Feature House Dating

Learn how to investigate houses.

House Dating

More from Gwen about investigating houses.

If you have a pre-World War II home and you're not sure when it was built, knowing some history can help you date it.

There've been a lot of revivals, especially of colonial and Victorian era designs. And Americans have always loved changing their houses, seeking to make each one more distinctive.

The generic term for late nineteenth century houses is Victorian, and the predominant characteristic is surface ornament, lots of it. So if your house has a lively, or busy façade, it could have been built in the 1880s.

By the 1890s, simplicity was becoming fashionable. There's just one kind of shingles here, and they're all plain. They were mass-produced to look handmade, so if your house has shingles like these, it could have been built at the turn of the 20th century.

Uniformity is sometimes hard to see at first. Look around your house- if others on the block are pretty much the same size and shape, but they suggest a variety of far away, romantic times and places, like the Spanish colonies, a French village, yours and theirs were probably built in the 1920s.

A similar approach to architectural design was used in the vast expansion of suburbia after World War II.

So if you live in the suburbs and your house has simple geometries, some exposed structure, and large plate-glass windows, it was probably built in the 1950s.

To determine the age of a house built in the last 50 years, look at local property records, which provide the date of construction and major renovations.

Whatever methods you choose, you'll get a deeper appreciation of your home by learning more about its history.