InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website. How old is my house? This article series provides a photo guide to determining the age of a building by examination of the architectural style of construction or the building materials and components that were used in the structure. Here we list some helpful clues to answer the question "how old is the house? The age of a building can be determined quite accurately by documentation, but when documents are not readily available, visual clues such as those available during a professional home inspection can still determine when a house was built by examining its components, building materials, even nails, fasteners, and types of saw cuts on lumber.
Ceiling joists for the top floor are nailed to the sides of the balloon-framed wall studs just as the floor joists were nailed below. See Log Home Guide. Modular construction - present was first provided on a large scale with Sears Kit homes that were distributed from about to o0. Some modern modular homes built in the U. That is no longer the case. Since at least the 's a modular home is constructed in a factory of one or more sections which are carried to the building site on a trailer photo above left and lifted by a crane to be set upon a foundation which has been prepared ahead of time.
Modular homes can be quite large, involving four or quite a few more individual sections which are lifted and "set" into place at the site photo at left. Some manufacturers provide custom architectural services and can deliver unique, but factory-built homes in sections. Panelized construction : floor and wall panels constructed in a factory are delivered to and assembled at the building site.
Panels may be conventionally-framed stud walls in modular sections or structural panels may be constructed of a sandwich of OSB oriented strand boar plywood, or wafer board on either side of solid foam board insulation. Panelized construction makes use of wall, floor, ceiling or roof "panels" which have been framed off-site and brought to the site by truck.
Panels are lifted into place by crane and fastened together on a foundation, and possibly a framed-in floor which have been prepared before the panels arrive. Some framing panels make use of special materials, such as plywood and foam roof panels for insulated cathedral ceilings. Plank houses were constructed entirely of sawn planks and without the use of larger dimensioned 2x lumber.
Some of the plank houses we've inspected were made from scraps or salvaged lumber such as a home in Dutchess County New York that was constructed from packing crate wood. Larger collections of plank houses were built as company housing in the mining or railroad industries.
A floor is constructed atop of the building foundation, forming the first "platform", using the platform as a working surface. Interior plywood is generally glued with urea formaldehyde based glues; exterior plywood and marine plywood use phenolic formaldehyde glues and are water resistant.
The cross-grain construction combined with glue produces a strong, uniform material that is used for both enclosure and for structural stiffness in frame construction of building walls and roofs. The properties of plywood, including its tolerance to weather exposure marine plywood depend on the glues and finishes used.
Both softwood and hardwoods are used in plywoods, and fine wood veneer finishes are also available for furniture use. Timber frame construction initially used hand hewn beams, later manually or mechanically sawn beams cut by a pit saw. Timber framing using post and beam construction with mortise and tenon joint connections was used in Europe for at least years before it was first employed in North America.
By a typical timber frame building used multiple bents and girt beams, may have been more than one story tall, and included an exterior made of horsehair-reinforced cement stuccoed over hand-split lath. Our photo above shows an 18th century Norwegian timber frame building using brick infill and stucco to complete the wall enclosure.
Where there are special safety or maintenance concerns for certain systems we cite those as well. At above left we show a photograph of an "octopus heating furnace", originally coal fired, usually by now if still in use converted to natural gas fuel.
These octopus furnaces, also called "gravity heating systems" provided heat by natural convection, hot air rising into the building from the top of the furnace where it was delivered to the building first floor through a wood or iron grate, or perhaps delivered through metal ducts.
The original installation usually supplied heat to a home through a central grate in the first floor of the building from where warm air might rise to upper floors. Later versions or modified original systems added ducts to individual rooms, sometimes still only on the first floor of the building. These furnaces are the ancestor of modern forced hot air heating systems. Our photo at left shows a pre brick wall lining used as insulation and as a wind or draft block.
Dating old houses
Brick nogging can determine the probable age for the home. Houses built between an or perhaps earlier may have brick-lined walls. I have found brick nogging in the walls of a Poughkeepsie NY home. A close observation of the type of fasteners used in a building is one of the most popular means of estimating its age.
Hand wrought nails, machine cut nails, modern round "wire" nails and other details offer considerable information about the time of original construction of a building as well as of the time of modifications to the structure.
