Even though there is no obvious leaking inside, both the inspector and a knowledgeable friend who accompanied me on the inspection strongly suggested that should be replaced before next winter. I was assuming the roof would need to be replaced within a few years, but this bumped it up to the "this year" list. We managed to find a nearby roofer (Gero Construction) who was able to stop by the property and give us a quote on very short notice: just under $9000 to remove two layers of shingles and a layer of wood shakes (!), replace all the rotton wood, add new vents, and install lifetime-warranty shingles. This is right about in the middle of the price range I had estimated, and still fits within our repair budget. We'll aim to do the roof sometime this spring or summer - it'd be nice to get it done asap, but it could be done after we move in. We'll also definitely want to get a few more quotes from other places, including a dedicated metal roof installer, and references from all of them.
(I was impressed with Mr. Gero - he was prompt in returning my call, answered several questions, and gave me lots of detail with the quote. I found him through the Better Business Bureau website - seems like a safe, unbiased place to start searching, and I can at least avoid businesses that have accumulated complaints.)
Speaking of budgets, I've been keeping a very detailed spreadsheet with all our planned projects and associated purchases, including timing (immediately, before we move, or within the first year?), priority (essential to "it'd be nice"), cost for new/nice materials, cost for budget/salvaged materials, time required to complete the job, etc. This provides a good idea of how much money we'll need, when we'll need it, whether certain projects need to go in order, and so on. Here's a snippet:
In contrast to the roof, the siding seems solid and durable. It's some sort of fiber-cement shingles, applied over old wood shakes. According to the inspector, they should last a long time, but they're difficult to cut/drill without shattering. Some parts of the house (front entryway, rear addition) are wood shakes that have been painted to match the fiber cement. A little more maintenance will be required on those, but we'll probably want to paint the outside in the relatively near future anyway. (Two-tone pink is nice, but...)
The minor issues from the inspection are mostly easy-to-fix electrical code violations. Missing covers over a few junction boxes, a slightly undersized wire leading to the water heater, attic lighting that's supplied by a permanent home-made extension cord. There is also a very strange plumbing union between PVC and cast iron in the main vent stack. Ugly, but apparently not leaking, and not real big deal since there are no drains above it. If/when we add the bathroom upstairs, we'd probably have the whole vent stack replaced with PVC anyway, so I'm not too concerned. There is also a problem with concrete degradation on the steps leading to the front door. Even though this door seems rarely used (the driveway leads to the back of the house), the awning over the porch is supported by these pillars, and the concrete is falling apart underneath them. My thought is to jack up the awning, and put a layer of pressure treated 1x's over the concrete, secured with concrete screws and outdoor caulk/adhesive. Then I could attach the columns to the 1x's. Or totally remove the concrete, and replace with a wood porch, but that sounds like a lot of time for very little gain. We'd rather have a nice big deck off the back of the house than a small one in the front.
Of course in a house this size there's a wide range of insulation - from none, to potentially-asbestos-containing vermiculite, to modern fiberglass. Adding insulation would come with remodeling jobs on various parts of the house, and can be done over time. We might also get an energy/weatherization audit (Green Homes, SnugPlanet, or Halco?), which would help us know how to prioritize insulation upgrades. The vermiculite is above the kitchen, which is sort of accessible via attic crawlspace. I think it's interesting primarily because I work with vermiculite as a component of potting mix in the greenhouse, and the same thing is in the kitchen ceiling. I just learned that most of the vermiculite mined in the US between 1920 and 1970(?) came from a single mine in Montana, which is known to have relatively high levels of asbestos. So without testing, and given the probable age of this room, there's a good chance there's some asbestos in with the vermiculite. My thought is to cover it up (maybe with rigid foam) or just seal off that part of the attic, and never touch it. It is also possible to have some sort of encapsulating spray foam applied over the vermiculate, but that's probably not a DIY project. The mere presence of asbestos isn't a threat as long as there's no disturbance to get it airborne, so I'll just avoid any such disturbances. My only concern would be replacing the light fixture in the kitchen - hopefully the current fixture is in a good electrical box so replacement won't result in any contact with the insulation. Just good to know it's (maybe) there.
While crawling around the perimeter of the attic, we realized the original part of the house is timber framed! The original part seems to be just the portion that's two stories. The kitchen, dining room, and two low-ceilinged bedrooms were added later (early- to mid-1900's?). The front porch/entryway was added in 1958 (noted on the tax record), and the back (tiny) entryway was done in 1973 (also on tax records). The "addition" room was probably done between 20 and 30 years ago, but it's not noted as an "improvement" on the tax records. Anyway, the timber framing and solid (BIG ROCKS!) foundation indicate good-quality construction on most of the structure. That was encouraging.
During the inspection, I realized a potential complication with our plan to put a master bedroom upstairs. The layout of the stairs (facing a wall with little clearance) would probably not allow the passage of a queen size mattress, and a box spring is out of the question. Even our headboard might be impossible to move upstairs. Still mulling this one over, but my favorite solution so far is to put a very large (72" x 30"?) window in the master bedroom. We'd want to replace the windows anyway, and more ventilation is a plus. This window would open over the front porch/entryway, so if we could get a mattress/headboard/etc. up on the roof, we could get it into the bedroom. Maybe not a very elegant solution, but should be serviceable in the very rare occasions that it's necessary.
Finally, given out decision to go with the purchase, I've started buying a few tools/materials as I see really good deals. The first house-related purchase (of many, undoubtedly) is a Franklin Prosensor 710 Stud Detector! Might not sound too exciting, but this one is really nice, and I found a good deal on a refurbished one through Amazon. I have one of the basic electronic stud finders, which is better than a magnet, but not by much. This one is a BIG leap forward in utility and convenience. Read the description here if you're interested. Since then, I've taken advantage of a couple of online Home Depot coupons, along with their offer of free shipping on orders over $45. Trying not to accumulate anything too bulky yet, but since we'll be able to move stuff gradually and get seldom-used stuff out of our apartment whenever we want, storage shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Enough for now, goodnight!