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Taking into consideration the building supplies that were available in that time period for that particular geographic area (say, a major metropolitan city in the mid-western United States), do homes built in the late 1800s have definite points in time that they reach where they are essentially beyond repair without a complete teardown? I'm not really talking about things that can be replaced like legacy iron piping with contemporary copper...I'm talking about the lifespan of the actual bricks and wood that go into the foundation/frame of the house itself deteriorating to the point that the house becomes structurally unsafe?

Is this a real problem? Or were the supplies used even in the late 1800s treated well to such a degree that, given typical housing standards (at that time) if it were properly built, should last for hundreds of years?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I don't think it is much of an issue with individual materials. In general most of them last a long time, and when they do fail, they simply get replaced. Of course, it can be a problem if the item that is failing cannot easily be replaced.

Off the top of my head I think the only issue could be the foundation. Many homes built that long ago did not really have a foundation or may have compromised foundation by now. That is something that is very expensive to fix. Though not impossible, the fix usually involves lifting the house and rebuilding the foundation and then dropping the house back on it.

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It boils down to maintenance. There are tons of houses in northeast that 300+ old. Some brick and some wooden. So if the house was properly kept then I don't think it has a pre determined lifespan.

However, specific building materials do have known time in service before they would require repair. For example bricks might need to e repointed every 50 years or so

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The lifespan of a structure has little to do with age in general. It's mostly a combination of:

  • materials
  • construction quality
  • maintenance/upkeep
  • climate
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