Improvements to the Farm

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The first consideration is remodeling worthwhile or do you need to build a new house. The existing house may be too small or just run down. Retaining an old house has its advantages. The main one, is cost. It is almost always less money to remodel than starting over. But in some instance remodeling is out of the question.

To determine if an old farm house is worth remodeling a full inspection needs to be done. It is always best to hire a qualified Inspector to perform the task. It is also a good idea for you to become familiar with what the inspector is looking for. You will then have a much greater understanding of what work needs to be done in order to bring house to an acceptable level. These are the items that need inspection and cost analysis to upgrade & repair.

  • The Foundation
  • Framing
  • Siding & Windows
  • Roof
  • Interior
  • Insulation
  • Plumbing, Heating & Electrical
  • Moisture & Insect Damage
  • Septic & Well
The foundation & Framing are the two most important items. If they are sound and the building is generally level & square, remodeling costs will be greatly reduced.

The Foundation - The foundation is the main feature that supports the entire structure. On older farmhouses, the foundations may be made with stone while newer houses will usually have block or poured cement foundations. You need to inspect for crumbling stone, cracks and water damage. Some of these issues can be repaired easily while others may be a major project. If the foundation has settled in some areas, this can be corrected by re-leveling beams and floor joists rather than trying to repair foundation. This should only be done if settling has not caused any damage to the house framing structure.

House Framing - The framing needs to be inspected for; damage due to foundation failure, improper framing, settling and insect & mold damage. Mold would be an indication of water entering the structure or improper air flow through the roofing system. Inspection of the first floor floor joist is easily done through the basement or crawl space. Any wood posts supporting the floor should be looked at carefully as damage may not be apparent at first. All points were wood comes in contact with stone, concrete or dirt are usually the locations that decay starts, especially the sill plate..

Girders need to be inspected for sagging or damage. Sagging is normal in an old house and this can be repaired to a certain degree be shimming and/or replacing posts. Replacing girders is a more expensive job and will usually have to be performed by professionals. Bouncy floors are a sign that floor joists need additional support or framing is too light for span of floor. In both instances, the floor framing will need to be leveled and strengthened by adding additional joists and/or girders. Second and third story floors are more difficult to evaluate because they will not be exposed and a judgment must be made based on first floor construction. Usually what was done on the first floor was done on the additional floors so if there was a design flaw on the first floor, you can make an educated guess that it also exists on the additional floors. Other things to look for on upper floors are doors that do not close, floors that are drastically out of level and cracks in the walls. These things may be from foundation settling but may also be framing defects.

Siding - Siding can be wood, vinyl, metal, stucco or stone. Most older homes will be wood, stucco or stone. Wood can last many years with proper care. It needs to be stained or painted to preserve and keep moisture out. If wood shows any decay or black mold there is a moisture problem. Peeling paint may or may not be from moisture. On older farmhouses, no vapor barrier or house wraps were used so moisture had easy access to the inside once it penetrated the siding. Stone houses may have cracks. These usually are minor and can be repaired easily, however, this could be a sign of a more severe problem within the foundation.

Windows - Check all windows for tightness. Check the sash and sill for decay. If it is an older house that has single pane windows, this is a good place to spend some money with energy efficient windows. Most energy loss in a house is through the windows. If you decide to keep the old windows, check all of them for broken parts and if double hung with a rope and weight system, look at the condition of the ropes and pulley system.

Roofing - The first thing to do is check the condition of the shingles or metal roofing. If shingles have moss and mold growing on them, missing or broken parts and/or are curled at edges, they need to be replaced. If metal roof is rusted, it may only need to be painted. But if rusting has made its way deep into the metal, the metal may need to be replaced. Look for overall level throughout the roof. If you see spots that are sagging or pushed up, that represents problems in the roof framing system. Check the edge flashing, gutters and downspouts. If ice jams occur during the winter months, this is the area that water usually will find its way in the house.

From the attic, inspect all rafters and the supporting system. Look for damaged or broken rafters. Look at the plywood or boards for mold or water stains. Inspect all corners and areas where valleys are present on the roof. These are the areas were water usually get in. You may find rotten wood in these locations. Check the ventilation system. Most old farmhouses do not have any form of venting system.

Interior - The inside of the house needs to be looked at for more visual problems than structural. Check the condition of the floors, look for broken or missing tiles, old torn carpets, broken molding, ripped wallpaper, etc. You will also need to check all the doors. See if they close properly, door knobs work and hinges are firmly attached. Check painted walls for cracks and ceilings for any water spots. In the kitchen, inspect all cabinets. Make sure they all work and knobs and hinges are firmly attached. Check for water damage under the sink. Keep you eyes open for anything that could be hiding a bigger issue.

Insulation - Most older homes may not have any insulation or may have insulation in the attic. An inspector will have equipment to test for heat loss and determine the houses need for additional insulation.

Plumbing, Heating & Electrical - Most of the plumbing will be hidden behind walls but much can be inspected in the basement. Look for leaky pipes and water damage near pipes. Check your pressure and how long it takes for the well pump to turn back on. Check all faucets for leaks. Look under each sink and around each toilet for water damage. Run water in baths and sinks and look for sluggishness and clogs. Flush toilets and take notice of how efficiently they empty.

The heating system needs a complete visual look over. In most older homes, the heating systems are out dated and do need to be replaced. The system could be baseboard heating. In which case you should check each section for the condition of the fins and overall condition of the system. If the fins are all bent and crushed, they will need to be replaced. If carpet or flooring has been installed and the airflow is restricted, they may need to be raised. If it is a forced hot air system, all the ducts and registers need to be checked. Make sure all connections are tight and that the registers open and close. If there is a wood or coal stove, have a professional come in and inspect it for safety. This is also true of any fireplaces and chimneys. Most home inspectors are not qualified to perform these tasks.

Check the service for amperage level. 200 amps is required. Some older homes only have 100 amps. Look for type of wiring in the house. Check wiring for and cut off wires, open and overloaded junction boxes. Look for any spliced wires. These are all hazards. Then check outlets, switches and lights. Make sure they all work.

Moisture & Insect Damage - This should be done while performing all the other checks. Any small sign of visual moisture or insect damage usually means a far greater problem hidden being the walls.

Septic & Well - Always have the water tested. Make sure the well pump works and provides adequate pressure. Also check that the pressure tank is functioning properly.

Check to see the last time septic tank was cleaned. Look for proper vent pipes on roof. Locate the leach field and do a visual inspection of soil. If it is wet and has blackish wet soil, it is usually a sign of a clogged system. If you smell an odor, that also could be a sign of a problem with the leach field. It is an expensive job to replace a leach field.

Living on a Few Acres

A Homesteader's Guide

  • Living in the Country
  • The Tradeoffs
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  • Selecting Location
  • Finding What you Want
  • Pulling the Trigger
  • Remodeling House
  • Building New House
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  • Hand Tools
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  • Harvest Kitchen
  • Splitting the Wood
  • Putting the Garden to Bed
  • Sealing the House
  • Winter Chores

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