An examination of nails and fasteners and other building hardware is a complimentary effort useful in determining the age of a building and its components. The window latch shown in our photo above left dates from the Justin Morrill Smith Historic house in Vermont. Above is door hardware from the Suffolk Reserves house dating from Notice in both the door hardware photo above and that shown below that unlike contemporary passage door locksets, the knob setback distance from the door edge is considerably greater.
The photos shows the door lock hardware and the folding-down interior turn knob and key opening. On the other side of this door was a small keyhole and a white ceramic door knob.
Discovering old Welsh houses. A project to identify and date old Welsh houses from tree ring dating of timbers used in their construction. Examine any saw and kerf marks visible on the beams; a magnifying glass may be helpful in this endeavor. As any blade cuts through wood, it leaves marks; a pit saw, gash saw and circular saw each leave a very different type of doursim.com pit saw left uneven and irregular kerf marks, and was in use from the earliest days of American settlement; the gash saw left large, regular "up and down" kerf. Apr 20, Old houses don't have to be drafty. It's a common assumption that the older a home is, the draftier it will be - and in the case of many homes that haven't been ated recently, it's true. Homes built in the midth century and before didn't have the same care for insulation as homes built today, largely because energy costs were.
There are several generations of plaster and lath, plaster board, and drywall which have been used in buildings. We name and illustrate these and discuss their periods of use below as an aid in finding out how old a building is and tracing its history. Details about Beaver-board and Upson Board, a wood fiber product used as an inexpensive interior wall covering and draft blocker from about are provided.
On the exposed side this wood fiberboard product was usually painted and its joints covered with wood lath or other trim.
In some applications it was covered with wallpaper. In some homes it was later covered with drywall to provide a more fire-resistant surface. As late as the 's Upson Board was used in prefabricated houses and exterior building sheathing and in recreational vehicles. Upson purchased the Beaver Board plant from CertainTeed in Upson began its decline in the 's and closed inopening later that year as Niagara Fiberboard.
Often old gas lines have been disconnected entirely and sometimes they have been re-used to route electrical wiring to new light fixtures or to gaslight fixtures which have been converted to electric.
Don't assume that an old gas fixture or valve on a wall or found in a fireplace are inactive. We turned-on and lit this fixture which gave a bright surprise to everyone.
Watch out for "live gas" connections to supposedly abandoned gas piping and don't trust " Plumbing fixtures and piping materials offer considerable age in dating a building, including easy clues such as the presence of a date of manufacture stamped into many toilet tanks to the periods of use of types of water supply piping lead, galvanized steel, black iron pipe, copper, plastic piping and building drain piping lead, cast iron, copper, plastic, clay.
Often on older buildings multiple types of piping will be present as repairs and changes have been made in the building plumbing system. Chart of plumbing types and years of use courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates. But an inspection of interior and exterior roofing details can indicate the probable age of a wood roof which can last up to 40 years as well as the roofing history of the building, the number and types of roofing layers, and related house-age-determination details.
The wood shingle roof shown in the photo below is on a building in Key West, Florida, adjacent to the Hemingway house, viewed from the Key West tower.
What necessary dating old houses you tell error
Notice the absence of lichens on the wood shingles in the roof area below the metal-flashed rooftop tower? We discuss here various roofing materials Wood, slate, asphalt shingles in several generationsclay tile, metal roofing several styles and generationsand how they assist in finding The age of a building below.
This article series explains the eras of use of different types of roofing materials as an aid to understanding the history and age of buildings.
If you are trying to determine the age and condition of a particular roof covering, please see Roofing. Cement board is a non-structural building sheathing material which in its contemporary form is made from Portland cement covered with a reinforced fiberglass mesh fabric. Cement board is used as a tile backer or a backer board for stucco applications on buildings.
Generations of types of saws used in cutting beams, and similar details are readily available on many buildings and offer both clues to building age and wonderful aesthetic detail. There we illustrate different types of saw and tool cut marks in wood: adze cuts, hand sawn pit saw marks, mechanically-operated pit saw marks, circular saw marks, and unmarked, planed modern dimensional lumber.
