How long would things last in a PA world?

Discussion in 'General Fallout Discussion' started by Dead Guy, Jul 20, 2016.

  1. Dead Guy

    Dead Guy Senate Board Director oTO Moderator Orderite Board Cop oTO

    Nov 9, 2008
    After Fallout 3 there were a lot of discussion about how unrealistically the 200 years setting was implemented, like wooden houses still standing without any maintenance, canned food remaining uneaten and edible, cars still having paint, clothes lying around in dressers in abandoned houses still intact etc.

    But how long would different items and structures actually last with or without maintenance? What conditions would need to be met for them to last for different time periods? Excluding super-materials hand-wave solutions.

    For example, I imagine unprotected clothes in a closet of an abandoned building would be eaten by insects fairly quickly and if not, how long would cotton last anyway? What if they were stored in vacuumed plastic bags and kept in the dark, for example? How quickly does plastic break down in the dark compared to if they're exposed to sunlight?

    How long would brick buildings stand without maintenance? Longer than modern concrete residential high-rises which, from what I've heard, are built without longevity as a primary consideration? What kind of maintenance would make them last longer?

    How about guns and ammo? Knives and other stainless steel items? Paper? Rope?

    Any input is welcome, but if you know of credible sources backing your statements that'd be awesome, or if you have a degree in material sciences, construction engineering or similar, provide that info and people can at least decide for themselves if they want to take your word for it. Borderline science-fiction theories are also welcome if applicable, ie there could realistically or semi-realistically be materials used for this or that in 50 years which could last so and so many years longer.

    For example, many types of plastics and also kevlar is senstitive to UV radiation and will become useless quickly if exposed to sunlight.

    Brass bullet casings can crack in the presence of ammonia.

    I think ceramic roof tiles can last ~50 years even without maintenance, from what the people who replaced my roof last year claimed. Sidings of wooden houses could last maybe a decade if they're not looked after, depending on the paint? As soon as either siding or roof gets damaged enough, the wood frame will start to go. In some cases parts of it can be replaced relatively easily depending on the construction, and the type of damage?
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2016
  2. SuperMutantGirl

    SuperMutantGirl First time out of the vault

    Jun 30, 2016
    First post, hope I can make ya'll proud.

    Honestly, with the new games, 3 and 4, honestly, nothing should even remain. We see evidence in 3 that it was prime real estate for nukes looking for a new home, one of which is our 'beloved' Megaton. So clearly there were other bombs dropped in that area given the size and shape, bearing a resemblance to Muricas own during dubaduba two, that they were dropped via plane or some kind of cluster missile. So for Boston and the Capital, absolutely nothing, minus the few vaults and some bunkers, should remain standing.

    Hell, we even see the blast in point blank "everyone on top of this incredibly dumb 'the only way in or out' elevator door should be dead as of yesterday" range. (that Mush-cloud would have been waaaaaay bigger than their thumbs if they bothered to check instead of holding the baby I didn't want) So really we should not even be able to discuss a lot of this. But then there are little gems, like my Love, New Vegas. which even following the kinda cool, mostly dumb 200 years into the future jump, shows what a post atomic ruined world the world could look like, Dirt and dust.

    Growing up in a rural area I have seen barns go from pristine to molding heap in my 25 years of life. (I'm a baby I know) So anything using wood would/should have/be collapsed during 1 and 2, me thinks. Sure a few places would have been spared the fire, and people could have tried to rebuild, but where does wood come from when all the trees are gone? A lot of structures should be made of adobe, but that's another topic methinks.

    Plastics could be another source of building as it can last upwards of 450 years, some even guessing plastic bottles lasting thousands. (brief wiki search mind you) So I would wager a heavy sum on the idea that a lot of communities would be living in glass(which is speculated by some to be the longest lasting 'man-made' material)/plastic bottle earthships. Again another topic.

    I cant really pin down any information on clothes but cotton seems to be stated at decaying after a few months So most wastelanders should be walking around in NOT GREASER JACKETS but animal skins and or plant fibers, like a post-nuclear-blast Flintstones, Leather, if cared for via oiling and such could last over a hundred years, but seeing as no one can be bothered to clean their own homes of debris after 200 years, I think its a safe bet most dyed and tailored leather would be gone.

