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Currently house-hunting, and one of the very cheap, in-need-of-work houses I've looked at has the unusual feature of a foundation-to-ceiling limestone wall inside, on one of the outer walls of the house. It's the rightmost rowhouse in a three-rowhouse structure, and the limestone wall is on the side -- the "right wall" of the entire structure, so to speak.

It's clearly a limestone wall. On the outside, cheap vinyl siding.

One other wall is shared with the middle part of this rowhouse. The other two walls, front and back, are drywall inside, cheap vinyl outside.

The front and back walls seem like they might be a bit thicker than they need to be. I'm desperately curious as to whether this entire rowhouse might actually be a limestone structure -- old stable building, barn, something -- that has been drywalled inside and sided outside by a former owner, possibly somebody who decades ago thought it would be easier and cheaper to side the building with crappy vinyl rather than pay to re-point the stone.

How can I check? I obviously can't start popping vinyl siding off a house I don't own, but if this is indeed a full limestone building, it could well be a real diamond in the rough.

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Vinyl siding has seams between the pieces. You can push/pull at one of these to make enough room to get a small pen light inside for a peak. You can also inspect around any protrusions like water faucets or vents. Lastly, you can get a special vinyl pulling tool that is a thin blade with a small hook at the end. It's designed to be forced between two pieces and pulled down to release the siding from the layer below. With a little pressure from your hand you and pop the two pieces back together without ever removing a screw.

Two things to keep in mind: if the siding is properly installed, what you'll likely see behind the siding is a weather wrap (e.g. tyvek). And installing siding on a stone surface is likely to leave hundreds of screw holes that would take a lot of effort to patch.

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    But clearly this sort of invasive inspection should not be done without permission, and without promising to pay for any repairs that should become necessary as a result. – Hot Licks Jan 21 '15 at 1:19
  • @HotLicks I assume you're referring to the 3rd method since the first two are just places to look. And if the 3rd method is done right, there are no repairs. You're lifting up a piece of vinyl just like you would lift the corner of a rug. Of course if you damage a home while inspecting it doing anything, the proper thing is to cover the repair. – BMitch Jan 21 '15 at 14:09

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