An understanding of how hand-hewn beams were cut, for example, can permit the careful observer to not only recognize the type and age of building framing, but even to understand just where the worker was standing when a blow from a tool was delivered to a building framing member. Adze cuts to hew a rectangular beam out of a round log were made in two steps: an adze, a hoe-like cutting tool with wooden offset handle was used to make a series of cuts along the round up-facing surface of a log.
A photograph of stencil numbers on wood framing shown here confirms that this building was a Sears Kit House whose model and probable age we can determine. Other kit homes were sold by Montgomery Ward and by a few other manufacturers including copies of some of the popular Sears and Roebuck houses that continued to be sold after Sears had discontinued their production.
Jude and I walked to the car and the door opened wide and a very nice normal-looking woman with color in her cheeks called us back. Jude and I smiled at each other, thinking, "way to go, George! I could hear her talking to a man and he to her, and then she started shouting questions down the stairs to us, and I up to her, signing for Jude who is deaf the whole time.
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Jude and I were laughing because it was just like a scene from the "Wizard of Oz"! Then this tall, lanky man comes bounding down the stairs flashing piercing blue eyes - and I apologized for interrupting his work and said we'd come back.
I showed the man the sales transaction and the coin and we were a. The man invited us upstairs and started going through all his books to try and find the two names, and the street - and let me go through anything I wanted.
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The only really interesting documents we came away with were an petition by the residents of Franklin Street including our mariner Post's signature requesting the town to accept Franklin Street and also widen and lengthen it up to Milk Street. We also found information about Post's family father, Ebeneezer, wife Mary, her parents which includes her mother's maiden name a woman must have written this genealogyand five daughters!
This riven lath helps date Nancy's house to pre From there we went to City Hall, and the assessor's office. There was information about 35 Franklin Street, and the assessor actually started having fun looking at the maps with us.
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We found a missing link - we are very, very lucky because the empty lot next to us, inhad a house right up against ours. There couldn't have been two feet between them. If anybody builds there now, it will have to be I think at least 10 feet from ours.
From there we went to the planner's office.
Keep in mind that even when we can identify specific types of building materials and building methods, precise dating of the time of construction of a building remains difficult: old building materials were often re-used, so beams, siding, and other components may appear in a building built later than when the materials were first made. Each detail of your old house, from its appearance to construction, contains valuable clues to the building's age. Dovetailed with building research, it often reveals a story of development and change. This brochure is a brief introduction to dating methods. Pamphlet created by: Ryan D. Hayward, Preservation Consultant IntroductionFile Size: KB.
We discovered the Registry of the Historic District - and there was our house, 35 Franklin Street, central chimney vernacular, circa ! Let the Revolution begin! There was nothing on the Gunnison who sold the house to Post beyond the sales transaction.
Dating an old house. The Old House Web. Tweet. Editor's note: Nancy Platteborze is sharing the story of her restoration of a year-old house with The Old House Web. In this installment, she tells about researching her home's history. Index to all stories in this series. By Nancy Platteborze. Old Electrical Wiring Types Photo guide to types of Electrical Wiring in Older buildings. We illustrate a variety of types of electrical wiring found in older buildings. While varying somewhat by area of the country in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and other areas, there are recognizable generations of electrical wiring (KNOB & TUBE, greenfield, armored cable or BX wiring, plastic or NM. Dating a building with Nails. Before Hand-Wrought Nails; Early Machine Cut Nails (Crude) Early Machine Headed Cut Nails; Modern Machine Cut Nails (source of the illustration above: Thomas D Visser - "Nails: Clues to a Building's History" - See also his book "Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings").
So that's yet to be dug up, and of course, as soon as the library archives open up again, I'm going hunting for Annie. Now that we know Post had five daughters, I wonder if that had something to do with her staying at the house?
So James lived with seven women. Nancy Platteborze with an resuscitated antique lilac. Don't put a dishwasher or television in her house! Back at my house, I grapple with the reality of restoring a house sensitively while making it suitable for modern living.
