There is something to be said about how older homes have ‘character’. Builders tended to put more thought into the styling of the homes once lumber was processed via saw mills in America beginning in the 1800’s. Early hand-hewn timber frame homes were built on functionality over style. But with the industrial revolution that brought us the sawmills and dimensional lumber it became easier to add style to the design of homes. Many of these homes built from the 1850’s to the 1930’s are still around today. If you like classic old homes, there are a few things to look for when shopping for one.
Homes built up to the turn of the century will often have a combination of old-style building technique along with the use of dimensional lumber. The foundation might still be a stone foundation: stones cemented together to support the home. Not as common in central Indiana as other parts of the country but we still see one occasionally. More common will be the use of large hand-hewn beams for support as major structural elements. Also, the bathroom and plumbing system will most likely have been added well after the construction of the home. By 1920’s indoor plumbing was standard for city-built homes. But homes in the country might still have had outdoor toilets until the 1950’s. We sold an early 1900’s updated farmhouse in Avon that had indoor plumbing, but the original outhouse was still there and technically functional.
Homes built before the early 1900’s would have had electricity added after the home was built. Electricity didn’t become common in central Indiana until the growth of the electric Interurban rail lines that sold excess electric power to homes and businesses around the areas they served. At that time internal power was provided via a wire system known as knob & tube because of the ceramic knobs used to support the uninsulated wire and ceramic tubes the wire passes through wood framing. To this day it is not uncommon to find the knob and tube in homes around here and in some cases live circuits can be found in the home. That’s been the case in several of the homes we’ve sold, especially in older Indianapolis neighborhoods.
Original heating systems for these homes were typically wood burning fireplaces with larger homes having several. Fancier homes would have a large wood or coal burning unit in the basement with ducts that provided the heat via convection, as in letting the heat rise up to the rooms naturally. If not a fireplace, the homes would at least have a wood or coal burning centrally located stove. While older homes will still have the fireplaces pretty much all of them will have been upgraded to a modern type of heating system. There are still some that do rely on steam heat from boilers but that’s not very common except for older neighborhoods in Indianapolis.
Over the years, homes built with wood settle, sag, and in extreme cases tilt. This is what you have to accept with classic homes and understand this is what gives it ‘character’. If you like the character you’ll enjoy the extra woodwork trim, the awesome old-growth wood floors, unusual built in details, and sometimes stained-glass windows. So accept that you might have an unusual heating system, maybe non-standard plumbing, and piecework upgraded electrical system as a compromise to the fact that the home slowly evolved with the changing building standards. Old homes tell a story as many generations will have lived in them which gives them a history that newer homes cannot provide. Classic homes aren’t for everyone, but if you love character in your home, it’s hard to beat these homes.
We’ve sold a lot of older homes and live in a renovated 1940’s farmhouse. We’ll help guide you on what to look for and what to avoid. Call or text The Derrick Team at 317-563-1110 today. We work 7 days a week, evenings too.