How To Determine A Home's Age?

Can anyone tell me the *general* age of two homes with the following characteristics.
#1 1) Wavy individual "decorative" parging on each foundation block BEFORE mortaring.
2) No knob-and-tube but only fuse box.
3) Profuse arbor vitaes, "sculptable" bushes (Northeast Pennsylvania).
4) Push-button and lighted, back-and-forth light switches.
5) Crumbling red brick chimney on fireplace-less house.
6) Hidden bevelled glass French doors at entrance to living room.
7) Single-paned huge front window bookended by unopenable panes.
8) Intensive use of terra cotta tiles as terrace material.
#2 1) Logs and railroad ties used as floor beams; several floor jacks.
2) Extremely low ceilings, railings, banisters; very uneven door lintels.
3) Evidence of knob-and-tube in basement.
4) Second floor bathroom dangling over sloping kitchen roof like it didn't exist on the original structure.
5) Painted asbestos shingles.
6) Double-hung windows WITHOUT weights.
7) Claw-legged sink in washroom.
8) Extremely large kitchen.
Thanks for reading. If you know of a good website where you can become a "house detective," I'd appreciate knowing.
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On 11/22/2004 7:39 AM US(ET), tioga 0630 took fingers to keys, and typed the following:

Perhaps checking with your local building department and/or tax department, will give you a more accurate time of original construction and additions made.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (tioga 0630) wrote:

-snip-
Wild guess-- 1900-1920s.
Check deed & tax rolls. If it is urban & there is a street address you can check census records, but be sure to check with the historical society to see about street renaming or renumbering. [They might even have a photo of it in the 30's-- part of the WPA projects]
I had always guessed my current house at 1860-1880, but discovered this summer that it was 1891. Found a 'brand new' Indian Head penny in the laid stone foundation while doing some foundation work.
Jim
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I should have asked the question differently. I searched the web and Google posts for four hours but couldn't find a single site that would help the average person distinguish characteristics of different eras of *typical* middle-to-lower class (meaning not in Newport RI or Palm Beach FL) American homes. By this I mean, for example, about when Knob and Tube was replaced by BX; when brick chimneys were replaced by block; when black pipe was replaced by copper, etc.
But thanks for the kind words.
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Previously in alt.home.repair, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (tioga 0630) proclaimed :

I don't know if this will help for a really old home but if the bathrooms haven't been remodeled, you can lift up the tank lid and look at the date of manufacture of the toilet. It's almost always within a couple years of the houses build date.
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On 22 Nov 2004 06:43:55 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (tioga 0630) wrote:

The problem is, there is no *era* to say. Could have been built before electricity and had BX pulled later. Brick chimneys are still in use, and "black" pipe is required for gas and galvanized may be used for water still.
The best way to know the age is to look at the public record. The deed was recorded at each transfer, the original property was likely platted, and there has to be a tax roll somehwere.
Jeff
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Sure, you're right. But for example, I assumed that the second house I visited was *at least* one hundred and possibly more years old. For me, the "tells" were the 1) outhouse-shaped bathroom addition hanging in the wind on the second floor; 2) the incredibly low ceilings; 3) the turkey-legged high white sink in the 4) pantry. Not to mention logs as floor joists.
I just thought there might be a site where *general* features of homes of specific eras, if not of specific decades, existed.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (tioga 0630) wrote:
-snip-

I'd look into when those blocks were used in that area of PA. I don't think they're 19th century, but they could be. [and they could be a 1980 replacement of an older foundation.]
You can make guesses all day long, but dating construction materials and techniques is the least accurate way to tell when the house was built. *Most* US, 20th century construction has a paper trail. If the date is important to you, that is the best way to date your house.

That certainly suggests that plumbing was added after the house was done-- but there is probably another possibility. It also doesn't help date the house except to suggest that it was built before plumbing was required *in that neighborhood*.

My 1890s house has a 1950 addition that had 6'2" ceilings. I have no idea why they did that. The rest of the house [except the basement] has 8' ceilings.

Too portable to be even a hint of the age.

I *added* a pantry to my 1890s house in 1990.

That *suggests* 19th century, or cheap 20th century construction. My father-in-law built his house in the 20's. He & his brother bought a portable sawmill and cut all their own lumber on their father's farm. Both houses have logs for floor joists.
I rebuilt a barn in the 1970s & happened to have a couple straight 12" maple logs lying around so I split them & used them for floor joists.

If you're still intent on doing this the hard way, search the web for each feature you mention and see when they were in use. Remembering that anything that can be re-used, or built by a homeowner/contractor could have been done last week, make a chart of when each feature was used & see where they overlap.
Even then, I'd never say anything more certain than 'it appears to have built in xxxx'.
A call to the local historical society would probably be time better spent.
Jim
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On 23 Nov 2004 03:44:56 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (tioga 0630) wrote:

You can find when general use of features *starts* but that doesn't mean it endsin that era. The bathroom addition could have been a poor 1950's add-on to a 1940's home. Low ceilings aren't uncommon today. The sink could have been brought in by former owners to replace what was there, and they could have bought it from a salvage yard. And pantries exist in nearly every new home, and were common in homes from the 1700's on up. As for log joists, there are homes around here built in the 1940's with pine joists, flattened one side and no specific spacing.
Ho about taking the advice of every post here and looking up the tax information? Most is online. Post the address, city, county and state and we may be able to find it for you.
Jeff
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On 22 Nov 2004 06:43:55 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (tioga 0630) wrote:

Spend a little time watching antique road show.
You will quickly learn that all of the things you mention could be fake.
Pj
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<SNIP>
The best way to do it is to take a chain saw and cut it right across the middle and then count the rings.....
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It could be 1 yr or 300yr from what you say, look at the wood.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (tioga 0630) wrote in message

**************************************************
If it has the original toilet, there should be a date inside its lid.
Lewis.
**************************************
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Your local tax department should be able to tell you in moments when the home was built, as its normally on your tax records for the property.

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Or perhaps the folks who did the title search last time it changed hands.
LB "Steve@carolinabreezehvac" wrote:

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