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Guess the construction date of this basement wall!!

ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
Hey gang! I have reason to believe that the reported age of my house is different from the actual age (based on some electrical equipment that I have dug out of the ceiling, etc--I'll post that later).

So with all the immense knowledge that I know is on this board, is there anyone who would like to estimate the age of a basement wall in Northern New Jersey that looks like this? I can also show pictures of other parts of the house (framing, nails used, etc) if that will help.

But let's start with these O&C concrete blocks. Throw me your estimated year of construction!

1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
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Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,720
    Oh boy. Just on the blocks I'm going to guess 1910 to 1940. But... framing and nails would help a lot, and electrical wouldn't hurt a bit to narrow that down!
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    JUGHNEethicalpaulDave in QCA
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,797
    Is the outside of the block smooth or decorative?
    ethicalpaul
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,113
    Are we doing this Price's Right style...closest without going over? Like @Jamie Hall said, more clues would help. But I know a development in my hometown that resembles that...1914.
    steve
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
    edited May 15
    JUGHNE said:

    Is the outside of the block smooth or decorative?

    Oh that's a good one! They are decorative, here they are:



    Here is the oldest electric I can find, it's this BX and inside it are two cloth-wrapped brittle insulators:



    Here is some railing above the stairs (everything in the house is this simple style, nothing ornate):



    Here is a top plate from the wall I took out between the kitchen and dining room. The holes are from the bx that was there. Also note original nail:



    Here is an interior bathroom wall with the sink backer. All walls are just like this, horsehair plaster lath. Also visible are the round nails with forged heads (I don't know the real terms). Basically all the nails in the house look modern like this.



    Every floor is exactly thus. Heart pine (I believe) directly on the joists. There is no subfloor ANYWHERE. This is under that removed kitchen wall so you can see where they sanded up to it:



    All "2x4s" are exactly 1-19/32 x 3-1/2 (or you could say they are 1-9/16 x 3-1/2)

    The blueprints show a coal bin in the street-side of the basement. There was only a single upstairs bathroom in the prints. Someone later turned the pantry into a downstairs half-bath. That upstairs bathroom is SMALL, it was like 5 feet by 7 feet.

    And this isn't Price is Right rules, those are nonsense! :)
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    Dave in QCA
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
    I have one more electrical clue I'm saving for the next round
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,203
    Let's see. Wood lath mostly disappeared in the early 30's or so and was replaced with rocklath and expanded metal. BX with cloth inside is generally pre wwII but wasn't common until the late 20's or so. Those blocks look a lot like some pyrobar blocks I have seen on the inside. Are you sure they are concrete and not gypsum? If they are the foundation and there is no K&T I will go with 1932.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,797
    Our 1914 Museum building has the "scalloped" block showing on the exterior but only above grade. Below is poured concrete with the dirt being the forming on the outside.
    This building has not presented itself with any square nails. Although a few were in my 1920 something rental. Your nails look to be "box" nails rather than "common". Box are smaller OD to avoid the splitting that comes with commons.
    That puts the nails maybe late 1920's??

    The BX---Greenfield cable---actually "AC" type must have been code required. Here the electrical would have been knob and tube....still is somewhat in the Museum. It must have been "pre-wired" for electricity as far as I can tell....we did not get Muni power until the 1920's. Our 1911 church was also pre wired.

    Considering the extravagance of the scalloped blocks, coal fired steam boiler and actually having at least 2 circuits of wiring......I would guess it was build in the Mid to late1920's.

    Just a long shot guess from 1500 miles away in fly over country.
    Dave in QCA
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,203
    I couldn't tell for certain from the picture about the nails. They look like wire nails but a few look a little squarish. A wire nail is formed by a machine from continuous wire that cuts and forms a head out of the wire. The previous nail type was cut from a sheet by a machine and has a flat wedge shape. Everything else is telling me that it was just before they stopped using wood lath and after early BX and romex were available.
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
    The nails are all round, seemingly from wire. I have seen no square edges
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,773
    My 1924-vintage house has the same type of stair railing/posts, though it was built with knob-and-tube wiring in the walls and wooden-raceway wiring (!) in the exposed areas of the basement- fortunately the latter has been upgraded. And the walls are wooden lath & plaster. So late 1920s/very early 1930s sounds right for yours.

    Was your house a Sears kit house? ISTR Sears either sold that type of block or would rent you a mold where you could cast the blocks yourself.

