Find out how to determine whether a home has “good bones.”

Homeowners Matthew and Lindsay Thomas, who build houses for a living, worked with architects Todd Hamilton and Scott Slagle to create their own residence—a vernacular form characterized by horizontal clapboard cladding and a standing-seam, paint-grip roof.

People frequently talk about “good bones” when it comes to purchasing a home, but it’s not crystal clear what that actually means. It can be an argument for purchasing a superficially unattractive home, but there are also plenty of residences that have been badly designed, poorly remodeled, or not flexible enough for your lifestyle. It takes a bit of coaching to train your eye to see the possibilities—while also avoiding pitfalls. Below, we walk you through the process of spotting a diamond in the rough.

1. Look Out For Structural Weaknesses

“A high-performance, heavily tinted glass was used within the skylights’ double-glazed units to reduce summer heat,” Simpson says. Autex Industries provided the insulation for the year’s cooler months, and the addition of a second, more geometric ceiling hides modern-day electrical and mechanical cords.

Photo: Shannon McGrath

When sniffing out a home with hidden potential, first make sure that its structural elements—quite literally the building’s bones—are in good shape. It’s important to confirm that there are no rotten columns, beams, or other damaged supporting elements; no termite damage; nor any other structural issues. Although these areas can be difficult to spot without a close inspection, there are some subtle hints you can look for: water damage on floors and ceilings can indicate areas of possible mold or rotten wood, while buckling or swelling floors or walls may indicate termite damage. 

The architects used blackbutt wood for the flooring and Whisper White paint by Dulux throughout the interior. An A110 Hand Grenade Pendant Lamp, by Alvar Aalto for Artek, hangs above the white Carrara marble-topped island.

The architects used blackbutt wood for the flooring and Whisper White paint by Dulux throughout the interior.

Photo Courtesy of Alicia Taylor

While not always a deal breaker, these problems can be extremely expensive to repair, and if you’re going to be putting money into a home, you ideally want it to be in places where you’ll see or feel the result, not in areas that are hidden under floorboards or behind walls. 

2. Location, Location, Location 

An exterior shot shows the site-built garage along with two adapted prefabricated modules. The one above the garage houses the kitchen, home office, and living room, while the other contains the home’s bedrooms. Exterior materials include sustainably harvested cedar rainscreen; HardiePanel made from recycled materials; and standing seam metal siding, known for its longevity and energy efficiency.

Two adapted prefabricated modules perch above a site-built garage. Exterior materials include sustainably harvested cedar rainscreen; HardiePanel made from recycled materials; and standing seam metal siding, known for its longevity and energy efficiency.

Photo: Jaime Kowal

See the full story on Dwell.com: What it Really Means When a Home Has Good Bones

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