If you are a homeowner, you may live in a newly constructed house. New houses have a lot of advantages. They have been built with the latest construction standards and materials. And they’re not old enough to be manifesting problems yet. Old houses, however, have their own pros and cons. Old houses can also demonstrate excellence in construction and design. They also have a lot of charm.
But old houses also tend to have problems which need to be remedied or replaced. These crop up predictably every decade or two until each issue is resolved. If you own an old home and have not fixed these problems, chances are you will have to in the next few years. If you are preparing to buy an older home, you will do well to be aware of these issues. That way you’ll know what to look for as you’re investigating houses. Preparation like this might save you a lot of money.
Electrical Systems. If your house is more than a couple of decades old, it was likely constructed with obsolete electrical systems technology. Houses of one hundred years old or more may even be equipped with dangerous knob and tube systems. These pre-modern systems are wildly inefficient. But inefficiency will be the least of your worries. Knob and tube systems can easily start fires, particularly in dry attic spaces where they commonly have vulnerable connections. Less dangerous but still worthy of replacement are aluminum wiring systems. These have been phased out for copper wiring over the years because these are much less likely to start fires. You should also get your home inspector to look at how your wiring is insulated. Some older systems actually used paper insulation, which is an obvious fire hazard that home inspectors will reveal. Rewiring a home is expensive, so it’s best to catch the need for it in the home inspection.
Lead Paint. If your house is more than 30 or 40 years old, it likely contains lead paint. Lead is no hazard to health if the paint surface is strong. But if the paint starts to flake and peel, lead can be released into the home environment. This is especially dangerous for children, who can suffer neurological impairment due to lead exposure. Home inspections often encounter this problem, but your house inspector can quickly assess whether or not existing lead paint is currently dangerous. Lead paint may be professionally removed or repaired at no great cost.
Termites. Termites won’t be searched for by standard house inspectors. So you’ve got to make this a priority on your own. Don’t neglect this. A mature termite infestation can be catastrophic to the structure and integrity of your home. There may be a high cost to remediate a termite infestation as well. If you currently own a home with termites, there are effective remediation programs. But if you have yet to buy a house, it’s obviously better to leave this cost to the current owner.
There are plenty of things that can go wrong with an old house, but these are the ones I look for first.