Inspecting Older Homes
Inspecting Older Homes
Anyone interested in buying a home built prior to 1980 should be aware of the following:
While the materials used were standard at the time of construction, since that time some materials have been shown to be unsafe or problematic. For example, asbestos and lead paint, both commonly used throughout older homes, can have a deleterious effect on one’s health. (See previous blogs.) Abatement of these materials can be costly and time-consuming.
Aluminum wire, installed until 1973, was sometimes substituted for copper wiring. Connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures with aluminum wiring have been found to become increasingly dangerous as time passes. Also, “knob and tube” wiring was common prior to 1950. It is ungrounded and considered unsafe today. Over time, the wire’s insulation becomes brittle and falls apart, resulting in exposed conductors and a risk of shock and/or fire. This wiring is easily damaged by contact with insulation (a common practice) and incorrectly tapping new wiring into it. Two-prong ungrounded receptacles are common in older homes and do not meet today’s improved building standards. Ungrounded receptacles do not offer protection for some sensitive electronic devices or computers.
Electrical systems have advanced over time with improved products which are more effective and safer. Ground Fault Circuit Interruptors (GFCI) provide a level of safety around water. Breakers rather than fuses are the standard in newer construction.
Many older homes have single-pane windows and lack the R-value in insulation which increases energy costs.
When new additions have been added to older homes, often only the newer sections were updated. Many times the work is non-professional and further evaluation by a professional contractor or engineer may be necessary.
It is my experience that older homes have a higher radon level when tested.
Although older homes can have workmanship and character not seen in new construction, it can be costly to upgrade electric, insulation and windows, and the abatement of lead and asbestos, if necessary.The Seller’s Disclosure Statement may be helpful in determining if upgrades were made and if hazardous materials are present.