Title Page
 Superficial examination
 The detailed inspection
 APT article : X-ray investigation...
 The diagnosis
 Examining building systems
 Examining mechanical systems
 Rewiring old houses
 Old House Journal article : Running...
 Old House Journal article : co-existing...
 Old House Journal article : Bathrooms...
 From: Home Guide to Repairm Upkeep,...
 List of slides
 Inspection checklish for vintage...
 From: Homeseeker's Handbook : If...
 From: The House for You : Know...

Title: How to conduct an architectural survey
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100885/00001
 Material Information
Title: How to conduct an architectural survey
Physical Description: Pt. 1, 30p. Pt. 2, 53 sls. : articles.
Language: English
Creator: Currais, Jorge L.
Publisher: Jorge L. Currais
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1976
Copyright Date: 1976
Subject: Historic preservation
Architectural survey
Architecture -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Architecture -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
General Note: AFA Historic Preservation document 90
General Note: Completed for UF course ARC622
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00100885
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Superficial examination
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
    The detailed inspection
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    APT article : X-ray investigation of buildings
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
    The diagnosis
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
    Examining building systems
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    Examining mechanical systems
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
    Rewiring old houses
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
    Old House Journal article : Running electrical wire
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
    Old House Journal article : co-existing with old piping
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
    Old House Journal article : Bathrooms in the old house
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
    From: Home Guide to Repairm Upkeep, and Remodling : The electrical system
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
    List of slides
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
    Inspection checklish for vintage houses
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
    From: Homeseeker's Handbook : If you buy
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
    From: The House for You : Know what you buy
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
Full Text



JUNE 9, 1976


It is the intent of this project to study the techniques used

to make an architectural survey. There are usually two reasons for

conducting a survey: one is to study and learn the history and de--

velooment of a building through an analysis of the existing fabric;

the second is to diagnose the structural condition of the property.

A full and detailed survey can never be done in a hurry and one

should come prepared for a painstaking and exhausting tour of the

building. The purpose of this report is to concentrate on the ar-

chitectural survey which is conducted simply to discover the struc-

tural condition of the building. I have also included a section on

analyzing and repairing electrical and plumbing systems in the old


I. Superficial Examination

The following information is from The Restoration Manual, by

Orin M. Bullock, Jr., F.A.I.A. :

A superficial examination should be made of every exposed part

of the building, inside and out, excluding no accessible spaces.

Facts may be deduced during this examination; also many questions

"-ill be raised and clues recorded for later study. It is essential

that all features and details observed be described in narrative form

where measured drawings fail to record full information. All surface

materials, the method of their manufacture or fabrication, utilization

in the structure, and relationships one to the other should be noted,

dated if possible, and recorded.

This examination of the building should start with a study of

its overall form, size, and proportions. Every evidence of change

or alteration such as a difference in brickwork (which might be in

the brick size, bond, texture, color, or coursing) should be noted.

Heads, jambs, and sills of door and window openings in brick struc-

tures should be carefully examined for the manner in which the work

was finished. It is almost always possible to determine whether or

not door and window openings in brickwork are in their original lo-

cations because it is exceedingly difficult to alter the size of an

opening in a brick wall without making the change apparent to even

a casual examination.

Additional stories are often revealed by changes in the char-

acter of brickwork both in walls and around window openings, even

though such items as the cornice or trim may appear from a casual

examination to have been a part of the original fabric. Frame buil-

dings often show evidences of alterations through changes in the

character of the weatherboarding or siding

The location, form, and detail of dormer windows and the treat-

meant of the roof surfaces should be studied and differences from

normal practice recorded. It is unwise to assume that work is or

is not a nart of the initial construction until investigation pro-

vides evidence.

On the other hand, many features and details such as asphalt

shingles or imitation brick siding may be generally dated by even

the most casual observation; the romantic trim of the Victorian era

is not likely to be confused with that of any other period and a

heavy mutined small light sash will be recognized at once as earlier

than t"lose of the nineteenth century. Such an authentic dateable

detail, cannot, of course, be used alone as evidence to date a building.

It will be discovered, too, that salvaged material has often been in-

stalled in later work.

The Dresence or absence of shutters should be noted and each

window examined for shutter hardware or evidence of their former

presence and if found, record shall be made of its kind or design.

It should be noted, too, whether or not the window frames and trim

annear to be a nart of the oriFinal fabric or later replacements.

The elass in the sash should be noted and its thickness and texture,

color and imperfections, and even its source or method of manufacture,

the nature of the putty, and method of holding the glass in the sash

should be recorded. Notice the method of trimming external corners

and the openings in wooden houses. Such features have varied through

the years, and from place to place, as have profiles of molding

and the cross sections of weatherboarding.

Keen in mind that the purnose of this superficial examination

is to note those features which are typical of the period and those

which seem to be unusual or different from usual practice. In order

to plan the more radical examination which is to follow it is advis-

able to determine the need for the eventual removal of parts in ques-

tion, to decide whether or not any unusual features are an idiosyn-

crasy of the builder and a part of the original fabric or are actu-

ally later additions. There will be many cases where evidence other

than that found in the superficial examination will be necessary to

be sure of a suspected change or to definitely authenticate an ap-

parently original piece of work.

The superficial examination should also include all inside spaces

such as attics, cellars, or crawl spaces which may be reached by the

examiner without demolishing any nart of the structure. The inves-

tigation should be made on a space by-space basis.

Alterations, additions, and changes which have occurred during

the history of the building are often plainly revealed in the foundation

walls. Historical facts supplemented by archaeological dating evidence

may be confirmed by the nature of the foundation walls and the char-

acter of the superstructure they support. The pavement of basement

floors, should be particularly suspect, because brick or stone base-

ment floors, of apparently original construction, have quite often

been laid over earlier flooring surfaces.

Particular notice should be taken of the framing of the first

floor if it is exposed in the basement; this would include the nature

of the structural members, their size, and whether they were fabricated

with axes or sawn, and, if the latter, whether with a "pit", band, or

circular saw. Fireplaces should be given special attention because

their design may indicate whether they were used for heating or

cooking, thereby revealing the function of the room.

Some basement stories are constructed largely above outside

grade and have been used other than as basement rooms. In such cases

they may have undergone radical alterations during the course of their

history and it will be immediately apparent that a more detailed ex-

amination must be made to determine the actual original use of the


mh study of the overhead floor framing and the masonry walls of

the basement, if exposed, must include: a recording of all unusual

materials such as steel or metal lintels over window openings; notches

for headers cut or built into floor framing members; or mortices which

may suggest the location of earlier partition studding, stairwells,

or fireplaces.

The examiner must not delude himself that he can remember all he

sees as he nasses through a building, or indeed, all that he sees

during a careful investigation. It is perfectly amazing and frustrating

to find, when drawing up field notes in the quiet of a drafting room,

that a salient feature observed in the Southeast room has been for-

gotten. Or was it the Southwest room? On the first floor or the second

floor? And it seemed so obvious at the time so obvious that no

record was made in the notebook. The examiner should take nothing

for granted, particularly his memory, and should devote sufficient

time in each space or room to be sure that he overlooks nothing.

The crack in the wall, the return of a cornice, the unusual jointing

of floor hoards, the slight misalignment of paneling, or the notch

in a rafter for a collar beam which is not there, may provide the

key to the former use and finish of the space.

This superficial examination of the building should also pick

out those places where a detailed investigation of painted work should

he made. Tentative probing and scranins with a pen knife in protected

locations may uncover clues to the former decorative treatment of

the building and provide a guide for later investigation with scapel

and magniifying glass, or for later removal of pieces of trim or

other arts for a more detailed examination. (Molding profiles, other-

wise lost, have been found distinctly traced in paintwork long cov-

ered by later trim.)

So far as the architectural research is concerned, the most

important controls are nerhans that of the restoration date and pro-

nosed use decided unon. Once these have been fixed, then the extent of

architectural research necessary can be established.

In this next nhase of the work a complete and detailed investi-

nation inevitably results in the destruction or at least the removal

of work of nast generations. Even though many original arts may

eventually be returned to their former places, the operation is in-

evitably less convincing than the restoration of the original work

left in lace.

II. The Detailed Inspection

The first step in inspecting an old house is to be prepared.

Some tools which will be useful, if not necessary are: flashlight,

magnet, plumbline, small knife, paper and pencil, a marble, and a

checklist. Wear old clothes so you can closely look into places

like cellars, crawl spaces, and foundations.

In order to insure that no detail is missed, it is wise to fol-

low a clan of coverage. The steps that the architect may follow are

strictly a matter of preference. The most common method is to exam-

ine the exterior first, then the interior starting from the roof -

space and going down to each successive floor, and finally examing

foundations, drains, and services. Examination of some mechanical

systems might make it necessary to have the aid of an assistant.

The best description of what to look for in the detailed in-

vestigation is given in Donald Insall's book, "The Care of Old

Buildings Today", pages fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven, and

fifty-eight. To report:

"Outside, the architect will first note the general structural

design, the materials and present condition of the building and its

elements, including the date and sequence of its construction, and

any signs of past alterations and extensions which might give a clue

to its history. If there are structural movements, it is important

to decide what settlement is alive and what is now expended. Leaning

walls, dipping lines of eaves or brickwork courses, and signs of past

and present movement must all be perfectly noted with regard to their

cause, significance and possibility of future remedy. A vigilant

watch will be kept for all signs of damp, like mossy patches, efflor-

escence and other staining. The path of rainwater, from roofs to

utters, downpipes and drains will be imaginatively pictured under

the worst possible conditions. Damp-proof courses, dry areas, and

every defence against the weather require close inspection. Relative

rates of decay should be looked into, with special attention to points

damage by iron-fixings built into stonework, the effects of differen-

tial movement between materials of varying shrinkage and dates,

and the condition and weathering of the joints and ledges, which

miqht cause accelerated damage to the structure and fabric.

Passing to the interior, the roof-spaces will first be inspected,

their construction and materials, alterations and movements being

noted and checked in detail. The constructional form of the roof,

beyond reach of everyday alterations, will often reveal a great deal

about the architectural history of the house. The rafters may for

example be of heavy, squarish scantlings of oak, laid flat and pegged

together in pairs at their apex. A projecting wing may then have

been constructed against it at a later date, with obviously newer

valleys laid against the old rafters. The younger additions may in

turn have ridge-boards and newer lighter timbers in deal, of deeper

and narrower scantlings. Purlins and struts may be found to have

been added or internal gutters roofed over, and sometimes braces and

whole trusses have been cut away or removed. A great chimney stack

may have been taken away, leaving tell-tale soot marks where there

were once flues, and trimmed openings in the ceilings the whole

perhaps giving clues to the cause of a leaning gable above. At the

eave, a medieval timber frame may be revealed behind a later brick

red Georgian facing. Perhaps the existence of hearths in what is

now the roof-space will show a building to have been reduced in height.

The ventilation, dryness and cleanliness of the roof-space should all

be noted, together with the cause of every defect.

Passivr to the floor below, each room in turn will then be in-

snected, and its ceiling, wall and floor finishes, joinery, windows,

fireplaces, fittings, services and decorations; and any special fea-

tures all carefully noted, with comments on their condition and re-


The architect should be orenared to lift linoleum and boarding at

frequent intervals, particularly in areas near external rainwater

pines, under internal roof gutters and at all similar danger points.

The adequacy of subfloor ventilation will be checked, the size, ma-

terial and condition of members noted, and timbers such as wallplates

tapped and probed with a penknife. 'Dead' sounding timbers are always

suspect, and a sharp watch will be kept for all tell-tale piles of

bore-dust and for the clean, bright exist wholes which denote active

beatle attack. Surprisingly often the direction of floor boards proves

to be misleading, an original and worn floor having been 'cased'

with later boarding in a cross-wise direction. In this event before

any holes or inspection traps are cut, it will be wise to check whether

the older boarding underneath could with advantage be opened up and

carefully repaired. But in all too many places, defective and beetle-

infested boarding will prove to have been simply encased with new

wood without any attempt at eradicating the pest; and frequently

both old and new wood will now be infested. Inspection holes must be

large enough to insert one's head and a torch, so as to reveal as

much as possible of the surrounding structure. The condition of tim-

bers and the bearing of heavy beans near fireplaces may call for spe-

cial notice and remark, especially if damage has been caused to chim-

neys and flues, for example by slow-combustion stoves or oil-fired


If for any reason part of the structure is inaccessible, this

fact should be carefully noted: and it may be helpful to collect to-

7ether a list of enquiries and requests for keys, for a final sally

with the building owner.

At around level, the architect will note the nature of the sub-

soil and foundations (if any), the damp-proof courses, (again, if

any) site cover and subfloor ventilation, and the existence of any

special features like sealed or onen wells. The presence of cellars

should always be suspected, whether or not they are known to the

owners; and an onen eve must be kept for rising damp, such as may

have been caused by any normal water-table of the surrounding ground,

or by natural underground water movements. Cellars are indeed almost

invariably under-ventilated as well as damp, and this is in innumer-

able cases due simply to the thoughtless blocking of ventilators,

sometimes by flower-beds and sometimes simply for addPd winter warmth.

The conditions of manholes gives agood indication of the state

of the drains. The sewage disposal or collection arrangements will

need at least inspection if not testing, and so will details like

lightning conductors, provisions for fire-fighting, water supply

and tanks, and the -eneral state of electrical installations. If

a full electrical report is needed, this can be supplied by the

authorities at reasonable charges, varying with the amount of work

involved. When an occupant has lived in a building for very many

years, or particularly if there is an elderly and trusted maintenance

man, it will be invaluable for him to accompany the architect on

his inspection, when a whole mine of half-forgotten details and

memories mav be uncovered.

During the whole of a visit, a weather eye will meanwhile be kept

oDnn for old pictures and plans of the house, often framed and al-

most forgotten, and quite irreplaceable as archives.

Lastly aftpr finding one's spectacles, discarding used batteries

and shaking off the cobwebs, the only remaining duties are to thank

the hostess, note the telephone numbers and the na-es of people met,

and to write promising or enclosing the report."

Included in this report is a new method of conducting a detailed

examination without destroying any of the building fabric. It was

invented by David I. Hart a designer from Topsfield, Massachusetts.

The articles appeared in A.P.T. Journals, vol V, no. 1, 1973 and

vol VI, no. 1, 1974.


David M. Hart, Designer, Topsfield, Mass.

This paper and the accompanying illustrations partially
describe the author's experimental efforts to develop the X-ray process
as a means of exploring invisible conditions within historic structures,
and to determine its potential for conducting non-destructive physical
research. The process is in its initial stages of investigation, with
the assistance of the staff of the Society for the Preservation of New
England Antiquities, and James H. Ballou, Architect.
The equipment used is a Picker Corp. Portashot System, which
is composed of an X-ray generator, film holder, and processing unit.
The entire system can be purchased for approximately $5,000.00.
Polaroid ) sheet radigraphic film is used, as it can be quickly devel-
oped in the field for examination and correction of technique. The
film cost is about $3.00 per shot, in addition to the equipment cost.
The entire system is portable, and requires only 115 v.a.c. line current
for operation. The generator weighs 13 pounds, and the processing unit
weighs an additional 50 pounds (see Figure 1).
X-rays are basically a form of high energy electromagnetic
radiation, capable of penetrating most materials. The radiation is
absorbed to varying degrees by different building materials, and the
resulting pattern appears on a film placed on the other side of a
group of materials. This pattern gives a picture of the internal
composition. For example, when a wall is "shot," the generator is set
up approximately three feet away. The film holder is placed against
the opposite side of the wall, and the exposure made. The film packet
is then run through the processing unit for 45 seconds.
The results so far indicate that wood is easily penetrated,
with internal conditions such as grain pattern, rotted and insect
damaged areas readily determined. Iron, steel and other metals are
vividly displayed in contrast to wood. Normal thicknesses of plaster
are easily penetrated, but mortar, clay and stone materials are not.
The presence of lead paint is usually apparent.
The following examples of X-ray techniques will illustrate
the advantages and limitations encountered so far.
The first example is from the Dexter-Treadwell House,
Topsfield, Mass. (c. 1741). This is an internal wall, plastered on
one side and panelled on the other. The X-ray reveals stud wall con-
struction, with early, hand-split lath, forged nails, and a recent
thermostat cord (Figures 2 and 3).
The next example is taken through a ceiling in the House
of the Seven Gables (John Turner House, 1679) Salem, Mass. There is
a prominent crack in the plastered ceiling, which suggests a structural
failure (Figure 4). The X-ray reveals a joist directly above the
crack, which is being displaced downward by a partition. This would
seem to account for the crack. In addition, evidence is seen of new,

A P T Vol. V No. 1 1973 Page 9

regular width lath to the right of the joist, and old, hand-split lath
to the left. This indicates the area of recent work on the ceiling
(Figure 5).
The third example is from the Harrison-Gray-Otis House,
lh,:ilin, M! (I /'() h l ui New England Antiquities. The photograph shows one side of an internal
wall (Figure 6). Both sides have plaster above a chair rail. This side
is plastered below its elaborate rail, while the other side (not illus-
trated) has wood panelling below. The X-ray reveals items hidden in the
wall. Lath and plaster are seen, as well as possible plank wall con-
struction. Carved ornament details on one of the chair rails is evident;
numerous coats of paint conceal them from view on the surface (Figure 7).
The next example is a ramped side rail in the stair hall of
the S.P.N.E.A.'s Codman House property in Lincoln, Mass. The staircase
had been constructed in the 1790's, and had been partially remodeled in
the second half of the 19th century. There is a question as to the
dating of the rail (Figure 8). The wall illustrated has plaster above
the rail and wood panelling below. The opposite side of the wall (not
illustrated), also has plaster above a chair rail, and wood panelling
below. The presence of wrought nails and uniform paint distribution
is made clear by the X-ray. The evidence, therefore, suggests that the
rail is of the 1790 period (Figure 9).
The fifth example is from the Edward Allen House, Salem,
Mass. (1768). A summer beam spans 36 feet, at the middle of which
there is a cross wall. The X-ray, taken at the door jamb in this wall,
reveals an apparent six-inch wide stud. This stud evidently acts as
a support. Lath and the door frame members are all attached to this
stud. Note the presence of a large hand-wrought spike (Figures 10 and
The advantages of field examination by X-ray are evident;
the limitations so far seem to be the necessity of taking the picture
straight-on to achieve clarity. There is also the difficulty of
analysis caused by the lack of depth perception. It is hoped that
further trials can overcome these limitations by use of stereo picture
In summary, this process seems to have definite advantages
in the investigation of structural conditions in historic buildings.
The X-ray analysis is certainly less expensive than tearing out a
section of covering materials for examination. In a scholarly sense,
it permits the investigation of areas that a preservationist would not
ordinarily open up, and therefore can make a significant contribution
to the cause of preservation.

A PT Vol. V No. 1 1973 Page 10

'*&. .'- T.*'* '_ 4L*Na m

kE----*-~4^-- y
L T- ,' qn..,:. ,

A~ *~'~j~

Fig. 3 Dexter-Treadwell House, Topsfield, Mass.
Key to X-ray: 1. Possible wire nail, on trim
2. Wrought nails
3. Hand-riven lath
4. Plaster Key
5. Thermostat wire
6. Wide stud (or door post)
7. Door backband moulding
Note: Incompleteness of photo is a consistent
processing defect.

A P Vol. V No. 1

1973 Page 13

*r %..i -. - -:

..r. .- .

Fig. 6 Harrison Gray Otis House, Boston, Mass. Rectangle drawn across
photo of chair rail indicates area of X-ray seen in Figure 7.


Vol. V No. 1

/*'* ^

"' '-

~c~-c~.c~:.' -

1973 Page 16

"r;~?" Y. -I~~
., .4* :.;~
--r .7

- ,4

)" -*" ? -* .-

M~fa.LL "- *'1..-^ -
i o
***HB^BS^"^7 rA

^i.,. -^>-,^ i~ r .' *. z jju--

Fig. 7 Harrison Gr
Key to X-ray: 1.


ay Otis

House, Boston, Mass.

Lead paint chipped away
Chair rail
Possible cut nails
"I" dentil drill holes not
visible on surface due to
paint build-up

Vol. V No. 1


1973 Page 17


,.,-K ..

Fig. 8 Codman House, Lincoln, Mass.
drawn across photo of staircase dado
area of X-ray seen on Figure 9.

