Do Buildings Deteriorate When No One Is There?

Tangent7

Junior Acolyte
Joined
Oct 24, 2005
Messages
79
Likes
2
Points
24
#1
My wife mentioned today about an interesting thing she says she notices. When a building like a home or store or similar building is unused, it seems to fall into disrepair much more quickly than it normally would.

That took me back to my days selling farm equipment, when I heard numerous times from farmers that barns left empty and unused fall apart much more quickly than one that is constantly used for livestock or hay.

Any thoughts on this?
 

Ravenstone

Queen Under The Mountain
Joined
Aug 1, 2001
Messages
1,504
Likes
29
Points
79
#2
I'd put it down to the damp getting in, no airing, etc. No heat from animals, people or heat source. No movement of air from people/animals opening doors and moving around. Probably speeds up deterioation
 

Timble2

Imaginary Person
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Messages
5,685
Likes
998
Points
194
#3
Also minor damage like a dislodged slate or shingle or blocked gutters wouldn't be fixed, leaving the structure more vulnerable to the effects of the weather.

Also if won't be painted or wood treated with preservative so rot an rust get a change to take hold.
 

mindalai

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Aug 27, 2005
Messages
798
Likes
22
Points
34
#5
I've often commented on this too and people usually say it's becuase if there was someone living there they would patch up all the things that go wrong, but when you think about it how often do you ever do anything to repair the actual structure of your house? I've lived here for over 7 years and not had to repair a single thing (structurally anyway). I don't know many people who've ever had to really get anything repaired yet a house becomes empty and seems to fall to bits within months. I've never understood why either.
 

Dingo667

I'm strange but true.
Joined
Aug 27, 2004
Messages
1,814
Likes
47
Points
64
#6
I agree that inhabited houses seem to deteriorate faster. We have just inherited a house that stood empty for 4 month and it was incredibly strange in there, everything seems to be dirty and stale and it feels different to a home where peole go about with their daily lives.
I could imagine that in another two month it would have been in need for some sort of repair. Whereas before the house was inhabited [without any repairs needed] for years.
 

OldTimeRadio

Antediluvian
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,526
Likes
106
Points
114
#7
Occupied houses are constantly being repaired, even if those actions are so very minor that we don't actually consider them as repairs.

Thus if a window blows upon during a rainstorm we close it. That doesn't happen in an unoccupied house.

Or if there's a water leak from the roof we "repair" it, even if that mend is nothing more than setting out a bucket to catch the drip/stream. That might not be much, but it keeps the floor from rotting.
 

escargot

Beloved of Ra
Joined
Aug 24, 2001
Messages
24,422
Likes
18,406
Points
309
#8
My present home had the opposite problem. The people I bought it from had made 'improvements' such as blocking a nice wide doorway, building a 'custom' kitchen out of old pallets, covering the walls with 'rustic' panelling (also made of pallets) and pulling out a supporting wall.

When we moved in and started putting things right, I could almost hear the house sigh with relief. :lol:
 

uair01

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Apr 12, 2005
Messages
2,154
Likes
1,420
Points
169
Location
Rotterdam
#9
This holiday my son and I explored deserted places and factories in East Europe. We were in a disused barracks in Dresden (.de) where Russian troops were housed until 1990. I noticed all the peeling paint and plaster and wondered why I never see peeling paint in inhabited buildings. I still don't have an answer ...

See (hope they aren't password protected):

http://www.uer.ca/forum_showthread.asp?fid=1&threadid=34404
http://www.uer.ca/forum_showthread.asp?fid=1&threadid=34406

And thus I combine two of my most favorite forums ;)
 

JamesWhitehead

Piffle Prospector
Joined
Aug 2, 2001
Messages
11,798
Likes
8,176
Points
309
#10
uair01: "And thus I combine two of my most favorite forums"

Computer says No:

"Sorry, but you don't have enough access rights to see this thread."

:(
 

OldTimeRadio

Antediluvian
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,526
Likes
106
Points
114
#11
uair01 said:
I....wondered why I never see peeling paint in inhabited buildings.[
There's peeling paint in my apartment. I don't mind, since it keeps the rent well under-market, much less than other apartments in this same building.
 

Doctor_Occupant

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Apr 3, 2006
Messages
274
Likes
0
Points
32
#12
Houses deteriorate whether people are in them or not - entropy being what it is - and they can become real horror stories as anyone involved in real estate will tell you.

As an example I present the man with the six figure income who was relocated from New York state to Kansas and was unable to sell his several million dollar mansion on acres of land because it was, as one realtor remarked, a hellhole. In the time he had occupied the house he had never once had it cleaned, painted or repaired. The bill to make the building fit for human habitation was a sizeable percentage of the chap's equity.

The trade refers to this condition as 'deferred maintenance' and it can get quite extreme.

