Another Trip Back in Time

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Reminiscing is colored, splatter, obfuscated and twisted by emotion. Nostalgia in and of it self makes us long for times gone by. What we remember or perceive is probably not exactly how events unfurled or how things were always done.

Twisting support beam in an older Connecticut houseNot long ago I had written a post where I had in part expounded on the building practices of yester year. As always when making a comparison of old to new, a few lovers of the old stuff had taken a differing point of view.

There seems to be this ingrained idea that people did better work back in the day. As I said before, the crumby stuff built a 100 years ago has all fallen down and been replaced. Well not all of it.

The other morning I had the pleasure of inspecting a house just a few years shy of 100. It is on a street of beautiful old houses, an affluent area in its day.

As I worked my way through the house from the attic on down, one feature was very apparent. The floors were sloped. Now sloped floors in a hundred year old house are anything but uncommon, however these floors were a bit more sloped that usual.

I couldn't wait to see the basement.

Mortise and tenon joint

As I entered one of the first things I noticed was the new lumber that made up newer beams and columns. It turned out there were three individual newer beams. One of these new beams was failing rather dramatically, twisting under its load.

But what was the cause for all the sagging and the inevitable failure of the house structure? Simply a poorly built house.

The builder was obviously not a knowledgeable fellow. Examining the floor structure, what I found was to me unbelievable. The floor structure and probably the rest of the house had been built and secured by mortise and tenon. This is where the end of a board is basically made into a peg and inserted into a slot made in another board. By cutting the 2 x 8 board ends down to about an inch and a half, the load bearing capacity of each joist is effectively reduced to that dimension. It's amazing a serious failure hasn't occurred by now.

Yep, they don't build 'em like they used to.

Thank goodness for that!


Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.


This entry hasn't been re-blogged:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
Home Buying
Connecticut New Haven County
Almost Anything Goes
Diary of a Realtor
WeBlog Anything (almost)!
home inspections in connecticut ct
home inspectors in connecticut ct
antique connecticut houses
old compared to new

Post a Comment
Spam prevention
Spam prevention
Show All Comments
Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi James,

I was in a home that was built back in the 40's. It had issues under the home in the crawl where the flooring supports had sunk into the ground. Most likely from water in the crawl space. Never a good thing to find.

The buyers did get the home and planned on jacking the floor back to level. A long and tedious process to say the least.

Good finds as we stay on track to find what we can for the buyers.

Have a wonderful Sunday in Massachusetts.

Best, Clint McKie

Nov 17, 2012 09:46 PM #1
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

I say, "Thank goodness for good home inspectors."

Nov 17, 2012 09:50 PM #2
Kevin J. May
Florida Supreme Realty - Hobe Sound, FL
Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida

James, taking cabinetry skills to the next level I suppose.  I've had two old stone homes and I do miss their workmanship.

Nov 17, 2012 09:54 PM #3
Erv Fleishman
Realty Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Luxury Prop Specialist Realty Associates

Interesting. So why don't more homes simply collapse?


Nov 17, 2012 10:31 PM #4
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim, it seems every generation has its builders that are clueless :)

Nov 18, 2012 01:30 AM #5
Charles Stallions
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services - Pensacola, FL
800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl.

I tend to think that it is a product of it's time. A hundred years from now people will look back say WHY DID THEY BUILD HOMES WITH WOOD.

Nov 18, 2012 08:01 AM #6
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.


Nov 18, 2012 10:54 AM #7
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

That is a serious problem!  It is hard to crank up a house without moving, or damaging, other aspects of the house.  It has taken a long time to sag.  To undo that sag is difficult at best.

Mortise and tenon for a structural beam?  Wow!

The new stuff does not look any better either.

Nov 18, 2012 07:42 PM #8
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim, The tenon is tenuous at best. I have said the same thing about older structures. Some are good many where not.

Nov 19, 2012 02:21 PM #9
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Clint, We find, they plan or move on :)

Lenn, Thanks.

Kevin, The method was used in home building prior to modern framing lumber (post & beam). This builder may have been old school. 

Erv, Homes aren't supposed to be built this way, so that's basically why.

Charlie, Case in point :)

Charles, Well yes in a sense it is, but a bad product and not representative of a good product from the era. 

Reuben, :)

Jay, Yes, very serious. I made it known repairs would be very extensive ($$$). 

Don, Yep, we know what we know and like what we like. Give me new any day. 

Nov 19, 2012 08:28 PM #10
Post a Comment
Spam prevention
Show All Comments

What's the reason you're reporting this blog entry?

Are you sure you want to report this blog entry as spam?


James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
Ask me a question
Spam prevention