5 easy checks to find out what lies beneath

Bernadette Janson

5 easy checks to find out what lies beneath

By Bernadette Janson | 10 October 2013

Wallpaper is often a feature of old houses and other than being a pain to remove, usually isn’t too much of a problem unless of course it is concealing a more serious issue.

Blogger: Bernadette Janson, The School of Renovating

This was the case in a house I looked at recently despite the agent’s claims that it was as “solid as a rock”. (A zealous agent can distract your powers of observation and you have to keep you wits about you to avoid being swayed by the banter.)

I think that most of the wall tapping that goes on at open inspections is bluff but when the walls are completely concealed by various materials some gentle tapping can be very revealing. I was already suspicious of the multiple wall coverings in this property; quaint floral wallpaper, tacky fake timber paneling and the 80’s mirror tiles A-La-Disco.

When you gently tap walls where the plaster is drummy it sounds hollow and sure enough, in our little gem the walls were being held together with paper and a prayer.

It is common in old homes to have a bit of drummy plaster but the question is whether it is a symptom of movement or subsidence in the footings.

It is a good idea to develop a few investigative skills to scope out the extent of the problem before you go to the expense of paying for a building inspection.

In a major structural renovation you expect to have to do some remedial work and can usually preserve your profit margin because you have a bigger contingency but in a smaller cosmetic renovation you simply cannot afford to bury large chunks of money on repairs.

So if you discover enough plaster coming away from the walls to suggest there may be a bigger issue, here are a few checks to help you investigate further.
1.    Check the doors open freely, if there is movement, the frame may be pushed out of square and the door will tend to bind.

2.    Same with the windows; check the sills for level and open the sashes to see if they stick.

3.    Sight up the floor to see if it is level, its handy to carry a marble in your pocket, rolling it along the floor will soon detect a lean.

4.    Go outside and check the external walls for cracking and that they are plumb and true.

5.    If there is access to under the house check the footings for cracks or subsidence.

Whether you discover structural problems or not, you should never enter into a contract of sale without a professional building and pest report. Having these simple skills will save you spending on a building report on a property whose condition is beyond what you think is acceptable.

Lastly if you do choose to progress with the purchase , the building inspector may  help you with a repair plan and budget and the report can  be a tool to negotiate a discount for the cost of the repairs.


About the author

Bernadette Janson

Bernadette Janson

Bernadette Janson is a lover of renovating and the director Of The School of Renovating.

She knows that women get a raw deal with superannuation and the majority are facing a poorly funded retirement, particularly those on the wrong side of forty. The average superannuation payout for an Australian woman is $37,000 which is a fraction of what she makes on just one project.

Her mission is to inspire , motivate and empower women to rise above the statistics and create for themselves a brighter financial future.

Bernadette’ passion began as a hobby twenty years ago while raising her four children when she discovered her flair for turning very ordinary houses into stunning family homes that are beautiful both aesthetically and functionally

Bernadette teaches renovating as a powerful and flexibility way to fast tracking your retirement savings while keeping risk to a minimum. To find out how renovating could fast track your retirement visitRead more

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5 easy checks to find out what lies beneath
Bernadette Janson
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