Houses and the human body have a lot of similarities

Have you ever thought about the similarities between houses and the human body? For example as our bodies age, things are not quite as straight, square and firm as they once were in our younger years. At one time I had a 44 inch chest and now with age it seems that chest dimension is closer to my waist line. In most cases, this aging in homes translates into floors not being totally level and windows and doors being skewed slightly or not latching. While this may create slight operational issues these conditions are quite common in older homes, some more so than others depending on the age, floor plan, design etc. While one could, in theory go through and re-level the floors, in my opinion in most cases this would be an unnecessary expense and cause additional problems. Quite frankly many look at these conditions as part of the “character” and “charm” of an older home.

The water and waste piping in the home has some similarities to the blood vessels in our bodies. Many older homes are built with galvanized steel piping. As it ages, it becomes clogged not allowing
full flow similar to what cholesterol does creating blockage in the arteries. As the pipes ages, it
gets to a point where little or no flow passes and the piping needs to be replaced. A house with this type of piping still in operation should be observed with all of the plumbing fixtures operating at the same time. In some cases, you will find, particularly in two story houses that little of no flow exists at some of the fixtures necessitating some water pipe replacement which can be costly. The other option is you only use a limited number of fixtures at one time. Quite frankly some occupants are accustomed to this or it works into their routine and causes little stress in their lives. This however may not be comfortable, realistic or acceptable for a new owner.

On the other side of the plumbing we as humans have issues with our digestive tract as we age and the piping carrying the waste from the home also experience issues such as holes in the pipes or barnacles which are small piles of rust on the pipe (created by pin holes in the pipe from the inside out). As the number of barnacles increase and leakage occurs pipe replacement will be necessitated.

As we age we may have some typical health issues colds, aching joints, pulled muscles, broken bones, etc. Houses can also have some of the same common issues (e.g. broken joists, joints on decks and other components working loose, etc). As with humans who go to the doctor to get advice, periodic physical exams, in some cases more in depth testing and maybe some corrective procedure, houses are similar in that we should periodically check things over and have technical personnel service the equipment. In some cases the equipment wears out and has to be replaced. If equipment is well maintained, it operates more efficiently and will generally last longer.

One other analogy, which I can relate well to, is this. As roofing shingles age, the surface covering on the shingles is lost, much the same as when I age the surface covering on my head (hair) seems to leave. Boy can I relate to this analogy. It seems the hair on my head has come and mostly gone. The hair protects the head from the sunlight and the roofing protects the house from the elements. While the shingles can be replaced it is not as easy to replace the hair (and yes I am familiar with hair pieces and implants). Of course there are those who say bald is beautiful (obviously not anyone who is bald).

The house has many components. Our knowledge of these components has increased over the years. There have been changes in the codes for installation and/or safety. There are many new products on the market which have better or different operational features increasing comfort, higher efficiencies and that allow for less resource use. Lumber sizes have changed over the years and now are designed to carry loads specified in the updated codes. This allows the use of materials to change the designs and create more open spaces.

The next time you look at a home think of yourself and others you know and consider the similarities. Act accordingly with service, maintenance and upkeep to the home just as you would by going to the doctor with an ailment for your body.

About the author:

Gerry is a licensed Professional Engineer in four states; Missouri, Illinois, Colorado and Kansas. He first began his home inspection career in 1976 and has been active in ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) since 1978. In fact, Gerry’s membership number in ASHI is 87 compared with most of the memberships numbers which are in the 1,000’s. Gerry has performed over 16,000 inspections. Gerry can be reached by email at or by phone 314-249-8370.

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