5 Common Problems with Buying a Historic Home

Historic Home

There are a lot of reasons why people love and even prefer older homes. Old or historic houses often come with charm, character, and craftsmanship that you just won’t find in newer builds. Things like large porches, crown molding, original hardwood floors, exposed bricks, pocket doors and built-ins are often found in older homes and provide a level of charm that captures people’s hearts.

While there are many benefits like the ones above to living in an old home, there are also some potential downsides. A house built 100 years ago is going to have more wear and tear on it and its major systems than a house built within the last 20-30 years. Homes that were built before 1920 are considered historic while homes built within the last 50 years are considered old. If you love historic charm, it can be easy to get swept up with the potential that comes with buying a historic home, but it’s also important to be realistic and understand what problems you could potentially face.

While any of the issues below aren’t necessarily deal breakers, knowing the risk you have for them will make it much less stressful to proactively deal with problems and repairs when they arise. Also, if you’re considering buying a historic home, then knowing what to look for will make it easier to weigh your options.

Foundation Issues

The foundation is a critical part of your home and it’s not uncommon to see foundation issues occur in older homes. Even the most solidly built house is bound to be affected by its environment and wear and tear over time, especially over the course of 100 years or more. While some common types of foundation issues are visible, others will only be spotted by a trained professional, making it crucial to have this part of the home inspected. Some of the most common signs of foundation problems in an older home include doors that jam or won’t latch, cracked tiles or walls and windows that won’t open. These signs often point to foundation issues like cracks in the slab, damaged support footings or dry rot in above-ground studs.

Lead Paint and Asbestos

Homes built before 1978 often contain lead-based paint and asbestos – both of which are now considered to be hazardous. Intact lead paint is not considered harmful by the EPA, however, any renovation or activity that disturbs lead paint will produce dangerous lead dust. Additionally, asbestos, which was once used as insulation, is often found in older homes. If you plan on doing renovations that would disturb lead paint or interior insulation, then it’s recommended to have both materials professionally removed.

Outdated Plumbing

Plumbing is a big deal in any home, and while it’s not something you may really think about when buying a newer home, it’s definitely something you need to look into when purchasing an old home. Like lead paint, old houses also run the risk of having lead pipes. As these lead pipes age, there’s a risk of lead fragments ending up in your drinking water. Another risk that can come with the plumbing in old houses is that due to their age, the chances of tree roots interfering with the plumbing system underground is higher. Some signs that a home may have plumbing issues include slow water drainage, low water pressure and leaks around and beneath the faucets.

Old Electrical

With all of the electricity we use today it’s hard to imagine living in a home that was built in the early days of, or even before, electricity. If you’re purchasing an older home, it’s recommended to know when the electricity was last updated since it’s possible this was done since the home was originally built. However, if the electricity hasn’t been updated or is missing some key modern features, then this is something that you’ll want to address. For example, if you have outlets in your home that are ungrounded (2-prong), then you’ll want to update these. It’s also important to know if your older home contains knob and tube wiring since this is no longer recommended and could make it difficult to secure a mortgage or insurance. If the lights flicker or dim or you experience frequent power outages, then these could be signs that your home’s electricity is not updated enough to keep up with today’s needs.

Inefficient Insulation

One of the most commonly sought-after features of old and historic homes are often the windows. Old homes often contain large and uniquely shaped windows along with detailed and handmade doors. While these features add charm and character to old homes, they also add a lot of inefficiency when it comes to heating, cooling and sound proofing your home. Replacing old glass with newer, energy-efficient windows can dramatically improve your home’s insulation, though it can sometimes be expensive since windows back then didn’t come in today’s standard sizes. Additionally, replacing older doors with new, more modern and insulated versions can help further insulate your home while adding increased security and sound proofing. If you don’t want to completely replace these features, there’s other things you can do to help insulate these spaces, like sealing cracks around windows and reinforcing the insulation elsewhere.

Before purchasing an old or historic home, it’s critical to have a thorough home inspection performed by a professional. A comprehensive home inspection will help identify any current or potential problems, arming you with the knowledge you need before finalizing (or walking away from) your purchase.

On the other hand, if you’re already living in a historic home, then it’s important to be aware of your home’s quirks and major systems so that you can address any problems early on. We can help ensure your historic home stays in its best shape by addressing any necessary repairs as soon as they arise. We can also help improve your historic home with thoughtful renovations that meet your needs without taking away from your home’s historic charm.

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