    I'm going to stop as I am very high and am losing focus, hoped my two cents is worth a read, and made a modicum of sense.. if not, I'm so, so, sorry, please don't feed me to the bethfans!
  3. Izak

    Izak I Shot The ALBATROSS

    Jan 29, 2016!8m2!3d32.6278328!4d129.7385884
    This is probably close to a real life version of a Fallout world, Hashima Island was a Japanese mining city which was speedily abandoned by its local inhabitants. It uniquely has Streetview and, from what I understand, there are photos of the deserted buildings with decayed family photos still hanging, all really eerie shit.
    Paper and cotton would be eaten away at by rats and natural decay fairly quickly. I can't say I'm an expert on the constitution of Skyscrapers but I've been told that concrete slab like buildings in Spain and Russia (built during Franco and Stalin's times in power) would collapse very quickly. Guns would probably break down extremely quickly, compound natural decay with nukes and 200 years and I can't imagine they'd stay in a very good state.
  4. Dead Guy

    Dead Guy Senate Board Director oTO Moderator Orderite Board Cop oTO

    Nov 9, 2008
    I think the life span of wooden buildings are hugely affected by the climate, the quality of the wood and the type of structure. There are barns in northern Sweden that are hundreds of years old with no paint.

    For example, heartwood is much better but much more expensive as a building material. If there's little humidity but also not that much sand blowing around that should also increase the no-maintenance life span. Finally, if there's very good passive ventilation (like in some barns or other economy farm buildings), humidity should be much less of a problem, with smaller chance of damage from humidity or fungus.

    Many common plastics can't handle direct sunlight for long afaik. Wasn't so much thinking of plastic as a building material but more about how long smaller items made of plastic would last under different conditions, like a hairdryer or something.

    Guns are very hard for me to judge. I guess they'd probably need maintenance after lying around for a hundred years no matter how they were stored? Paging @SuAside. Also no idea whether gunpowder in cartridges would absorb moisture over time, destroying them.
    From what I'm reading, if stored in GI ammo cans they should last a very long time, and if you put in some desiccant to boot even longer.

    Also, I don't think there's anything inherently dumb with a 200 years after apocalypse setting, the problem with Fallout 3-4 is that the world they portray isn't one where 200 years have passed, and the 200 years they say have passed don't really matter for anything in the game world.

    Welcome to the forums, SuperMutantGirl.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2016
  5. SuperMutantGirl

    SuperMutantGirl First time out of the vault

    Jun 30, 2016
    Thanks for the Welcome, and I guess I could have explained my dislike for the time passage, I guess it was more like you just said, it just was not portrayed right.

    With guns, I have only the most basic of knowledge, and only the hardiest of weapons would survive, and even then I do not think anything more complicated than an arquebus would survive after a few decades with zero maintenance. I know some old style single shot revolvers can go through some shit and can still fire with retaliative reliability, and the AK-47 is touted as the best doomsday rifle for the fact you could slam it in mud, snow, water, and still have a decent weapon if you had to fire it right after the mess making. but again, I'm more than likely wrong I am not a gun nut.

    But in all honesty, I think its a safe bet to say there wouldn't be much use for guns after 200 plus years, as I imagine most of the ammunition would have been fired off by then.
  6. Marionettetc

    Marionettetc Banned

    May 15, 2013
    Anything made out of concrete, or metal, or certain plastics would have most likely survived ambient environmental decay. Anything else would have likely decayed into a useless state - if it even survived the ground zero blasts. Anything only affected by fallout would have decayed like normal - that is to say wouldn't have lasted 200 years.

    It's ridiculous to think that anything salvageable wouldn't have been taken and consumed within 24 hours of the nukes by the survivors.
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  7. Dead Guy

    Dead Guy Senate Board Director oTO Moderator Orderite Board Cop oTO

    Nov 9, 2008
    Some other opinions about concrete decay here.
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  8. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    Food should not survive for two hundred years unless the preservers are intensely strong, which begs the question, what exactly do these companies put in there? As American corporations are shown to be rather uncaring, one can assume that whatever methods they use are possibly unethical or even dangerous.
  9. mithrap

    mithrap Ring a ding-ding, baby

    May 17, 2016
    I have read that Boston is hit by hurricanes at least ten times per decade. And that the foundations of the city are on a swamp, which is moving pretty fast, apparently. So this should also play a big part. With no functioning maintenance for decades, the city could basically change into a swamp, with buildings collapsing on each others, as the weakest structures get damaged by hurricanes. Which also bring a lot of salt on the concrete, so there's that.