A PT Vol. V No. 1

rail indicates

1973 Page 18






~~~~ A ;IS


3 V

~I `rlll





rlk:Z~L;jv :$I~ ~r~iiaao

Fig. 9
Key to


Note: This X-ray
seen in Figure 8.

- PT

use, Lincoln, Mass.
'Possible cut nail
Lead paint chipped by staple
Telephone cable
Wrought nail
Half rail of dado
Hand-riven lath
is a reverse view of dado rail

Vcl. V No. 1

1973 Page 19


David M. Hart, Designer
Topsfield, Mass.

The Narbonne House is located in Salem, Massachusetts, which
is about 15 miles north of Boston. The house stands on its original
site, fronting on Essex Street, and is approximately 200 yards from the
Salem Harbor waterfront. The house and grounds back up to the National
Park Service's Salem Custom House property, and thus is part of their
Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
The house was probably erected in the 1670's and most likely
had addition to the south at an early date. The shed additions to the
east probably were made in the mid 1700's. The Narbonne House is an
excellent example of a tradesman's home, and has survived down through
the years in a relatively undamaged state. Therefore, it serves as a
valuable interpretive structure, both for public viewing and serious
study. [Ed. Note: The purchase of the house was authorized by the U.
S. Congress in 1963 to "preserve one of the few substantially unaltered
half houses of 17 C. Massachusetts." See 88-199,88 Congress. H.R. 976
dtd, Dec. 12, '63, 77 Stat. 359, Passed House July 8, 1963, Passed
Senate Nov. 7, 1963].
Recently, the Society for the Preservation of New England
Antiquities was engaged by the National Park Service to carry out a
study and report which will be part of the process to determine the
house's future treatment in the historic site complex. The study
involved research, field structural examination and archeological
In addition, an X-ray analysis was carried out to determine
certain structural conditions hidden from view. Specifically, the
examination was made in hopes of finding evidence in three area. First,
the existence and configuration of exterior wall bracing; second, the
possibility of finding original window framing; third, the possibility
of evidence between the two house frames that would indicate whether
the south frame once had an exterior wall. The equipment used was
Picker Corporation's Portashot System, which is a portable X-ray gener-
ator and Polaroid film and processing unit for on-the-job analysis of
As seen by the casual observer, the Narbonne House appears
as a non-descript gray house fronting on Essex Street. However, the
steeply pitched roof and large chimney (which is currently covered by

Ed. Note: For an earlier article describing the author's "experimental
efforts to develop the X-ray process as a means of exploring invisible
conditions within historic structures," see "X-Ray Investigation of
Buildings," APT Bulletin, Vol. V, No. 1, 1973, pp. 9-21.

A PT Vol. VI No. 1 1974 Page 78

plywood to protect the deteriorating chimney), are clues to its early
origins. As we move around the house we can see two structures the
early to the north, the later gambrel addition to the south (see
Fig. 1-3).
The first part of the investigation was the determination of
the wall bracing and its configuration. For historical purposes, it was
desired to know if the corner braces "rose" or "fell" inside the walls,
at both the first and second floor levels. By visual analysis one
could not determine the bracing. Furthermore, by tapping the walls and
examining the ridges in the plaster, one would be led to believe that
the braces rose. Interestingly enough, the X-rays revealed just the
opposite case: the braces fell in all instances (see Fig. 6 and 7).
From this information, we can put together a composite picture
of the framing (Fig. 8-10) and illustrate how the structure looks. Each
X-ray is indicated by a small rectangle, and the cross-hatched areas
are X-ray evidence of the brace within the wall.
In addition, the examination gave us a good bit of additional
information in other sectors:

1) Braces showed no sign of structural failure, rot or decay;

2) Even though nogging was visually present in the east wall
at the second floor level, it was not apparent in the
west, north or first floor east walls;

3) Cut nails used to attach the clapboards to the studs are
clearly seen;

4) Irregularly-shaped split lath is seen, as well as the
hand-wrought nails used to attach the lath to the studs.

As a matter of interest, the X-rays were made during some very
cold days in December, and the house was unheated. It was necessary to
keep the film, processor and holder warm by means of heat lamps; other-
wise, the Polaroid process was slowed down considerably, and also made
for inferior results.
The second phase of the investigation was to determine the
possibility of original window frames in the exterior walls. It was
hoped that some evidence in the form of window frame fragments might be
found. In addition, perhaps notches would be found in the studs or
posts that would indicate the position of a window frame since removed.
The results are shown in Fig. 11 and 12. The studs and posts, plus the
wall, were searched for this type of evidence.
The lack of any evidence suggests three alternate explanations:

1) There were never any early windows in the wall;

2) The window frames were let into the sheathing, and this
has been removed;

3) The studs have been replaced, taking any evidence with

A PT Vol. VI No. 1 1974 Page 80

Next, the window itself was examined by X-ray, particularly
around the lower corner of each side (see Fig. 13-17). Here again,
there was no evidence of either a window frame that could date to the
original, or any evidence of notches in the surrounding sheathing that
would indicate an earlier frame. The possibility of the early frame
being used as a base for the present frame is not entirely discounted,
however, as there could be additional evidence that is obstructed, or
not clear to us at this time.
From this phase we have determined the present window frame
condition and configuration. Also, we have examined the posts and studs
in the area, and have seen that they are in good shape. As in the
search for the braces, there is no evidence of nogging in the west wall.
The last phase of investigation was that area between the two
house "halves." The north portion is known to have been built about
1675. Figure 18 shows that north portion and the later gambrel addition.
Through structural research, it has been determined that there was an
earlier addition to the south, but it undoubtedly has been removed. On
the basis of style alone, the present gambrel addition would seem to
date from the 1720's at the earliest. At the present time, there is
unfortunately no documentary evidence to indicate just when this addi-
tion was made.
Evidence does exist that indicates that the present addition
was once a separate structure, and was butted up against the north por-
tion. One way to gather evidence of this was to examine the area
between the frames, particularly the girts (see Fig. 19). If there was
once an exterior wall, then stud mortices would probably be found.
Actually, stud mortices were found in the north portion's frame by
visual means, so examination by X-ray was limited to the south portion's
girt. Fortunately for us, the girt in the south portion extended into
the room below, thereby giving us a clear shot through the member. The
unfortunate part is graphically shown in Fig. 22, which shows that the
area we are most interested in has probably been previously removed by
persons unknown. We are therefore frustrated in our attempts to obtain
evidence that this was once an exterior wall. However, there are quite
a few other interesting factors that came to light in this part of the
investigation, and they are worthy of comment:

1) The joist and mortice shape, and configuration can be
clearly seen. Their condition seems to be excellent;

2) It can be seen that there are a few large cut nails in
the cut-away portion of the girt. As these probably do
not date earlier than 1790, it is interesting to specu-
late if these are part of the work that joined the two
frames together;

3) The lath in the ceiling is intriguing, as first of all,
from its regular shape, it would appear to be sawn along
both surfaces. Therefore it would date probably no earlier
than 1820. The nails used to hold the lath to a furring

A PT Vol. VI No. 1 1974 Page 82

strip are cut, and this would be consistent with the sawn
lath dating information. Secondly, the lath are evidently
held to the ceiling by a furring strip, which uses cut
nails for this purpose. So it seems that we have some
fairly consistent information for use in dating the ceil-
ing's earliest installation.

Of course now that we have analyzed these X-rays, we can only
be anxious to make further examinations to perhaps probe into the house's
background more thoroughly, and perhaps understand its origin and con-
struction better.

A PT Vol. VI No. 1 1974 Page 84



Fig. 6 Narbonne House, Salem, Mass.
X-ray of brace located in area of Fig. 5.
Key to X-ray: 1. Clapboard nails
2. Wrought nail
3. Plaster "key"
4. Dark area, probably a mortise filled
with debris, "unidentified."

A PT Vol. VI No. 1 1974 Page 85

Lr .j



/ 1

t ._ %

P f : :- .r -

.5 p* i
g^>7^"*. r(u."~?-.;t






Fig. 7 Narbonne House, Salem, Mass.
X-ray of brace (with stud portion at bottom), located in
West wall, first floor.
Key to X-ray: 1. Nail used to attach stud to diagonal brace
2. Lath nails, wrought
3. Clapboard nails, cut
4. Butt-end of modern clapboard

Vol. VI No. 1 1974 Page 86






: -r ~~. ''
"" -


'V ____ .i---____--- ----iV-i-----t


Vol. VI No. 1 1974 Page 87























I I 1


.. .





Fig. 11 Narbonne House, Salem, Mass.
X-ray of stud, examined for possible notch used for original
window frame. Lath configuration and wrought nails used for
attachment are clearly seen. Cut nails can be seen, which
attach clapboards.
Key to X-ray: 1. Clapboard nails, cut
2. Lath nails, wrought
There are a few stray nails and broken nails in the stud.


Vol. VI No. 1

1974 Page 88

III. The Diagnosis

All this preliminary investigation will lead to the diagnosis

of the structure, after full drawings, photographs, and records are

made of the building. The architect must determine what forces have

acted on the building which have caused it to react in a particular

manner. This section will deal with particular problems found in

old structures and how to look for them through tell-tale clues.

A. Structural Movement

The first problem that may be encountered when examining an

old structure is some form of movement in the exterior walls. This

may be caused by many varied forces ranging from external forces

such as: wind, rain and temperature, to interior problems such as:

loading, thrust and material difference. The problem facing the

architect is how to determine what forces are affecting the structure.

The most common form of structural movement is due to differ-

ential settlement of the foundation. This is caused by the natural

operation of the soil mechanics. For many reasons, part of the site

on which the building is on may settle. All subsoils are affected

by seasonal variations, expanding and contracting with changes in

the weather. Underneath the building, however, the subsoil is pro-

tected both from direct absorption of rain and evaporation. In con-

sequnce, the external ground level changes much more than under the

interior of the building. A clue to this particular problem is an

outward lean of walls in the summer and a reverse tendency to lean

inwards in winter. The appearance of cracks only during some parts

of the year may also be a sign of this problem.

Another form of foundation settlement may be due to the loading

of the building. If any part of the building is unequal in the load

that it carries, differential settlement may also result.

A third form of structural movement is due to the unequal be-

havior of the materials, each different type shrinks and expands

at varied times.

From these causes, every building is structurally alive and

all its parts are perpetually on the move. The analysis of its struc-

tural movements may be extremely complex. Here are some clues on what

to look at:

Exterior: does the ridge of the roof sag

are there settling or rotted rafters

is there any visible lean on walls (check with plumb-

are there any major bulges along exterior walls or
any twisting of the walls

do doors line up squarely in their frames

are there any cracks in exterior walls

Interior: check the strength of all floors and staircases -
is there a noticeable bounce when you jump on it
(inadequate support)

are there any gaps between the treads, risers, and
side stringers of the staircase

do floors have a pronounced sag or tilt check
with marble

in cellar, are there any signs of sagging floors,
rotted posts, or jury-rigged props to shore up
weak flooring

A good clue to what form of structural movement is occurring

in a building comes from the analysis of any cracks that may be

found. A crack represents the line of structural discontinuity.

The most significant clue to the cause of a crack is its direction:

A) Converging cracks running upwards from the springings of
an arch, indicate a direct settlement of the lintel due
to its thrust.

B) Diverging cracks running upwards and outwards may indicate
foundation weakness.

C) Stepped cracks in brickwork show wider openings in either
the horizontal or verical plane, thus indicating a ver-
tical settlement or horizontal movement.

D) One side of a crack may be in advance of the other when
a thrust at right angles to the walls is present.

Another form of structural movement may result in vertical

departure from the plumb. This is easily measured in the survey

with a plumb-line. A marked departure from the vertical may be of

no importance whatsoever, because the great majority of walling cracks

and failures may be traced to foundation movement. However, not all

wall movements are due to foundation weakness. It is important to

appreciate the distinction between a dangerously tottering wall and

a leaning one. The rule of the "Middle Third" is particularly use-


If the main weight of a structure, summarized as a single force

acting vertically through its center of gravity, would bring the

load beyond the middle third of its base, then there is a potential

state of tension at its unloaded edge and walls are designed for


Note: This rule cannot be applied to a wall which is tied in-

to and buttressed by its neighbours...

B. Damp

Almost every trouble found in buildings can be attributed in

one way or another to a single factor damp. Damp is the prime

vehicle of decay. It weakens the physical endurance of materials

and their resistance to frost and erosion, and worst of all it at-

tracts pests and is an essential condition for fungal growth.

The first course of action when surveying a building is to de-

termine the source of any structural damp. The main sources of struc-

tural damp are best discussed in an article "Detecting and Defeating

Rot in Old Houses" part 1, "Old House Journal," vol. II, no. 10,

October 1974;

"Moisture that causes rot usually comes from one or more of

four sources: 1) ground moisture; 2) rain and snow; 3) plumbing

leaks; 4) condensation.

Ground Moisture: Ground water will migrate from soil to the

house through several avenues:

-Direct contact of wood with the soil. Sometimes the level of

the earth around a house gradually rises over the years until the

exterior woodwork is touching the soil. Porches and steps in part-

icular are likely to have contact with the earth. There should be

at least 8 inch clearance between sills and the ground level.

-Condensation of water vapor in crawl spaces under the house.

-Strands of water-conducting rot will transmit ground water

far into a wooden structure as described earlier.

-Capillary action in the foundation walls can carry water up

several inches to wet the sills. Also, some old structures may have

floor joists set into the foundation below the current ground level.

The water that leaks into the masonry will cause rot in the ends

of the beams.

Rain and Snow: Water from rain and snow can find amazingly de-

vious routes into a house. Water can be drawn into very thin cracks

in wood joints and will remain in such confined spaces for long


Any exterior surface that has an open joint or seam that is

unprotected by caulk or a paint film is subject to water penetration.

Edges of roofs are especially vulnerable. Gutters can become

clogged with leaves, or, in the winter, by ice. Gutter blockage can

cause water to back up under the roofing. This can result in water

flooding down into the cornice and interior partitions,

Cracks in stucco or other masonry walls can also admit enough

water to generate rot in the wooden sheathing underneath.

Rainwater splashing against a hard surface on the ground level

can also rebound high enough to keep the siding unduly wet. Vege-

tation that is growing to close to the house can also raise moisture

levels in the siding to a point where it will be hospitable for rot


Leaky Plumbing: Most plumbing leaks are discovered before they

can do too much damage as far as rot is concerned. The major ex-

ception is the bathroom, where it is possible for fixtures to de-

velop slow leaks that will gradually soak partitions without attrac-

ting much attention until considerable damage has been done.

Cracks in tile grout, infloors and tub enclosures can admit

enough moisture to rot timbers and the process will probably be

slow enough so that it won't be discovered until structural da-

mage has been done. Gaps in tiling around bathroom fixtures should

be kept closed with silicone caulk.

Condensation: Condensation is the most insidious source of

moisture, since the water comes from vapor in the air and not from

an obvious source like rain or a leaky pipe.

Condensation occurs when warm, moisture-laden air contacts a

cold surface. Warm air can hold more water vapor than cold air. So

if the cold surface lowers the temperature of the air below its dew

point, the excess water has to go some place. It shows up as drop-

lets of water on the cold surface.

The earth in a crawl space beneath a house can be a source of

moisture that will condense on sills and joists especially if the

house is air conditioned in the summer. Corners are especially sus-

ceptible to condensation and rot because they get the least

air circulation.

Water may also condense on cold water pipes in humid weather.

If this causes water to drip on structural wood, the offending pipe

should be wrapped with the special insulation that is sold for this


Condensation may also occur inside wall partitions on cold win-

ter days when warm moist air from the interior contacts cold exterior

walls. This is especially likely if a vapor-resistance barrier was

installed under the siding. This problem should not occur if insul-

ation has been installed with a vapor barrier on the inside wall.

Water will also condense on window panes in winter, eventually causing

soft rot and staining in the sash.

A clue to remember is that moisture travels downward or else

towards any drying element. Before analyzing the source of moisture,

however, the architect must discover it. Here are some clues and

where to look for them:


Are there any loose, rotted, or missing gutters?

Is exterior wall paint peeling, curling, or blistering?

Is mortar soft and crumbling?

Are any clapboards loose, cracked, or missing?

Is all exterior wood at least 6-8" above found?

Is there any vegetation close to the house?

Are joints between dissimilar materials well protected with

flashing or caulk?

Does ground slope away from foundation?

Do downspouts have splash blocks to divert water away from house?


Any signs of rot in attic or any leaks? such as dark water

stains on the underside of roof and especially around chimneys,

valleys, and eaves.

Any signs of damp plaster? Check especially top-floor ceilings,

inside of exterior walls and ceilings and partitions under bathrooms.

Do window frames show signs of leakage? chipped and curling

naint at bottom of sash and sills.

Any signs of dampness in cellar? underside of floors around

pipes, or signs of periodic floodings, or rust spots, efflorescence,

or mildew on walls.

Is there any condensation of water vapor in crawl spaces or in-

side walls and ceiling? look for sweating.

Is there any mildew present anywhere?

After this investigation is complete, the architect should have

found all possible trouble spots for dampness.

C. Pests

The problems of insects and fungal attack is one particular

only to structures using wood in any form. Fungi are parasitical

and live by feeding directly on organic matter. All require an in-

itial host with a moisture content of 20% for germination. The most

efficient way to control fungal attack is to control dampness and

to locate the fungi in the early stages. Conducting an inspection

for rot infestations once a year will enable a homeowner to isolate

and correct rot conditions before they do any great harm and while

the remedies are relatively inexpensive.

Advanced rot conditions are easy to recognize; it is less easier

to recognize rot in its early stages. Decay usually causes wood to

change color. Most often, the infected wood becomes darker. Some

fungi, however, cause wood to lose color until the surface appears


Where decay is suspected, you can use the "pick test" to make

a definite determination. This test is based on the fact that decay

causes the wood fibers to lose toughness. Jab an awl or ice pick

at an angle into the niece of wood preferably when wet. Pry up

a sample of the wood. Healthy wood will produce long splinters. Rot-

infected wood tends to lift in short sections, breaking across the

grain, without creating splinters.

Once the signs of rot are detected, the architect must then

determine what type of fungus he's dealing with. The article "De-

tecting and Defeating Rot in Old Houses", "Old House Journal," vol.

II, no. 10, October 1974, classifies them in the following way:

"Almost all house rot is caused by fungi plant-like organisms

that prow without chlorophyll, true roots, stems, or leaves. There

are six categories of decay you might encounter around your house,

ranging from mildly annoying to downright alarming.

Bluestain A dark color caused by a fungus invading sapwood.

The color can penetrate deep into the wood. The stain by itself does

not seriously weaken the timber. But the presence of bluestain is

an indicator of moisture conditions that could generate more danger-

ous forms of rot. Bluestain is often found around sources of moisture

such as window sash, water pipes, and bathroom fixtures. Stained

wood is more vulnerable to water penetration and thus prone to

further decay. Color of this type of sapwood stain can range from

brown through blue, steel gray, and black.

Mold Also called mildew. Mold fungi forms a powdery, loose

mass on the surface of the wood. Color of mold on soft wood can range

from orange and pink through green and black. Mold on hardwood usually

shows up as dark spots. Although mold won't seriously undermine

the strength of the wood, like sapwood stain it can make the wood

more susceptible to attack by more aggressive fungi.

Brown Rot Caused by fungi that consume cellulose, brown rot

imparts to infected wood a brownish color, plus a tendency to crack

across the grain, then to shrink and collapse. The wood becomes very

water absorbent and loses strength rapidly.

White Rot Caused by fungi that consume both lignin and cellu-

lose, white rot causes wood to lose color and appear whitish, leaving

the affected member in a fibrous and stringy condition. The wood.

doesn't crack across the grain as with brown rot, and doesn't shrink

or collapse until the rot is very advanced.

Soft Rot Not as serious as other rots, soft rot is normally

confined to the surface of the wood. Exterior surfaces affected by

soft rot tend to be severely cracked and fissured, both with and

across the grain. But when the surface is scraped with a knife, you

soon strike sound wood. Soft rot tends to occur on exterior surfaces

that are frequently wet, such as shingles, window sash, and shutters.

Water-Conductinw rot This most insidious type of rot fortun-

ately is not too common in the United States. Unlike other forms

of rot that require water to be supplied externally, this fungus

can carry its own water over considerable distances through its web-

like structure. These tentacles deposit water in the sound wood,

raising the moisture content and making it suitable ground for the

fungus to grow and spread further. Because this fungus can carry

its own water, it is sometimes called "dry fungus rot," which is

somewhat misleading since it does have to get water from somewhere

in order to carry out its cycle of decay-and-spread.

One variety of water-conductine fungus merulius lacrymans -

is common in England and Europe and is known familiarly as "house

rot". Another variety noria incrassata is found in the southern

United States. This type of decay can spread undetected inside par-

titions, revealing itself only after serious structural damage has

been inflicted."

Any timber which has been softened by a fungal attack is then

extremely susceptible to insect attack. The most common insect pro-

blem in the United States is the termite. There are two kinds of

termites the subterranean type which lives in moist soil and enters

the wood from the ground only and the drywood type which can fly

and enters the wood anywhere through cracks. The worst part is that

the actual damaged wood may look perfectly healthy on the outside,

yet be already damaged inside. In the search for insect infestation

here are some clues on what to look for:

Any sign of veins of dirt on interior or exterior walls? mud


Look under porches, steps, foundation, and cellar walls.

Does the wood near the ground pass the "pen knife test"? Check

floor beams,posts, porches, and steps.

Is all exterior wood 6-8 inches above the ground?

Look over all outside walls for tunnels, cracks, or holes.

Another common pest is the beetle. There are several varieties

of these insects, but none are as damaging as termites. The beetles

rarely feed on the wood, they simply tunnel through the wood. It

is in the larva staoe that beetles do all the boring and feeding

which will damage wood. The different species are identifiable by

the sizes of the flight holes qnd by the type of wood attacked. In

searching for beetles, look for:

Piles of fresh bore-dust on floors and other wood members.

IV. Examining Building Systems

Roof Coverings and framing:

In examining the condition of an old roof, one must first recall

its detailed function to collect rain and snow and to shed it from

the building at predetermined points. The effectiveness of the roof

is chiefly limited by its behaviour at "danger points" which should

be closely inspected:

The fixings holding the roof covering to the structure.

The joints in its materials such as drips and welts.

Points of maximum exposure or mechanical wear, such as metal
slopes facing the sun, or at the foot of a rainwater pipe.

Internal valleys and secret gutters.

Interruptions such as sky lights or chimney stacks.

Abutments against other structures, either more or less rigid
than the roof itself.

Here are some general questions that pertain to roof systems

that should also be studied:

Is the flashing around chimneys and valleys rusty, loose, or

Is it made of copper (best kind)?

Is there badly peeling paint on the cornice especially the
underside? (This can be a sign of a roof leak that is leaking
water into the cornice.)

When examining a roof from the interior look for rotted members,

particularly where they hear; rotting battens, falling plaster, gen-

eral signs of water leakage, and old unprotected electrical wiring.

One must concentrate not only upon locating the points at which

water is actually penetrating but upon assessing the whole general

condition of the roof covering. Some main issues that come to mind


What is the condition and the remaining life of the materials?

Can the material be patched or can it only be replaced as a

Is it the original roof covering material and does it form an
integral part of the building's appearance?

How serious and costly would further leaks be? Is the interior
valuable in decorations and furnishings?

Is the present roof covering an efficient one?

How much maintenance would a particular roof covering need?

Some specific roof coverings will present some special problems
which one should look for:

Asphalt Shingles Are the mineral granules getting thin and
do the edges look worn? Does the roof look new but lumpy? (The
new roof may have been applied over the old shingles,)

Lead and Cop-er Sheet Roofing: How damaged is it by exposure
to sunlight and acid-charged dropnings? Are the supports and
fixings adequate to stop thermal and structural movements? Are
there sufficient expansion joints? Are the sheets oversized?
Is the lead roofing "creeping", exposing the cans under the
sheets? Are there any fatigue lines which soon will be cracks?

Slate Is it laminating badly? Has it been damaged by frost,
especially in the upper half which is wettened by contact with
the slate ubove? Are the fixing pegs being twisted out hy the
weight of the slate?

Clay Tiles Are the battens in good condition? Is there any
corrosion of the fixing nails due to tannic acid? If hung with
oak nes, are they rotting or insect ridden?

Wood Shingles Check for swarming insects behind shingles.
Is there any rot or water damage?

Timber Structures The most common flaws in a timber structure
