What’s that noise?

My last apartment was in the attic of an 1890s Victorian house. When the wind blew, the house shook and rocked back and forth. It creaked and groaned as it settled or when big trucks drove by. But it never really bothered me.

Now my cat makes the dining room floor creak. New hairline cracks appear occasionally – or were they always there and I just never noticed? Has that door always been slightly crooked?

Yes, yes, of course I had a home inspector give the place a good once-over before I bought. The house got a clean bill of health with only a couple very minor problems that are well par for the course for a home built in the 1920s. But now that it’s my house and I’m responsible for anything that might go wrong – and its resale value – the little things worry me. Is that little crack indicative of a much bigger problem? Is it warning of structural failure? Will it cost thousands to fix?

Or is it truly nothing?

I think growing up in a relatively new house – built in the 70s – is partially responsible for this neurosis. The house hadn’t had decades to settle and show its age. With routine maintenance, nothing ever really broke. Sure, we had a new roof put on when I was in high school and I remember having the electrical upgraded, but everything else was merely cosmetic and entailed replacing the ugly harvest gold appliances and fixtures.

Even though I worry about the age and health of my old house, I do love it. I looked at dozens of houses online and in person during my hunt, and the search reaffirmed my love for the older house, with charming woodwork and built-in cabinetry. Plus, I’m not in a neighborhood filled with identical beige cookie cutter houses. On one side, there’s an 1860s yellow house with purple and green trim. My wonderful neighbors on the other side live in a mint green house built around 1900.

But still, when it’s late and the house is quiet, save for the ticking of the clock, I wonder if that crack on the living room ceiling has always been there.

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