Investors & Handymen: Wood Frame House as Primary Residence?

EndlessGravity

Kingfisher
We're in the American South and considering a wood frame house for our new primary residence. I'm somewhat familiar with the risks of termites but I'm also thinking about a few other things. Hoping a couple of you might be able to provide perspective. Here's some of my concerns...

  • Longevity of the structure. Pine is used but not indicated which kind. I assume newer northern pine from 1960s forward.
  • Future re-sale value. We may live out our days at this semi-rural property but do frame homes keep their value, all things being equal?
  • Cost to repair average issues. Terrified I'll discover one day that half the house is rotting from water damage or termites.
  • Hurricane damage. Is it possible to properly do wind mitigation to a frame house? Should I really be worried about this is I'm not on the coast?
Thanks to anyone who chimes in.
 
A home made of 2X4 wooden studs?

Used to live in the deep south, but not on the coast. Get a termite contract with a warranty--if you get termites the pest control company pays. I think you will find that most houses, regardless of what the exterior is made of, use 2X4 wood studs for interior walls, so the termite issue will still be there. Would prefer a crawl-space or basement over a slab. A crawl space you can inspect, and bonus points if the house has flashing to try to keep the termites from crawling up the crawlspace walls and piers to the wood. As slab foundations crack over time, termites can enter basically anywhere and can be there for years before discovery. I have had hours with crawlspaces and with slabs, and crawlspace is the way to go, hands down.

Can not advise on hurricanes, other than suggesting you buy somewhere else, but for lots and lots of rain, so long as the house has good drainage, molding studs should not be a problem. If moisture becomes a problem, the paper on the drywall will rot before the lumber.
 

paninaro

Kingfisher
When was it built? In hurricane areas, building code now requires the house is "strapped" to the concrete foundation so it won't blow away in a hurricane.

As for termites, get a termite contract and do your own inspections. You'll notice they make little holes in the walls and then it's time to act.
 
I'm in the south, about 350 miles from the Atlantic coast (north western SC, right on the NC border). I've had to deal with minor wind damage from the remnants of hurricanes, even this far inland. Having said that, spring and summer thunderstorms are more of a risk here (wind, tornadoes) than a hurricane. Never had a tornado hit my home, but there have been several over the years within just a few miles of here. I'm in the mountains though, so that seriously drops the tornado risk, as they don't stay on the ground long here.

I've lived in a stick house on a slab, a stick house with a crawlspace and now I'm in a stick house, with brick veneer, with a basement. Termites can be an issue with any of those, but it's preventable, if you get a thorough inspection before purchase and you keep it sprayed. Same goes for carpenter ants, as they can do just as much damage as termites btw. Drainage is key for many reasons, termites like moisture, so a wet perimeter is more conducive to them, not to mention mold, rot, etc. If you can find something with a basement, I highly recommend it, since your utilities (plumbing, HVAC, etc.) are all easily serviceable and inspectable if they are in a basement. It sucks crawling in a crawlspace, in the dirt, on a cold night when something needs attention. A slab house has the plumbing in the walls, in the slab (drains and sometimes supply)and/ or attic, so plumbing leaks cause more damage in that situation and everything is concealed/hard to get to.

If you find a house you are serious about, make sure you visit it during a heavy rain so you can get in the attic and check for leaks before you make an offer. Leaks can be delayed in showing themselves on the main level and you'll have a better chance of catching one if you are in the attic during heavy rain. Pay attention to where vents and chimneys go through the roof.
Also, you'll get to see how the drainage works outside, if the crawl space or basement stays dry, gutters are right, etc.

Oh, and a home warranty is a rip off, don't get suckered into one. Too many exceptions to what they'll cover.

Lastly, depending on what you're able/willing to do yourself, minor damage or things you find that need attention on a potential buy can be good. Use those things to get the price reduced, then fix them once you purchase.
 
The thing about termites is they can not live outside of a moist environment. They love houses with poor drainage. When I lived in the south I used a piece of an old garden hose to divert the air conditioning condensate well away from the house--otherwise you are giving them a drinking fountain right next to your house.

Keep firewood away from the house. If you have a crawlspace, crawl through it and remove any scrap pieces of lumber the carpenters left behind--they are like Hershey bars attracting termites.

In a crawlspace or basement especially watch out for mud or dirt tubes on the sides of piers or the foundation--termites will build tunnels out of mud if they can not travel inside of wood. Pressure treated wood they will leave alone, but it does not repel them--they will just build a mud tunnel over it. Really old houses made of the heartwood from hardwood, termites will not touch. The softer the wood, or even paper, the better for them.

There used to be an effective termite treatment that lasted decades, but the EPA thought it was not safe, so the weaker stuff used these days has to be reapplied periodically. If you have a termite contract it is in their interest to do that. They can put down liquid, including drilling holes through concrete and such, or they can put out bait stations. I think the liquid is the better option, but I am not the expert on that. The thing is, any where you go in the deep south, you will have almost certainly have termites in the yard. Bait stations around the house seem kind of pointless given that.

If the house is on any sort of slope, it needs a "swale," a shallow trench up the slope to divert run off around the house. Keep an eye out during rainstorms to see where the water goes. I have dug trenches and used flexible plastic tubing to permanently divert down spouts from the back yard to the front yard, etc. If you ever have standing water next to a house after a heavy rain you have to do something about that or you will pay for it.
 
There used to be an effective termite treatment that lasted decades, but the EPA thought it was not safe...

Yes, the stuff was called "chlordane". My house was built in the 70s. The old man who's family used to own this place still lives nearby. He says this house was treated with that stuff on the 90's. Apparently, they kept a stash up until some point way past it getting banned.

Anyway, I've seen no signs of termites here. I still spray it though as a precaution.
 
Top