are pointed out by Donald Insall, in his book "The Care of Old
Buildings Today." Among the clues to look for are:

Absence of coping, admitting damp.

Brick open joints in brickwork needing re-pointing.

Uneven ridge due to sap-ing roof timbers: open joints in ridge
tilling admitting damp.

Chimney stacks out of nlumb and dangerous.

Cement listings cracked or pulled away from brickwork admitting
rain: should be replaced by lead flashings.

Gable verged tiling needs re-pointing against driving rain.

Tiles missing at eaves or verges.

Overhanging trees causing damp in roof and accumulation of leaves
in gutters. Tree roots may cause disturbance to foundation.

Roof tiline loose and missing due to defective pegs or nails.
Tiling battens decayed by damp.

Timber roof members affected by beetle.

Defective valley tiling admitting rain.

Saggine purlins at roof framinP causing distortion of roof.

End of main tie decayed at bearing.

Failure of tie causing outward thrust at displacement of wall

Inadequate or damaged rainwater gutters.

Rafter feest decayed by wet rot and eaves wall plate attacked
by damp and beetle.

Decay of timber framing at joint with brickwork.

Absence of cills causing spillage;cills decayed.

Hair cracks in rendering admitting damp.

Rainwater downDipe choked causing water spillage and penetration.

Vegetation or flowerbeds at foot of wall encouraging damp.

Brick nogging requiring re-pointing: bricks spalled or decayed.

Meted window frames; corroded and panes of glass missing.

Defective window cill.

Cement skirting at base of wall cracked and admitting damp
causing decay at base of timber main post.

Floor below ground level: no water barrier, foot of door rotted.

Wall plate resting on ground without damp course.

Rainwater nully (if any) blocked causing build up of water and
damage to foundations.

V. Examininin Mechanical Systems

A. The Electrical System

Old house owners frequently inherit an incredibly messy elec-

trical system. The two most important questions that an architect

must ask himself are: What new loads can be added to the existing

system? and What kind of wiring system is it? The first step in

updating the electrical system is to determine the loads of each

circuit. There are no special tools required for an electrical sur-

vey except a notebook, pen, a small portable appliance, and a helper.

The latter is a necessity since someone must remove the fuses, while

a second person must locate what fixture is disconnected. Begin with

any room and determine by trial and error which fuse or circuit breaker

controls each fixture. One should then make a plan of each room in-

dicating each fixture with a note beside it saying what circuit it

belongs on. On another page, list all outlets that belong on each

circuit. When the survey is complete, one should count the number

of -airs of fuses in the fuse box. This will -ive you the number of

circuits in the house. You then count the electrical fixtures and

divide them by the total number of circuits. If for any reason you

find more than twelve fixtures in any particular circuit, then that

circuit is overloaded and dangerous. A re-wiring job is necessary

if this occurs.

Before one can rewire a house, it must be determined what kind of

wiring is present. The five most common types are:

1) Bx (armored covered cable)
2) Knob and tube (cleat wiring)
3) Non-metallic sheathed cable.
4) Conduit (solid metal tubes)
5) Hetal raceways

Of these fives, the oldest and simplest type of wiring is cleat

wiring. In this system, wires, fittings, and supports are all exposed.

The system has been restricted by law since the 1920's. Tapping of

the wires is allowed anywhere in the system, which is very dangerous

due to overloading. Normally, one would find two wires running par-

allel to each other supported by cleats oade of non-combustible,

non-absorptive material usually porcelain. These cleats keep the

wires separated from surfaces and other wires. When the wires cross

any structural systems such as floors or ceilings, the use of por-

celain tubes or loom tubing is common.

The earliest form of concealed wiring is knob-and-tube. The

wires run underneath floors, crossing joists and beams with porcelain

knobs and tubes. Holes would be drilled through the joists, always

at an angle, so the wires could not slip out. The system was widely

popular in the 1920's and the 1930's, and is considered unsafe.

If any of the above svstems is found in the house one is about to

restore, a complete re-wiring job is eminent.

Another early type of exposed wiring is the metal raceway sys-

tem. Two to four wires are concealed inside a metal covering which

was run across room walls and ceilings. The system allowed easy tap-

ping, except for the difficulty in cutting the metal and installing

the raceways. Since the individual wires are protected from the ele-

ments, chances are that the system is still functional; unless it

is overloaded.

The three safest and still widely used used electrical wiring

systems are rigid conduit, armored cables, and non-metallic sheathed

cable. One of the oldest wiring systems and the safest is the rigid

conduit system. It allows tapDine and slicing, can be exposed or

concealed, but must be installed before walls, ceilings, and other

interior finishes are anplied. The system is useful because it can

be concealed in all materials steel, stone, brick, concrete, and

wood. The conduit is usually installed while construction of the

house is proceeding. The wires are then pushed and pulled through the

conduits with the heln of a wire reel.

Bx cable (armored) are wires covered with a flexible exterior

steel covering. It is run through the interior of the building fabric

and is never exposed. There is no slicing or tapping allowed in

the system between outlets. It is a very safe wiring system which

can be fixed or added on to by removing only part of the building.

In a later section we will discuss how to re-wire an old house by

using Bx or non-metallic sheathed cables. The latter is very similar

in construction to Bx, except that the exterior material covering

is insulating, lighter, and easier to handle than armored cables.

It is installed the same way as Bx cables, and is very safe and


Solicihg: There are four very common types of splicing, each

used depending on the situation found. They are:

Pip Tail Splice 1i" of each wire is bared and twisted around

each other; used when connecting a number of wires to an outlet, box,

switch box, conduit fitting, or wherever there is no strain on the


Dellhavfers Splice 3" of each wire is bared and twisted once

around each other. Then at least five turns of each wire around the

other is necessary. Used where the wires are not subject to heavy


Western Union Splice 5" of each wire is bared. Five or more

twists and two turns or more make this splice stronger and able to

withstand more strain than the previous two. Named after the company

that first utilized this slice.

Turnhack Splice 3" are bared on one wire and 5" on the other.

With the ends together, start twisting the wires near the insulation

of the shorter bared wire until all of the short wire is twisted.

Then swin7 the long wire back parallel to the twists and turn the

two free ends of the wires about the lons' wire. This slice is used

where there is heavy strain on the wire and where it is necessary

to have a taut wire after snlicinv.

Taps There are many types of taps available to the electrician,

with the most common being the plain tap, knotted tap used where

strain is encountered., cross or double tap used when two wires are

tanninQ one main branch in the same nlace, and the duplex tap smaller

and quicker to make than the double tap and used in the same circum-


Re-wiring Old Houses:

The first stern in re-wirinT an old house is to determine where

and how the new wirin- will be run. Before proceeding with the wiring,

one should make an inventory of the houses secret passages. An article

in the "Old House Journal," vol. II, no. 1, clearly defines what exactly

to look for and how to do it:

"There are three tynes of secret passages that are likely to offer

ideal spaces for ton-to-bottom or inter-floor runs. They are: 1) old

hot-air ducts; 2) pipe chases; 3) voids next to chimneys.

In houses that were formerly heated by hot air there will be

unused air ducts in the walls. In city row houses, these ducts were

usually built into the brick common walls. Finding these ducts will

be a job of varyinR complexity depending on how thoroughly the house

has been renovated. MIanning out these old air ducts is extremely val-

uable, however, because they can make the bringing up of both wire

and pipe from the basement a relatively simple matter.

If you're lucky, the previous occupants will have left the old

hot-air registers in the rooms. That shows exactly where the old ducts

ended. There are two tynes of ducts to contend with: the branch duct

and the mainline duct. The mainline is most valuable because it rises

from the cellar in a straight line.

You car determine which type of duct you've located by using a

niece of string or fishline and a small weight (such as a bunch of

washers). Simply drop the line through the register and note how far

it goes down before hitting bottom. If the weight goes all the way to

the cellar, you've found a mainliner.

If you have a branch duct, it can still be used to run wire, since

the bends can be negotiated with electricians snakes. But a branch

duct is virtually useless for plumbers;they'd have to break open the

wall at the bends.

Next problem is to find where the ducts start in the cellar.

It's likely that the openings for the air ducts in the cellar have been

bricked over. But you shouldn't have much difficulty locating the

matches at the top of the cellar wall. A brick-and-mortar patch can

be removed with a hammer and cold chisel.

If no registers have been left in the wall, a little more detec-

tive work will be required to locate the abandoned ducts. From the

cellar, you can find where the ducts start un the wall. Tapping on

walls in rooms above the spot where the duct starts can locate covered-

over registers on the mainline duct.

Branch ducts will have to be located by the wall-tapping ritual

and an exploratory nail here and there where you suspect there's a

covered-over register. (Any holes made in this exploratory process

can be easily patched with spackle.)

Pipe chases are the next best source of secret passages. A chase

is a vertical channel in a wall through which pines pass from floor

to floor. Most pipe chases that include waste lines will go from the

cellar to the top of the house, since waste lines have to be vented

to the roof.

In houses with sliding parlor doors, the ends of the door pockets

frequently contain passages for gas pipes.

In old wooden frame houses, another place to look for voids is

next to chimneys. Since interior chimneys constituted a wide bulge in

a room anyway, old-time builders seemedto leave a little space between

framing beams and the chimneys just for the heck of it.

If you have an attic, you may be able to determine by inspection

and exnloration with a weighted line whether there's such a void next

to your chimney. Otherwise, you'll have to resort to artful tapping

to see if there are usable voids next to the chimney.

Instead of quoting the stens on how to run electrical wiring, I

have xeroxed and included in this report two articles found in the

"Old House Journal" which explain in detail what to do. They are

found in the following pages. Also included is an article on how to

locate and correct frayed wiring which can cause short circuits

and even fires.

J4y "/74

h'^oOs;, JCoWAL4

Running Electrical Wire

FrQ i
=U0. -J

By James R. McGrath
L D HOUSES were not designed for the miracles
of all-electric living. While that may be
a blessing in some ways, there are certain
minimum standards of convenience and elec-
trical safety you want your house to meet.
A renovation of an old electrical system can
be an expensive-and harrowing--process.
IN THIS ARTICLE we'll review one of the most
vexing aspects of an electrical renovation-
running wires through an old house. Whether
you are doing the work yourself or having it
done for you, these tips can be valuable.
Electricians who are unfamiliar with old
houses will often insist that wire can't be
run between certain points...or that some
ornate plasterwork will have to be hacked
away...or that running exposed surface wiring
is the only way a job can be accomplished.
planning exactly where the wire is to run-
you'll be prepared for the "it can't be done"
arguments. The easiest (and cheapest) way to
run wire is through the "secret passages"
built into your house-the pipe chases, vents,
crawl spaces, etc. A guide to finding these
hidden passages was contained in an article in
the January 1974 issue of The Journal.

ANY ELECTRICIANS hate to work on old houses
because the bulk of the work isn't electri-
cal; it's more like carpentry. To run wire
through partitions, under floors, behind walls
and over ceilings requires an intimate know-
ledge of the innards of a house. That's
why the two most important tools in running
wire in an old house are not pliers and wire
cutters, but rather plaster chisel and fish
assumption that you're doing electrical work
yourself (local codes permitting). But even
if you're not familiar enough with electricity
to handle 110-volt and 220-volt wiring, the
same wire-running techniques also apply to
such low-voltage applications such as doorbells,
intercoms and hi-fi systems where there is no
safety hazard involved.
a helper. My own experience has taught that
having 4 hands on the job rather than 2 doesn't

just make a job twice as easy. There are some
wire snaking operations that are simply im-
possible to do by yourself. So before attempt-
ing any complicated wire running, be sure you
have lined up the spouse or friend for help 0 ,

SGoing Fishing
house is learning how to use fish wire
(sometimes also called a "snake"). Elec-
tricians' fish wire is steel tape about )
3/16 in. wide and 1/16 in. thick. It is flex-
ible enough to go around corners, yet stiff
enough not to buckle when being pushed through

The Oil-House Journal


VOL., Z-)Mo, 7




artitions. Fish wire is inexpensive, so you

t.) and a couple of short ones (10 ft.)-
plus a 4-ft. "hooker"--on hand if you are get-
ting involved with any extensive projects.
If you want to run BX electrical cable be-
tween points A 4 B in a partition, you simply
break open small holes at A and B. Fish wire
is pushed in at A and shoved into the partition
until you (or your helper) can see it through
the Point B hole. BX cable is then attached
to the end of the fish wire at B and the fish
is pulled back at A. The cable is threaded
through the partition as the fish is with-
drawn. Simple!

V COURSE, reality is seldom as simple as
theory. There are dozens of different ob-
stacles lurking inside ceilings, floors and
walls just waiting to snag your fish wire.
A fish wire can hang up on a piece of lath,
a chunk of old plaster, bridging, firestops,
existing electrical wire-and even abandoned
fish wire! (During a recent ceiling restora-
tion, I found a highly serviceable 50-ft. fish
between the joists that some long-departed
electrician had abandoned after getting it
impossibly snagged in some bridging. You
could almost hear his cuss words as he tried
to work it loose!)
the only other counsel one can offer on using
fish wire are the restorer's two stand-bys:
Patience and Persistence.

make sure you've-made a neatly rounded hook
jon the end (this is a two-plier operation).

By putting a good reverse
bend on the end you'll
help avoid snags when
pulling back on the fish.

CRv ever.

they are stored rolled up. This curl can be
made to work for you. Orienting the curl in
one direction tends to put the hook along one
specific surface in a passage. If you hit a

,d~c~v~ej sh j~
O~tjtacl C &

CurL carries fisb iWtA
block,&e. Tru apgaku

aoo agae.iPus ouaie
su.Tfsc~e. 'Pueh onl

blockage, withdraw the fish and turn it over
so the curl is facing in the opposite direc-
tion. This maneuver will force the hook to
the opposite surface and will often take your
fish by the obstacle.
the art of the wiggle. Often a fish can't be
pushed by an obstacle with brute force. But
by wiggling and shaking it-along with steady
pressure-you can make the hook on the end
jump around the obstruction.

(as in the drawing at the upper left),
even more patience is required. You have
to depend on a combination of sound and
touch to determine when the two fish are in
contact, and then carefully withdraw one so
that the two hooks link together.

AS A LAST RESORT, if you find you can't get
a fish beyond a certain point no matter what
you try, you can always open the partition at
that point. It's not an elegant solution, but
you get at the problem quickly. And it is often
better to spend 1 hour patching a hole-after
having solved the problem-than to spend an
hour in utter frustration trying to force a
fish by an obstacle that just won't yield.

BESIDES FISH WIRE, other tools you'll need
for running electrical cable are a hammer,
a cold chisel (for hacking plaster), a keyhole
saw (for cutting lath), and a power drill with
carbide-tipped bits (for drilling in plaster),

1'unning 'Wire Up c'rom Cellar

t thtuOgt fI TPuo~ fish uaR 'ttrah Cebld to
8a1 easl wuit4 through fow &Y4 feih &td V4 U&
bUt oa artanaer. into wU U0 to w&l oen

The Old-House Journal

spade bits (for boring beams) and a bit ex-
tender. And of course you'll need your stand-
ard kit of plaster patching tools.

Planning The Run
mer to plaster, con- -
sider all possible
ways to get cable
between the starting rObl *wR itO
point and end point. wire from cetu ifgt
For example, take the to PoiuAt1 wal1.
problem shown at the
right-a common one for old-house owners. 'A
To add a wall switch to a ceiling fix-
ture, you have to run wire from ceiling
to wall. ).Eist ta is to note in which dir-
ection t e ceiling joists run. It's much sim-
pler.to run wire in the void parallel to the
joists than to cross
the ceiling perpendic- T View: Ceit uJoiost
ular to the beams-
which requires a lot
of cutting and notch- "W.i

which direction the
joists run, you may be
able to find out by
probing with a wire
through the hole at
the ceiling fixture.
Otherwise, you will
have to do some prbb-

* Fisture 0

To intdI wdl awitdi for
cei"%8 fiAw., 4s aiw-Ltr to
Tus wft to e- prToldl
to jo"at. thvn to Vot 7a
wvich" rv4iir cvrosui joiate.

ing with a nail or
drill (holes can be
readily patched with
IF YOU HAVE any lee-
way in locating the
wall switch, obvious-
ly it will be easiest
to place it on the
wall directly under
one of the between-
the-joists voids.
choice about switch

Top View: Ceiling Joits

ure -----------
P&th *Z

Path *1 to Point A aJlows
wtre to be run. o-r&vale
to joists, then across waU.

location and the wire has to run perpendicular
to the joists, you still have two choices.
stead of_ running across the joists, you could
select Path #1 shown in the diagram above. The
wire comes to the wall in a void parallel to
the joists, then crosses the wall studs to the
switch location. The choice depends upon the
construction of the house. The across-the-wall
method, although the longer path, does have the
advantage of eliminating a lot of ceiling work
that would have to be done on a ladder.
THE ACROSS-THE-WALL METHOD is especially at-
tractive if there is thick lath and plaster,
plus a baseboard that is readily removed. In
this event, you can gouge a channel for the
cable in the plaster behind the baseboard and
not have to worry about a lot of patching be-
cause the baseboard will conceal the cable.
Crossing the ceiling joists is also simplified
if you are working on the top floor. In this
case, you can usually take the cable up and
over through the attic or crawl space.

James R. McGrath is a member of The Old-
House Journal's board of technical con-
sultants. He is also a personnel execu-
tive with one of the Fortune 500 firms.

0>-- __,*> : _ceiltug- _- p-- a .'

) HoW made at e ch joiLt. Jost. awre itched.


( Cebl is tcUre.ded thok hLA taot in oteha.

IPwang PrFe Perpendiclr to Ceiling Joits

The Old-louse Journal


Running Electrical Wire

Part 2J

By James R. McGrath
SAST MONTH's ARTICLE dealt with methods for
running wire across and through ceilings.
In this installment we'll look at some of
the problems encountered in running wire within
walls and partitions.
related to the installa- f t '"
tion of wall switches or
convenience outlets. Ver-
tical runs of cable in
walls between studs nor-
mally is quite simple. The /
one exception is when you
i encounter a firestop or
horizontal bridging be-
tween the studs. (A fire-
stop inhibits drafts in-
side walls and retards
the spread of flames in
the event of fire.) You
will know that you've Tfresto insle
hit a horizontal brace wall mra impede verti-
if your fish wire won't Ct rut% of able.
pass, no matter how much
you wiggle or twist it. Such a horizontal ob-
struction is passed by breaking open the plas-
ter and notching the member. Exact location of
the cross-member can be de-
_|y termined by noting how far
the fish wire will penetrate
the partition, or by drop-
ping a weighted string into
the wall.
FASTEST WAY to make the
notch is to chip out the
Plaster with a cold chisel
Are&A ulsterr and or an old screwdriver, then
notl firesto to tt chew a channel through the
lath and cross-member with
cable Vas5 through. a 1-in. spade bit in your
electric drill. Finish the
notching with a hammer and chisel. If the
notch has to be made in a wall that is papered,
you can cut the paper in 3
places with a razor blade,
making a flap that can be
lifted and held out of the
way with masking tape while
you work. If the wallpaper
is tightly stuck to the
wall, you can loosen the
paste by soaking the paper
with warm water. After the
cable has been run and the
plaster carefully patched,

the wallpaper can be pasted back in position
and the incision will be practically invisible.
(If you don't have a small quantity of wall-
paper paste on hand, you can use some white
library paste-which is also water soluble-
thinned with some additional water.)

Hiding Behind The Baseboard

dicular to the studs II I
"in a wall is a messy l
business at best because 4
there is an obstacle--
a stud-to be crossed I jl
every 16 in. Above the i I
baseboard, the procedure 1
is to break open the cHoles are mae at eacd
plaster at each stud and stud., stua e.,e ot.ed
notch the lath and stud.
Notch is made deep A .
enough so that cable can W !
be threaded through and l i
stapled to the stud with-
out making a bulge when
the patching plaster is
filled in. Because this
process is so messy, it's i ,i.
obvious that you should
try to get all of this Cdbk e i8 three thro- %
type of wiring out of the hdles & sta a.o tus6.
way before doing any of
the final decorating. When making notches in
the studs, you should try to avoid breaking any
lath, as this will weaken
the plaster between the
Sstuds. Careful work with
I a keyhole saw and chisel
will allow you to take out
Stwo half-sections of lath
jl --giving plenty of room to
pass the cable and yet
Tare out two h11 .rltintaining the integrity
S, o ." j of the continuous lath
8ectioT, of I&th usig framework.
Ceqhoe 5sW A. chisel.

ter plus lath is at least 1 in. thick and if
you have a baseboard that you can work loose.
In this case, it is possible to dig a channel
in the plaster behind the baseboard (use a cold
chisel or an old dull wood chisel). Run cable
in the channel and fasten it to the studs with Jf
BX staples, then replace the baseboard. With
this procedure, you don't have to worry about
breaking up a decorated wall and you don't have



F9 D

Points on. Sa&e -walt
can be connected b%
removing baseboard &rad

behind basebo&rd. making cnan el in AadLter.

to patch the plaster afterwards. This tech-
nique can be especially useful in adding a
convenience outlet on a wall when you can use
an existing outlet as the power source.
THE BASEBOARD usually can be pried loose by
slipping a stiff putty knife behind it; it
is usually just secured to the studs with
finishing nails. Don't use a-screwdriver for
prying-it will mar the wood.
to allow you to make a channel sufficiently
deep to bury the entire cable. In this case,
you'll have to notch each stud as described on
the previous page and thread the cable behind
the plaster. But by working behind the base-
board at least you don't have to worry about
patching the holes.
ishing nails, with the heads countersunk and
the holes filled with putty or spackle. Any
unsightly gaps between the top of the baseboard
and the wall can be filled with spackle before
doing any touch-up painting.

Look For The Closets
O RUN WIRE IN A ROOM in which you are reluc-
tant to disturb the wall plaster, you may
be able to take the wire across adjacent
surfaces in adjoining rooms.
sible,the cutting and notching required for
cross-wall runs should be done on the inside of
closet walls. This avoids damage to finished
walls-and you don't have to be so fussy in
patching closet interiors.

Adi g AWall Swit4h Withonut
-Ligut 9pireeti"n -f JOiLst
T- --- ---.-- -W


"Wire i run though ceilrig between the joites; then
*croes wall in the closet and in the hall.

'Nlotchi u cAAttear
between lath Ldts
cable run conceded

IN THE EXAMPLE SHOWN BELOW, it is possible to
get wire from the light fixture at Point A to
the switch at Point B without ever disturbing
the wall plaster in the room. The procedure is
as follows: (1) Wire is run between the joists
across the ceiling to the interior of the clos-
et; (2) Inside the closet,holes are punched in
the ceiling plaster and a couple of joists are
notched to bring wire around the door opening;
(3) Wire is brought down between studs in the
closet to approximate height of switch; (4)
Studs inside closet are notched and cable is
threaded through wall. (Bringing cable across
wall rather than ceiling avoids a lot of awk-
ward overhead work; (5) Hole is punched through
closet wall and cable is brought out to hall.
Depending on condition of wall plaster, wire
can be brought directly across the wall by
notching the studs, or cable can be taken from
the closet down between the studs and down the
hall wall behind the baseboard; (6) Wire is
brought up between the studs to the hole made
for the new wall switch.

Around The Doors

board to avoid damage to the wall you'll
run smack into a doorway. It's possible,
of course, to take cable around a door by
notching studs-using
the technique outlined
previously. This is
not a suitable pro-
cedure for a deco-
rated wall, however. Cable run amtwu
door frwn afterr
space of 1 inch or
more between the
door jamb and the framing studs. )
Wire can be run in this space--
after you remove the casing on
the doorway. The casing normally
is held with finishing nails, and
can be worked loose using a stiff
putty knife. There may be some
spacer blocks between the jamb and
the frame that will have to be
notched in order to recess the
cable. After securing the cable
in place using BX staples, the cas-
ing can be re-nailed, and the heads countersunk
and filled with spackle or putty.

may show up in the most unlikely places.
There's no substitute for common sense in
working out some of these puzzlers. In many
cases, the easiest route is not the most di-
rect route; you're-tVter off using a few extra
feet of cable to sa;e yourself aggravation.
As a result, cable runs in old houses are
generally longer than what would be required to
do the same job in new wiring. I always speci-
fy #12 wire on all my old-house jobs to mini-
mize voltage drops in these longer runs.

James R. McGrath is a member of The Old-
House Journal's board of technical con-
sultants. He promises more articles for
future issues on the intricacies of run-
ning wire in old houses.

o* Vot b4,A.o V/T73 0l1 ctra e jouer L

Coping With Frayed Electrical Wiring

Many old houses have frayed electrical
wires that can cause short circuits....
and possibly fires. Here are the danger
signs to watch out for and what you can
do to avoid rewiring the entire house.

M OST HOMEOWNERS have had this experience:
You set out to install a new outlet, switch
or ceiling fixture...and the insulation--t ih
wire in the electrical box crumbles in your
and. Frustrating, yes. But it also signals
Y7Tger troubles ahead.
"THE NATURAL TEMPTATION in such a situation is
to wrap the offending wire with electrical
tape, utter a fervent prayer and stuff the
wire back into the box. However, crumbling
insulation is symptomatic of advancing age
in your electrical system--and should be
given more thorough-going treatment.
-0'THE BEST that comes out of such a condition
is an eventual short-circuit that will blow a
fuse or circuit breaker. The WORST would be
current leakages and sparking that isn't
large enough to blow a fuse--but is suffi-
cient to cause a fire.
FRAYED WIRES ARE going to be common in houses
that were wired in the 1920's or earlier. Now
at age 50 or more, this wiring can be expected
to show signs of senility.
variety. This consists of a spiral metal
armor (that also acts as a safety ground) and
two or more rubber-insulated wires. xb-Le.aS
arise as the rubber becomes embrittled after
pro1oneId exposure to5air. The oxidized
rubber may crumble away. aiiowino the two

IN ADDITION to crumb-
ling insulation, there
is another warning sign
that yowr wiring may be
in a dangerously deteri-
orated*condition: Cur-
rent leakage from the
hot (black) wire to the
ground (white)' wire.




Leakage can be detert-A with a nepn-hulb cir-
cuit tester as indicated in the diagram. The
ultimate symptom, of course, is a short cir-
cuit that blows a fuse or trips a circuit
breaker. This is far preferable to the spark-