    Also- are the radiators original? What type are they?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
    ethicalpaul
  • Alan (California Radiant) ForbesAlan (California Radiant) Forbes Member Posts: 2,278
    edited May 15
    Ditto here. My 1921 house has lath & plaster and knob and tube. Nothing else looks familiar other than the framing and plaster. Probably East Coast methods and materials. I was going to guess 1928, but the "no subfloor anywhere" throws me back. 1918
    Often wrong, never in doubt.

    Click here to learn more about this contractor.
    ethicalpaul
  • kcoppkcopp Member Posts: 3,468
    The house I grew up in was similar... Prob around 1910
    ethicalpaul
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 5,752
    Definitely 1910-1930 ish. Attics hold lots of clues because no one wants to clean them out. I am going to say 1923
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    ethicalpaul
  • SlamDunkSlamDunk Member Posts: 794
    1905 with electrical upgrade in 1930.
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Member Posts: 1,759
    So many variables! The style of the railing began to be used around 1905, but was still in use in the early 1930s. The Rockface or rusticated concrete blocks.... again, they were available for a long time. I would do much better at this game with picture of one original radiator, and/or a picture of the front of the house. But, with what we have, I'm going to guess 1925.
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
    http://grandviewdavenport.com
    mattmia2
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 6,947
    Mid 20s to mid 30s, .....1930 is my guess
    ethicalpaul
  • kenjohnsonkenjohnson Member Posts: 53
    I own two houses that use those type of concrete blocks - one is a 1922 and the other is a 1926 vintage. The "simple woodwork" sounds like craftsman-era, which went out of style by the 1930s. So I'm going with 1920s era, maybe a little before.
    Dave in QCA
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 1,304
    I'm going to guess 1924 based on the original coal fired boiler and the wiring.
    I'm definitely curious to find out what the build date is.
    ethicalpaul
  • motoguy128motoguy128 Member Posts: 87
    edited May 16
    No subfloor. No K&T I’m saying mid 20’s, in the middle of the building boom, but after craftsman, or four square homes of the teens. K&T and subfloor were cost and labor intensive. The floor is tongue and groove, so it’s work “OK” without a subfloor.

    Since it’s plaster and lath, no beadboard (beadboard replaces the brown coat) or metal lath, I put it a little earlier. Maybe 1923.

    This is the 1920;s equivalent to the 1960’s slap it up ranch home.
    ethicalpaul
  • motoguy128motoguy128 Member Posts: 87
    edited May 16

    No subfloor. No K&T i would say late 20’s during the end on the building boom. K&T and subfloor were cost and labor intensive. The floor is tongue and groove, so it’s work “OK” without a subfloor. But Since it’s plaster and lath, no beadboard (beadboard replaces the brown coat) or metal lath, I’ll go with early 20’s. Maybe 1923

    This is the 1920;s equivalent to the 1960’s slap it up ranch home. No offense to the owner...

  • SlamDunk said:

    1905 with electrical upgrade in 1930.

    I think @SlamDunk figured out the next "electrical clue".
    Often wrong, never in doubt.

    Click here to learn more about this contractor.
    mattmia2Zman
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,203
    edited May 16

    SlamDunk said:

    1905 with electrical upgrade in 1930.

    I think @SlamDunk figured out the next "electrical clue".
    or the "upgrade" was when it got electricity.

    How that bx is run would tell you a lot about if it is original or not, if it was run secured inside the walls and through studs or if it was run behind baseboards and if it only dropped in to walls where you could drill a hole from the basement or from behind a baseboard or inside an outlet opening.

    I think rocklath/button board didn't become common until just before wwii from what I have seen.
    ethicalpaul
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 5,752
    mattmia2 said:

    SlamDunk said:

    1905 with electrical upgrade in 1930.

    I think @SlamDunk figured out the next "electrical clue".
    or the "upgrade" was when it got electricity.

    How that bx is run would tell you a lot about if it is original or not, if it was run secured inside the walls and through studs or if it was run behind baseboards and if it only dropped in to walls where you could drill a hole from the basement or from behind a baseboard or inside an outlet opening.

    I think rocklath/button board didn't become common until just before wwii from what I have seen.
    The lathe must have been a remodel.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,203
    @Zman what do you mean? i see several remodels there but I'm not thinking of the wood lath as a remodel. I don't know when rocklath or button board first came in to existence. I know drywall was about 1915 so it was possible any time after that. My house was built in 1924 with original drywall but drywall wasn't common until after wwii or so.
    ethicalpaul
  • My guess is that horsehair plaster precedes non-horsehair plaster with the advent of the automobile.
    Often wrong, never in doubt.

