, that really took the cake.

All and all, if you are a homeowner with a hired contractor, probably a $10k surprise in the first week of construction. Goodbye Viking Stove.