ing that leakage can cause, however. Sparking
leads to fires. When the fuse blows cleanly,
the power is cut off and danger of fire is
eliminated. And a blown fuse prompts immedi-
ate action to trace and cure the problem
because otherwise the entire circuit is in-

S3with merely by wrapping with electrical
Staple. There is the danger, however, that the
crumbling insulation continues back into the
box connector where it's not readily visible.
If such is the case, it's a ready-made con-
dition for a short circuit or fire.
cure is to rip out all the old wiring and to-
tally replace it. While such a step is doubt-
less the best solution, it is quite expensive
--and messy. There is an in-between solution
that is much less expensive and can extend
the life of your old wiring by many years.

3 HIS IN-BETWEEN SOLUTION is possible because
/the insulation inside the armored section of
Sthe cable is almost always in far better con-
dition than the insulation that has been dir-
ectly exposed to the air for many years. _S.
to et wire that has ound i %tin all you
ave to do is cut ck a foot so e
Sarmor and expose the wire that has been
protected from air oxidation.
YOU MIGHT WISH to leave this task to an elec-
trician. But if you live in an area where do
it-yourself wiring is permitted, here is what
is involved.

Circudt Tester



F THE ELECTRICIANS who originally installed
your wiring did a proper job, they left some
slack in the BX cable into the box. You can
then cut back the armor and get some fresh
wire to work with. Here are the steps that
you would follow:


2. Chip away plaster around the box and
unscrew box from the lath or stud.

<3. Remove cable from box by loosening screws
on cable clamp.
X4. Pull slack cable out of wall and cut 12"
off the BX armor. Be careful not to cut
into insulation of the wires inside the
armor. Insert plastic anti-short collar
between end of armor and wires in the

~5. Cut off deteriorated section of wire and
use the freshly exposed wire to reinsert
into the box.

X'6. Re-clamp cable to box; re-mount box in
wall; patch plaster.

Note: Detailed instructions on cutting of
wire and mounting of electrical boxes is con-
tained in the booklet cited below--or in any
standard wiring text.

is a little more complicated. What's in-
volved is adding a junction box and splicing
in a new piece of BX cable.

While a messy job--because a bigger hole in
the wall is involved--it's usually a lot less

Inexpensive Electrical Know-How

iw ing mastery over your electri-
S cal system is the 50-page book-
let published by the National
Plan Service. It covers all
the basics, starting with elec-
trical theory, tools, safety
procedures, and how to tackle
all the basic wiring jobs. It
is a handy reference whether
you plan to do the wiring yourself or just
want to talk intelligently to an electri-
cian. The price is 85. "How To Do Elec-
rical Wiring" from National Plan Service,
1700 West Hubbard St., Chicago, Illinois,

expensive (and less messy) than ripping out
and totally replacing the old wiring.

JUNCTION BOXES and spliced wiring can be in-
stalled either in walls or ceilings. The hole
that is left in the plaster is a relatively
simple matter for you---or a plasterer--to
patch. 4tFr


Plumbing Systems

Again, the correcting steps and problems encountered with plumbing

systems are well explained in two articles found in the "Old House

Journal". They are included in the following pages. Also included

are excerpts from William H. Crouse's "Home Guide to Repair, Upkeep,

and Remodeling." These articles deal with the maintenance and repair

of single electrical and plumhing problems.




S $1.00

Vol. IV No. 2
February 1976

Renovation And Maintenance Ideas For The Antique House

Plumbing Clinic:

4S Co-Existing ^

With Old Piping

By Clem Labine
PLUMBING is something that most old-house
owners would rather not think about.
Piping can hardly be considered the most
glamorous part of restoration. Yet you ignore
plumbing at your peril. If water from leaking
pipes doesn't ruin your walls and ceilings,
then the plumber will when he is making the
OBVIOUSLY, the ideal situation when taking on
an old house is to replace all old piping-
especially if you are doing a top-to-bottom
restoration and have the place torn up anyway.
We'll deal in greater detail with the fine
points of laying out a whole new system in
later installments of The Plumbing Clinic.
FOR NOW, we are going to assume that for
reasons of economy or convenience you've de-
cided to do the minimum amount of plumbing
work. So we'll review some of the character-
istics of old plumbing systems and ways that
you can get the most mileage out of antique
pipes. But one final warning: Plumbing work
is just about the messiest job there is-
second only to plastering. So before spending
many hours and dollars decorating a ceiling
or wall, be sure you won't have to tear it all
apart a few months later to get at a rotten
pipe buried in the partition.
beyond most homeowners. In many
areas building codes require
such work to be done by licensed
plumbers. Besides, most of us
don't have the special tools and
skills to cut, fit and join big

In This Issue
An American Gothic Castle............... 3
Tips on Storm Windows................... 2
Preserving Exterior Woodwork............7
Gothic Decoration....................... 5
Finish Reviver Kit.....................12

Coming Next Month

hunks of metal pipe. The advent
of plastic pipe-where permitted
by the codes-has simplified in-
stallation, but most of us are
content to let the pros handle the
big jobs. The vast majority of plumbers will
do a competent job-as long as you know pre-
cisely what you want done and insist on it.

W HAT THE OLD-HOUSE OWNER can do is learn
how to make simple hook-ups (like attach-
ing a sink to roughed-in pipes), make
repairs and to supervise a plumber in his
placement of new lines.
no matter how crude-will save you many dollars
and much grief. With many plumbers today,
you seem to have.to work out an appointment
weeks in advance.~'s 's harder to see a plumb-
er than a doctor.'f Heaveh help you if you have
a plumbing emergency on a Saturday evening of
a holiday weekend. By being able to jury-rig
repairs yourself you can at least keep the
piping in service until you can arrange an
audience with the plumber-and
avoid extra charges for rush
- --- service.
pends on two things: (1) Analyzing
--m, (Continued on page 9)

Z i

(Old Pipes-Cont'd. from page 1)

the plumbing system in advance of any dif-
ficulty so that you know what pipes go where
and what each does; (2) Having on hand the
tools and materials that you will need to
make emergency repairs. Your plumbing tool
box should pass the "Sunday Afternoon Test":
That is, could you make repairs with tools
and materials on hand when all the hardware
stores are closed?

Test The Shy tiOff Valve

A LL THE BOOKS TELL YOU that the first thing
to do when checking out your plumbing is
to locate the main water shut-off valve.
The main shut-off valve is your final line of
defense in event of emergency. If a leak
occurs--and you can't isolate the problem line
quickly-then you have to be able to shut off
the flow of water to the entire house.
owner is to be sure to TEST the main shut-off
valve to be sure it works. Sometimes, an old
valve that has remained undisturbed for years
will be rusted tight in the open position. No
amount of twisting on the handle will budge
some of these "frozen" valves. In fact, ex-
cessive twisting with a wrench may succeed
only in breaking the handle. You don't want
to discover that you have a frozen valve just
when your basement is starting to fill up
with water!
ABOUT THE ONLY WAY TO DEAL with a stuck valve
is to liberally soak the valve with a pene-
trating lubricant like "Liquid Wrench." Give
the valve a few raps with a hammer to help
the Liquid Wrench penetrate-then leave the
valve alone for a day. If this doesn't loosen
the valve, repeat the dousing and rapping.
After doing this two or three times, if the
valve stem is still stuck-so are you! It
means you'll probably have to replace the
whole valve. In the case of houses connected
to a water main, this means cutting off the
water out at the street. This is definitely
licensed plumber time!*
AFTER MAKING SURE that the main shut-off
valve works, you ought to label this
all-important valve with a big tag so
that someone who is not familiar with
the system could shut it off in your absence.

ONCE YOU'RE SURE you can cut off the flow of
water to the house, you are ready to turn
your attention to the rest of the system.

*The fellow next door to me once changed his
own shut-off valve without having the water
turned off at the street. He packed the main
water pipe on the street side of the valve in
dry ice. The water in the pipe quickly froze,
forming an ice plug that kept the water back
while he put on a new shut-off valve. It
worked fine for Fred-he was an eternal op-
timist!-but is a very chancy procedure and
definitely not recommended.

Know Your Piping

plumbing system: (1) The supply pipes;
(2) The DWV (Drain-Waste-Vent) piping.
The supply side is easy to understand. You
obviously need a pipe for hot water and a
pipe for cold water running to each fixture.
About the only thing to watch out for on the
supply side--other than leaks-are the mate-
rials of which the piping is made.
or plastic pipe. In older installations, you
may find brass, galvanized iron--or even
lead. Sometimes you'll even find creative
combinations of these metals. (A sure invi-
tation for trouble; joints between dissimilar
metals corrode from galvanic action.)
GALVANIZED IRON AND LEAD are also trouble.
Galvanized iron has a shorter life than other
materials-and is prone to scale build-up.
If you have low water pressure in your house
-and you have galvanized iron supply pipes--
it's likely that you are getting pressure
drop from scaled-up pipes. It only takes one
plugged up section at a key spot to lower
pressure throughout the entire house. The
only way to tell for sure if scaling is the
culprit is to remove a section and take a
look. If you find significant scaling, you
had best be prepared to replace all the
galvanized pipe,
well understood by many people-especially
the venting system. Water flows to the
sewer (or septic tank) through the drain lines.
The problem is that sewer gas can also flow
back through these same pipes into the house.

fitted with a trap. Traps form a water seal
that prevents sewer gas from leaking out
through the fixture. (Contrary to popular
myth, the primary function is ot to catch
rings and hair pins that fall into the drain!)
BUT A TRAP ALONE is not enough. Sewer gas can
accumulate behind the trap and leak into the
house through any joint that isn't gastight.
So main waste stack (also called "soil stack")
is carried up through the roof-and left open
to the atmosphere. Any accumulated sewer gas

Pipe Type Test
IF THERE IS ANY DOUBT about the material
of which your piping is made, a magnet
and small knife will tell you quickly:
*COPPER--Magnet won't stick. When scratch-
ed with knife, color showing is orange-
OBRASS-Magnet won't stick. When scratch-
ed, color is yellowish gold.
OLEAD--Magnet won't stick. Soft when
scratched with knife; color is silvery
*GALVANIZED & CAST IRON--Magnet sticks.

The Old-HBose Journal

ebruar 1976



.5oil 12=


is then vented harmlessly to the atmosphere
and dispersed by the wind.
IN ADDITION TO THE VENT on the main soil
stack, there should be a vent line between
every fixture trap and the main soil stack
...a vent line that carries up above the
highest plumbing fixture in the house.
Reason: Water falling down the main Falng
soil stack (especially from a flushing Water
toilet) can create a vacuum via the
aspirator effect in all the horizon-
tal waste lines connected
to the stack. Thus,water Va uu, j
in the fixture traps could va
be pulled into the main ----
stack by the vacuum-break-
ing the protective water seal in DraLn
the trap. e
THE TRAP IS PROTECTED by the vent pipe
inserted between the trap and the main
soil stack. This vent line-open to Main
the atmosphere at the roof-equalizes Soal
pressure on both sides of the trap... St8cK
so no water-siphoning vacuums can form.

WITH OLD PLUMBING, alas, you may find that
some fixtures are not properly vented. In
these cases, you can probably continue to
live with them. Codes usually make allowances

Vent lines prevent vacuums in the main
soil stack from siphoning water out of
the traps. All vents must connect to
highest point in the system.

for leaving old piping in place as long as
it is in working order. As for safety, as
long as no one has been killed by sewer gas
in the house in the last 100 years you can
figure that there is no imminent peril.
Many Brooklyn brownstoners have been peace-
fully co-existing with old lavatories that
are not vented in accordance with the new

N ANY NEW PLUMBING WORK, however, all fix-
tures should be .vented properly. (If com-
mon sense doesn't demand it, the plumbing
inspector will!) The requirement for a vent
doesn't present much of a problem when the
work is being done on the top floor. On the
ground floor, however the requirement to run
a vent line up to the~top tf the house can
pose the annoying problem of how to conceal
the pipe. The' plumber will want to take the
most direct route...which often means exposed

IN THIS SITUATION, it will pay you to know
about the pipe chases and other "secret
passages" in the walls of your house (see The
Journal, Jan. 1974). Telling the plumber
where you want the vent pipe to run may cause
him to mumble and grumble...but if you've
thought it through carefully, he'll do it.

From ixturez

.- 3'epth Of
To &tSo Water
Ppa Seat

Cleanout IPtL

(AMoe), SsweR QAS
TRP-P, VENT (Rkwr)
LETs G"a Escieu.



1i FLoor~

Lead Piping
IF YOU HAVE ANY LEAD supply or waste pipes,
this stuff is probably 75-100 years old...
and near the end of its service life. Al-
though you should plan on replacing it as soon
as is practical, circumstances may require
you to live with the lead pipes for a little
while longer. Which means that you should
know how to patch the pinhole leaks that in-
evitably occur.

SIMPLEST METHOD OF REPAIR is based on lead's
softness. The procedure was demonstrated by
a plumber that a fellow brownstoner called
in one day when a lead supply pipe sprouted
a pinhole leak. When the plumber arrived,
he smiled at the dismay my friend exhibited
while looking at the gentle rain of water.
The plumber reached into his tool box and took
out a ball peen hammer. He gave the pipe a
sidewise rap in the area of the leak. The
little spout of water stopped immediately.
The lead was soft enough so that the lead
closed over the pinhole after it was struck
with the hammer.

with a hammer, leaking lead piping can also
be mended in the following manner: (1) Turn
off water supply so that pipe empties of
water; (2) Dry the area around the leak
thoroughly with heat from a hair dryer, heat
lamp or high-wattage light bulb. (If you use
a propane torch as a heat source, be gentle-
the flame is hot enough to melt lead!);
(3) Thoroughly clean the pipe with steel wool
or a wire brush on an electric drill so the
lead is shiny at least 3 in. around the leak;
(4) Apply plastic lead, plastic steel or
equivalent patching compound to the leak.
Build to at least 1/8-in, thickness and spread
2 in. all around the leak. Allow to dry
thoroughly in accordance with manufacturer's

Leaks In The DWV System

OST LIKELY, the Drain-
Waste-Vent system in
your house is a
combination of gal- Le ad
vanized and cast a
iron. Horizontal
drain lines are usu- BLL
ally 1-in. or 2-in.
galvanized; the ver- En:A OaKum
tical soil stacks are ,
normally 4-in. cast iron,
as is the main horizontal
waste line in the cellar
that leads to sewer or
septic tank. Sp t

subject to two kinds of
problems: (1) Loosened
joints and (2) Leaks caused
by rusting and/or cracking.
Joints in the 4-in. cast
iron pipe are rather com- CPoa83- 86tT OF
plex affairs. First, the
spigot end of one section Le~boD JOINT IN
is fitted into the bell SoIL 5QTfC

S end of the adjacent sec-
tion. The joint is then
packed with oakum (a
CajKjni tron specially treated fibrous mate-
rial) and is driven tight with
hammer and calking iron. Mol-
ten lead is then poured into the joint, on top
of the oakum. On horizontal runs, an asbestos
joint runner has to be clamped in place to
hold the molten lead in place. After the lead
cools, it is packed tight using a hammer and
calking iron.

Scan disturb the lead seal in these joints.
The symptoms: Slow leaks ("weeping") from
a horizontal line; the smell of sewer gas from
their vertical or horizontal lines.

REPACKING THESE JOINTS is beyond the ability
of most homeowners; handling molten lead is
not something you undertake casually. How-
ever, there is one thing you can try if you
are absolutely determined to avoid another
encounter with the plumber. lTake a hammer
and calking iron (or blunt cold chisel if ynu
can't locate a calin rnn a plubing
suply store with sharp blows re-work
e enreface o the lead o t is
to move the lead enough so that it one again
seals tight against the iron,

% AST IRON PTP Ecan also fail due to crack-
ing or rusting through racks in verti-
cal stacks are especially insidious. They
can dump water into the walls intermittennt '
tormonths before surface discoloration dglvs
them away.

that has a rust hole can
be repaired so that it is
serviceable for many
months. But realize that
the section (and maybe
most of the waste pipe) is
seriously flawed and
probably will have to be
replaced within 24 months.

L.Thorouqhly Clean
hrea around
2t a

.TO REPAIR a small crack 7 ,
or pinhole leak in a cast -'
iron pipe, you can use Z. ruh On Epoy
plastic lead or plastic Or Polyeater ?ain
steel, following the pro-
cedure outlined earlier
ofr patching lead pipe.
For larger holes and --
cracks, you can use the
procedures shown at the .
right: Shut off figqo f p W e-
water and dry thepi e q Is Ceath. t-CcOt
with heat. Clean the With gapin.
pipe with wirebrushing.
(Use strip of coarse
emery paper if pipe is close to wall and hard
to get behind.) Coat cleaned pipe with poly-
ester or epoxy resin--t least 6 in. on either
side of the hole. Wrap with fiberglass strip;
coat with resin then put on a second wrap of
fiberglass. Finally, coat the whole patch
with a topcoat of resin. Allow to cure over-
night. This patch will last a long time; it's
the rest of the pipe that you have to worry
about. More next month. an



Vol. III No. 12
December 1975

Renovation And MRNALntenance Ideas For The Antique House

Renovation And Maintenance Ideas For The Antique House
I I I I I' 1

by Carolyn Flaherty
THE BATHROOM can be a real problem for the
old-house restorer. Since many old houses
didn't even have bathrooms in their previous
life, it is sometimes a room that cannot be
restored. The problem is more of relating it
in general appearance to the rest of the
WHILE IT IS often easier .and preferable to
the old-house owner to have a completely
modern bathroom, there are those who do not
like the impact of a modern room in an old
house. There is a great deal of available
information for the planning and decoration
of the modern bathroom and, therefore, there
is no need to repeat any of it in this article.
Rather, this is an effort at assisting the
old-house owner who wants to retain or re-
create a functional room with an ambiance re-
lated to the rest of the house.
T HERE WAS, of course, no
such thing as an Early
American bathroom. There-
fore there are no reproduction
toilet articles that are not p'
gimmicky. The sight of the
valiant U. S. eagle adorning
a cutesy plastic-pine
"Colonial" toilet seat
cbver is accompanied by the
apparition of early states-
men whirling in their

In This Issue
Repairing Slate Roofs.................. 6
Saving Two Southern Victorians.........3
Refinishing Furniture..................2
Milk Paint............................12
An Edwardian Bathroom in Brooklyn.....11
Hand-Forged Hardware..................12

Coming Next Month

respective graves. The little gold eagle on
every practical and decorative object has be-
come as much of a nuisance as the city pigeon.
A BATHROOM in an Early American house is
either a much later addition or converted
bedroom with plain twentieth century fixtures.
Decoration is therefore the only way to relate
the bathroom to the main body of the house.
A converted bedroom-to-bathroom usually means
a rather large bathroom by modern standards.
COLOR, TEXTURE and pattern are the neces-
sary ingredients. With a good choice of
paint, paper and lighting fixtures, the room
can be an extension of the style and period of
the rest of the house.
WALLS can be papered with one of the many good
reproduction wallpapers. Many of these papers
come with a vinyl coating that makes them more
durable but does not affect their old-fashioned
appearance. Stencilled walls
Si will give an Early American
look to plaster walls. The
patterns can be protected by
applying a polyurethane or
conventional varnish. The
bathroom is a wonderful place
to experiment with the
Sstencilling technique because
of the smaller size of the
Room. A small all-over design
in a wallpaper or stencilled
(Continued on page 8)

C Copyright 1975, The Old-House Journal Corporation

eL 0

(Continued from page 1)
application will camouflage the irregularities
of an oddly shaped room.
SOME OF THE NEW colored bathtubs and other
fixtures look well in the "new" Early
American bathroom. Major manufacturers have
bayberry greens, rich blues, and soft golds
in their lines--hues that go well with the
colors found in many of the reproduction wall-
papers and fabrics. These deep shades are
enhanced by the look of wood. You can buy
ready-made or custom-made tubs enclosed in
wood and sinks set into a wooden cabinet.
If the present bathroom includes some worn,
painted cabinets that are not very attractive,
they can be grained to simulate the appearance
of wood.
fixtures and hardware will help create a
traditional look. A bathroom window offers
another opportunity to restate the decorating
theme. A simple arrangement of white or
documentary print fabric in a tie-back or
plain Shaker-style (similar to cafe curtains)
would be appropriate.

Victorian Bathrooms

HOUSES BUILT AROUND 1850 and later demand
an entirely different point of view. It
is possible to re-create a late 19th century
bathroom. Even if the period you restore to
is later than the house itself, it will most
likely marry well in character. An under-
standing of the 19th century bathroom is
useful in this effort.

rooms were in general use. As late as the
70's, even in affluent households the zinc
tub was still placed in front
of the bedroom fire for adults
and the kitchen fire for child-
ren. Fortunately for the ser-
vants who had to fill and empty
the large tubs, frequent bath-
ing was thought to bring on lung disease
and sothe job was generally a weekly pro-
THE VICTORIANS were also wont to
go to great lengths to disguise
sanitary fittings with wash-
basins hidden in dressers, huge
hooded baths in wardrobes, and
toilets inset into all manner
of cabinets. Actually, this
latter custom was not new.
Fine cabinetmakers like .
Sheraton and Hepplewhite
did some of their finest '
work when turning out
commodes for the
tub, sink end toilet
all in one room, were
large. Pipes were
Concealed by boxing
in tubs and toilets, The Doulton & Co. Thr

usually with varnished rnower ua ing.
mahogany. Washbasins
were set in bureau-like
cabinets with marble
tops. Other articles
of furniture were placed
in the bathroom for
storage or relaxation--
chairs, sofas, bureaus $.
with heavily framed
mirrors. Stained glass
windows provided both
privacy and elegance.

more open look, in the interests of clean-
liness, became fashionable. Pipes were ex-
posed so that they could be cleaned more
easily and germs could not gather in enclosed
spaces. Floors and walls were tiled, and tubs
had ball and claw feet. A new innovation was
the shower bath.
BY 1900 cast iron bathtubs with a porcelain
coating had replaced the wooden box lined
with sheet lead and sunken-tubs with ornament-
al tiles were coming into use. Bathrooms tiled
in pastel colors were not common until the 1920's.

BATHS WERE OFTEN placed in the center of the
room during the Victorian era--a "new" idea
being used by many decorators today for large
bathrooms. In the nineteenth century, it
sometimes didn't occur to the houseowner to
have the bath installed any place other than
were the old zinc hip-bath had been -- in
front of the fire. Plumbing was generally
installed in a former bedroom as the house-
builder had not thought to make provision for
a separate room to hold bathing and toilet
HE MOST ELEGANT and comfortable bathrooms
were designed in the prosperous Edwardian
era. King Edward VII, a man much concerned
with pleasant surroundings, commissioned the
gentleman dapper, one Mr. Crapper, to devise
some of the most innovative sanitary fittings
and fixtures ever made, then or now. The
bathroom Mr. Crapper designed at Sandringham
House in England is still in perfect
working order. In fact, the few that
could afford them were offered a
wider choice of tubs, toilets,
lavatories and hardware than
the many are offered today.
THE TECHNOLOGY of bathroom
plumbing has really advanced
very little since the begin-
ning of the century, and if
some of the elegant, old fix-
tures were available today as
reproductions they would
no doubt find a large
market. Today's fixtures
S --t tend to be less well de-
signed for the body.
Tubs are too small, wash-
basins are too low with
the faucets placed so
Close to the back that
S you can't get your hands
S "* *- wet, and the hardware is
e Person Lavatory awkward to handle.

The Old-louse Journal

December 1975

A Real Victorian Bathroom

The photo at right is of the bathroom
in the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in
Hartford, Connecticut. Built in 1871,
Mrs. Stowe lived in it from 1873 until
her death in 1896.

The side walls are papered over tongue-
and-groove wainscoting. The floor is
spatter-painted in five colors, common-
ly done in the 19th century. The small
cherry mirror belonged to Mrs. Stowe
and the spool-turned towel rack is a
typical Victorian accessory. The very
ingenious contraption on the end wall
combines a tin-lined bathtub and sink
with a kerosene heater. At the very
top is a tank, which feeds the heating
tank. The marble sink is on two tracks
with a brass pull. Folded doors can
be closed to completely hide it from
view. The tank toilet (the top is
hidden in the picture) is a "front
flush" type with the bowl in the shape
of an elephant trunk.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is
part of the Stowe-Day Foundation and
is open year-round. Information can
be obtained by phoning the Nook Farm
Visitors' Center (203) 525-9317. A
free folder can be obtained by writing:
The Stowe-Day Foundation, 77 Forest
Street, Hartford, Connecticut 06105.



I Il ~o. ,

K :!

Some Suggestions For The Old Bathroom

W HEREVER POSSIBLE, keep the old fixtures
and replace or repair parts. The old
porcelain fixtures frequently are chipped and
stained. Often these can be salvaged by re-
surfacing with epoxy, such as the Marshalls'
did with their old bathtub (see pg. 11). The
two-part epoxy systems are the best. The
porcelain first has to be thoroughly cleaned
to remove all traces of soap and grime.

THOROUGH WASHING with trisodium phosphate or
washing soda, followed by rinsing with mineral
spirits will remove both water-soluble and
oil-soluble contaminants. Chips in the porce-
lain have to be filled in with epoxy metal
fillers. Then the entire fixture is sanded
with wet-and-dry sandpaper to create a "tooth"
for the epoxy surface coating. After mixing
according to manufacturers' directions, the
epoxy material is applied with a brush. A

second coat is normally applied about 24 hr.
later after scuff-sanding the first coat.
One brand of epoxy that has been used with
good results is "Klenk's Epoxy Tub & Tile
Finish," manufactured by Zynolyte Products,
Compton, Calif. An epoxy finish can be ex-
pected to last several years; then it will
have to be sanded and new coating applied.

T MAY BE THAT the old fixtures are awkwardly
arranged. A plumber can re-arrange them and
and perhaps storage space can be added at the
same time. An attractive old cabinet or
bureau will lend period atmosphere. While
looking over the old fixtures, it can also be
decided whether the pipes and plumbing are to
be exposed or boxed in with wood. Both ways
had their decades of popularity.

Some of the bathroom accessories offered in the Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog of 1902.

December 1975

The Old-House Journal

Source For Old Faucets & Parts

faucets or replacement parts you may
want to contact Anthony Dentro. He
has built up a nation-wide business by
stocking parts and pieces for old
faucets. He will also make up parts
to your specification. If you are
ordering by mail, he'd need a sample
of the type of faucet or part you are
seeking--or else a detailed drawing.
Contact: Anthony Dentro, Dentro
Plumbing Specialties, 63-42 Woodhaven
Boulevard, Rego Park, New York.
Telephone: (212) 672-6882.

THE ESSENTIALS of a good bathroom are simpli-
city, style and cleanliness. Early bathrooms
had as much attention paid to floor, wall
and lighting treatments as to the fixtures
themselves. It is the care given to all these
elements as well as to the decorative acessor-
ies that gives an old bathroom its charm.

AS IN ANY OTHER ROOM, a bathroom can be
A given character and visual interest by
emphasizing architectural details and wall
divisions. Wood mouldings can be added for
finishing at the top of wallpaper, or to di-
vide the walls into panels. Keep wainscoting
if you are lucky enough to have it. Probably
made of softwood, it will most likely not be
worth stripping but can be painted, grained
or antiqued. Wallpaper borders can lend an
