Old homes have a certain type of charm that’s hard to find in modern constructions, so owning one for yourself can be an incredible investment. However, while the antique features, history, and architecture may be stunning, they do require more love and care than newer homes. If you’ve recently purchased an old home and are going to be moving in soon, here are some of the most common problems with older homes that you should be aware of.
1. Roofing Repairs
One of the most common problems with older homes is the condition of their roofs. Depending on when the last owners replaced the roof and what kinds of shingles were used, you could be looking at a replacement sooner than you’d think. Be on the lookout for missing shingles, bent gutters, or signs of leaking within the home and attic. A leaking roof can cause additional internal damage if not repaired quickly. You can also have professional roof repair services come and inspect the roof to ensure there isn’t damage that can’t be seen from the ground. Some roofing companies will even provide free inspections. If your home is in an area with extreme weather, you should consider undergoing one at least once every year.
While the repairs needed will depend on how well the roof has been maintained by past owners and the types of materials used, this is something to keep in mind when moving into an older home.
2. Painting Needs
Repainting your home is common, with around 47% of Americans plan on undertaking a painting project this year, according to an Ally survey. However, interior and exterior painting is often a necessity in older homes. If your home was built prior to 1950, it’s worth keeping in mind that paint back then contained nearly 50% lead. While regulations imposed in the 1970s limited these amounts if your home still has old paint in it, getting this removed should be a priority.
Exterior paint can also serve as one of the problems with older homes and may also need to be redone, especially if it’s been neglected. Residential painters will be able to advise you on the best kind of paint needed for the environment your home is in. For instance, the paint you’ll need in a dry hot area will be different than what you’ll need in a rainy more temperate environment.
In some instances, your home may not need new exterior paint. However, existing paint, old stone, or brickwork may need power washing in order to look their best, especially if they’ve never been cleaned up before. The extent of work that you’ll need to get done will depend on what type of siding your home has and if it has ever been replaced or repaired in the past. If you’re in luck, the previous owner will have taken good care of both the interior and exterior.
3. Old Windows
Another one of the most significant problems with older homes is old windows. Not built with energy efficiency in mind, old windows are one of the best ways to drive up electric bills or invite moisture into your home. While it may be tempting to keep the originals, window replacement is ultimately the best thing for your old home. Along with having poor insulation, these windows can also leak and allow in moisture which can easily create additional mold and rot problems. Rot in old homes can be incredibly devastating, and it can end up costing much more to fix than a window replacement.
Old windows, especially those that don’t close properly, can also be a great place for pests to gain entrance. Watch for gaps and cracks around windows to ensure that you won’t be dealing with any unwelcomed guests.
4. Plumbing Problems
Plumbing is another one of the most common problems with older homes. It should be carefully inspected and replaced if needed. Old pipes can be prone to leaks, corrosion, and low water pressure. And while these may seem like minor annoyances at first, you could end up facing additional water damage if you don’t take care of problems promptly. Depending on the age of the plumbing, the pipes themselves may even contain lead. Pipes like this can breakdown over time and cause lead particles to make their way into your drinking water.
To mitigate these risks, have a plumber thoroughly inspect your home to ensure that no problems like this can be found. Additionally, older homes should also be inspected to ensure that no tree roots have grown into the underground plumbing system. Problems with tree roots can get messy quickly, so it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your plumbing.
5. HVAC Repair
While some old homes have been updated with modern heating and cooling, outdated HVAC systems are still one of the most common problems with older homes. Many older homes, especially those built before 1950, weren’t constructed with ductwork, this means they rely on window units and other methods for cooling and heating. However, if you’re home does have an old HVAC system, be on the lookout for problems. Older systems won’t be as energy efficient as newer models, and if there is a problem, carbon monoxide might end up leaking from your HVAC.
Before running your system, it’s worth having a professional inspect it and to get any needed HVAC repair performed as soon as possible. This will help reduce the risk of harmful gases being introduced into the air, while also giving you needed information about how well your system is working. A professional should also be able to advise you on when you should update your system and how long you can expect the current one to continue running for. Unfortunately, complete replacement of HVAC systems is one of the most common things in older homes.
