What to Consider if You’re Renovating an Older Home

When it comes to renovating a home, an older house can pose quite a few unique challenges, and this isn’t restricted only to historic homes. Even a house that was built only 40 years ago could have a variety of problems, from an inadequate roof to deteriorating plumbing and electrical systems to dangerous chemicals in the walls, ceilings, or floors. If you’re considering buying an older home and doing a full house remodel, cost will of course be a primary consideration, and issues like these could easily bust your budget. If you’re thinking of renovating an older home, here are some things you should be aware of before you make your final decision.

The House Could Need a New Roof

Renovating an older home often means replacing the roof. Even the highest-quality roofs require replacing after 25 to 50 years, and older homes often have roofs made of wooden shingles, which are especially vulnerable to fire, leaks, and mold.

Depending on how old the house is, it’s also possible the roof no longer complies with current local building codes, which are designed to ensure durability and safety by specifying proper roofing materials and construction methods. Even if the old roof satisfied regulations when it was built, it may need to be replaced to be in compliance with modern standards.

For instance, some states where wildfires are an ever-present danger require roofs to be built with shingles that are resistant to fire. Building codes also deal with design: unless the slope of the roof is designed to drain over the edges, a drain must be installed at each of the roof’s low points. 

Even if you’re a DIY veteran, you should hire a professional contractor to replace your roof. An experienced contractor will ensure your roof complies with all local construction regulations and help you choose the best type of roof for your climate. For example, if you live in an area that has a high risk of hurricanes, a metal roof might be the best choice because it will stand up to high winds more effectively than asphalt shingles will. 

The Walls Might Contain Toxic Materials

Many older houses contain substances that are dangerous. When these homes were built, these substances weren’t known to be toxic, and many of them still aren’t dangerous unless renovation and demolition processes release them into the air. 

For instance, a house built prior to the 1980s probably has some levels of asbestos, whether it’s in floor tiles, insulation, steam pipes, or textured paint. Tearing the insulation out or ripping up the old tiles can cause asbestos to be released into the air, which can lead to lung damage in people who are living in the home or working on the renovations. 

Lead-based paint is another major concern with older homes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead-based paint was used in 87 percent of the homes built before 1940 and a fourth of the houses built between 1960 and 1978. Lead paint can cause a host of health problems, especially for pregnant women and children whose brains are still developing.

If your older home is found to have asbestos or lead paint, it’s best to have these removed by professionals. Asbestos removal requires specialized safety gear, particularly a respirator. It may be okay to paint over lead paint with lead-free paint, but if there are any areas that are cracked, chipped, or peeling, the old paint should be removed. This also requires certain precautions to be taken, so it’s best to hire pros for this job as well.

There May Be Mold & Mildew 

Moisture issues are common in older houses due to hidden leaks or water damage that was never properly addressed. These issues often result in the growth of mold and mildew, especially in spaces that don’t get much light, such as basements. Homes in humid climates and coastal areas are particularly susceptible to these issues. 

Mold and mildew can pose a number of various health risks, especially for people who have allergies or respiratory conditions. At a minimum, they smell awful and can cause structural rotting. Mold grows very quickly, and it won’t go away on its own, so if your home inspection reveals mold or mildew, plan to address it immediately.

You can hire pros who specialize in safely removing mold and mildew, but you may be able to take care of it on your own. You have to be careful not to just cut out the drywall where it’s growing or simply paint over it—this could cause mold spores to become airborne and spread to other areas. You can usually remove mold with a solution that contains hydrogen peroxide or bleach, but you must wear a mask, eye protection, and gloves, and you need to open the windows or use a box fan to ventilate the area. 

The Electrical System May Be Outdated

Since electricity became a common feature in homes more than a century ago, wiring materials, methods, and regulations have changed dramatically. Until the 1930s, knob-and-tube wiring was used widely, and many older houses still have these systems in place. They continue to be acceptable under most current electrical codes, but they’re certainly not ideal for modern life.

Because knob-and-tube wiring doesn’t have a grounding pathway, it’s more likely to result in damage to electronics. In addition, these systems don’t have three-prong outlets, which virtually every appliance requires nowadays. The coating on the wires is also likely to be wearing off, which would expose a live wire and present a major fire hazard.

A knob-and-tube electrical system can’t be covered by insulation because it would be extremely easy for the wires to become overheated. This means you would have to replace the whole electrical system if you plan to insulate or reinsulate your older house.

The Plumbing System May Be Corroded or Rusted

If the home you’re considering renovating was constructed around 1960, chances are galvanized pipes were used for the plumbing system. Galvanized pipes, which are made of steel and coated with zinc, were one of the first types of pipes used to replace lead pipes in homes. They are reasonably durable for a while, but over time, the coating breaks down and causes rust and corrosion from continuous water exposure. Worn-out galvanized pipes have an increased risk of leaking and bursting, which can lead to severe water damage.

As with knob-and-tube electrical systems, galvanized pipes are acceptable under many current building codes and don’t necessarily have to be replaced. However, make sure to check the pipes for signs of severe rust, and if you notice low water pressure or discolored water coming out of the faucets, the plumbing system will probably need to be replaced. 

Replacing galvanized pipes can be a time-consuming project, so it’s best to have this done early in the renovation process. This job requires cutting into floors and walls, and removing pipes that are corroded and rusted can cause quite a mess.

Even an old home that seems to be in great shape can have hidden issues, so you’ll need to check for these concerns and factor any necessary repairs into your budget. When you’re ready to renovate your home, make sure to hire the best contractors in the business. The experts from Forever Builders are the whole home remodel contractors San Diego homeowners can trust to provide the most affordable home remodeling services and ensure their visions become reality. From design to completion, we’ll help you create the home you’ve always wanted, meeting all your expectations while keeping your costs within budget. To find out more about our outstanding remodeling services, give one of our friendly team members a call today at (833) 243-5624.

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