old fashioned effect. Old walls that tend to
crack and peel can be covered with a texture
paint and accented with ceramic tile borders.

TEXTURES play an important part--real marble,
ceramic tile, wood. Granite was a favorite
English surface for lavatory tops and slate
was often used. Painted imitations of these
materials were also quite common. But the
modern plastic versions of these materials--
plastic marbelized tiles, plastic wood panel-
ling, etc.--will destroy the nostalgic

Source For Little White Tiles

If you have an old-fashioned tiled
floor with little white or white and
black tiles, you may have an area
where some are missing. Tile Distri-
butors has replacement tiles and they
will ship them through the mail. They
have a 1 in. white hexagon tile and
a "spiral weave" which is four white
tiles with a black tile center. The
minimum order is one square foot.
Writd to Ron Mirando at Tile Distri-
butors, 7 Kings Highway, New Rochelle,
N. Y. 10801. Tel. (914) 633-7200.
I Wiii i Eii Wii EUiaiiiejiia ii i iiWiiEjiiEdiiaBWie iiiiaiiW ii

elegance and privacy in Victorian and Edward-
ian bathrooms. If you don't have one, and
installing a new one is too expensive, a panel
over the existing window can be used for the
same effect. It is much less expensive than
installing a window.

WOOD SHUTTERS are an attractive, sensible way
to treat windows as is the Roman shade--a
shade that folds accordion-style and pulls up
and down like a Venetian blind.

A CERAMIC TILE FLOOR IS the most practical
kind for the bathroom. It has the greatest
moisture-re'sistance and is very attractive.
It can also be quite expensive. However, a
good deal of the cost is for the installation
and the competent do-it-yourselfer can save
a large portion of the cost by installing it
himself. If you have a practical, old-
fashioned little-white-tiled floor, you can
add a bit of comfort and color with an area
rug. But the wall-to-wall carpeting shown
today for bathrooms is out of character in
the period room. If there is an old wood
floor in poor condition, spatter-painting or
stencilling can give it a lift. They would
have to be coated with a water-resistant poly-
urethane or conventional varnish.

IF THE BATHROOM does not have a period light-
ing fixture and adding one is not practical,
there are many plain globe types of modern
fixtures that look very well with Victorian
decoration. Attractive hardware also adds a
great deal of charm to the room. The Old-
House Journal Buyers' Guide lists many firms
who make good reproduction hardware. A
wood or brass drapery pole makes an elegant
towel rack. An oval Victorian mirror instead
of an antiseptic medicine chest mirror makes
a world of difference, but then it is necessary
to find another old wall-cabinet for the

W HEN ADDING A NEW BATHROOM to the old-house
the fixtures can be installed on one wall
to save money; that is, on the "wet wall"--the
one that contains the piping. Although this
is not always the best arrangement for decor-
ation, it does save a great deal in plumber's
fees. When installing a shower, remember
that a shower curtain and rod is not only less
expensive than glass doors but also more in
keeping with the old house.

IF YOU PLAN TO DECORATE in period style then
white fixtures are the best choice, as colored
ones are a recent innovation. When buying
fixtures from a plumber remember that they
usually purchase only one brand and if you
want another type you will have to study the
catalogs of various firms yourself.

CAST IRON tubs with a porcelain finish are
the highest priced but the most durable. They
hold heat well insuring a comfortable bath
and holds a finish well and resists chipping.
Steel tubs are almost as good and slightly
lower in price. But the new fiberglass-re-
inforced polyesters are overly sleek in
appearance and will scratch easily.m

The Old-Bouse Journal

December 1975





beirg plugged into the adaptor. This filters out the unwanted noise and
prevents it from kicking back into the radio.
Televisiot. -Television receivers are comparative newcomers to the
domestic scene and, although they are similar in some respects to radios,
they are considerably more complex. The incoming signal is translated
into a tiny spot of light which moves swiftly across the face of a large
tube to form the picture that you see. Thirty times a second the spot of
light moves from left to right across the tube face in 450 parallel lines so
that, in a single second, it describes 13,500 lines. So swift does all this
happen that the spectator sees a complete, full-screen moving vision.
Because of the complexity of television receivers, their manufacturers
discourage tinkering with them. If any trouble occurs, a qualified service-
man should be called in. The main troubles experienced have to do ih
the image obtained in the viewing screen which shows up as a lack of de-
finition, foggy streaks, low light intensity, and so on. Man-made static
causes streaks or blurring of the image. Where such interference is pr-
duced by electrical devices in the home, the use of special condensers and
adaptors (as explained under radios) will reduce or eliminate the trouble
However, it is recommended that tracing down and eliminating inter-
ference, or any other television troubles, be left to the serviceman. ven
the location and installation of the television receiver antenna must be
expertly planned and made since this has a profound effect on the opera-
tion of the receiver.
Maintenance and Repair.-CAvTIoNs: The first rule in making any checks
or repairs of electric devices is to make sure that the current is off-that both sides
of the circuit are disconnected. Touching a live wire or metal part may cause an
unpleasant shock and might, under certain conditions, cause electrocution. For
example, suppose you are standing on a metal warm-air register. This register is
probably grounded or connected to the earth through the air ducts and furnace.
While standing on the register, you decide to fix the vacuum cleaner; and, to make
a serious situation still more serious, suppose you leave the cleaner connected and
then partly dismantle it. You accidentally touch a live wire, a brush, the armature
commutator. Current flows through your body, the register, and the duct to ground.
Perhaps it does not kill you, but you get a nasty shock. Therefore, be sue that the
current is off. Turning the switch off may not be enough since this disconnects only
one line and leaves the other line still connected. Pull the plug and be sure that
both sides of the circuit are disconnected.
Never use electric devices that you have to touch at the same time that your
body is connected to ground. For example, using an electric razor or curling iron in
the bathtub is just asking for electrocution. If the electric appliance is in perfect
condition, nothing will happen. But if water should happen to get on or in it or if,
through wear, part of the insulation has come off the internal wiring, the device may
become electrically "hot." This may happen even though the device still operates

in a normal condition. Then, contact with any metal part of the device would
probably give you a fatal electric shock. (See pages 254 to 258 in Chap. 21 on safety
hazards around the house.)
The danger of receiving an electric shock is somewhat greater in a basement since
the floor there is often damp and your body is more readily grounded. If electric
washing machines, mangles, or other appliances are used in the basement, it is
recommended that they be permanently grounded by connecting a wire between
the metal base of the appliance and a water pipe (see page 258). This prevents
shocks since failure of internal insulation will cause the appliance to ground through
the wire instead of through you. This will blow fuses, but that is far better than
being electrocuted! When a fuse blows out under such circumstances, check the
appliance before installing a new one or trying to use the appliance.
Tracing Trouble in a Light Circuit.-The first thing to do when a light
does not come on after the switch is operated is to try another bulb. Take
the bulb out of the socket and screw in one known to be good. If it lights,
the first bulb was simply burned out. If the second bulb does not burn,
then the fuse is blown or the switch or wires in the circuit are defective.
S If other lights connected to the same circuit do turn on, the light socket or
switch, or the wiring to the socket, is defective. If other lights connected
to the same circuit do not turn on, suspect the fuse. Usually, when a fuse
has blown, the mica face of it will be blackened. This can be readily seen.
Before trying to replace a fuse, be sure to open the master switch so that
the circuits will be dead.
If, after replacing blown fuses and then closing the master switch,
the fuses blow out again, you have a short circuit and some checking will
be required before you try any more fuses. Open the master switch again
and then completely disconnect the floor and table lamps, radio, vacuum
sweeper, or any other electric device plugged into the circuit by pulling
out all plugs from their receptacles. This will leave only the permanent
wiring connected. Now, replace the fuses and close the master switch
again. If the fuses blow out once more, the short circuit is in the per-
manent wiring and a major checking job is required. Reopen the master
switch and check every wall receptacle, switch, and light outlet by re-
S moving the cover plates. Look for exposed wires that have become shorted
S to the metal part of the outlet box or to the other wire, or for defective
plugs or switches. Usually, where a short has occurred, the wires and the
S surrounding area will have been blackened by the electrical arc. Repair
can be effected by covering the exposed wire with rubber and friction
tape. If the short is not visible, it is probably located in the cable behind
the walls or ceiling, and the only correction is to install new wires. Often
this can be done by finding the old cable ends, connecting the new cable
to them, and then withdrawing the old cable. As the old cable is pulled
out, the new is pulled into place.



Usually, such major repairs are not necessary since the most likely
places for shorts to occur are in a floor or table lamp or in appliance cords
or plugs. The cord causing the trouble can be located by removing all
plugs, replacing fuses, reclosing the master switch, and then plugging the
lamps and appliances back in one by one. As soon as the plug of the de-
fective cord is put into a receptacle, the fuses will blow again.' Examine
the plug and the cord to locate the short. If the short has occurred in the
wire cord itself, a new cord should be used since the insulation is probably
bad and another short would soon develop even though the first was re-
paired. A short may also occur in the wire inside the lamp itself. This may
be corrected by installing a new wire. Internal shorts may develop in
electrical appliances as a result of deterioration of the internal insulation.
Thus, in an old motor, the field or armature windings may be grounding
because the insulation has come off the wires. The remedy is to have a
repairman replace the defective parts, wire or insulation.

(A) (B)
FIG. 57.-Proper way to connect two wires to the two prongs of a plug.

Shorts may also occur in the plug on the end of a cord, owing to bare
wires touching or to broken insulation. Figure 57 illustrates the proper
way to connect the two wires to the two prongs of a plug. Note that,
after the outside insulation has been removed so that the two wires are
free but still covered with their insulation, the wires are tied into a knot.
This knot is tied after the plug is put on the cord and serves to take up
any pull on it. This prevents the wire ends from coming loose as a result
of a pull on the cord so that they cause a short in the plug. After the knot
is tied, the wires are passed around the two prongs, the insulation is
skinned off, the wires are wrapped around the loosened screws once (the
excess being cut off), and the screws are tightened. If the wires are multi-
strand (having several strands), it is best to wrap them tightly together
1 The fuses will also blow if too heavy an electrical load is placed on a circuit. Thus,
attaching several lamps, an electric iron, vacuum cleaner, etc., to a circuit would cause
so much current to flow that the fuses would blow. The remedy for this is to redistribute
the load so that other circuits are carrying part of it. That is, the electric iron could be
used in one part of the house while the vacuum cleaner is used in another part. Putting
in heavier fuses is dangerous since this will permit an excessively large current to flow
through the wires in the circuit. Overheating of the wires and a fire might resultQ


and solder them to prevent loose strands from shorting across to the other
prong in the plug.
If a light known to be good will not turn on even though the fuses
are not blown, there is an open circuit either in the wiring or in the switch.
In a permanent installation such as the ceiling lights and wall switch, re-
move the wall switch from the outlet box (after turning the master switch
off) and operate it a few times to see if the movable part makes connection
with the stationary contacts. On some switches, these parts are visible;
on others, they are encased. Try installing another switch, closing the
master switch, and operating the switch again. If the lights still do not
come on, the circuit is open somewhere between the master switch and
the ceiling light fixture. Examine the latter to see if wires are broken or
not connected. If no opening is discernible, it may finally become necessary
to run new cables.
Inspection.-It is a good idea periodically to inspect the various cables,
cords, plugs, and switches in a home electrical system. If insulation is
wearing thin or breaking off a cord, it is time to replace it. If wire ends
are loose or frayed under the screws in the plug, repair can be easily made
at your convenience. Waiting until the plug gets so bad that a short
develops is dangerous; and the short always seems to develop at an in-
convenient time-just when the guests are arriving at your party, for


to float to the top so that it does not enter the tank. Grease in the septic tank
is apt to slow down or stop the bacterial action, and it is thus important
to keep the grease trap in operation. It should be cleaned out every year
or two, oftener if necessary; less often if little grease is put down the
kitchen drain.












Fro. 73.-Plumber's tools. Tools are not in proportion.

Tools.-Plumbing tools are of two types: those used to cut and thread
pipe for installation and those used to install the pipe. The cutting and
threading tools include (Fig. 73) the pipe vise for holding the pipe firmly


during the operation, the pipe cutter or hack saw for cutting pipe to the
correct length, the reamer for reaming out the pipe to remove the burr
left by the cutting, the stock and die for threading the end of the pipe, or
the tap for tapping the inside of a pipe or fitting. The installing tools
consist of monkey wrenches for turning nuts, unions, and valves with flat
surfaces, and pipe wrenches that grasp, and turn pipes or round fittings.
A hammer is needed to install pipe hangers which are metal straps or
staples by which pipe is hung from joists. A brace and bit is required to
drill holes in flooring through which pipes can be run. A plumb bob and
line and a carpenter's level enable the plumber to align pipe lines properly.
Installation of cast-iron soil pipe requires a joint runner, calking irons,
a blow torch or other heating device for melting lead, and a ladle for
handling the melted lead. Installation of brass pipe requires tools similar
to those used to install steel or galvanized-iron pipe. The taps and dies
are somewhat different because the cutting action of brass is different
from Ihat of iron or steel. Copper tubing requires special tools for cutting
and soldering the joints. If the tubing uses the flanged type of joint, flaring
andjoint tightening tools are required. For cleaning out stopped-up drains,
such tools as augers and plumber's friends are required.
Pipe Vise.-The pipe vise is hinged so that the upper part can be
unlocked and moved to one side to permit placing of the pipe in the vise
jaws. Tightening of the jaws is accomplished by turning the handle to
move the upper jaw down on the pipe. The vise can be installed on a
portable base which is set up at the place of operation.
Pipe Culler.-The pipe cutter has thin, tool-steel cutting wheels
which cut through the pipe as the cutter is rotated around it. The cutter
is used by being installed on the pipe, the handle tightened, and then
revolved around the pipe. As the cutting wheels cut into the pipe, the
handle is further tightened until the pipe is cut in two.
Hack Saw.-The hack saw, which can be used to cut pipe, has many
other uses. It consists of an adjustable steel frame in which a blade can
be fastened. Different sizes of blades with different numbers of teeth per
inch can be installed in the frame for cutting various materials.
Reamer.-After a pipe has been cut, a slight burr will project inward
toward the center of the pipe. This must be removed by a reamer in order
to prevent restriction of water flow. The reamer is conically shaped with
a series of cutting teeth. It is used with a carpenter's brace and is inserted
into the end of the pipe and rotated.
Stock and Dies.-The dies are used to cut threads on the ends of pipes.
The die has a series of cutting edges that cut out the threads as it is
rotated on the pipe. The die is assembled into a stock, which holds it

=_.- _:_1%


firmly and permits it to be turned on the pipe. Before starting a thread,
the pipe should be covered with cutting oil and then, every half turn, the
die should be backed off and additional cutting oil applied.
Taps.-Taps cut internal threads in the end of pipes or fittings. They
are used with a carpenter's brace. Plenty of cutting oil should be used,
and the tap should be backed a quarter turn every forward half turn and
additional oil applied.
Monkey \Irench.-The monkey wrench has parallel jaws that can he
adjusted to grip the parallel faces of a nut, faucet part, or union.
Pipe Wrench.-The jaws of a pipe wrench are not parallel but are so
arranged that pressure on the wrench handle causes the jaws to tighten
on the pipe. The jaws have a series of teeth that bite into and grip the
pipe firmly.
Augers.-Cleanout augers consist of lengths of coil steel or flat steel
strap that can be fed into a pipe at the same time that it is rotated. A
cutter on the end cuts through any obstruction in the pipe and so cleans
out the line. They are mostly used in cleaning out drain or soil lines.
Plumber's Friend.-The plumber's friend or plunger is a rubber cup
on the end of a wooden handle. When the cup is placed over a stopped-up
drain, as in a kitchen sink, and alternately pushed and pulled, the resulting
pressure and vacuum loosen the obstruction and clear the drain.
Seat Dresser.-When a compression faucet or sill cock begins to leak
because of a rough washer seat, the seat can be dressed or smoothed by
use of a special dressing device. This device is installed in the faucet in
place of the regular handle, and the dresser handle given a few turns.
This rotates a cutting device on the seat which smooths it.
Installing a Pipe Line.-If you desired to install a new water line
in your house, you would not need to have all the tools listed above. Most
plumbing establishments will cut and thread the pipe you need so that
you will require only a pair of wrenches, a hammer, and hangers to com-
plete the installation. Suppose, for example, you wished to run a line to
a new sill cock at the back of the house. Your first step would be to study
the plumbing to find the best place to cut in on a cold-water line. If
possible, you should do this near the water meter. If you should tap in
on an already overburdened line, you will not obtain a very heavy flow
of water through the sill cock when other faucets inside the house are
turned on. The tapping in on a line can be done by substituting a tee
fitting for a coupling or elbow. Figure out the line piece by piece, until
you know the exact length of every piece of pipe and the fittings you will
require to connect them together. Then, list the pipes and fittings you
require, and order them from a plumber. He will thread the pipe so that
all you have to do is make up the joints and hang the pipe. In making up


any joint, the threaded end of the pipe should be coated with pipe joint
compound such as paste lead (red or white) in order to assure a tight seal.
This paste fills in any little irregularities between the pipe threads and
the fitting threads and hardens to form a permanent seal.
Copper tubing is much easier to install in a completed house than
ordinary pipe since it can be bent and run between studding or joists
(almost like house wiring). To install ordinary pipe, considerable flooring
or plaster and lath would have to be removed. Copper tubing, particularly
the flare-joint type, is easy to install. The joints are secured merely by
tightening coupling nuts. Instructions on how this is done are obtainable
with the tubing.
House Plumbing Jobs.-From time to time, various minor plumb-
ing repair jobs are required in the average home. Faucets develop leaks,
drains may become stopped up, or leaks occur at joints or in pipes.
Discussed below are some of these repairs. Before beginning any plumbing
repairs, make sure that the water in the line to be repaired is turned off.
In some plumbing installations, each separate line in the house has a shut-
off valve in it, in others, the main shut-off valve back of the water meter
will have to be turned off. Many plumbing installations are made with
shut-off valves just back of the faucets in the various fixtures. Thus, to
repair a faucet on such a system, it would be necessary to shut off only
the particular valve.
CAUTION: After the water has been turned off, turn it back on again slowly.
Sometimes, water has partly drained frn some parts of the system and quick
turning on of the water causes the water to fill these voids suddenly and with
shock stress sufficient possibly to damage or permanently strain pipes, faucets, or
Replacing Faucet Washer.-To replace the washer in a compression
faucet (Fig. 59), the cap nut must be unscrewed from the faucet body.
The handle, stem, and other parts are removed as an assembly with the
cap nut. The screw holding the washer in place on the lower end of the
stem can now be unscrewed and the washer replaced. Examine the con-
dition of the seat in the faucet body. If it is rough, it may be dressed with a
special seat dresser (page 124), which is inexpensive and obtainable in
most hardware stores.
To replace the rubber ball (also called the Fuller washer) in the Fuller-
ball faucet (Fig. 59), the complete faucet must be removed since the
S washer is replaced from the back. The washer is held on the stem by a
nut, which is unscrewed to permit its replacement. The washer must be
adjusted on the stem so that it will give the correct opening and closing
S of the faucet when the handle is turned.


Replacing Packing around the Faucel Slem.-The packing around the
upper part of the faucet stem (Fig. 59) prevents water from leaking out at
this point when the water is turned on. If leaking does occur around the
stem, correction can usually be made by tightening the upper packing nut.
If this does not correct the trouble, the packing will require replacement.
This is done by backing off the packing nut, removing the old packing,
and winding new packing cord around the stem. Replace the packing nut
and tighten it.
Leaking Toilet Flush Tank.-A toilet flush tank may leak because the
water supply shut-off valve does not close as the float rises to the proper
height or because the flush valve does not close the flush-tank outlet.
Although the usual cause of either of these is a worn part, bent parts or
improper adjustment could cause the same trouble. The water supply
shut-off valve has a washer similar to the compression faucet, which is
forced down on the valve seat by the raising of the float. This washer is
replaced by disconnecting the levers that operate the plunger'on which
the washer is attached by a screw. The plunger can then be removed so
that the screw can be taken off and the washer replaced. The flush valve
uses a rubber ball or cap which is held in place on the tank outlet by the
water pressure until the flush lever is tripped. If the ball or cap is worn,
it will not seal the outlet tightly. It is easily replaced by unscrewing it
from the brass lift rod to which it is attached.
Clogged Traps.-Over a period of time, accumulations of grease, dirt,
or other waste may tend to clog the traps under a sink, lavatory, or tub.
There are various ways in which this material may be eliminated. One
method makes use of strong chemicals (obtainable in prepared package
form) that dissolve the wastes.^These chemicals should be used with
caution because they are very caustic and will cause bad burns if they get
on the skin. The directions on the package explain about this and how the
chemical should be used. Periodic use of this chemical will prevent exces-
sive accumulations of sediment. Also, pouring a kettleful of boiling water
into the kitchen-sink drain every few days will go far toward preventing
accumulations of grease and similar sediment in it. Avoid pouring grease
or dumping coffee grounds into the sink drain since these will tend to
encrust in the pipes and trap.
Traps can also be cleaned either by removing the cleanout plug at the
bottom of the trap or, where there is no plug, by unscrewing the two nuts
that hold the trap in place and removing the entire trap for cleaning. In
either case, a wire can be used to scrape out the sediment.
A plunger or plumber's friend (Fig. 73) can be used to break the se-
diment free and open the drain that is not connected by a secondary
opening to an overflow outlet. The plumber's friend is used by partly


filling the bowl with water, placing the rubber cap over the drain, and
working the handle up and down. This creates alternate suction and
pressure that clear the obstruction.
If the toilet or water-closet trap becomes clogged, an auger (Fig. 73)
can be run down through the trap to clean it out.
Clogged Soil Lines.--Many houses have a large trap in the soil line
where it leaves the house to connect onto the main sewer line. These traps
are provided with a cleanout plug which can be removed to clear the trap
if it becomes clogged. The soil line from the house to the sewer sometimes
becomes clogged owing to tree roots which enter the line at the joints.
This will not happen with cast-iron soil pipe with properly leaded joints,
but it may occur when the line is of tile with cemented joints. The roots
can be cut out by use of a special auger with a cutting tool on the end.
Many plumbers have these devices and will perform this job for a reason-
able fee.
Tree roots can be discouraged by occasionally flushing a pound of blue
vitriol (copper sulphate) down the toilet. This chemical kills any roots
growing in the soil line. There are also available small cartridges of chemi-
cal substance that can be flushed down the toilet for the same purpose.
Such materials should not be used in septic-tank installations since they
might stop the action of the tank.
Sewer Gas.-In case any of the traps become dried out owing to leakage
or to the evaporation of the water from them, there will be no water seal
to prevent sewer gas from entering the house. In addition, gas leakage will
occur as a result of cracks, breaks, or loosening of a joint. Evaporation of
the water in a trap will occur if water is not added occasionally. Traps in
rarely used sinks or tubs should be refilled with water every few days.
Repair of any crack or break should be promptly made by replacing pipes
or resealing joints. Iron cement can be used to repair small breaks or cracks
in cast-iron soil pipe. Sewer gas in a house is not only dangerous from a
health standpoint but represents a fire and explosion hazard since it is
dangerously explosive.
Back Siphoning.-While we are on the subject of waste or soil lines, we
might mention back siphoning, a condition not encountered in properly
installed plumbing but fraught with great danger to health. This condition
is the siphoning back into the water line of waste water. It could occur, for
example, where a sink faucet spout is below the overflow drain level. With
the sink filled so that the spout is submerged and with the faucet turned
on, any sudden demand for water in some other part of the house might
cause some of the water in the sink to be sucked or siphoned back into the
Leaks.-Leaks in a water line may occur at joints or in a pipe. When a


pipe begins to leak, it usually means that. the pipe has rusted through or
has cracked as a result of freezing (see next section). Where it has rusted
through, it can be assumed that the entire plumbing system is on the
verge of failure since all pipes are probably in a badly rusted condition
and other leaks will soon develop. The only remedy is replacement. Any
pipes in which freezing of water has occurred are likely to be cracked, or at
least considerably weakened, and they should be watched with consider-
able attention and replaced at the first sign of leakage. Leaks at joints
usually indicate faulty installation work. Repair must be made by
unscrewing and then making up the joint again with pipe joint compound.
Temporary repair of small leaks can be made by wrapping the pipe or
joint with rubber tape, a piece of inner tube, or similar substance, and
holding it in place with wire or a clamp. Arrangements should be made,
however, to have adequate repairs done as quickly as possible.