    Click here to learn more about this contractor.
    JUGHNEethicalpaul
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,113
    edited May 16
    C'mon @ethicalpaul, next clue please :)
    Sometimes if the houses were rural (farm) they were built without electric, (gas lighting) and added later.
    My cousins' house is like this. Unfortunately there was a fire with the knob and tube. Everyone ok.
    steve
    ethicalpaul
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 5,752
    I meant that I have never seen woodlath and rocklath on walls in the same house built at the same time. The woodlath looks original and the rocklath a remodel.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Alan (California Radiant) ForbesAlan (California Radiant) Forbes Member Posts: 2,278
    edited May 16
    I have the answer and it's under your noses.

    Edit: Sorry, I know the reported age of his house, not that of his basement wall.
    Often wrong, never in doubt.

    Click here to learn more about this contractor.
    ethicalpaul
  • Considering that the Jacobus house in Cedar Grove was built in the mid-1700's, maybe we're guessing in the wrong century.
    Often wrong, never in doubt.

    Click here to learn more about this contractor.
    ethicalpaul
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,203
    @zman where are you seeing rocklath?
    My mom's house was built in 1957 and has horse hair in the brown coat of the rocklath.
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
    OK gang, you have made some amazing estimates with the clues provided. I will address some of the points brought up and then in the next post momentarily I will give up the rest of the clues I have on hand!
    mattmia2 said:

    Let's see. Wood lath mostly disappeared in the early 30's or so and was replaced with rocklath and expanded metal. BX with cloth inside is generally pre wwII but wasn't common until the late 20's or so. Those blocks look a lot like some pyrobar blocks I have seen on the inside. Are you sure they are concrete and not gypsum? If they are the foundation and there is no K&T I will go with 1932.

    I am not sure they are concrete vs gypsum, I am ignorant of gypsum blocks. I can tell you the blocks make up the entire foundation wall, down to a poured concrete floor.
    Steamhead said:

    My 1924-vintage house has the same type of stair railing/posts, though it was built with knob-and-tube wiring in the walls and wooden-raceway wiring (!) in the exposed areas of the basement- fortunately the latter has been upgraded. And the walls are wooden lath & plaster. So late 1920s/very early 1930s sounds right for yours.

    Was your house a Sears kit house? ISTR Sears either sold that type of block or would rent you a mold where you could cast the blocks yourself.

    Also- are the radiators original? What type are they?

    I have found no evidence of knob and tube, but maybe I don't know what to look for! But what I see is holes drilled through the joists and plates exactly the size of the BX that is there. They did do some additional circuits on an early form of romex but the BX sure looks to me like it was put in before the plaster went up. I can't imagine how they could have run it where they ran it with the walls closed.

    It's not a sears kit house. I'm sure some of my radiators are original, but I don't know how to tell which ones! There are a couple different styles in here, one pipe.
    SlamDunk said:

    1905 with electrical upgrade in 1930.

    This is a great guess and I really wonder if something like this can be true (but it seems impossible based on where the BX is run!), I'll explain why in the next post.
    Zman said:

    I meant that I have never seen woodlath and rocklath on walls in the same house built at the same time. The woodlath looks original and the rocklath a remodel.

    I have rock lath? I don't know what that is. I'll go google it. I have a brown coat and a white coat.

    Here are some photos to fill in some of your questions above:






    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
    OK here's the reported build date:

    1915

    BUT it seems impossible to me because of the electrical that I have been recently updating! I found a patent date of 1923 on 3 identical ceiling fixture anchor pieces. They are beautiful in a steam-punk way, and clearly built to work with the BX that you saw in other pictures. But I have slept a lot better since I pulled some of them out and replaced them with romex. They were a little "sparky". They seem to me to be original to the build of the house (but I could be swayed if someone knows better!)

    This BX appears to me to be impossible to have been a retrofit. But was municipal electric a thing in NJ in 1915? In a working-class house like this one?

    But I just don't see how they could have installed this BX running all over both floors of this house -- inside walls, ceilings (from room to room through joists). I have gotten really good at prying it out from, for example, the dining room ceiling to the kitchen ceiling using large pliers as a lever 1 inch at a time.







    So OK, what do we think now?
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
    edited May 16
    More clues! When I redid the upstairs full bath (which was a fully plumbed bath from day one according to the blueprints which are sadly not dated), I found newspapers in the floor from 1926.

    At the time (this was before I found the 1923 electrical fixtures), I assumed they must have renovated the bathroom in 1926.

