There are plenty of reasons to choose an old house when purchasing a property. They simply don’t build them like they used to. Those charming traditional features you just can’t find anywhere else add a sense of character that all the modern convenience in the world simply cannot replicate. Not to mention that for a lot of people who already own an old home, the memories contained within those walls are irreplaceable.
However, plenty of people are aware – whether they currently live in an older property or are planning on buying one with a significant history – that there is a price for all that charm and character. After all, the reason that people often prefer older properties is that they are made differently to new builds. That being said though, many of the changes and renovations that have been made since their construction have generally been for the better in many ways.
Homes are, of course, complicated and, especially with older buildings, they are also unique. It’s a big part of the reason why we love them. This does mean though that their problems can be pretty individual as well, so no list of potential issues with older buildings is ever going to cover everything. There’s just no accounting for the old crack here or the uneven flooring there. That being said, there are a whole bunch of problems that are much more common in properties that have been around for a longer period of time.
With that in mind, here are six common issues with older homes to bear in mind, whether you are buying or renovating.
1. Old windows
As is the case with many things on this list, features such as double glazing weren’t very popular during the construction of older properties. In fact, it didn’t really take off until the 1970s and 1980s, and it didn’t become compulsory in order to comply with building regulations until April 2002.
Not only is significant heat lost through windows, but they can also represent a security risk, especially if they are in a bad condition. It doesn’t take much to realise that a single pane of glass probably isn’t the greatest protection from outside threats. Another benefit to upgrading your windows is greater soundproofing. Double glazing can help reduce noise from outside and protect your peace and quiet at home.
2. Outdated heating
Another issue in older homes is outdated heating. Technology has come a long way with central heating, with this feature becoming more common in the latter half of the 20th century. In 1970, only 30% of houses had central heating, and by 2017, that number had increased to 95%. Of course, this means that even older homes are unlikely to be going completely without heating, but that doesn’t mean that the system currently installed is up to modern standards.
In 2004, the EST reported that old windows and boilers were the biggest sources of additional costs in newly bought homes, with the bill costing £439 million and £228 million respectively to replace. To give you a sense of the scale here, a newly fitted central heating system would only cost a few thousand pounds.
3. Leaking roofs
Another well-known and extremely annoying problem with older properties is leaky roofs. These can also cause further costs and damage if not dealt with swiftly and thoroughly. Many people don’t realise the true extent of destruction that leaking water can incur, which often takes place before the source is located. This can include things like interior mould and mildew, which can cause serious health issues, especially for the very young, elderly people, those with skin or respiratory conditions, or those with weakened immune systems.
Another issue is damage to any attic areas, which can also compromise structural integrity both there and elsewhere in the property. This can even create higher bills and wasted energy due to damage in the insulation. You should therefore check for signs of water intrusion as a top priority. A simple way of doing this is by looking for water spots on the ceiling. Trust us, this is one issue you do not want to ignore.
4. Old plumbing
This is related to poor heating but goes a little further than that. It includes things like corrosion, low water pressure and leaks. We’ve already mentioned how much it would cost to install a new central heating system and, while most plumbing problems won’t cost you anywhere near that amount – depending on the severity– it’s entirely possible that it could end up totalling at a pretty significant amount.
Another common plumbing issue is the presence lead pipes. These have been banned for a quarter of a century in the UK but can be found in homes most often built before 1970. If they are found in modern homes, they are usually the result of the use of led solder for jointing copper pipes by unqualified workers, or someone attempting to do the job themselves.
The dangers of lead, especially on infants and children, are well documented, so it’s important to check for their presence. If you’re unsure, you can ask your water company to check the water from your tap for lead. Another related issue to look out for in old properties is lead-based paint. If you suspect your home has lead-based paint, you should contact a certified contractor.
5. Old wiring
Most people are aware that old wiring is inconvenient and can cause a general nuisance around the home. However, it is something that you won’t want to simply put up with. That is because it also represents a significant health hazard due to the potential fire and electric shock risks.
The bad news here is that if the house has not been rewired in the last 25 years or more, then it is very likely it will need rewiring at least in part. This can be rather pricey. The average cost of rewiring a house in the UK is £3,500, depending on where you live. It is an absolutely necessary cost though, so if you are buying an older property and this is an issue, take this cost into account from the beginning.
6. The presence of asbestos
Probably the most notorious of all the issues in older properties, the health implications of asbestos exposure are well known. It can cause mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer, which affects around 7 people a day in the UK. Shockingly, the material was not banned until 1999, meaning you don’t need to be buying a 100 years old house to be at risk.
In old homes, asbestos can be found in everything from floor tiles to pipe cement, and is commonly found in the form of Asbestos Thermal Insulation. The material is in millions of homes, with an estimated 14 million being built when it was common among building materials, according to the British Lung Foundation. It is an extremely dangerous material and any activity that could disturb it must be undertaken by professionals.
That’s just a quick overview of some of the common problems found in older homes. We’d like to make it clear that we definitely don’t want to put anyone off buying older properties – there’s certainly nothing wrong with investing in a fixer-upper. However, it’s important that people are aware of exactly what additional costs and issues they may face when purchasing in a building that is starting to show signs of its old age.