That isnt to say, however, that
older homes are as easy to take care of as newer ones. Thankfully,
a simple rule of thumb applies to older home maintenance and
repair: Many big problems tend to start out as little problems.
Its a general rule with just
about anything in a home, says Steve Korobkin, owner of Handy
Hands Inc. in Bayside, when you notice that something is wrong,
take care of it before it becomes a major issue.
Korobkin says that many older
homes, particularly in the southern Northshore, are very well
crafted. There are some really fine-quality homes in Whitefish
Bay and Shorewood, he says. You dont see too many issues
with homes built on that level.
However, older homes often can
become a little cranky. Some of the common issues that Korobkin
has dealt with have included doors,
windows and plaster walls. Older homes often have doors that
wont close, and the solution may be as simple as tightening or
replacing the hinge screws, he says. Sash cords in windows
can stick after a few decades, and wax or a silicone spray can cut
the friction on them.
Cracks in plaster walls are often a
minor, but annoying, problem for homeowners. You shouldnt
try and use a hammer on plaster walls because it can cause
cracking, he says. If you want to hang something, drill a
hole and find the stud. Its also not unusual to find cracks
that simply appear...and reappear after theyve been patched.
This isnt typically a serious problem, but is more of a
cosmetic issue for some homeowners.
He says that the problem may not be
an inadequate repair job. If the home is moving, it will keep
cracking, he says. When that happens, I often try using
caulk and latex paint, both of which have some give to them.
Creaky floors often plague older
homes, and these repair jobs require a troubleshooting team. Sometimes
you need to screw a board down, other times a board needs to go
up, he says. Its also possible to fix a creaky older
floor that has been carpeted by using screws with break-off screw
Stopping minor hot spots from
becoming major repairs is also a good approach when dealing with
the outside of an older home, particularly with brickwork. If
you see that your bricks are starting to pop, it means that you
have a water infiltration problem, says Lisa Koby of Koby
Restoration in Grafton. Ignoring it wont make it go away. In
fact, the problem will just get worse.
She says that different types of
bricks show different forms of wear. Cream City brick, which is
very popular in the Northshore area, has a softer composition that
many other types of bricks. Some brickwork is extremely porous and
prone to damage quicker than other types of brick. Likewise,
mortars wear differently depending on their age and composition.
Koby says that while brick tends to wear extremely well compared
to other building materials, virtually every brick building will
eventually require some repair or restoration.
When it is needed, properly
restored brickwork should look authentic. Thats the whole
idea behind the concept of restoration, she says. You dont
want it to stand out or look new. We can do quite a bit with brick
and mortar color so you cant tell the restored area from the
When it comes to a roof, previous
repair jobs often can add to the
problem. Adding layers to an existing roof creates a heat
blanket, says Steve Holling, president of Advanced Roof
Restorations in Cedarburg. The more layers, the less smooth
your roof becomes.
Holling says that most older homes
typically have multiple layers of
roofing materials, such as a cedar roof and two layers of
shingles. If thats the case for your home and your roof
starts leaking, theres probably already some damage since cedar
soaks up water. Instead of a single spot, you might have a water
problem that extends five or six feet through the cedar.
A lack of ventilation can also
cause moisture buildup in the attic. This can rot the plywood
underneath your roof surface, he says. And then youll
start to see black spotsfungusgrowing up there.
Another issue that strikes some
older roofs is asbestos. There are
a few in the area, particularly in Cedarburg, says Holling. You
can recognize an asbestos roof by their grayish color and flat
Undisturbed, an asbestos roof isnt
a problem. If its intact, your best option is to do nothing
with it, he says. Its an expensive job to remove one. I
worked on a project where the home was barely 1,500 square feet,
and it cost the homeowner $4,000 to have the roof removed.
When such a serious project is in
your homes future, its important
to leave the work to the experts. Plumbing, heating and electrical
issues should all be referred to a specialist, and not just
because of their skill level and experience. Building codes have
changed significantly since many older homes were first built, and
to simply replace an existing system may not comply with your
communitys codes and regulations. Before doing any significant
repair work, its important to obtain the proper permits and
check the current building codes.
If a simple, weekend repair job is
in your plans, a number of resources are available to make sure
the job is done right. One of the best sources for advice is
your local, community hardware store, says Korobkin. They
know certain things, and are more than willing to offer their
advice and suggestions when you come in.