Frozen Pipes.-As water freezes, it expands with considerable force-
a force sufficient to split a pipe open. Whenever a water pipe has frozen,
be prepared to turn the water off during the thawing-out procedure if a
leak becomes apparent. The first step in thawing a pipe should be to open
the faucets connected to the frozen line. Heat can be applied with an
electric heater, electric-light bulbs, rags dipped in boiling water, etc. A
blow torch can be used but plumbing experts warn that this is dangerous
in two ways: (1) It might start a fire. (2) It is so easy to apply excessive
heat that steam might forrn in a pipe and cause the pipe to burst with
dangerous violence. Steam can form and build up high pressure very
quickly in a frozen pipe since it cannot escape or back up in the pipe.
The possibility of a pipe's freezing can be reduced by insulating the pipe
(see next section). Also, keeping a trickle of water moving through a pipe
will help to prevent freezing since the colder water moves on through and
is replaced before it freezes by the warmer water from the main. If neither
of these precautions is possible, the only alternative is to drain the line.
-In draining a line, be sure that all water runs out. If the line sags at any
point, it will trap water that will freeze unless that part of the line is
drained by lifting it to permit the water to run out.
NOTE: If water lines are frozen, don't draw the water out of the hot-water tank
by turning on the drain cock. This will cause a vacuum in the tank that might cause
it to spring a leak or even collapse.

Installing Plumbing Insulation.-Hot-water storage tanks and
lines can be covered with insulation to conserve the heat and reduce the
cost of heating the water. Ready-made water-storage tank jackets of cork,
asbestos, rock wool, or other substances can be purchased and easily

installed. Similar water jackets are available that fit around the pipes and
fittings. Plastic cork can also be had to be applied with a brush or trowel.
The test of the efficiency of any insulation is whether its outside surface
is warm or cool to the touch. If it is warm when the tank or pipe is filled
with hot water, then the insulation is not very effective; if cool, the insu-
lation is effectively preventing loss of heat.
Insulating the cold-water lines to prevent condensation of moisture
on their outside or to reduce the possibility of freezing can be accomplished
by use of pipe jackets as described above. More commonly, however, a
cork or asbestos cement compound, applied with a brush or trowel, is
Hot-water Troubles.-Troubles in the hot-water supply system are
insufficient hot water, water excessively hot, dirty water, and noises. Also,
it may require excessive fuel (gas, coal, electricity, oil) to obtain adequate
supplies of hot water. All hot-water systems tend to lose efficiency over
a period of time as a result of accumulations of scale or other sediment in
the lines and the tank. The coil or knuckle in the heater or furnace may
clog up so that little water will circulate through it. The rapidity with
which scale and sediment accumulates is determined by the amount of
chemicals in the water. Where water is soft or relatively free of chemicals,
little trouble will be experienced with scale. The water in some localities
is very hard, meaning that it has considerable amounts of chemicals
dissolved in it. These chemicals tend to solidify when the water is heated,
and the pipes and tank become coated with them. This not only reduces
the amount of water that can circulate but. also forms an insulating coat
through which it becomes increasingly difficult for heat to pass. Thus,
more and more heat must be applied (with consequent greater fuel
consumption) to obtain the same amount of hot water. Also, the solidified
chemicals dirty the hot water.
Replacing the coil or knuckle when it becomes clogged up will improve
the efficiency of the system. In some localities, the water is so hard (high
percentage of dissolved chemicals) that the coil or knuckle must be
replaced every year or two to maintain top efficiency. In most hot-water
storage tanks, a faucet or cock is placed at the bottom so that the ac-
cumulated sediment in the tank can be periodically drained off. If this is
not done, so much sediment accumulates that the water passing through
picks up part of it and becomes very dirty.
Another factor to be considered, when the operating efficiency is low
or the hot water is dirty, is the temperature to which the water is being
heated. The higher the temperature, the more inefficient the system is,
and the greater will be the accumulation of sediment. The hotter water


becomes, the more the dissolved chemicals will solidify. Automatic hot-
water heaters should be adjusted so that the water is not heated above
about 130 degrees.
Use of water softeners (pages 106 and 107) that filter the water and
remove dissolved chemicals will prevent most of the troubles discussed
above. With soft water, considerably less soap is required for bathing,
washing dishes, clothes, etc.
Noises.-Noises in the plumbing system, aside from those in the
faucets or valves, consist of rumbling or hammering sounds produced
when a faucet is turned off. Rumbling sounds generally originate in the
hot-water heating system because of steam formation. This may be
especially noticeable when a hot-water faucet is turned on because this
temporarily reduces the pressure in the system and steam suddenly
forms in the heating coil or knuckle, producing the rumbling noise. The
more scale there is in the coil or knuckle, the more pronounced the
rumbling is apt to be. Often, replacing the coil or knuckle will eliminate
the sound.
Hammering sounds produced when a faucet is turned off are caused
by the sudden stoppage of the water flow. When the water is running, it
is moving rather swiftly through the pipes. Then, as the water is suddenly
shut off, it momentarily continues to flow, producing a hard and sudden
thrust on the entire pipe line. This condition is not very desirable since
it might cause enough of a pressure increase actually to split a weakened
pipe or open a joint. Care in shutting off faucets will prevent this noise
and also protect the plumbing. Special cushioning devices are available
that can be installed in the line to take up this shock. They usually have
an air pocket to absorb the hammering effect of the water as the faucet
is turned off. A simple air cushion can be made by installing a vertical
pipe about 3 feet long on one side of the water meter. This pipe is closed
at the top with a cap and is open at the bottom to the water line. It is
filled with air, which compresses to take up the shock when a faucet is
suddenly turned off.
Chattering at a faucet when it is turned on is usually due to looseness
of the washer or other internal part. This can be remedied by disassem-
bling the faucet (pages 125 and 126) and tightening the internal parts.
Care of Plumbing Fixtures.-Fixtures coated with porcelain
enamel should not be cleaned with harsh abrasives since they will ulti-
mately scratch through the surface, make the fixture increasingly hard
to clean, and finally destroy the protective surface. When using any
drain-trap cleaning chemical, he careful to avoid getting any of it on the
porcelain surface since it will eat through and destroy it. Special cleaners


are available for removing from the enamel the brownish stains that result
from hard water.
The enamel will chip or crack if struck a hard blow or if subjected to
sudden extremes of temperature. Broken or chipped enamel can be
repaired by the application of special enamel patching compound or
liquid porcelain enamel. The surface must be clean, dry, and free of
grease so that the substance will bond firmly to the surface when it is
Vitreous china fixtures that become cracked can sometimes be tem-
porarily repaired with china cement, but the value of such repairs is
questionable. Normally, the fixture will require replacement.
Preparing Plumbing for Closing House.--When a house is to be
closed and left unheated during cold weather, the plumbing must be
drained and the traps prepared so that freezing and damage will not
occur. Plumbing installations usually have a drain valve at the lowest
point of the system. When all faucets are turned on and the drain valve
opened, all water in the system will drain out. If no such drain is provided,
it will be necessary to disconnect the line at the lower end so that the water
can drain. Drain the hot-water storage tank. If any horizontal water pipe
has a sag in it, be sure to raise the pipe so that all water will drain out.
Empty the toilet flush tank, sponging out any water left in the bottom.
All traps in the drain lines, including the toilet bowl, should be
emptied of water and filled with antifreeze solution of a type that is non-
evaporating. Regular automobile antifreeze solution could be used. Be
sure to add enough to fill the traps and, if there is a basement trap in the
main soil line to the sewer, pour in enough additional to fill this trap also.


A. Slide List

B. Bibliography

C. Old House Journal Checklist

D. Houseseeker's Handbook- "If You Buy"

E. The House for You- "Know What You Buy"


1. Foundation Settlement- Effects
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 77

2. Inward Leaning Wall
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 83

3. Differentiated Settlement
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
pg. 80

4. Twisting- Structural Movement
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 73
5. Clues to Structural Problems
H. & C. Sleeper The House for You
Pg. 46
6. Cracks- Clues to Direction of Structural Movement
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 54

7. Analysis of Cracks
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 78
8. The "middle third" Rule
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 82

9. Clues to Leaks and Dampness
H. & C. Sleeper The House for You
Pg. 49
10. Dampness- Effects on Walls
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 89

11. Leaking Drainpipes
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 88

12. Where Water will Attack an Old House
Old House Journal "Detecting Rot, Part I"
Vol. II, No. 10, Pg. 7

13. Ivy- Effects on Walls
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 59

14. The Pick Test
Old House Journal, "Detecting Rot, Part II"
Vol. II, No. 11, Pg. o

15. Dry Rot- Effects
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 117

16. Clues to Dry Rot and Termites
H. & C. Sleeper The House for You
Pg- 53

17. Bore Dust- Clue to Beetle Activity
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 6

18. Typical Roof Defects
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
pg. 94

19. Typical Roof Defects- Interior
Donald Insall The Care of Old Buildings Today
Pg. 95

20. Common Sources of Roof Leaks
Old House Journal "Detecting Rot, Part I"
Vol. II, No. 10, Pg. 7

21. Electrical Survey
Old House Journal "How to Conduct an Electrical Survey"
Vol. II, No. 11, Pg. 2

22. Cleats
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 74

23. Cleat Wiring Layout
Wolber L: Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 79

24. Knob-&-Tube
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 214

25. Metal Raceway
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 175

26. Armored Cable- Detail
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 230

27. Armored Cable- System
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 237

2b. Non-ietallic Cable- Detail
Jolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 240

29. Non-Metallic Cable- Layout
Wolber & iose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 240

30. Conduit- Detail
Wolber L iose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 248

31. Conduit- Detail
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 257

32. Conduit Wire Spool
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 257

33. Pig-tail Splice
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
pg. 20

34. Bellhanfers Splice
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 21

35. Western Union Splice
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 22

36. Turnback Splice
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 23

37. Simple Tap
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 23

36. Knotted Tap
dolber & Hose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 24

39. Double Tap
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 25

40. Duplex Tap
Wolber & Rose Practical House Wiring
Pg. 26

41. Installing Wall Switch
Old House Journal "Running Electrical Wiring"
Vol II, No.7, Pg. 6

42. Installing Wall Switch- Method 2
Old House Journal "Running Electrical
Vol II, No. 7, Pg. 7

43. Running Cable Around Cornice
Old House Journal "Running Electrical
Vol II, No. 7, Pg. 8

44. Running Wire Up from Cellar
Old House Journal "Running Electrical
Vol II, No. 7, Pg. 7

45. Running Electrical Wiring
Old House Journal "Running Electrical
Vol II, No. 8, Pg. 5

46. Frayed Wiring Test
Old House Journal "Coping
Vol I, No. 2, Pg. 8

47. Correcting Frayed Wiring
Old House Journal "Coping
Vol I, No. 2, Pg. 9

with Frayed Wiring"

with Frayed Wiring"

48. Plumbing Fixture
R.M. Starbuck Modern Plumbing Illustrated
Pg. 30

49. Plumber's Tools
Crouse Home Guide to Repair, Upkeep
Pg. 122

50. Fittings
Crouse Home Guide to Repair, Upkeep
Pg. 101

51. Pipe Type Test
Old House Journal "Co-existing with
Vol. IV, No. 2, Pg. 9

52. Fittings- Drain Pipe
Crouse Home Guide to Repair, Upkeep
Pg. 119

53. Vent Lines
Old House Journal "Co-existing with
Vol. IV, No. 2, Pg. 10

& Remodelling

& Remodelling

Old Piping"

& Remodelling

Old Piping"






AE 622- Problems in Preservation
Jorge L. Currais

Articles/Books read to May 1,1976

1, APT Journal, Vol. V, No. 1, 1973
"X-ray investigations on Buildings"
David M. Hart

2. APT Journal, Vol. VI, No. 1, 1974
"X-ray Analysis of the Narbonne House"
David M. Hart

3. Bullock, Orin M.
The Restoration Manual
Silvermine Publishers, Inc. 1966

4. "Criteria for evaluating Historic Sites & Buildings"
Committee on Standards & Surveys
National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1956

5. Insall, Donald
The Care of Old Buildings Today
London, 1968

6. McKee, Harley J.
Recording Historic Buildings
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, 1964

7. Old House Journal, Vol. II, No. 7, July, 1974
"Running Electrical Wire, Part I"
James R. McGrath

8. Old House Journal, Vol. II, No. 8, Aug., 1974
"Running Electrical Wire, Part II"
James R. McGrath

9. Old House Journal, Vol. II, No. 10, Oct., 1974
"Detecting And Defeating Rot in Old Houses"

10. Old House Journal, Vol. II, No. 11, Nov., 1974
"Preventing Rot in Old Houses" and
11. "How to make an Electrical Survey"

12. Old House Journal, Vol. IV, No. 2, Feb., 1976
"Co-existing with Old Piping"
Clem Labine


13. Old House Journal, Vol. IV, No. 3, Mar., 1976
"More on Old Piping"
Clem Labine

14. Stamm, Martha & Stanforth, Deirdre
Buying and Renovating a House in the City
Alfred A Knopf, N.Y., 1972

15. Stephen, George
Remodelling Old Houses without Destroying their Character
Alfred A Knopf, N.Y., 1972

Articles/Books After May 1, 1976

16. Buying Your House
Emerson Books, NY, 1974

17. Crouse, William H.
Home Guide to Repair. Upkeep & Remodelling
McGraw-Hill,Inc., 1947

18. Harvey, John
Conservation of Buildings
University of Toronto Press, 1974

19. Ian, Gordon & Melville
The Repair and Maintenance of Houses
London, 1974

20. Kaufman, Gerald Lynton
Homeseekers' Handbook
G.W. Stewart Publishers,Inc., 1947

21. Sleeper, Catharine & Harold R.
The House for You to Build. Buy or Rent
John Wiley & Sons,Inc., 1948
22. Old House Journal, Vol. II, No. 1, January 1974
"Catalogue Your House's Secret Passages"

'I -

ESTORING AN OLD HOUSE can be one of the
most creative and exciting experiences
of your life. But a pre-1914 house can
also be a trap for the unwary. Behind
that charming facade may lurk a host of mech-
anical and structural faults that will tax
your patience and empty your bank account.
is knowing what you are getting into. Just
about any flaw can be corrected-if you are
willing to invest enough time and money. What
is required is a sober appraisal of the physi-
cal deformities of your favorite old house-
and balancing these against your reserves of
cash and energy.

EVERYONE CAN IDENTIFY those superficial aspects
of an old house that attract (or repel) you.
This Inspection Checklist is designed to help
you focus on some of the more mundane (but
crucial!) physical factors before you get

Come Prepared -
When setting out on an old-house inspection,
.you should have with you: Flashlight, small
magnet, plumbline (string with small weight
will do), penknife, a marble, pair of binocu-
lars, pad and pencil, and an inspection check-
list. Wear old clothes so you can closely in-
spect important places like the cellar and
underneath porches.

The Roof:
A sound, tight roof is the first line of defense
against the #1 enemy of an old house: Water.
If the roof is in bad shape, you should plan on
repairing-or replacing-it right away.
1. Type of roof on house (arranged in approxi-
mate order of longevity):
[ Slate (1) C Wood Shakes (6)
O* Copper (2) 0 Wood Shingles (7)
D Ceramic Tile (3) [ Galvanized Steel (8)
o Tar & Gravel.(4) D Asphalt Shingles (9J
O Asbestos Tile. (5) D Roll Roofing (10)

totally carried away by that beautiful window
and that lovely fireplace.
place of an evaluation by a professional
house inspector. Getting the opinion
of a reputable professional will usually
cost between $50 and $150, and it is a sound
investment when you are seriously considering
a purchase. This Checklist will, however,
help you eliminate from consideration those
houses that are in too bad shape for your
budget to handle.
Checklist as a guide for an annual check-up.
Thorough inspections at regular intervals will
help you catch little problems before they
become big ones.
BUYING AN OLD HOUSE is like acquiring a spouse.
And like all long-term relationships, it should
be entered into with your eyes wide open. N

2. Pitched Roof: Any sign. of missing,
broken or warped shingles or tiles?
(This could mean roof will have to be
replaced soon. It can also mean that
there is water damage inside.)
NOTE: Binoculars can give you a good
close-up view if it is impossible to
actually get up on the roof.
3. Asphalt shingles: Are the mineral
granules getting thin and do edges of
shingles look worn?
4. Asphalt shingles: Does roof look
new but lumpy? (New roof may have been
applied directly over old shingles. No
way to tell what sins may have been
covered over.)
5. Flat roof: Any sign of bubbles,
separation or cracking in the asphalt
or roofing felt? (Roofing should be
flat and tight to roof; it shouldn't
feel squishy under foot.)

Tsi No
1:1 1:



Published by The Old-House Journal


Checklist for


A Guide For Buyers And Owners

r I

I~mn / n m an mom~nmu umiftf n ..a.. ..... .... ... .... ..... .. - - - --a


Copyright 1975, The Old-House'Journal Co.

6. Flashing around chimneys & valleys: Ygn| so
Any sign of rusty, loose or missing
flashing? (Flashing'is the weakest part
f any roof. Copper is the best flash- 0]
ng and will show a green patina.)

7. Chimneys: Is the masonry cracked or
8. Do the old chimney flues have a.
tile lining? (If not, they could be
a fire hazard in conjunction with wood-
burning fireplaces.)
9, Gutters: Are there any loose, rotted
or missing gutters?
10. Does the ridge of the roof sag? '*
(This could be normal settling that
comes with age--or it could be caused
by rotted rafters.. Check further!).

[ 0


0 0

11. Cornice: Is there badly peeling
paint on the cornice-especially the
underside? (This can be sign of a roof [I
leak that is spilling water.into the

9. Are joints between dissimilar mate-
rials (e.g., wood and masonry) well
protected with flashing or caulk?
10. Is putty around window glass sound
and well painted?
11. Masonry Walls: Any signs of. cracks?
(Horizontal cracks and hairline cracks
in bricks are not a major problem; cracks
that run vertically though bricks and
mortar are more serious.)
12. Is mortar soft and crumbling; are
bricks missing or loose? (Loose masonry
is vulnerable to attack by water...and
having a masonrywall repointed with
fresh mortar is expensive.)
13, Has masonry been painted? (It will
have to be re-painted about every 5
years, or else stripped-a major task.)
14. Stonework (especially sandstone):
Any sign of spelling, cracking or crumb-
ling of the stone? (This can be expen-
sive to repair.)

Exterior Walls:

- 15. Clapboards: Are many loose, cracked
or missing? (This. is an open invitation
to water-and rot.)

Tot so
1. Do exterior walls seem plumb? (You
can check with a plumb line; a weighted
string will do. Out-of-plumb walls 0 D
can be a sign of serious foundation
problems. )
.Sight along exterior walls. Any
sign of major bulges? (This could sig- Q Q
nal major structural flaws.)
3. Do doors line up squarely in their
frames? (Out-of-square doors can be []
another sign of possible foundation

NOTE: Almost all old houses settle in a
haphazard manner. So signs of sag are
not necessarily a major drawback. But
it does mean a thorough investigation
should be made to find the root causes.
Some sags require no remedy; others can
be 'cured with a few extra support posts.
Still others may require major founda-
tion surgery.
4. Is decorative woodwork firmly attached
to house and tightly caulked to prevent [
water penetration?

5. Is exterior paint fresh and in good


6. If paint is not new, is it powdering
and chalking to a dull powdery surface? [Q
(This is the way old paint should look.)
7. Is paint peeling, curling and blis-
tering? (This could mean a serious --
water problem--either a leak or lack of 0 0
efficientt vapor barrier in wall.)
Are there open joints around door
.frames, window frames and trim? (These 0 0'
will have to be caulkpd.)

16. Shingles: Are they thick and well
nailed? (Thin, badly weathered shingles
may have to be replaced.)
17. Do shingles have a natural finish?
(Natural finishes are easier to re-apply
to shingles than is paint.)

Termites & Rot

1. Termites: Any sign of veins of dirt
on interior or exterior walls? (These
are termite mud tunnels. Look for them
on foundation, under porches, steps and
on cellar walls.)
2. Does wood near the ground (both out-
side and inside) pass the "pen knife
test"? (Wood should be probed with pen-
knife to test for soundness. Check
areas such as cellar window frames,
sills, floor beams and posts, porches and

ToH No

0 a
El 1e

0 E




Yes No

El D

NOTE: Unsound wood can be caused by either
[] termites or rot. Rot can be arrested by
shutting off the source of moisture. Ter-
mites call for chemical warfare. If at
all unsure about the cause of bad wood,
-0 call in the experts,

3. Is all exterior wood at least 6-8 in.
above the ground? (If not, this,is an
inviting target for termites and/or rot.)


4, Is there any vegetation close to the
house? (Vegetation holds moisture in ]
wood; be sure to check behind it forrot.)

5. Any signs of. rot in cornice or attic
beams? (Leaking roofs and gutters often
spill water into top of house where it
goes undetected for long periods.)


The Old-loa Journl's Checklist .

__i I _~ __


__ _ _ __ ~__1_ _1_1

The Attic:

Yes No

1. Any sign of leaks (such as dark water
stains) on the underside of roof, especi-.
* ally around chimneys, valleys and. eaves?

2. Is attic adequately vented? (Check
especially for signs of mildew, on .under-
side of roof boards.)

0 0U

NOTE: Most houses before 1940 had no built-in
insulation. However, some .pld houses will have
had insulation added. Houses with brick or
stone walls rarely have any wall insulation.
With cost of fuel soaring, a well-insulated
house is a big asset. ,
Tel No
1. Attic: Any loose fill insulation
visible between attic floor joists? (This
is best place for attic insulation.) 0 0
2. Has insulation been blown into side
walls? (You may have to take owner's:.
word.for this. In cold weather you can
tell how good wall insulation is by feel, [3,
ing the inside of an exterior wall and -
comparing with temperature of an interior
partition, They should feel about the

Interior Spaces: Te No
O I.,Are there any signs of damp plaster?
(This means leaks coming either from ,:.
roof or internal pipes. Check especially
top-flbor ceilings, the'inside of exteri- 0 0
or walls, and ceilings and partitions .
under bathrooms.)

2. Is there any loose plaster in walls
or ceilings? (Cracks in plaster are par
for the course--but plaster that is
spongy when you push on it will have to
be repaired or replaced.)

S3. i..there a noticeable bounce to the
staircase when you jump on it? Are there
any noticeable.gaps between treads, ris-
ers and side stringers? (Substantial
vibration may mean structural problems
that will be quite costly to correct.)
4. Is flooring original and in good re-
pair? (Floors covered with carpet or
linoleum can harbor many problems--es-
peciallyif you want to restore the ori-
ginal flooring.)
5. Do floors have a pronounced sag or
tilt? (Simple test: Place a marble on
the floor and see if it rolls away. This
could just be normal settling or serious,
structural flaws. Check for cause.)
6. Do floors vibrate and windows rattle
when you jump on floors? (This is symp-
^ tom of inadequate support. Among possi-
>le causes: Undersized beams, inadequate
ridging, cracked joists, rotted support
posts,, Often this' can be cured fairly
simply with a few new support posts.)


0 0


0 C0

S 7. Windows: Do sash move up II I 11
and down smoothly? 0 0
8. Do window frames show signs
of substantial water leakage?
(Look for chipped and curling
paint at bottom of sash and 0 0
sills. Although quite unsightly, this
can be cured with caulk,.putty and paint.)
9. Are fireplaces operational? (Evidence
of recent fires in the fireplace is a
reassuring sign. Peek up the chimney; 0 0
if you can see daylight you at least
know the flue is clear.)
10. Are there smoke stains on front of
mantel? (This is a sign of a smoky a 0
fireplace. It can be cured--but it is
a bother.)

1. Is there a dug cellar with wood sills
resting solidly on a masonry foundation
well above ground level? (Some old
structures have "mud sills"--heavy beams
resting directly on the ground. These
eventually have to be replaced, which is
a major undertaking.)


2. Is mortar in foundation soft and
crumbling? (This is not necessarily ser-
ious as long as there's no sign of sag in 0.
the structure; ditto for foundation walls
laid dry--without mortar.)
3. Are there any vertical cracks in the
foundation wall? (This could be serious, 0
or it could be from settling that stopped
years ago. Have an engineer check it.)

4. Does ground slope away from foundation
so that rain water drains off?
5. Do downspouts have splash blocks to
divert water away from house? (If down-
spout goes into ground, be sure it isn't
pouring water into the earth next to the
foundation--a flooded basement is the
likely result.)

The Cellar:
1. Do sills (the wood beams at the top
of the foundation walls) show signs of
rot or termites? (Probe with penknife.)
2. Any sign of dampness on the under-
side of floors around pipes? (If leaks
have gone undetected for some time,
there could be substantial wood rot.)
3. Does basement show signs of periodic
flooding? (It's a good sign if current
owner stores important tools and papers
on cellar floor. Bad signs; Rust spots,
efflorescence or mildew on walls, mate-
rial stored on top of bricks to raise
it above floor level.)
4. Any sign of sagging floors, rotted
support posts or jury-rigged props to
shore up weak flooring?



Te aN




The Old-House Journals Checklist

- -- -II

- ------ -.:- -- -- -- ~.---

6. Are the water pipes and
I*s Bg large waste pipes in good
condition? (The cellar is the
best place to evaluate the over-all con-,
dition of the plumbing, For example,
look for patches on the waste pipes;
it's an indicator of advanced age. Re-
placement is expensive.)

NOTES ON WATER SUPPLY: City main is the most
dependable source; shallow (dug) well is the
least desirable. If water is from a well it is
best to get it analyzed by the County Agent for
fitness. If water is from a spring, beware of
claims that "spring never runs.dry" unless you
can verify it. You may end up paying to drill
a well during a long dry summer.

Electrical System: Na
1. Does wiring in cellar appear to be
a rat's nest of old frayed wires? 0 0
2. Does main power box in cellar have at
least 100 amp. capacity? (An up-to-date
installation will have capacity marked
on it. An old fuse box with only 3-4 0 0
fuses, in it means there may only be 30- .
40 amp.-far too little, A re-wiring
job will be needed,)
3. Do all ceiling light fixtures have
wall switches? 0 0
4. Is there at least,one electrical out-
let on each wall in every, room?. 0 '
5. Is there any sign of surface-mounted
lampcord extension wiring? Multiple
cords plugged into a single outlet? :0 0J
(This is a tell-tale of underwiring.
Expect to hire some electricians.)

1. Are water pipes copper or brass?
(If they.are, magnet won't stick to them.
Copper or brass is longer-lasting than
galvanized iron. Magnet won't stick to
lead piping either. Lead will be soft
and silvery when scratched with pen-
knife. Lead piping will probably have to
be replaced shortly.)
2. Is water pressure adequate? (Test by
turning on top floor sink faucets; then
turn on bathtub and flush toilet. If
water slows to a trickle, piping may be.
inadequate or badly clogged with scale.)
3, Is plumbing connected to a city
swer system?
4. If there is a septic tank, was it
cleaned in the last 3-4 years? (Over-
loaded septic tanks are common source of
trouble. It's best to call serviceman
who did last cleaning and get his opin-
ion of the system. Repairs can easily
run over $1,000.)

TYs n

Heating System:
1. Was heating plant originally designed
to burn coal? (If so, it is probably
