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This Old San Carlos House, Part IV: Plumbing.

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Water In, Water Out.

One of the most essential functions in a house, albeit one of the most unspectacular, is the method of getting water into and out of the structure … aka plumbing.  And while we tend to associate plumbing with the aspects that are visible, such as our fancy faucets and expensive fixtures, most of the important stuff that pertains to plumbing happens out of sight, either behind the walls or under the earth.

The basics of plumbing haven’t evolved a whole bunch since homes were built in San Carlos in the 1940’s and 50’s;  water goes in, and something in a liquid form comes back out.  But the materials that are used have indeed changed, and it’s important to understand what your dealing with in your Old San Carlos House, because plumbing repairs can range from the hundreds of dollars to the thousands, depending on what you’re dealing with.

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This Old San Carlos House, Part III: Drainage.

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Water: The Ultimate Irony.

Water is THE most essential compound when it comes to supporting life as we know it — but it’s “Public Enemy #1″ when it comes your home.  Whether it’s from a leaky roof, faulty plumbing, or poor site drainage, I believe that water causes more damage to homes than fire, or any other naturally occurring event.  And what’s most amazing about water damage in this area is that it’s seldom catastrophic in nature — more often, it’s gradual, chronic, and often goes undetected.

In this edition of This Old San Carlos House, we’ll talk about one particular water-related problem that plagues many old San Carlos homes — poor drainage.

Water Under the House.

The most common manifestation of poor site drainage is the presence of water under the house.    Now, of all places to have water on your property, this is absolutely the last place you want it to be.   Why?  Persistent moisture in the crawl space of a home is a recipe for disaster — and the more moisture there is, the bigger your problem is going to be.    Some of the problems that arise from excessive moisture under your house are:

  • Wood Destroying Organisms.   Subterranean termites absolutely love moist ground.  They are able to live and reproduce with ease in wet soil.  And wood that’s exposed to constant moisture will start to grow fungus, which is another organism that feasts on wood.  Both of these bad boys are troublesome to a home if left unchecked.
  • Oxidation.  Moist environments are even tough on anything metal under the house — joist hangers, plumbing, ductwork, etc..   Even if they are made to resist moisture, chronic exposure to water will oxidize just about any metal.
  • Mold.  In some cases where there’s copious amounts of standing water, mold can take hold and spread not only under the house, but into the living area as well.
  • Structural Weakness.   Dry, solid soil supports a home much better than wet, squishy soil.    When a foundation is surrounded by water, it starts to settle into the wet soil.  This settlement creates uneven stresses on the house, which usually show up in the form of sloping floors, cracked walls, and fractured foundations.    Even the concrete in the foundation will deteriorate over time if it’s constantly wet.

So, how does water get under the house in the first place?  There are many ways, and they generally fall under one of three categories:

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This Old San Carlos House: The Foundation.

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The Most Important Part.

Welcome to “This Old San Carlos House“, an occasional series on the White Oaks Blog that focuses on the different aspects of purchasing an older home — like many of those you’ll find in San Carlos.   I figured I would start this series with arguably the most important – and likely the least understood- part of your old San Carlos house:  The foundation.  Why is it the most important?  Because the entire house sits on the foundation, so if you have big problems with the foundation you’ll likely see it throughout the house.   And why is it the least understood?  Because it’s the least visible part of the house.   We spend time in our homes or out in our yards, but very few people ever climb under their own house to see what’s going on.

Most homes in San Carlos are built on a raised, concrete perimeter foundation, which is also referred to a spread footer foundation.   Basically, as the name implies, a trench is dug around the exterior footprint of the home.  A large concrete footer is then poured creating a perimeter that the house is then built upon.  The diagram below shows the key components of a raised perimeter foundation:

- Drawing courtesy of abag.org

 

There is also a foundation construction technique known as “post and beam” that some houses in San Carlos do utilize, but for the purpose of this discussion we’ll focus solely on concrete perimeter since it applies to most homes in San Carlos.

Don’t Crack over Cracks.

Reading a property inspection report on a home that you’re thinking of buying is not for the faint of heart.  It’s not easy to read about everything that’s wrong with what may be your very next home.   And if there’s one deficiency that’s called out in these reports that scares the daylights out potential buyers more than any other, it’s this:  Foundation cracks.

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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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A New Series: “This Old San Carlos House”.

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Dealing With Older Homes.

If you own a home in San Carlos or have been shopping for a one for any period of time, then what I’m about to say is no surprise to you:  Most homes in San Carlos are OLD! And not necessarily old in a charming way — many are just plain old.   When you consider that most of the flat-land area of San Carlos was developed during World War II in the late 1930’s and early 40’s, and with the hillside development following in the 50’s,  many of the homes in San Carlos are now somewhere between 60-70 years of age.  And like anything that is used constantly over an extended period of time, homes get tired and worn with age.

For those of you in the market for a San Carlos home, reading through a property inspection report on an older home is not for the faint of heart.  A steady dose about everything that’s wrong with a house may make you want to run the other way as fast as you can.   But the good news is that many of the problems and issues that are cited with older homes are usually typical of homes of that era, and are generally straightforward to fix.

What’s a Big Deal, and What’s Not…

This Old San Carlos House” will be an occasional series on the White Oaks Blog that will touch on the various elements of older homes — things  you’ll commonly see discussed in a property inspection report.  In each issue of this series, we’ll discuss one aspect of the home in detail, such as:

  • Foundations.
  • Drainage
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing.
  • ..and so on.

The focus of the series not so much technical in nature (I’m not a contractor, after all!) as much as it is an advisory to help you understand what you are likely to encounter with older homes — which things you should worry about, and which things aren’t that big of a deal.   And most important, it will hopefully highlight some aspects that you may have never thought of (can you say “insurance”?)

So strap on your tool belts and lets get a little dirty…  Welcome to “This Old San Carlos House.”

First up in the series:  Foundations.

 
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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