6. Pest Removal
Another one of the most common problems with older homes is pest management. Because older homes are more likely to have weakened insulation, cracks, and gaps, it can be easier for pests and rodents to make their way inside. Cracks in the foundation, around windows and doors, and in the roof, make for the perfect entryways, and unless they are properly repaired you can expect to see a few uninvited guests in your home.
A pest removal specialist will be able to conduct a thorough inspection of your home and give you an idea of what needs to be done in order to solve this problem. Pest removers will also be able to help mitigate the problem. However, if gaps and cracks are the cause, you will need to repair these professionally to completely remove the risk. In some instances, cracks like this may be the result of larger problems. Foundation issues, for instance, can cause cracking and other problems that will only be rectified once the foundation is repaired.
7. Porch Repair
If you have an older home, you might have been drawn to its expansive wooden porch — which makes for the perfect place to spend an afternoon. However, depending on the age of the porch, these fixtures can also be one of the most common problems with older homes. Old wood that hasn’t been maintained and cared for properly can be both dangerous and unsightly. Be on the lookout for loose boards and signs of wood rot and instability. While some porches will require only minor adjustments if the porch is too far gone it may need complete replacement.
If you plan on spending a lot of time out on your porch, or if you have young children who will be playing on it, consider getting it inspected and repaired before allowing too much activity on it. Even wooden porches that seem stable can have an underlying weakness that could cause collapse if not fixed completely.
One of the more dangerous problems with older homes is the potential for asbestos. Used commonly as insulation and fire retardant, nearly all homes built before the 1970s have asbestos inside in some capacity. While once commonly used, today we now know that asbestos is highly toxic and it is the leading cause of mesothelioma. However, it can be difficult to detect and remove, so having a professional inspection conducted is essential for completely ridding your old home of this deadly problem.
9. Electrical Issues
Yet another one of the problems with older homes include outdated electrical wiring. Wiring installed before 1960 was designed to only last around 70 years, with service panels and circuit breakers needing replacement after only 30. Additionally, if your old home has ungrounded outlets — outlets with only two prongs — these will all need to be changed to grounded fixtures.
A lot of old wiring won’t pose an immediate danger. But if the insulation is crumbling or if it is knot and tube wiring, you’ll have to be careful. Knot and tube wiring was one of the first wiring designs to be used, and while it is effective, it is also known to have easily decaying insulators. This means that wires could be left exposed and raise the risk of fire or electrocution.
Unless you are a certified electrician, it’s best to leave these issues to the professionals, as all electrical fixtures can pose a dangerous and potentially deadly risk if you don’t know what you’re doing. Once you’re moved in, consider getting an electrical inspection as soon as possible to ensure that your home’s wiring is safe and up to date.
10. Foundation Issues
Lastly, another of the most common problems with older homes includes foundational issues. If you’ve noticed that doors and windows won’t latch correctly, that there are cracks in walls, or around the foundation itself, you could be dealing with foundational problems. More obvious signs can include warped floors; however, if you’re only noticing smaller signs, it’s best to seek repairs before the problem becomes prominent.
While not all foundation problems will require immediate repair, it’s best to get a professional option just so you can keep an eye on any growing problems. Additionally, if you live in an area with notable seismic activity, foundation problems could be more common or significant. In this instance, a structural engineer should be called to ensure that your home remains as steady and as safe as possible.
A Labor of Love
While older homes will come with a unique set of problems and require more care and fixing than a newer home, they can also be a great investment and a fantastic place to raise a family. While the amount of repair that needs to be done will depend on how well the last owner kept up the property, and how many necessary repairs have been done in the past, it’s still important to keep an eye out for the most common issues.
If you’re still in the process of buying an old home, be sure to ask your real estate agent about all updates and repairs that they know to have been done. You can also ask your agent for recommendations to local home inspectors that will be able to identify any problems and advise you of them before you finalize your purchase. This is advised when buying older homes, especially if the real estate agent isn’t able to provide a lot of information on how it has been kept up.
At the end of the day, old homes are truly a labor of love and what you put into them you’ll end up getting back. Between the charm of older homes and the history that they can contain, you’d seldom find the same atmosphere in a newer home.
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