Take my hinges. I think the hinges are original, although they're glopped over with paint. Most are attached with original nails and just a couple modern screws. I have traced what's here and sent the design to a blacksmith who wants to hand forge the hardware for the house.
I think I want him to do that, but haven't decided what period I want to go with yet or even if I want to go that "decide on a period and go with it" traditional restoration route. Something bugs me about that. I don't believe "pure" reflects any historical stage. We live in a mix of old, new, and in-between - I don't think anybody ever lived in a purely one period or another space.
On by mod - Aluminum sheath, cloth covered copper, three wire has loom and filler. Thanks Sean we'll add that to the collection of wiring types - it'll help other readers - and I'll do some research to see what background I can find.
It would be helpful to know the country and city of the home where this was found as well as the age of the home and whether or not there are any special environmental concerns that might have led to the use of this wiring. Also we need to see the stripped back wire ends to show other readers that this is copper wire in an aluminum sheath I suspect this was a form of pre-wired "conduit" using semi-flexible aluminum tubing.
I've included your photo and further comments and research in the article above on this page. Solid but flexible metal conduit with rules about just how it may be bent is using solid aluminum is one of several forms of pre-wired conduit that was probably intended for use in hazardous areas. I've on occasion seen such industrial products used in the construction of private homes, perhaps because the owner or builder had a line on some "free" materials that fell off of the truck.
So to speak. The photo above illustrates two generations of metallic-sheathed armored cable or "BX" electrical wire. The larger diameter wider-wrapped armored cable is probably Greenfield flexible steel armored cable, a wiring type patented in Where does "BX" come from? The second version "B" was the more successful version that was produced. The term "BX" stuck on later versions of flexible metal armored cable: the smaller-diameter modern "BX" wire is in the left of the photo and connects to the left side of the electrical box.
Greenfield's original design used multiple strands of copper conductors, typically twisted, and surrounded by a pitch-like insulating material like that we illustrate in Edison's original underground electrical cables shown.
My invention is directed particularly to improvements in electric cables designed for ocean service, and has for its objects.
Below: an early advertisement for Cres-Flex armored cable or "flexible metallic-sheathed" wire:. The asbestos-insulated electrical wiring wire loom or "flexible conduit" shown above is discussed in detail. Asbestos electrical wire insulation is reported by some websites as "common" but I suspect its use was most-common in applications where extra heat resistance and fire safety were a concern, such as theater wiring, electrical appliance wiring, aircraft wiring.
Above: varnished-cloth electrical wire on the ballast used in a fluorescent light fixture in a 's home built in northern Minnesota. Metal and more recently plastic tubing are both used as conduit for routing and protecting electrical wiring in a wide range of applications.
Dini notes that the earliest wire conduit material ca was made of wood moldings grooved to carry the conductors and covered with a wooden cap. But you won't find that material today except perhaps in an authentic or un-restored older building. Modern conduit is made of rigid metal that can be bent into elbows, plastic that includes pre-bent elbows, and flexible metal and plastic ENT materials.
Electrical conduit is also sold in a flexible metal design that should not be confused with BX or Greenfield armored cable: this flexible metal conduit looks like BX or armored cable but is sold "empty". Below this section of flexible metal conduit was a left-over scrap that had had three wires inserted through the protective cable. A bonding jumper must be installed in accordance with NEC Section No angle connectors are permitted in concealed raceway installations.
The photograph of copper-clad aluminum electrical wire shows the wiring sheathing markings [click to enlarge]. Unlike aluminum electrical wire used in branch circuits a fire hazar copper-clad aluminum wire performs about as well as copper wire and is considered safe for use in homes provided of course that the wiring has been correctly installed.
Photograph above provided by and used with permission of Roger Hankey, a Minnesota home inspector. Watch out : where we find zip cord electrical wiring it is important to see what other unsafe wiring practices that same installer may have followed.
Above the same do-it-yourself' er has left at least six, probably more unsafe details at this electrical receptacle:. Below we show the front of this add-on electrical receptacle.