more than 25 years old and may be a
candidate for replacement.)
2. Does heating' system operate satisfac-
torily? (You can test system even on a
summer day: Move thermostat setting
above room temperature. Heat from a
hot-air furnace should appear at regis-
ters within a few minutes; in a steam or
hot-water system radiators should heat
up in 15-20 min.)

3. Will fuel bills present you with any
unpleasant surprises? (Copies of fuel
bills from the last heating season are
the best measure of the heating system's
4. Is capacity of hot water heater at
least 40 gal.? (This is minimum re-
quired by a family of 4 with an auto-
matic clothes washer.)

5. Any sign of leaks or rust spots on
g0 the hot-water heating tank? (Check by
peeking through small door that gives
access to the pilot light.)


q a

a ad

00 i/

5. Is water supply from: ,,
CCity main IQDrilled well O Shallow well

6. On steam heating systems, do floor-
boards around radiators show signs of
black stains and rot? (This comes from
leaks and indicates system hasn't been
well maintained.)

Thald-BUt aJnnm l I THE OLD-HOUSE JOURNAL is a monthly publication specializing
Sin techniques for the restoration, maintenance and decora-
199 BBRKBLEY PLACE tion of houses built,prior to 1914. Articles emphasize
BBOOKLYN, NY12121 practical, do-it-yourself methods. Subscriptions are $12
(212) 6364514 per year. Annual indexes and all back issues are available.

T No






Beware The 'Remuddled' House
Many old houses have had decorative de-
tails stripped off during past remodelling
-better termed "remuddling." This robs
the house of its original charm and
character...and lessens its long-term mar-
ket value. This can be important should
you ever have to re-sell the house. If
in doubt as to whether a particular house
has been remuddled, you can get some help
from "The Field Guide to Old-House Styles."
It is a 4-pg. folder that shows the 17
most common old-house styles in the U.S.
It is available for 500 from The Old-House
Journal at the address shown below.

'p 1 .

Protect The Aging House

From Winter Storms

NOW IS THE TIME to think about protecting your
house from the ravages of the oncoming winter.
An antique house is like an elderly person....
it's most likely to develop ailments during the
winter. So just as you bundle a frail person
against the elements, you should also make sure
your home's outer covering is impervious to
winter storms.
COLD WIND, rain, snow and ice all belabor a
house during the winter. And although you are
aware soonest of cold air leaking in, this is
actually the least serious problem. In the
long run it's water-and its bad brother, ice-
that will do the most damage.
WATER IS THE NATURAL ENEMY of a house. It will
rot wood, loosen bricks, peel paint, weaken
plaster, spall stones and generally raise havoc.
The problem is compounded in winter because of
ice dams that prevent normal water run-off. Re-
sult: Water works its way under shingles, be-
hind loose bricks, into soft stone, and into
cracks you never suspected were there.

help you avoid grief later on. Search
out any spot where water might enter,
keeping in mind that ice and wind can
cause water to back up into the unlik-
liest of places. The time to conduct
this search is now---when you can work
outside without freezing your fingers
off. February is no time to discover

Published Monthly For People Who Love Old Houses

Editor R. A. Clem Labine
Circulation Director Paul T. McLough'in
Contributing Editors Martin M. Hechtman
James R. McGrath
Claire Wood

Published by The Old-House Journal Company, 199 Berkeley
Place, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217. Tel. (212) 636-4514. Subscrip-
tions $12/yr. Contents of The Old-House Journal are fully
protected by copyright and must not be reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without specific permission in writing from
the Editor. Logo art: Stanley Skardinski

that you need to do work on the roof. So set
aside a Saturday or Sunday for this pre-winter
physical examination.
TO GET YOU STARTED, we've assembled a checklist
of things to look for. As you locate places
where water or cold air can enter, seal
with caulk, roofing compound, putty or
paint--depending on the place where the
leak is found.

S W, ln Ii

6^ Lidi

ELSEWHERE in this issue are some speci-
fic home remedies for windows, roofs
and chimneys--should your pre-winter
checkup reveal that any of these vital
areas are in need of repair. Fp

Pre-Winter Checklist

Cracks, bubbles or holes in roofing
Cracks or gaps around flashing?
Need to install electric heating cables
to prevent build-up of ice dams around
gutters and leaders?

Gutters packed with loose debris?
Any holes that need patching?
Debris screens need replacing?
Hangers and straps secure?
Rust spots that should be painted?
Water from leaders properly diverted
from house?

Gaps in frames need renailing or caulk?
Sash ind sills need waterproofing
and paint?
Loose putty need replacing?
Weatherstripping needed between sash
and frame?


Bricks need repointing?
Cracks or gaps in cornices and trim
boards that need caulking and paint?
Caulk needed in gaps between walls and
frames of doors and windows?

Loose mortar need repointing?
Coat of waterproofing compound needed?
Unused flues that should be capped?

Caulk needed between frame and wall?
Gaps need weatherstripping?
Waterproofing and painting required?


Any openings from outdoors resulting
in drafts that will chill house
and/or freeze pipes?





MANY PEOPLE BUY direct from an owner or a developer, but whether you
want plottage, acreage, a used house, or a new one, unless you are famil-
iar with the values and properties for sale in the community you want
to live in, you will save time and trouble by going to a real estate agent.
The right agent can help you in many ways. Members of the National
Association of Real Estate Boards or of recognized local boards are apt to
be best qualified, in character, experience, and reliability.
Try to determine your needs before you consult him. If you are
uncertain or vacillating about what you want don't blame the realtor if
you don't find it.
It is entirely reasonable to list your requirements with several repu-
table firms, but to avoid misunderstanding about the commission on the
sale, have each dealer write a memorandum of his recommendations for
you. If a second agent recommends the same place either before or after
you have seen it, tell him you have it listed by someone else. He will ap-
preciate your fair dealing.
The experienced real estate agent knows how to negotiate to your
advantage. He earns his commission by selecting for your contemplation
those available properties that may be suited to you, and also by bring-
ing you and the seller together, so handling the sale that both parties are
satisfied and arrive at a meeting of minds.
Frequently your realtor has lived in and knows the community and
can tell you many things you want to know about living conditions there
as well as the history of the properties.
But don't depend upon him alone. Whether new or old, the ideal
house to perfectly fit your purse, properly built in the ideal setting and
the right community, will be your goal. Of course you won't find it ex-
actly, but where you see something you think might do, proceed slowly
and investigate fully before you buy so that the inevitable compromises
will be made with your eyes open.

Talk to the bankers and local builders. Sometimes you can find the
carpenter who has made repairs and alterations in the house. He should
be able to tell you how good its original construction was and how sound
it now is. Other artisans may be able to tell you more than you could
discover for yourself about wiring, plumbing, the heating system, and
whether the cellar floods in the spring. Or the neighbors may know that
when the wind blows from a certain direction the living-room fireplace
persists in smoking, or that the water supply runs out in August.
On many things, such as the adequacy of the supports for the load
they carry, you must depend upon the judgment of your builder or archi-
tect. Others, like the tile footing drains at the base of the foundation out-
side the house, are hidden, and you can know they exist only by the
owner's or original builder's statement, or you may detect their absence
through evidence of failure.
But you will have a much better idea of the house if you also check
carefully for yourself.

1. Is the exposure such that you get sun in the rooms you especially
want it in, and adequate protection from too much sun in sum-
2. Does it take advantage of prevailing winds in summer and is there
protection from them in winter?
3. Is there any place for a sheltered outdoor living area easily accessi-
ble to the house?
4. Has it a view? Does the house take proper advantage of it? Can
future neighbors cut it off?
5. Can deliveries of fuel oil or coal or other servicing be made with-
out ruining the lawn or garden?
6. Is the garage conveniently located? Big enough? Heated? Space for
a workbench?
7. Is there adequate parking space and turnaround?
8. Are the roads and paths well made and of durable materials, or will
they require expensive upkeep?
9. Is the soil good? (You can have it tested.)
10. Do the lawn and trees show lack of care?
11. Will the grounds require more cultivation, upkeep, and repair
than you wish to assume?

12. Is there sufficient slope from the house for proper drainage? Are
there proper gutters, foundation drains, and storm drains? Suf-
ficient terracing or retaining walls to prevent your good soil
from washing down to your neighbor?
13. Who removes the snow? Who collects the garbage? Are there store
deliveries and public utility services?
14. What happens at night in the vicinity? Train or boat whistles?
Autos on the highway? Unpleasant local odors?
15. Is there a building department certificate of occupancy? Will
local restrictions, easements, or rights of way hamper your way
of living or act as a.protection?
16. Do you pay taxes to more than one district? What is the present
assessed value; tax rate? Will district assessments increase them?

Have a Look at the House
1. Are the materials of a quality to withstand the weather conditions
they will be subjected to?
2. Look for loose stones or bricks or for cracks in masonry walls or
3. Find out, if possible, whether sheathing boards, building paper,
and insulation have been used under clapboard siding or wood
shingles used for exterior wall finish.
4. Does the foundation extend above grade or do wood sidings touch
the ground, inviting moisture, rotting, and peeling paint?
5. Beware of first floors laid directly on wood sleepers set on concrete
slab directly on the ground unless expertly laid and waterproofed
to prevent moisture.
6. Is the roof of durable material, such as slate, tile, etc., or of material
requiring more frequent maintenance?
7. Does the roof need repair? In what condition is the metal flashing
in roof valleys and around dormers and chimneys?

Avoid capillary action in clapboards touching the ground.

8. While you are looking, is there a vent for the soil pipe through
the roof? There should be.
9. Are gutters and leaders adequate, and in good condition? Do they
discharge onto the ground and perhaps from there into the cellar,
or are there storm sewers?
Some of this you may be able to see from the ground, some you can
judge from indications indoors, and for the rest you will have to get out
onto the roof.
An open attic permits you to see construction and to judge its quality.
Look it over carefully.
1. In the attic look for stains and discolorations from roof leaks.
2. Look between the rafters for wood sheathing, roofing paper, or felt,
unless roof is wood shingles on shingle lath.
3. Is there any insulation under the roof or between the floor joists?
4. Is the attic floored?
5. Is storage space adequate for your needs? Is the opening or door-
way to the attic big enough to admit possessions you wish to
6. Is the headroom sufficient for necessary storage and your conven-
7. Could you, if you wished, put another room here?
8. Is there a window, louver, or other means of ventilation? Is this
9. Examine the chimney for cracks and condition of mortar and
bricks. Is there charred wood from excessive heat, or stains from
leaking smoke and soot or water?

1. The cellar is the key point for judging the soundness of a house.
If the walls are true, free of cracks, sagging, loose cement, the
place is dry, has a good floor, shows proper support and bracing;
and if partitions and wood used for construction have not de-
teriorated you can be fairly sure of a sound house.
2. Is the headroom sufficient? Six feet, eight inches is desirable. Under
unexcavated sections there should be about three feet of height

9. What electrical services can you get and what authorities?
10. Are there a sufficient number of base outlets, switches, and fix-
11. Are the stairs well lighted with switches up and down?
12. Is overloading and short circuiting prevented by a fusebox or by
the most satisfactory circuit breakers?
13. Is there an underwriter's certificate? If not, be sure to get one.
14. Is the house planned for convenience requiring the least effort
and least traffic?
15. Are there the right number of rooms and of the right size to suit
your living? Will your furniture fit the available spaces?
16. Examine the fireplace, or better, test it. In an old house look for
marks of soot on the facing, or charring of the mantel, indicat-
ing improper draft. Are the inner hearth and fireplace lined
with firebrick which are more durable than ordinary brick or
stone? Is there a built-in smoke chamber and damper? Has the
chimney fire-clay flue linings, or simply an opening in the
brickwork making a fire hazard of the flue? Check the boiler
flue for this also and make sure it is of a size sufficient for the
boiler. Ask the heating contractor or the fuel company or dis-
tributor to verify this for you if need be.
17. Examine all doors; open and close them; look at the type and
quality of hardware; try the locks. Do exterior doors fit prop-
erly, and are they weatherstripped? Are there screen doors,
storm doors? Where are these stored and how removed and
replaced? The front door should be at least two feet, eight
inches (and preferably three feet) in width; and bedroom doors
at least two feet, six inches, to permit moving furniture into
the rooms.
18. Are the stair treads in good condition? Is there a strong handrail?
Is the slope too steep for comfort? Is there sufficient width and
headroom to get furniture up and down conveniently? Do not
neglect to check on the cellar stairs, especially for safety.

Uniform risers and treads make safe stairways.

19. Is the kitchen so big it will tire you out or so compact you will
feel hemmed in? Is it equipped to your height? Are the walls
and floors easily washable?
20. Test all windows. See that they slide easily if of the double-hung
or similar type; or are equipped with efficient operators if of
the casement type. Look at the window hardware, locks, sash
chains, or cords; and look for weatherstripping, if the windows
are of wood. Examine the putting of panes, if the house is old,
and look for evidence of leaks at window heads, jambs, and
stools (inner sills).
21. Find out about window screens, storm sash, venetian blinds,
shades, valences, curtain hardware, and other items that may or
may not be included in the sale. Remember, also, about keys;
and if the owner gives you a whole bunch, ask that they be

Unless the results of your survey indicate clearly that the house you
have examined is not a good buy for you, you will want the opinion of a
builder or architect, to evaluate the situation and to advise you about the
feasability of correcting defects or making desirable changes. Sometimes
what appears to the layman as a seriously detrimental condition may be
corrected at a reasonable cost; or the reverse may be true. Some of your
findings will be negative but that does not necessarily mean you will
reject the house but rather that you will be able to weigh the good
against the bad, to judge the asking price in the light of replacements
and repairs so that even if you accept many compromises it will be with
full fore-knowledge.
If you are buying a new house from a builder or a development com-
pany, the seller will have received from his contractors their written
guarantees for the heating, plumbing, and electrical systems, for the
roofing and flashings, and for the oil burner, automatic stoker or gas

Look for Underwriters' Laboratories label on all
devices and equipment.

allowed for access to heating and plumbing lines and for air cir-
3. Are there settlement cracks indicating inadequate or no footings,
or cracks or stains showing the presence of subsurface water and
insufficient drains?
4. Are there patches of plaster or cement that show an attempt to
repair leaks?
5. Look for floor drains. Test these with water to see if they work.
Does the floor pitch properly toward them?
6. Is there a sump-pump? Better see if it works.
7. Is there a fresh air inlet in the soil line at the housetrap?
8. Are there cleanout branches for cleaning stoppage in plumbing?
9. Is there a finished floor or is it a less satisfactory earth one?
10. Look for signs of dry rot and termites in wood posts and girders,
and for rotting partitions. The time-honored method of stick-
ing with a strong blade is still a good way to test wood.
11. Are there firestops at foundation walls and between joists?
12. Are supporting columns and girders of masonry, steel, or cast iron,
or of wood? Have these proper footings?
13. Is the cellar ceiling of fireproof material, especially over the
14. By looking up between the joists do you see the underside of the
finished floor of the rooms above, or do you see a desirable
underflooring, preferably laid diagonally, with a glimpse of
building paper showing through an occasional knothole?
15. Is there crossbracing between the joists to give stiffness and dis-
tribute the load?

1. Do the floors seem sound as you walk or jump upon them? Major
vibrations may show structural weakness, minor ones may cause
cracks in the ceilings below.

Standing water and open drains in the cellar cause
rotting in house structure.

2. How are the floors put together? Tongue-and-grooved and blind
nailed show best workmanship.
3. Hard woods make the best finished floors. Whatever the wood
used, be sure it is sound, free from splinters, and is well laid.
4. Tap walls and push against them to test their solidity.
5. Look for cracks at junction of walls and ceilings, and around win-
dows and doors as evidence of settlement or structural weakness.
6. Has the plaster been put on plasterboard-it is very difficult to
keep this from cracking at the joints-or on wood lath; or best
of all, on metal lath?
7. Have corner heads been used to keep edges from chipping? Are
they the cheaper exposed woods or concealed metal of better
8. Do the door trim and window trim, baseboards, moldings and
other finished carpentry indicate good careful workmanship?

1. How is hot water supplied? What is the condition of the heater?
The size of the storage tank? Do you need a thirty, sixty, or
ninety gallon tank?
2. What is the source of your water supply? Pure?
3. Test the water pressure in every fixture and the drains.
4. Does the water maintain its supply upstairs when the faucets are
open on the lower floor? Are there any leaks?
5. Are the supply lines of copper or brass or of the less satisfactory
galvanized piping subject to clogging and rusting?
6. Is the water rusty when you first turn it on or have stains been left
by it?
7. If there are stains on ceilings below bath and toilet find out if due
to careless overflow or to condensation dripping from uncov-
ered supply line.
8. Ask about the sewage disposal system, and if there is a septic tank
or tile field on your property learn its exact location for servic-
ing and repairs and to prevent its being damaged through
ploughing or digging.

Exposed workmanship is a good indication of the hidden.

11. KNOW WHAT YOU BUY w c ATMl (fu



Some tennis opponents of ours had just
trimmed us at mixed doubles. Flush with
victory, they confessed that they had wanted
to buy an old house but were afraid they
would get stuck. Tom said, "I like the old
house, but how can I tell what I'm getting?
Sally won't even bother to try to find out
how it's built or what it's made of, and I
haven't time."
Knowing their keenness for games we sug-
gested that next Saturday we play a new
game of mixed doubles called the House
"Sure," they answered, "but what are you
talking about?"
We then explained that this was a game
for high stakes and involved not only physi-

cal activity but mental effort. They asked,
being good sports, "Where will the game
be played?"
"At the house you want to buy. We will
be on your side, playing with you against
the market."
They answered, "O.K. Tell us the rules
and we'll play. We can't take all your time
to help us find a house, unless you'll accept
a fee."
"All right," we said, "our fee will be ex-
actly what it would cost you two for golf,
for the same time we take to play this game."
"Do we include the cost of lost balls?
Sally is likely to lose two or three on each
"Yes, of course, that's your cost. But you


can forget the expense of the 19th hole."
When we met them the next Saturday,
the equipment for the game was given out:
flashlights for all, clue cards for Sally and
Tom, and score cards for us.
Sally, as the Interior House Detective, re-
ceived an ice pick, a hammer, a nail file, and
a small ladder.
Tom, as the Exterior House Detective,
was given a penknife, a screw driver and a
long ladder. C was to team up with Tom
and he his score keeper, and I was to score
for Sally.
"Read your card No. 1 and start detecting.
Then return to the porch with your find-
ings and we will give the clues the third
degree. Then we will distribute more cards.
When several materials are listed for one
item, the best will be placed first."

Sally's card looked like this:

No. I (For Sally)

Clues to Catching the King of Gremlins-
1. To be found in basement or cellar.
2. They travel over concrete or masonry wall
inside of tubes built by them.
3. They bore into wood which they cat, leav-
ing the outside undisturbed.
4. They never come out into the open, so
use the ice pick to find wood which they
inhabit. The wood may look perfect on
the outside, but it's only a shell over their
5. Test floor beams and girders near outside
6. Test the sills and the wood on the foun-
dation wall which supports the floor beams.
7. Test wood posts.
8. Look over all outside walls for tunnels,
cracks, or holes.

After reading his card, Tom said, "Tell
us more about these pests and what damage
results from their feasts."
"Termites are sneak thieves," we replied.
"They never invade a house where they may
be seen. They are small insects which live
in colonies 3 or 4 feet underground outside
of houses where it is damp. Their entire
diet is wood, and they search for it in the
"Until recent years, termites were thought
of chiefly as pests in hot countries. But in-
vestigation has proved that houses from
Maine to California have sagged on their
foundations because of the weakening of
wood construction which has been under-
mined by termites."
We explained that "It is a costly process
to destroy termites, once they have entered

Tom's card looked like this:

No. 1 (For Tom)

Clues to Catching the King of Gremlins-
1. They live in the ground outside and only
go to the house for their meals. Solid
masonry or concrete walls without holes or
cracks will stop them. They enjoy eating
through wood.
2. If the walls below the top of the earth are
solid thev buihl tubes up from the earth
to their wood sill and then go into the wood.
3. When they get into thle wood they eat it
hollow, so test all wood with your knife.
4. Look for tubes, especially behind vines and
5. Wood trim or siding in contact with earth
is where they go-directly into wood with-
out their sheltering tubes.
6. Inspect wood steps, trellises, posts, porches.
and other wood near earth.


your house. New houses may be equipped
with termite shields over the foundation
walls to block their entrance. And any
wood near the earth may be treated with
preparations to upset the termites' diges-
tion. Speculative houses are seldom pro-
tected in this way. Your house may be
host to these termites for years before the
piano sinks through the termite-eaten floor
toward the cellar. Better to know the real
condition of the house before you buy.
Then you can deduct from your purchase
price enough to eliminate termites and
make the needed repairs to the structure.
"If you find termite tubes (which may
vary in size from that of a pencil to the
size of a pipe stem) on any foundation walls
it shows that termites are, or have been,
within. The only other way in which
termites announce their presence is during
their occasional nuptial flights. Then the
reproductive, fertile ones living in the un-
derground colonies with the worker termites
appear for a short period to 'swarm' to es-
tablish new colonies. These winged, sexy
insects emerge from the infested wood, fly
about for an hour, drop their wings, and,
after mating, disappear into the earth. Each
pair then founds a new colony. Their
dropped wings, often inside the house, are
evidence of trouble for the home owner."
At this point Sally asked, "What are sills
and beams?"
We explained and also gave her our notes
for "Architects' Lingo" (Chapter 6) and
said, "Many terms which apply to buildings
are mysteries to the layman. A look
through that chapter will clear up the mys-
"Sills are the wood pieces that rest on top
of the foundation walls all around the house.
These sills support the house above; if they
fail your house sags. Beams are wooden
pieces which rest on top of the sills and in
turn support the flooring above. Beams

also carry the weight of the floors above.
Sills are visible only in unfinished base-
ments on top of the foundation walls near
the ceiling.
"Even though the examination shows no
clues to infestation, your troubles are not
necessarily over. If conditions are ripe
termites may later visit your house.
"An earth basement floor, cracks in a con-
crete floor, or cracks or holes in the founda-
tion wall will give termites their required
entry. Poured concrete walls form a better
barrier than concrete blocks or stone walls.
Outside, if any woodwork is close to the
earth-anything less than 10 inches would
be too close-these insects can easily enter
by means of tubes which they build. Wood
of any sort placed directly against the earth
is dangerous. Wood posts resting near the
earth inside the house also will invite their
When Tom, Sally, C, and I met again on
the porch the only scored clue was that
three beams in a dark part of the basement
allowed Sally's ice pick to enter about %,
inch. We explained that this was probably
due to dry rot (really should be called wet
rot), and not termites, as the insects usually
hollow out the entire wood core.
Then clue cards No. 2 were given out.
After they had read their cards we said,
"Your job would be easier if today was a
typical St. Patrick's Day, wet and muggy, in-
stead of clear and dry. On a clear day like
this any owner would be glad to show you
through any basement. Owners or agents
are not likely to stress such defects as wet
or damp basements. They hope for a dry
spell to show you the house. If no clues
are found today, perhaps we had better
search again on a rainy day.
"There are two distinct wet conditions,
the first is due to rain water, called surface
water. This rain water soaks into the
ground around the house and may cause


No. 2 (For Sally)

Clues to Basement Leaks and Dampness
1. Dampness, water, or water stains on the
inside of exterior walls or on the floor.
2. Foundation walls-poured concrete safest.
3. Cracks or holes in walls or floors-loose or
crumbling spots.
4. Is basement well ventilated-windows, vent
5. Is there any space not excavated? If so
crawl in and look around. See if this
space has through ventilation.
6. If your ice pick clue on Card No. I found
soft wood, it may be due to dampness (dry
7. Any signs of leaking around cellar doors
or windows?
8. Inside walls and chimney walls and ceiling
should be examined for dampness-called
"sweating"; this is due to condensation of
moisture in the air.
9. Mildew is a clue to poor ventilation and

leaks or damp cellars. If the soil is reason-
ably porous and sandy and if the earth
slopes away from the house, well-built foun-
dations will ordinarily check surface water.
Dense clay soil which pockets this water
may require that open tile drains be laid
around the outside of the house at the base-
ment floor level, with porous stone fill laid
over them.
"Secondly, a more difficult situation ex-
ists where water stays permanently in the
ground above the basement floor in wet or
dry weather. This more or less constant
water is found in low areas, near streams,
lakes, or where springs exist. The height of
the water in the ground is known as the
water table.
"The only way to find the water table is
to dig a hole, when the weather is dry, until
you reach water-not an easy task on some-

No. 2 (For Tom)

Clues to Basement Leaks and Dampness
1. Find out from owner whether open tile
drains are carried underground around
the outside of the cellar.
2. Does earth slope away from or toward the
3. Are the leader drains connected to drains
going into the earth, or do they spill on
tie top of the earth?
1. Are there any roofs without leader drains?
5. Are there any cracks in foundation walls?
6. Are the area walls around windows high
enough to keep rain water out?
7. Have these areas a drain in their bottom?
8. Does the soil appear to be sandy, to drain
well; or clay, or loam? Use your screw
driver to make a test hole.
9. Is the house on high or low ground?
