My parents recently got divorced, which was pretty tough on the whole family. My father moved out of my childhood home, and decided to move into his own childhood home, which he had recently inherited. He obviously has a sentimental attachment to the property, but I’m really concerned about it. It’s very old and run-down, and I’m not sure it’s made of the sturdiest materials. I am afraid that it may literally fall down!
My dad says this is all nonsense, of course, and insists that old houses like this are “built tough” and “never fall down” – they used “better materials” back then, he says. But there are cracks in the walls and I’m very concerned. What should I do?
As you probably know, your father isn’t right: houses can fall down, though they’re usually knocked down on purpose before that can happen. The property you’re describing sounds like it’s in serious disrepair.
Old houses’ reputation for sturdiness may come from nostalgia, but it also may come from some differences in how they were constructed. There are certainly things about homes now that rely on mass production. But having someone craft a lock or a window latch individually can be both good and bad; for all the attention being paid, there may also be inconsistencies. And it’s not as if the materials used back then were better, say the contractors at Lyndhurst Lumber – quality materials are available today, as you no doubt realize. Engineering and architectural advances have made it possible to avoid redundancy and save on materials costs (there’s no sense in using a board that’s twice as thick as it needs to be), but modern homes do not sacrifice safety to save cash. And many experts reject the idea that older homes are better than new ones, saying innovations have made new homes better in most, if not all, ways.
And old homes can run into safety problems no matter how great the materials builders use were. The cracks in your father’s wall could be a sign of foundation issues, say Charleston, South Carolina-based foundation remodelers CNT Foundations. Those sorts of issues can be fatal to a home, but they can also often be repaired – the key is to get moving now and find out just how bad the situation is.
A foundation repair team is probably the best place to turn to first for an analysis. Structural issues in homes are often rooted in foundation issues. You could also opt to have the home inspected from top to bottom, of course, but if the main issue is the foundation, a consultation with foundation repair pros would be a cheaper starting point and would get you closer to the solution. There are a lot of ways to end up with structural problems – even trees and shrubs can cause issues – but there are a lot of ways to fight back, too.
But, of course, there’s one more problem: how can you convince your father? It’s not your house, after all. You can start by showing him this answer and other evidence online that cracks in walls and foundations can be fatal to a home. Emphasize that his home can likely be saved by foundation repair pros – it’s true, and might keep your father from choosing denial over action. He doesn’t want to hear that his house is doomed, of course, but perhaps he’ll be open to hearing that his house is in danger – but can be saved.
“The most expensive hobby a rich man could have is a boat, and the second most expensive hobby he could have is a very old house.” – Barbara Corcoran