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Century Home Basement Unfinished

Century Home Basement Unfinished

Over the years, century old houses have maintained their status as comfortable and desirable places that have stood the test of time. The homes were well built; their continued existence is testimony to that fact.
However, a buyer needs to be fully aware of the unique issues that a century home may present.

Tip #1….Foundations/Basements in a Century Home

Stone foundations were typical (1800’s to 1920’s) , made of rubble stone by stonemasons. These thick foundations were intended to support the house and did not incorporate a footing. Other foundation materials included cement and cinder blocks, which cracked and leaked over time. These basements were not intended as living space and were not insulated. In most cases, some seepage will be seen during heavy rains and in the spring thaw. Brick foundations were introduced between 1910 and 1935.

Basements in a century home can be “full” basements, but still have a low ceiling height. Some home owners have gone to the extent of excavating and “digging down” to allow for a higher ceiling height. Half-height, partial basements with crawl spaces and dirt floors are common to original basements in a century home.

Here is as “must view”… a couple who have renovated their 1800’s basement to a home theatre: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/final-frame-19thcentury-baseme-81663

Stone foundations will only stay dry if the soil surrounding the foundation is dry….so it can be assumed to be unreasonable to expect them to be 100% dry. If in original state, no waterproofing would have been done to the exterior of the foundation, and there would be no weeping tile draining into sump. Older drainage tiles were short sections of terra cotta clay pipe which were laid down end to end. The purpose was to create a void where water could flow. However, these pipes clogged up after a period of time.

Historically, the basement was not expected to be a living area or dry storage area. However, today home buyer’s expect more from the basement space; such as recreation rooms, home offices or possibly basement apartments.
Techniques to keep the basement area dry have evolved, but expectations and usage of basement areas have also evolved. Today, panic sets in with the first hint of moisture.

Before you panic…..do look at the Surface Water Drainage:
• Are gutters overflowing because they are blocked with leaves and debris?
• Are gutters overflowing because there are not enough downspouts on the house?
• Are there paved areas next to the house that slope toward the house?
• At paved areas to the house, is there a sealant in the joint?
• Is the ground around the house sloping away from the house, at least 10 feet?
• Are there any hills sloping down towards the house that may be a source of water?

I recently attended a seminar regarding damp basements….. the heading was “Basements Are Wet”, which sums it up.

Many solutions to waterproof your basement are available on the market today, do your research.