10. Find out from neighbors where the water
table is. "(Water table is the normal
height of the water below ground, which
does not vary greatly.)

one else's property, unless it is a dark night.
Neighbors, when questioned, may reveal
some information.
"If the water table is above the basement
floor, leaks are likely to occur. The sub-
surface water presses against the foundation
floor and walls with force enough to pene-
trate walls of concrete block or stone or
poured concrete, unless they are unusually
well built and free of cracks or holes. The
only sure way to prevent subsurface water
from entering is to waterproof, or to build
the floor and walls of poured concrete in
one process to form a complete tub.
"For this reason many old houses in
swampy or low areas were built without
"Clues which indicate dampness present a
problem. Are these clues caused by leaks
or only by condensation of water in the air?


When moist, warm air hits cold masonry
walls, the water from the air may condense
on the cold surfaces, as it does on the out-
side of a glass of ice water. Sometimes this
condensation may actually run down the
walls and look like a leak. This sweating,
as it is called, is greatly aggravated by lack
of circulation of air. So when basements
have windows or vents, or crawling spaces
have openings to allow the air to pass
through, sweating seldom appears. If your
investigation shows poor ventilation and
signs of sweating, count t-he cost necessary
to add windows and vents.
"Basement spaces used for games rooms,
play rooms, or work rooms should have dry
walls. A partition built just inside of each
foundation wall forms a lining for those
cold walls. This is called furring, and it
keeps the inside wall dry.
"To live over a damp basement is like in-
habiting an ancient dungeon-musty, un-
healthy, and ill-smelling. The dampness
makes you cold in winter, humid in sum-
mer. Furthermore, it actually shortens the
life of your house by causing rot and rust.
"Wood fungus, which causes rotting,
thrives in damp conditions and gradually
weakens the structural wood members of
the house framing. Wood posts which
stand on wet floors soon rot; sills gradually
deteriorate. Dry rot works from the out-
side of the wood toward the center, not like
termites, which always eat the inside of a
piece of wood.
"If you find a dirt floor, figure the cost of
covering it with a concrete slab.
"Steel columns and supporting members,
such as girders, are often used in the more
modern houses. Dampness attacks them
too, not by dry rot, but just as surely by
rusting the metal. Paint is the best rust
During the first trip Sally found that the

porch sill and many of the porch beams
were soft. Her ice pick sank into them to
an alarming extent. She had crawled from
the boiler room under the porch and her
muddy dress was a clue to damp earth.
Here there was no ventilation. She also
found several walls which were damp near
the top.
Tom scored some clues on the outside.
At several places the earth around the house
sloped down to the house walls. In check-
ing with Sally it turned out that the damp
spots which she had discovered inside oc-
curred at just these places. So it was ap-
parent that surface water was finding its way
into the basement. One area around a base-
ment window had a drain which was com-
pletely filled up with dirt, paper, and leaves.
The porch roof "leaders" spilled onto the
ground, and the earth in that neighborhood
was very soggy., This, together with the lack
of ventilation under the porch, accounted
for the dry-rotted porch beams and sill.
As the basement was generally well ven-
tilated the moisture was found to come from
surface water. This was due to incorrect
sloping of the earth and to roof leaders
without connections to drain off rain water.
Next Sally and Tom tackled the problem
of leaks which might occur from any cause
above the basement. They used cards No. 3.
Sally wanted to know why dry rot should
occur in an attic. The answer was: "For
the same reason that it occurs in the base-
ment-dampness due to leaks or poor ven-
"Even with the water supply turned off,
telltale leaks from plumbing fixtures are
usually easy clues to pick up. Water may
travel some distance from its source before
staining a ceiling below-so don't be sur-
prised if a ceiling spot is not directly under
a plumbing fixture."
Tom had never before heard the term


No. 3 (For Sally)

Clues to Leaks above Basement
1. Start in attic and come down. Look for
water stains on attic floor and on walls of
2. Turn out attic light (if there are no win-
dows) and look for pinholes of light
through caves or roof.
3. Test roof rafters for dry rot with ice pick.
4. Has the attic space ventilation to outside?
5. Look over all ceilings and walls for water
marks. If you find any, see if bathroom,
or kitchen occurs over them.
6. Future leaks may occur if plumbing pipes
are of steel. Galvanized iron is better, and
for most locations brass is best.
7. Window leaks: sill stains are telltale evi-
dence. Casements are tested by trying to
slip a flat nail file between the frame and
the sash that opens. A tight fit all around
is good. If file won't go in at some points
and is very loose at others, probably win-
dow weatherstrips are needed to prevent
both rain and wind from coming in.

flashing. He soon learned that it consisted
of metal strips used to shed water from
joints between the shingle roof and the
walls. Also, he found that the flashing
around the chimney on this house was loose.
Neither was he sure of leaders and gut-
ters. Leaders (also called downspouts, roof
drains, or conductors) lead the water from
the gutter at the eaves down to the ground.
Here they should connect with drains run-
ning underground to a storm drain to a
sewer, or a dry well (just a hole in the
ground filled with stones).
An inside clue was a water stain on the
first floor ceiling, far from any plumbing.
It was over the living room mantel, approxi-
mately in the center of the house. Neither
Sally nor Tom could fathom the cause of
this leak, until Tom was reminded of the

No. 3 (For Tom)

Clues to Leaks above Basement
1. Get out the ladder and start climbing. If
slate or tile roof: any broken or loose tile
or slate?
2. If wood shingles: flat or curled, split or
whole, worn or new, stained or natural?
3. If asphalt shingles: thick, thin, dried out,
curled, faded, or worn?
4. Asbestos shingles or slate: thin, thick,
cracked, loose, or broken?
5. If flat roof: if of gravel or slag, is finish
still on or is surface buckled?
6. Flashing: scratch with knife to see whether
it is copper, steel, galvanized iron, or zinc.
Is it in good condition or loose or missing?
7. Are leaders and gutters made of copper, gal-
vanized iron, zinc, or lead? Are they in
good repair? Loose leaders or gutters?
Wire strainers over tops of leaders?
8. Stone, masonry, or stucco: is window caulk-
ing in good condition? Is joint between
brick and frame sealed with putty-like ma-
terial? Look for cracks, open joints, holes.

loose chimney flashing. "Sure enough," he
said, "the stain is on the same side of the
chimney as the broken flashing."
Water evidently ran down the chimney
until it hit some obstruction at the first floor
ceiling. Then it traveled out on the ceiling
beams, gradually wetting the surrounding
Sally was surprised to be able to see so
many pin points of daylight from the dark
attic. Tom reported that the wood shingles
were curled and dry. The roof showed no
signs of leaking, but in a year or two leaks
would occur unless new shingles were ap-
plied. A report that the leaders, gutters and
flashing were of copper encouraged them.
"Cards No. 4 are for clues regarding the
framing or structure of the house," we said.
"Framing corresponds to the skeleton of the


No. 4 (For Sally)


Clues to Defective House Skeleton
1. Posts in basement: wood, steel, masonry,
or concrete?
2. Basement partitions: wood or masonry?
3. Are wood beams supported by wood or
steel girders?
4. If girder is of wood, do the beams rest
on top of it or do they frame into it?
5. Do any wood beams or girders rest on or
in the chimney? If so settlement may
6. Check bridging between beams: You can
only see this by looking up in unfinished
basement. Beams which span 10 feet
should have 1 row of bridging. Beams
which span 11 feet to 16 feet should have
2 rows of bridging. Light bridging is
made of boards 1 inch thick (usual).
Heavy bridging is made of boards 1 i/
inches thick (excellent).
7. Strength of floors may be gauged by ex-
cessive springiness. Jump up and down
in the center of several rooms (ballet
training will help) and see how great the
spring is. A little spring is usual. Look
out for floors which slope like a ship's
8. Look for large continuous cracks in plas-
ter. They may be caused by excessive
wood shrinkage or settlement.
9. Attic is a good place to judge type of
framing workmanship, if it is unfinished.
The wood pieces which support the roof
are called rafters (not beams). See if
they are solid, unwarped, and not spaced
over 16 inches apart. Cheap houses may
have them spaced 2 feet or more apart.
10. Where rafters meet in the center and top
(at the ridge) there should be a ridge
rafter, against which rafters from both
sides rest. Cheap work may have rafters
resting against each other. The thicker
the ridge rafter the better: 1 inch thick
indicates the usual speculative house; 2
inches is very good work, and 3 inches is

No. 4 Continued (For Sally)


Clues to Defective House Skeleton
extra special work. The ridge rafter
should be at least as deep as the roof
rafters which lean against it.
11. Now see how the framing is done at the
chimney. Any wood touching chimney?
Roof rafters have to be cut to allow chim-
ney space to go through roof. Where
they are cut they should be supported by
doubled beams spanning the roof open-
ing between the remaining, flanking, un-
cut rafters on each side. Then these
flanking rafters should be doubled to
carry the extra load where the rafters
are missing.

No. 4 (For Tom)


Clues to Defective House Skeleton
This card gives you time for a smoke. If you
get through soon, join Sally for a work-out
jumping up and down to test floor framing.
1. Squint one eye and take a look at the top
line of the roof (ridge). Does it remind
you of a dachshund's back or is it level?
Weak roof framing will cause a sag.
2. Tie your keys or watch on a string as a
plumb bob and sight against the outside
walls to see whether they lean out from the
top. Corn crib walls may do this, but in
a house it means that the poor roof con-
struction is pushing the walls out.
3. Check up on plumbness of all posts or
4. Does porch floor slope to outside to help
rain water run off? Rotten framing may
cause an undue slope either way.
5. Check steps for condition of framing and
slope. Have they settled?

human body. The poorly designed or de-
fective house frame causes such defects in
finishes as cracked plaster, sagging roof, or
sloping floors. Part of the framing of the
first floor and attic have been examined in
the hunt for termites and leaks."
The clue chasers felt very proud of their
ability to find structural faults when they
came in with the results of cards No. 4.
Two clues proved that the roof framing
was of poor quality. Tom said he had ob-
served that the ridge sagged where the chim-
ney cut through the roof. Sally said that
the inside framing around the chimney had
not been doubled. The ridge rafter was
only a one by four.
We then discussed the possible relation
between the loose chimney flashing and the
sagging roof. Tom insisted upon risking
his life again on the roof to dovetail these
two clues.
Coming back he said, "That is why the
flashing is loose. The roof sagged and
pulled the flashing, which is nailed to it,
out of the brick chimney."
The basement posts were of round steel
pipes, called Lally columns. The girders
resting on these posts were of wood. Wood
beams rested on top of the girders and were
not framed into them. So we were not sur-
prised that Sally had discovered a few promi-
nent plaster cracks in the rooms above.
These cracks occurred because when the
wood beams and girders dried out they
shrank from an original thickness of 19
inches to their present thickness of 181/
inches. With the weight of the house
above, and with a steel column under, the
wood girders had sagged /4 inch. This
shrinkage, along the girders only, naturally
put a strain on the plaster and cracked it
here and there. The floors above the base-
ment sloped to the girders; this confirmed
the shrinkage.


Tom found that the porch floor steps
and columns were not where they should
be. He said, "I guess that the dry rot that
Sally found under the porch has let the
porch down."
Generally the house framing seemed
fairly stiff, and no settlement or shrinkage
cracks were found on the outside walls.
Sally and Tom now refused to quit their
detective work and, although it was getting
late, there was time for card No. 5.
The conference for clues to finishes led to
the following conclusions:
The plaster was sound except where leaks
had occurred and except for the cracks
caused by the shrinkage of the basement
girder. However, the bedrooms had sand-
finished walls; Sally and Tom wanted pa-
pered walls.
The woodwork generally was in good con-
dition, but only a few doors closed tightly.
Floors were in poor shape, and we de-
cided that they should all be scraped and
refinished to make their cleaning less of a
Sally was upset to find that the windows
stayed raised only when propped open with
a stick. It recalled the nightmare of a lone-
some summer in Maine when her nights had
been disturbed and her nerves frayed by
the unexpected dropping of the window
sash. She cheered up when we explained
that spring balances could easily be installed
to overcome this trouble.
Painting was prescribed for inside and
out-100 per cent.
A few windows were found where the
putty was cracked and brittle. Fortunately,
screens and blinds were good.
Tom found that the brick ends of the
house and the chimney had many joints
with loose mortar. When he found that
such joints may later cause leaks he said,
"Let's plan to point-up all bad brickwork."


No. 5

(For Sally)


Fingerprint Clues
Clues you can put your fingers on; that is,
surfaces and finishes in plain siglt.

1. Get your tack hammer, or a pole, and tap
all plaster which has been wet or which is
cracked or crazed. This will reveal
whether finish coat of plaster is loose or
whether entire plaster is loose. A dull
dead sound means that the plaster is en-
tirely loose. If the surface (% inch of
plaster) cracks or flakes off only the last
coat is defective. A firm sound means
good plaster.
2. Rub your hand over plaster and use the
flashlight at an angle to find any surfaces
which are bumpy, wavy, rough, or irregu-
lar. Note any sand finish plaster. Sand
finish is unsatisfactory for wallpaper.
3. Floors may have to be refinished by scrap-
ing if badly worn, rough, curled, or
warped. Note where squeaks occur in
floors and stairs.
4. Wide joints in floors are dirt collectors.
They may have to be filled.
5. Joints in woodwork which are open mean
that wood has shrunk and that joints were
not well made. Notice panels, doors, and
corners of door trim.
6. Make notes of all paint, regarding its con-
dition, and wallpaper.
7. Try all windows and doors. If windows
are nailed shut the sash cords are usually
broken. Are there weather strips? See if
windows stay open (held by weights and
sash cords).
8. Tile work: look at joint between bathtub
and wall. Any cracked or crazed tiles?
Note tile colors.

No. 5

(For Tom)


Fingerprint Clues
Clues you can put your fingers on; that is,
surfaces and finishes in plain sight.

1. Do blinds work or are they just orna-
2. Are there good screens for all windows,
doors, and porch? Copper or galvanized
steel screen wire?
3. Any storm sash?
4. List what has to be painted. If paint is
blistered or loose or if it looks like an
alligator's hide, note where.
5. Look over walls; if brick or stone, see if
mortar joints are solid, loose or cracked.
If shingles, report as for shingled roof. If
stucco, see if cracked, loose, or flaked off.
6. Examine condition of window and door
sills, frames and wood trim, and other
woodwork such as sash or cornice molding.
7. See if putty at window sash is firm but not
dried out. If so, it is in good condition.
8. Porch floors of wood: boards warped, loose,
rotten? Porch floors of concrete: cracked,
settled or spauled off?
9. Railings: look at bottom of posts for signs
of rot. Are they wobbly?
10. Garage: note door type and condition,
type of floor and condition. Will garage
take a large car? Note any defects in con-
dition of framing.
11. Look over condition of all exterior build-
ings and structures such as barns, walls,
gates, fences.
12. Are roads, walks, steps, terraces, and gut-
ters in good condition? Their repair may
be costly if they have been neglected.
13. Lawns, shrubs, and trees should be exam-
ined carefully.


constant joy, but beware of the defective
No. I (For Tom) chimney which may cause unforgettable

FIRE CHIEF tragedy. The same fireplace which may
warm you on winter evenings may later
Spotting Outside Fire Risks burn down the house," we explained.
1. House walls of stone, concrete, asbestos, "Chimneys not only carry off the smoke
shingles, brick, and stucco will not catch
fire. from the fireplace but also hot gases from
2. House walls of asphalt shingle will not the heating plant. They are probably the
readily catch fire. most neglected and the most carelessly con-
3. House walls of wood: wood shingles will structed part of a house. The most impor-
readily catch fire.
tant single factor to determine is whether
4. Roofs of slate, tile, metal, or asbestos shin- tnt single factor to determine is enter
gles will not catch fire. or not chimneys are lined with terra-cotta
5. Roofs of tar and gravel or asphalt shingles flue linings, which look something like clay
will not readily catch fire. sewer pipes but are unglazed. Their func-
6. Roofs of wood shingles will easily catch fire.
tion is to provide a smooth, uninterrupted
7. Top of chimney should extend 2 feet above
the high point of the roof. fireproof passage for the smoke and gases.
8. Brush or fields or forests close to house are
fire hazards.

No. 1 (For Sally)

It was getting dark now, so we had to
quit, although Tom and Sally still clamored Spotting Inside Fire Risks
for more. We arranged to meet on Wednes- 1. Do you remember your investigation of the
Basement and of the attic (Card No. 4,
day, a holiday, to finish. Sally said, "With
Clues to Defective House Skeleton)? If
all its faults, I still like the house." not take a refresher look. All wood should
Tom said, "So do I, but that asking price be kept 2 inches away from the chimney.
is too high, now that we know what has 2. Here you need to acquire the skill of a
to be done." chimney sweep. With a flashlight look
We promised a new game for next week. from the fireplace up into the chimney
flue. Poke around with a stick to see
When we met again it was a wet, drizzly whether the chimney flues are lined with
day, perfect for rechecking leaks and damp- brick or clay tile flue linings. See if there
ness. The results verified the earlier clues, is a smoke shelf and damper in each fire-
"Our new game 'Fire Chief' will tell place.
whether this house is safe from fire risks," 3. Fireplaces: see that brick joints are solid
and full of mortar. Use that ice pick.
we told them. Unless corrected, these f U
4. A fireproof (metal-covered) door cutting
risks might result in a calamity to your off the basement from the rest of house is
safety and your pocketbook. Here are cards good protection. A fireproof partition en-
No. 1." closing the boiler or heater room is a safe-
Sally appeared with soot on her nose and guard. If ceiling of basement or of boiler
black hands; so we let her rest while we dis- room is plastered or covered with gypsum
board it is an added protection.
cussed chimneys. 5. Fire stops: look above sill and between
"You will be delighted to find that this studs.
house has many fireplaces. They can be a


"In old houses, the flues are often un-
lined; they are built only of brick. If the
masons do not fill the brick joints full of
mortar the heat from the chimney may go
into the house rather than out the top of
the chimney. This heat may ignite the
woodwork, especially if it has been built
directly against the chimney. Such wood
may char for years before one day bursting
into flames.
"Dampers are movable iron shutters held
in frames which enable you to open or close
them. These dampers are placed between
the fireplace and the smoke chamber above.
They are valuable because by moving them
you can control the draft to the fireplace.
Dampers are installed in fireplaces that have
been carefully built.
"There is another point in proper chim-
ney construction which you can investigate,
This is not a fire hazard, but on windy days
it is a feature which may prevent you from
being smoked out of the room. The back
of your fireplace should slope in to form a
narrow throatt at he top. Behind this slop-
ing fireplace back should be a ledge to stop
the down drafts from blowing smoke into
the room.
"The conventional Santa Claus could
never enter a modern fireplace. His de-
scent through the chimney was possible
when huge fireplaces served as stove, heater,
and radiator. In those clays a little smoke
in the room was of no concern."
When Tom came up out of the basement
to get air, he asked, "What is the differ-
ence between a boiler and a furnace? I
should like to know a little more about this
equipment." He was given card No. 2.
"The furnace, or boiler, and the hot
water heater are all designed to contain fire.
The furnace is used to heat air, the boiler
to heat water or to make steam. The hot
water heater makes hot water for washing
and bathing. They are safe when in good

No. 2

(For Tom)

Spotting Fire Hazards
Investigate the "hot spots"-the boiler or
heater room.
1. Heat rises, and wood beams can catch fire
if not protected. Safest is fireproof ceiling
over this room. Next, ceiling over section
where the boiler or heater and smoke pipe
are located. Ceilings in order of protective
value are:
a. Cement plaster on metal lath. Cement
asbestos board may be used for small
b. Metal.
c. Plaster on metal lath.
d. Gypsum board.
2. Smoke pipe which carries smoke from
heater or boiler to chimney flue should not
be close to ceiling; 2 feet is O.K.; if closer
it needs further protection.
3. Inspect smoke pipe. Is it in good condi-
tion? Is there a good damper in it? Pipes
which are rusty or old are a hazard. They
should be cleaned every year.
4. Look over furnace or boiler. Note num-
ber and make. Find out type of fuel and
type of heating system.
5. If oil burner or stoker, note number and
make. Find out type of fuel and type of
heating system.
6. See that there is a means for fresh air to
get into the boiler room such as an open
window, grille, or louver. Fire cannot
burn without air.

condition. The same is true for oil burn-
ers and automatic coal stokers, but they are
risks when neglected or improperly in-
stalled. An amateur fire chief may have
trouble diagnosing the condition of this
equipment. If the furnace, boiler, or hot
water heater appears to be in poor condi-
tion, get an expert to look it over and ad-
vise you about repairs. His fee will be


small compared to the cost of a possible fire
due to defective heating equipment. One
can tell by the name of the boiler that orig-
inally it was a good product. Now it needs
repairs and overhauling. Modern equip-
ment has many safety devices which were
lacking in the older types. Perhaps some
of these may be installed."
We explained that where the furnace,
boiler, or hot water heater is in poor con-
dition the combustion in it is imperfect and
fuel is wasted. Imperfect combustion causes
hot gases to escape through the smoke pipe.
A smoke pipe under these conditions will
soon go to pieces, and then poisonous gases

No. 3 (For Tom)

Electric Wire Hazards
1. Find the electric cabinets (also cut-out cab-
inets or panel boards or fuse boxes).
These are metal boxes which contain fuses.
2. Count the number of pairs of fuses in eacIh.
This will be the number of circuits which
the house has.
3. Count the number of electric outlets, such
as base outlets, bracket outlets, ceiling fix-
tures, and wall outlets. Divide these by
the number of circuits and you know how
many average to each circuit. Any more
than 12 to a circuit is dangerous. Now
you know whether you can add new out-
lets without installing more circuits. Space
circuits (unused) may be available on the
basement panel board.
Estimate how many new outlets you need.
5. What kind of wiring is used? Look in
attic or basenicnt. Is it in a spirally wound
metal covering called BX, or does it have
black covering and is it fastened up with
spools of porcelain knob and tube? Very
good wiring is run inside of steel pipes
(conduits). BX is safe for frame construc-
tion. Knob and tube is very old-fashioned
and not safe when old.

may escape into the house. In bad cases the
smoke pipe becomes red hot and may ignite
exposed wood several feet away. To pre-
vent this fire hazard the ceiling above the
heating plant and the smoke pipe should be
"Boiler rooms should always be ventilated
to provide the air which supports combus-
tion," we continued. "After combustion
the air, transformed to gases, goes out the
chimney in the form of smoke."
"There are fire hazards which no amateur
house detective can find," we added. "Sub-
standard electric wiring installations are
sometimes put in houses built without care-
ful supervision. Electric circuits are de-
signed to carry certain loads of current.
Most circuits in homes are wired with No.
14 wire. For wire of this size, 15-ampere
fuses should he used to blow out when the
current load is too heavy. Circuits supply-
ing receptacles in kitchens and laundries
are often wired with No. 12 wire. A toaster,
percolator, or other heavy current device
may overload the circuit, causing wires to
heat, thereby creating a fire hazard if the
wires are No. 14 size." Tom took card No. 3.
After the Fire Chief records were tabu-
lated, we decided to ask a heating and
plumbing contractor and an electrician to
meet us the next day at the house. With
their help we could be sure of all the facts
about the mechanical equipment and dis-
cuss whether the heating, plumbing, and
electric systems would require much of an
investment to make them right.
"Traffic within a house is not so speedy
as on the road," we said, "yet home acci-
dents outnumber street or road accidents,
and falls top all home accidents."
So the next set of cards pointed out the
red lights for home traffic.
We found that neither the attic nor the
basement stairs had handrails and the attic
stair well was unprotected.


No. 1 (For Sally & Tom)

Hazard from Falls, Collisions, and Bumps
S1. Look for poorly planned traflic ways. Do
you have to duck your head going to attic
or basement?
2. Are there curved stairs with pie-shaped
steps which are too narrow to get your
foot on at the rail side?
3. Are there handrails around all porches
and on stairs and steps?
4. Where one or two steps occur at change
of levels within a house there are likely
to be falls.
5. All stair risers on any one staircase should
be equal in height.
6. See if there are railings around every
stair well, even in the attic.
7. Check for lights on every staircase; at all
steps are there switches arranged to be
controlled from both bottom and top of
8. Check door locks: all doors to outside
should discourage burglars; they should
have cylinder locks.
9. Test all door latches. See if doors will
stay closed.
10. Any cylinder locks on closet doors, espe-
cially liquor closet?

The porch had no railing. The porch
doors did not have cylinder locks, simply
the cheap bit-key type.
"In considering the purchase of a house,
it is wise to approximate how much to al-
low for operation and how much for main-
tenance," we advised them. "You may plan
your monthly budget if you estimate the
cost of running the house and of repairs."
So Card No. $ took care of that.
Tom said, "I had no idea that there was
so much to a house."
Sally wanted to know what happened
next, now that we had dissected the house
from top to bottom.

No. 1 (For Sally & Tom)

Banker's Clues
1. Investigate water rates or cost of current
if you will have to pump your water.
2. Get electric rates if you are moving to a
new location,
3. Fuel: oil, gas, coal, electricity? If coal,
type burned? If you have not had ex-
perience with this type of fuel, consider
its cost.
4. Insulation: good insulation appreciably
cuts fuel cost. The more expensive the
fuel the greater need for better insulation.
What type of insulation and where located?
Blanket thickness? Batts thickness? Alumi-
num foil? Insulation board thickness?
Blown in?
5. Storm windows? Weatherstrip? They also
cut fuel cost. See if these items, if exist-
ing, are in good condition.
6. Consider costs of all transportation such as
to school, R.R. station, club, town, friends,
and movies.
7. Consider other service costs: laundry,
maids, extra help, maintaining lawn and
8. Anticipated repairs and replacements. How
about refrigerator and range?

We then said, "You know all the physical
handicaps of this house. You may wish to
check up a few other considerations, such
as facts about: the site, the type of archi-
tecture, and the general type of planning.
Those are just as important as the condi-
tion of the house. To do so, these notes
will provide a basis for comparison; these
values are quite intangible and must be
judged by their appeal to you."
The notes given to them were used later
to develop Chapters 18, 21, and 22.
Sally said, "Suppose that we invest all our
savings in this house and then our family
grows. What would we do?"

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