I was wondering if the 'wierd' feeling that some places get after they've not been inhabited for a while is because the subtle clues and cues that corespond to recent human habitation have faded. Could we be missing a 'people' scent?
 

OldTimeRadio

Antediluvian
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,526
Likes
106
Points
114
#13
Doctor_Occupant said:
Could we be missing a 'people' scent?
I don't know. Many people (myself very much included) find it an exceptionally creepy experience to be alone or nearly so in a grammar school or high school at midnight. But that creepiness can hardly be due to any lack of "'people' scent."
 

PeniG

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Dec 31, 2003
Messages
2,391
Likes
169
Points
94
#14
I have discussed long ago (in the Panic in the Woods thread) a theory of mine that humans take up a certain amount of psychological space. When we are in a space too large for the number of people in it, we feel too alone and, therefore, nervous. A school is normally crammed full - frequently too full - of people, so that every square inch of it is under control. When they are empty, naturally they feel wrong. Also, the acoustics almost universally suck, creating echoes and peculiar sound effects that increase the feeling of empty space. Schools that have creepy or "haunted" space - a janitor's closet where someone supposedly hung himself, steam tunnels where LARPers are rumored to have gone mad, a Hellmouth in the basement - keep them in places where no one goes, an unnatural state for any part of a school.

My own house has plenty of peeling paint and deferred maintenance, because we hardly ever have both time and money to deal with the contractors and/or mending chores until a problem becomes acute. You have to ride contractors all the time, especially in a sturdy old historic house where if it's not done right it's better not to do it at all. (Believe me, we're living with the results of shortcutting and grafting modern techniques onto an old structure, and we don't want to waste money making it worse!). I'm sure the neighborhood kids regard us as haunted, though the little girl next door - who went out of her way to introduce me to her kitten - doesn't seem to regard me as a witch. But unless you're alone in the house after dark, it's a secure, homey-feeling place. People who come inside don't appear to notice the deferred maintenance much, even though some of it is appallingly visible.

So I think we may notice deferred maintenance more on abandoned houses, whether it's really worse than the inhabited house next door or not.

Also, the practice of boarding up windows to prevent people throwing rocks for them automatically makes a building look decrepit.
 

OldTimeRadio

Antediluvian
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,526
Likes
106
Points
114
#15
PeniG said:
Schools that have creepy or "haunted" space - a janitor's closet where someone supposedly hung himself, steam tunnels where LARPers are rumored to have gone mad, a Hellmouth in the basement - keep them in places where no one goes, an unnatural state for any part of a school.
Neither my grade school nor my high school had ANY of that stuff! What an extreme case of educational deprivation! Do you think it's too late to sue?
 

Ravenstone

Queen Under The Mountain
Joined
Aug 1, 2001
Messages
1,504
Likes
29
Points
79
#18
Actually, Peni's post made me laugh out loud. My secondary school did indeed have a caretaker's cupboard that was supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a fifth former who hanged himself/herself (they were never clear on that point!) in there! :lol:
 

TVgeek

Abominable Snowman
Joined
May 15, 2002
Messages
747
Likes
16
Points
49
#19
As Ravenstone pointed out, it probably has to do with
heating and cooling. Most houses are very regulated environments
with little relative change in temp or humidity. Paint and wallpaper
are meant to be used in a "controlled" environment and if the
temp or humidity are extreme -- things crack, peel or rot.

My 2 cents...
TVgeek
 

OldTimeRadio

Antediluvian
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,526
Likes
106
Points
114
#20
Ravenstone said:
My secondary school did indeed have a caretaker's cupboard that was supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a fifth former who hanged himself/herself (they were never clear on that point!) in there! :lol:
Lucky stiff!
 

Cult_of_Mana

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Mar 24, 2002
Messages
432
Likes
3
Points
49
#21
Tangent7 said:
My wife mentioned today about an interesting thing she says she notices. When a building like a home or store or similar building is unused, it seems to fall into disrepair much more quickly than it normally would.

That took me back to my days selling farm equipment, when I heard numerous times from farmers that barns left empty and unused fall apart much more quickly than one that is constantly used for livestock or hay.

Any thoughts on this?
Yes they do...unless they are mummified and left on top of a Peruvian mountain. In which case they will last a bit a longer.