    But that seemed very weird to me...why would they renovate a bathroom only 11 years after the house was built?? Since finding the 1923-patent on the electrical, I'm wondering if the house was built in 1926 and those newspapers were from the original build.

    This busted up tub is not original, there was a rounded outline of an earlier tub in the floor underneath it. (you can see the area in one of the pics below...and also note the baseboard molding that wouldn't be there for this tub installation...it wouldn't be visible. I think the original tub was freestanding, or at least shorter, leaving the wall on the right exposed. Clawfoot or some other kind of old tub?

    If a WC appears on the blueprint (which it does) that means the house was plumbed on day one, right? Does anyone know when plumbing appeared in suburban NJ?

    Note: they did renovate this bathroom at some point, probably when this tub was installed. They also moved the toilet and the sink, kind of swapping them from their blueprint positions.







    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,797
    Some houses I have rewired from K&T to romex were built and plastered before the K&T. On the 2nd floor above each light fixture you can see one floor board cut (with a floor saw of all things) open and replaced. Wires could be fished between joists.
    And if need be other boards removed and joists drilled with a "corner drilling brace and bit". Modern floor covering has concealed much of this forensic evidence by now.

    But I digress, I think your house was wired before the lath and plaster applied. K&T leaves a lot of evidence as the knobs are often left in place and only one tube removed for new romex.

    Could this be the second house on the location?
    ethicalpaulmattmia2
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
    edited May 16
    Thanks! Anything’s possible. I have to go to the town records and see what’s there after our situation changes

    PS: how do you like that tub drain pipe 😬
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,113
    edited May 16
    I think electric may have been added after the house was built. And plumbing could’ve been added too after they switched to public water.
    A picture or two of receptacles showing their location could be a clue too. Were they landed on the wall, or in the baseboards or floor?
    Just thinking back to my grandmothers house and her telling me they used to have to heat water on the stove and carry up and dump into the tub for a hot bath. They also had a coal gravity furnace with a giant grate in the floor.
    You can probably look up the deed online.
    steve
    Zman
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
    Thanks Steve! I’ll look online but I think I tried that once before. The deeds are in the big books still I think.

    I wondered if my house might not have been originally plumbed but it has a toilet on the blueprints which makes me think it was piped
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,574
    Hmm the internet says “ In 1920 only 1% of U.S. homes had electricity and indoor plumbing. ”
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,797
    Here we have an "Abstract of Title" for any property we have purchased. It has the history of each parcel of land.
    For instance entry #1 : USA to Charles S. Poor......signed by POTUS of the day Chester A. Arthur ....1882.

    Abstracts are expensive to compile, the bank may hold your abstract until your loan is paid in full, (a little extra collateral).
    Today most people just get title insurance on property.

    These are things are 20 to 30 pages of legal size paper.
    Reading thru them includes any liens on the property, the amounts of which may indicate a structure added to the property. Also includes wills as owners pass away. Very interesting reading.

    Also looking at the taxes on the property can indicate when it went from an empty lot to one with a house.

    The fire department may also have records of any incidents that happened on your property.
    HVACNUTethicalpaul
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,203
    It was almost certainly a clawfoot tub, the modern apron tub wasn't common until the 40's or so.

    Are you sure the prints were for construction and not some sort of remodel?

    "old electrical wiring" is a good book on old wiring methods. You can hide a lot behind baseboard. That could be very old BX but i lived in apartment in an old house that looked like it was split up in to apartments about 1941 from the date on a toilet in what had been a bedroom and from the fuse boxes and it had wiring that appeared to have been replaced with separate services for each apartment at that time and the inner conductors of the romex were the same style as yours. I thin the requirement for the white identified conductor is a bit later than the 20's, or at least came in in the 20's.

    Looking at the picture of the demo'd wall again, it kind of looks like it has wood lath on one side and expanded metal lath on the other. Rocklath/button board is multi coat plaster over 2'x4' drywall panels. On the one side of your wall I can see a piece of wood lath cut off, on the other side it looks like the borwn coat might be embedded in expanded metal lath.

    That house style was typically through the teens but it wasn't unheard of in to the 30's.

    This is gypsum block. It likely wouldn't have fared well as a basement wall:
    https://live.staticflickr.com/5011/5541678581_c05c232a05_b.jpg

    You can see abandoned steel supply pipe in that picture. The waste was likely originally lead.

    there may be a sanborn insurance map or polk directories for your neighborhood from around the time of construction.
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