    Ceramic roof tiles are fairly resistant, but they would be ripped from the roofs as soon as a big hurricane comes in. Wooden walls are fairly resistant, but they would crumble under the weigth of the growing vegetation (the fungus responsible for decaying vegetations would be destroyed by radiations, which would make the fauna extremely resistant and "expansionist" so to speak. This is why Chernobyl has amazingly beautiful and seemingly healthy forests, for example). Also, the bomb that made the glowing sea is probably a very, very dirty one, so the ground water could turn acid for several years, which would damage the city's foundations even more.
    It's pretty safe to say that most buildings would fall in a matter of a decade, I think.
  10. Spooky

    Spooky mean girl

    Mar 12, 2016
    Most of the stuff still standing in 3/4 would be piles of mush by the time the game takes place, I think. There's actually a somewhat relevant documentary called Life After People on youtube that goes into detail about this stuff. iirc one of the longest lasting power plants would be Hoover Dam.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2016
  11. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    Any city over swamp water shouldn't exist due to the damage of it's foundations.
  12. Dead Guy

    Dead Guy Senate Board Director oTO Moderator Orderite Board Cop oTO

    Nov 9, 2008
    The only food I know wouldn't spoil over more than a hundred years if kept in a sealed container is wine and honey. And vinegar.

    You don't have to specifically talk about Boston/Washington, btw. The aim here wasn't to point out flaws with Bethesdas games, that's already been done, but to try to determine about how long things would last in reality.
  13. Risewild

    Risewild Antediluvian as Feck
    Modder Orderite

    Jun 14, 2014
    The only thing I can say in this thread is that most guns these days require maintenance and at least constant oiling after outside use in particular in wet or humid climates.
    Gun parts rust easily if the weapon is not oiled and maintained, and rust can appear in just a couple of months. If certain parts rust your weapon will not work, and many parts can only be "fixed" by replacing them if they got rusty.
    I am not a professional about gun maintenance, I can only say that when I was in the army gun maintenance was high priority.
  14. Atomkilla

    Atomkilla Hazel Hegemon oTO Orderite

    Dec 26, 2010
    Having grown-up in what was once a prosperous industrial center, and now mostly a run-down ruin, I can give some laymen assessment on the matter of buildings' decay.

    I'll immediately point out that this is typical European continental climate which has, admittedly, over the past decade or so started to "evolve" to what is more akin to Mediterranean climate. In any case, the winters here aren't very harsh, though such have been recorded, and the summers aren't extremely hot, though again, such have also been recorded. Autumn lasts for about 3-4 months, rains often and so on. We don't get much wind in this place.

    So why have I written all of this?

    Well (again, this is a layman's opinion) climate obviously affects the decay of buildings in many ways and I wanted to present a picture of what type of ambient I'm talking about here, but the whole matter goes into extremely tiny details. From the angle of the building, to its height, its general shape, exposure to wind, surrounding flora - all of these are really big factors. I have seen factories made roughly at the same time and from seemingly same materials decay quite differently.

    In my opinion, typical brick building lasts for about 15-30+ years before it completely crumbles away. This assumes that there was zero intervention or repair of it. The buildings in question are usually two or three stories high. The general trick with these buildings are that they have a wooden basis for the roof such as in factory halls (metal frames came later), which left without maintenance decays rather quickly and once the roof caves in it's only a matter of time before the walls go down.
    Brick houses tend to last longer. I imagine it has something to do with the general "lightness" of the structure, as it is lot closer to the ground (often ground level or slightly elevated), tends to have less exposure to elements as they are typically surrounded by higher buildings/trees. I also assume that, since they had been intended to last a lot longer and have been built with greater meticulousness, this is also a big factor.
    Worthy of note is that as long as there is a solid roof construction these buildings can last long and can be easily be repaired. I've witnessed a building left in the state of mid-construction directly exposed to the elements after it's freshly placed windows were blown away by a blast-wave from a bomb dropped nearby. It was left in such state for more than a decade, and served as a squat for hobos - I shouldn't go into detail what those walls were exposed to during that time. Somebody bought the thing, renovated it and refurbished it and now it's the most expensive hotel/restaurant in the 50km radius. I should mention that the material in question was, originally, hollow brick with concrete skeleton, if I'm not wrong, so it's not your typical brick.

    Concrete buildings last longer than brick buildings. I can't say how long since I've never seen one decay completely. These things are sturdy, and depending on the quality of the material used, they can really take a hit...literally. I've seen buildings which were bombed from air and which remained standing for years without any intervention or repair.
    Warfare or poor construction aside, I believe that the thing that "kills" concrete is moisture. Once too much water gets inside the wall, it's only a matter of time before the expansion/condensation/etc. of water causes the "micro-cracks" to grow larger. Add sunlight and you're almost certain to find vegetation growing from these plants. After that it's only an enchanted circle of moist and decay. It's not necessary for the moisture to get into the concrete itself - which sometimes isn't that easy - but the material surrounding it is a good target.