What does this have to do with parapsychology?
 

tilly50

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
313
Likes
19
Points
34
#22
We have just been to view an old farm house for sale in north Wales. The proprety is vacant with no electricity connected to it. The ground and first floors were reasonable and could, at a pinch, be lived in.
However the top floor had been left empty for some time behind a locked door. The paint was peeling and the wallpaper was ripped. Everywhere there were cobwebs and dirt. It was not damp and the state of repair was similar to that on the other floors, but there was a tangible feeling of neglect and the place had a depressing air about it. No reason was offered as to why it had been locked up in this way.
The house is in a lovely spot and is a beautiful example of a Georgian "gentleman farmers" residence. There has been a lot of viewings but no offers and it has been on the market now for several months at a very reasonable price.
Are we going to make an offer? No. Why not? The top floor was so off putting and dismal that we felt that it would take more than a few coats of paint to dispel the gloom.
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
24,817
Likes
23,499
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
#23
I have discussed long ago (in the Panic in the Woods thread) a theory of mine that humans take up a certain amount of psychological space. When we are in a space too large for the number of people in it, we feel too alone and, therefore, nervous. A school is normally crammed full - frequently too full - of people, so that every square inch of it is under control. When they are empty, naturally they feel wrong. Also, the acoustics almost universally suck, creating echoes and peculiar sound effects that increase the feeling of empty space.
I'm in complete agreement with this, but I'd like to add that I think the reasons for it long precede any grasp of architecture, form or function. When we were little more than proto-humans we learnt the value of shelter and dwelling: too small and one is trapped with nowhere to run, too large and it cannot be surveilled nor guarded effectively. In neither case can your man-ape sleep soundly as he must be on his guard against the things that go bump in the night, and the psychological strain of constant alertness is gruelling on mind and body. So the man-ape developed a discerning eye for dimensions and learnt to know instinctively what would serve him, his family and his tribe the best--even before he possessed the language through which to confer and consult with his fellows.

Such dangers may have receded, but the unconscious sensations they engendered remain with us still.
 
Last edited:

dreeness .

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Dec 12, 2014
Messages
1,071
Likes
954
Points
114
#26
Human activity accomplishes some maintenance all by itself. Every time you open a door, you churn the grease in the hinges and dislodge any dirt that may have built up. Walking through halls prevents any spiderwebs that may be getting started. Turning lights on and off keeps the insides of switches polished. Similar with faucets, brass knobs and handles, etc.
Dust is a real culprit, because it absorbs and concentrates moisture. Dust leads to rust.
 

Coal

Polymath Renaissance Man, Italian Wiccan Anarchist
Joined
Jun 27, 2015
Messages
8,769
Likes
10,514
Points
279
#27
Such dangers may have receded, but the unconscious sensations they engendered remain with us still.
Which is why we're mostly scared of snakes and tend to sleep upstairs on beds raised off the floor.

Human activity accomplishes some maintenance all by itself. Every time you open a door, you churn the grease in the hinges and dislodge any dirt that may have built up. Walking through halls prevents any spiderwebs that may be getting started. Turning lights on and off keeps the insides of switches polished. Similar with faucets, brass knobs and handles, etc.
Dust is a real culprit, because it absorbs and concentrates moisture. Dust leads to rust.
The place we live it was in good nick when we bought it, but the neighbours, when they bought their (identical) place next door, which had been vacant for some time, had to remove a tree that had rooted in the floor and grown out the front window!
 

Ulalume

tart of darkness
Joined
Jan 3, 2009
Messages
3,080
Likes
5,475
Points
219
Location
Tejas
#28
I've also wondered why, if one house in a neighborhood starts to show signs of deterioration, houses nearby will begin to show it too. Sometimes if you go into one of those sprawling suburban neighborhoods, you can see the effect spiraling outward from a single house.
Possibly it has to do with the broken windows theory -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory
But there's more to it, since in some of these cases it has nothing to do with vandalism.
 

henry

still speeding
Joined
Oct 23, 2005
Messages
3,428
Likes
579
Points
0
#29
Human activity accomplishes some maintenance all by itself. Every time you open a door, you churn the grease in the hinges and dislodge any dirt that may have built up. Walking through halls prevents any spiderwebs that may be getting started. Turning lights on and off keeps the insides of switches polished. Similar with faucets, brass knobs and handles, etc.
this is the main factor, water needs to move through pipes, hinges need to open, people naturally maintain a narrow range of temperature ... cars are the same, they need to be driven to prevent fast decline, even if theyre maintained in situ, without regularly fulfilling their primary function they become difficult to recommission, you lose them, ...
 

XEPER_

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
679
Likes
610
Points
99
#30
This is a cool thread! My day job is as a meter reader and I've been doing it in the same areas in the west of Scotland for about 14 years now. I go to places out in the sticks and see cool old houses that have become vacant then I maybe only pass them again a couple of times over the next few years.
It always shocks me how quickly they decline. I'm not talking about wallpaper stripping, I'm talking about roofs and walls caving in. There's one particular house on the road to Kilcreggan which, when I started the job, was a regular little cottage on its own. It became vacant probably eight years or so ago and I've probably passed it every three or four years since. It's now just a couple of walls - everything else has gone.
That's just one example but I see it a lot and it always makes me wonder WTF is going on. It's not vandalism I'm sure of that. So what is it?
It seems to affect properties that are isolated more than ones that are close to others with people living in them.
 
Last edited:
Top