Old Stone Foundations
Your house is old, over 80 years. Back then they built things a bit differently. If your foundation is stones, you should know what to expect as a homeowner, because what is normal now was not normal back then.
At this point is history there was a lot of money to go around
until the depression hit. Unfortunately, this is when many communities in the
Midwest were really starting to get going. What material did they have that was
cheap to build foundations? Limestone and a lot of it. The walls were built
with the bottoms being several feet thick and the tops being only 1-2' thick.
These foundations were and are still prone to water infiltration because the
mortar used was made out of clay, sand, and water. When it deteriorated, it
allowed water and other particles from the earth outside to enter the basement.
There are actually several signs of a healthy stone foundation that will
probably last another 100 years, by the way.
Because most of the stone used to build stone foundations is a variation of lime stone, it makes sense that any amount of moisture would produce lime. This looks like a white flaky substance lightly sprawled across your basement wall. This is nothing to be alarmed about. But if you have young children, they will love it in the summer months when moisture is high. My son loved it when he was 2 calling it our "snowy underground".
This is actually a good sign because it mean that instead of actual water coming in through the basement walls, that moisture is being absorbed by the stone and being released slowly through the stone in the form of sodium or lime salt.
Many people believe that people built old stone foundations with the bottom so much wider because the foundations would collapse if they didn't. They actually built them that way because when the ground freezes, it pushes on the foundation a lot. The double thick portion is actually two separate walls that are meant to move against each other to keep both of them stable. This was an easy way to keep house foundations from moving so bad that people would have to replace rafters... like barns.
If you have a dirt floor, be proud. You are standing in a home
that was built by smart people. Why? Because dirt contains and allows moisture
to drain. It wasn't until we decided to pour concrete that we had actual basement problems. The good news if you want to
finish off your basement floor, is you have very little work to do and you can
install an interior drainage system around the foundation with little cost!
The simple fact is no one knows how long a poured foundation will last. I have a very rare 1930s home with a poured foundation and I have had to do substantial work because the corners were not properly structured. My old house was built in 1890 and it had a stone foundation. Besides the "snow" on the wall, I never had a problem with it.
Whatever the case may be, don't let a stone foundation frighten you away from buying a great house. Just look for some lime, a double ledge, and have a thorough home inspection done, and you will be set.
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