One thing is "correct" though: the installer used a two-prong receptacle that excludes a third ground prong opening - as he should have done as the circuit does not include a grounding conductor. The exterior insulation on cloth or fabric-insulated NMC electrical wires are often black, silver, or white but may also be black or brown.
The individual conductors within the cable may be insulated in rubber or fabric-covered rubber or they may be insulated by plastic in later wiring products.
See details includeing the history of manufacturers of fabric-insulated wire along with dates, trademarks, and identifying photographs of a number of these cloth-insulated wire types. The earliest form of electrical wiring system in buildings in the U. Both of these are shown in our photo below. Knob and tube wiring diminished in popularity in North America bybut continued to be installed as new work in some locations including New York until about This wiring as pre-existing or "old-work" electrical wiring, is still described in the U.
National Electrical Code in Article Plastic NMC began replacing both rubber wire insulation and fabric-based wire insulation in the U. PVC here refers to plastics based on polyvinyl chloride.
Plastic or thermoplastic nonmetallic cable such asa that shown below, still referred to by many electricians as "Romex" cable, has been in use since the 's and in the U. But in some jurisdictions including some large cities, local electrical codes require metallic armored cable.
It's fair to say that rubber in a somewhat different form was the first electrical wire insulating material, at least in the U. The object of my invention is to effectively insulate wire, so that it will be waterproof and capable of being used in moist places and even under water without detriment to its insulating qualities, and also fire-proof, so that if by accident the wire becomes red-hot the insulating-covering will not be set on fire and burned, but only oxidation will result, which will leave the wire pyro-insulated.
The main feature of the invention is the use as an insulating-covering of a mixture of rubber with an infusible material in the form of a powder. But actually earlier electrical power cable and wiring insulation appeared as rope, tarred fabric, and even wood. However the rubber insulated wire illustrated by Edison's patent represented the first economical branch circuit conductor wire insulation approach that could be mechanically and economically produced in high volume.
More electrical generator equipment dating from Edison's day and still on display at the Pratt Institute can be seen. Above: This wire was a short section of extension cord that had been used to connect a permanently-mounted fluorescent light fixture to power by plugging it into a wall-mounted electrical receptacle. Below: this is a sample of plastic-insulated multi-strand electrical wire that was encased in the rubber jacket shown above.
When the light failed to operate the author, on disassembly, found that the insulation on this wire was badly deteriorated, crumbling, and unsafe. In our rubber and fabric wire insulation photo below you can see that inside the outer rubber wire jacket these conductors were insulated by fabric-covered rubber. The wire shown below combines the hot and neutral wires in an external rubber jacket.
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But the earliest electrical wiring systems in the U. Sometimes you may find tinned-copper electrical wire in these older conductors. Don't mistake tinned-copper for aluminum electrical wiring. Beneath the heavy rubber exterior of the welder power cable we see a cloth fabric that might be an asbestos fabric needed for extra heat resistance.
Above: Above we're looking at the cut-end of what is most likely a section of original DC or continuous current distribution cabling salvaged from a NYC trench. The solid copper core was wrapped in rope to insulate it from the iron pipe and the space between that cable and the surrounding iron pipe was filled with a pitch-like substance.
In theaters where electrical wiring is often temporary, we often find surprising and possibly unsafe installations. The rubber-coated wires shown below were observed in a New York theatre and looked better than what my brother-in-law Matt, a theatre electrician, could produce.
Theater fires are particularly dangerous as there is likely to be a crowd stampede to exits, poor lighting, and lots of combustible materials. In my home town, Richmond VA, the Hippodrome theater, opened incaught fire in when I was just two so I'm not responsible. The fire was thought to have been electrical in origin. The U. Older homes often have electrical receptacles and fixtures that are ungrounded, and many local codes do not require that they be rewired so they're grounded.
Still, grounding is worth adding to your system because it adds protection against electrical shock. Above we see both older fabric-covered electrical conductors and newer plastic-insulated wires in an electrical panel.
The bare copper wire that is nearly black was a clue in tracking down a neutral and ground wiring failure at this building. Above the same rubber-insulated electrical wire discussed earlier is also used to illustrate the dull silvery colored metal wire observed where tinned copper electrical wiring is installed.