    I should mention metal as a material. Metal is very popular in industrial zones for obvious reasons (it has its share of domestic usage too). Metal pipes rust and that is a big problem. However, I don't know much about pipes and I think plastic ones are the standard now - but essentially, once one starts leaking it's only a matter of time before moisture wins the game.
    Metal roofing, aforementioned metal frames, metal panels - all of these are quite popular, especially with quickly-constructed factory halls. These things don't last long. It's the building material that is most susceptible to the ambient effects after wood. It's with them that the wind starts doing a prime job - from widening the gap in the metal lining to completely blowing the wall off exposing the (usually) concrete skeleton underneath. I've seen these things last from 10-15+ years. Again, a lot of it has to do with the placement of the building, its general layout etc.

    I just remembered asphalt - obviously used for roads - yeah, that doesn't last long. Not at all. Even in original Fallout, having asphalt in the streets is unrealistic. On one hand I imagine that asphalt of the post-apocalyptic world doesn't get all that much "beating", but direct exposure to sunlight and rain would quickly render big cracks in it. Again, if vegetation is in the picture, then the decay process is a lot faster.

    I hope some of these stuff helps. I should again point out that I'm a complete layman - I have minimal knowledge of architecture, very basic knowledge of materials and construction. What I have is years and years of observation and inspection - going in and around these decaying buildings was a hobby of mine for a while, when I was a teen with an obsession with all things even remotely post-apocalyptic. I also observed construction of many types of buildings, but then again, who hasn't?

    One thing I can tell with great certainty is that no building, literally no modern construction would last more than a century unattended - some of its parts would, arguably, remain - namely the skeleton - as well as certain "sturdier" parts of the building - but the building as a whole would essentially crumble down or stop resembling a building and start to look more as a pile of rubble and rusted metal with vegetation all over (well, sometimes).
    There are exceptions from these, of course - for example, there are abandoned mining towns in Siberia - these concrete buildings are basically constantly exposed to freezing temperatures - but their concrete structure (I believe they are made from concrete or something similar) was intended for such extreme conditions - and they can and will last very, very long. Other example would be the fallout shelter - a well-built shelter can go on for decades without any real maintenance - though such finely built shelters are hardly a commonplace as they are usually parts of military complexes and are obviously intended to house military/political figures.

    There, my 2 cents. Do with them what you will, but take them with a grain of salt.
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  15. Dr. Rosen

    Dr. Rosen First time out of the vault

    Jul 9, 2016
    I can give a little input on firearm storage. There are still unopened crates of Mosins and K98s in storage all throughout the world which will work close to brand new if stored properly. Firearms tend to last for long periods of time if stored correctly; this requires an airtight storage space or as close as you can get with rubber seals. Lets say you take a container that can easily last 250 years and stayed sealed the entire time, if the gun is oiled properly then it will be close to brand new when you pull it out. Another way to store, but very difficult and very costly, is to store them in a container that has no air pressure. Remove all oxygen, or replace it with something else that does not corrode iron metal, and in theory the firearm will last as long as the container is sealed.

    Keep in mind firearms and ammunition suffer due to oxygen and water. Take those two things away and you've eliminated most of the damage caused short of dumping the gun in a acid it will react to.

    I'll also add that hardtacks last damn well over 150 years. Some people here in the U.S. have gotten their hands on civil war hardtacks and actually eaten them. This is mostly due to the composition though. If you need to find a theory for commercial preservatives that seemingly don't exist then just apply the Science! or Rule of Cool ideas.
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  16. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    But seriously, preservatives are bad for you, especially commercial ones and as the corporations of the Fallout universe aren't known for ethics... wonder what they put in the food?
  17. Dr. Rosen

    Dr. Rosen First time out of the vault

    Jul 9, 2016
    They would put Science! in the food. How bad Science! would be refer to Old World Blues.
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  18. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    Exactly, who knows what shit is put in there?
  19. Dead Guy

    Dead Guy Senate Board Director oTO Moderator Orderite Board Cop oTO

    Nov 9, 2008
    Some ruins and abandoned places here and here. But most of these have been abandoned only somewhere between 10-50 years or so.

    Example of an estate whose roof was deliberately removed in the 40s to avoid taxation.

    Lots of good stuff here though I haven't looked at much yet, more information than the other sites, particularly how many years the places have been abandoned.

    Life after people has a timeline on a wiki for when a bunch of buildings would collapse, not sure how much stock to put into that.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2016
  20. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    There is always this article going around where they found 2000 year old honey pots ... that are still edible. No clue how accurate such stuff is. But I wouldn't rule it out that some food under certain conditions could be still edible after 200 years. However ... if still tastes good, is an entirely different question. No matter how good you preserve something, flavours are usually extremly short-lived.
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