Historic Home: 4 Hidden Dangers of Older Properties

Written by  //  July 27, 2017  //  Home Repair  //  No comments

According to the 2013 housing survey conducted by HUD, the average house is 37 years old, and houses in cities, the Midwest, and the Northeast tend to be even older. Generally speaking, an old house is one that was built before 1920. While such houses have their charms, they also have their perils. Here are four hidden dangers of historic homes you should keep an eye out for.

1. Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew is a common problem, especially in places like basements, crawlspaces and bathrooms. Mold can be an insidious threat, since it can grow between the walls where it can’t be readily seen.

Mold infestations in crawlspaces can be particularly troublesome, for they can severely affect the air quality in the house and exacerbate any respiratory problems or allergies in the inhabitants. Prevention is the best way to handle mold, and one way to do so is to use a liner or sealant from Perma-Dry Waterproofing & Drainage Inc. to keep water out of a crawlspace.

2. Lead and Asbestos

Asbestos and lead are two hazardous materials that were used in home construction until fairly recently. Lead was used in water pipes as recently as the 1980s, and it was a common ingredient in paint until 1978. It is also a neurotoxin that is particularly dangerous to children.

Asbestos is a fibrous material that was used as a fireproofing and insulation material until the 1970s. Although the EPA has since banned its use because it can cause respiratory problems including lung cancer, some older homes still have asbestos insulation. Be sure you get professional help if you decide you want to remove old asbestos insulation.

3. Old Pipes

Old homes often come with old plumbing systems that can flood the house or otherwise damage it when they fail. Pipes can be made from different materials with different lifespans. Steel pipes may last only 20 years, while copper or brass pipes can last 50 years. Pipes made from a plastic material called PEX can last 40 or 50 years. From the 1970s to the 1990s, pipes were often made of a plastic called polybutylene that can be corroded by chlorine.

4. Old Electrical Systems

Aging electrical systems can cause power outages, fires and shocks, and the components all have limited life expectancies. Wires installed before 1960 usually last about 70 years, while newer wires last at least a century. Circuit breakers last 30 or 40 years, and service panels last 60 or 70 years.

Most of these problems should be handled by professionals. The owner of an old home should check the age of everything in it. That way, if something is approaching the end of its lifespan, they can start saving towards the eventual replacement and repair.

One DIY project that the homeowner might consider is installing a water filtration system to keep lead out of their tap water. Having a plumber replace lead pipes, however, is ultimately the more effective way of getting water that is totally lead-free.

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