There is a tendency for people to view the world from the narrow time frame of their own lives—-and extrapolate that information to mean that things have always been that way—-or at least for a longer period of time than is statistically meaningful historically.
One example of this is this idea that somehow tomatoes and Italian cooking are virtually inseparable. The reality is that Italians have only known tomatoes since the discovery of the New World—-not really very long in terms of the total history of Italian cuisine.
The same sort of thing happens in the way we look at houses. We sometimes want to know if the house we are interested in buying has ever been remodeled. We tend to ask this question as to mean “remodeled” in the context of, “brought up to current standards.” I find houses all the time that have been remodeled. Some fit this definition of being brought more up to date, but most fall short because standards change so fast and vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
I even find homes where changes to the house were made before it was even completed. In other words “remodeled” before it was even “modeled.” I know this happens because as a builder I had to do it many times myself.
Sometimes in older homes I find where homes were remodeled within a few years of their original construction so that even the newer portions are really no more “up-to-date” than the older part—-at least in terms of today’s standards.
Take a look at the following picture. This house, built in 1901 (very old by Seattle standards), was remodeled. As part of this remodel the original REALLY tall ceilings were lowered to 8 feet creating this nice crawl space between the new ceiling and the original ceiling.
In the picture, one can see the old lath and plaster and also see where the electrical needs of the home have been “upgraded” with the “new” knob & tube wiring.
It would be difficult to determine when the “remodel” was done—-but most likely some time between 1901 and 1950—–since 1950 is just about the end of the use of this wiring method. So by modern standards this remodel doesn’t even count—-it is all hopelessly outdated. Perhaps due for another “upgrade.”
Now take this information and extrapolate it to a building that is “actually” old (like in Europe) as opposed to “pretend” old like we have here in the United States. The old farm house that I grew up in, in Connecticut, is about 200 years old—-pretty old for the United States. Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited dwelling is 860+ years old—–just think about the number of remodels that home could have gone through—-and the stories its walls could tell.
Now we are talking archeology.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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