When remodeling an older home we’ve learned to “expect the unexpected”.

Here are the most common problems we encounter in remodeling older homes:

1.   Asbestos

Asbestos was used extensively in home construction from about 1940 to 1980. It is a fire retardant product found in roofing, insulation, flooring, adhesives, HVAC insulation and in some paints. It won’t cause harm if it is in good condition and undisturbed.


Problems occur when asbestos begins to break down or if it is sawed, scraped or sanded and becomes a powder that can be inhaled. Asbestos fibers are released and can cause severe damage to lungs. If you are making changes in your home that may require coming in contact with asbestos, you should contact a professional to examine the area.


2.   Lead Paint

Homes built prior to 1978 must be checked for the presence of lead paint prior to a contractor performing renovation, repair or painting. Undisturbed lead paint is not hazardous. Problems occur when it breaks down, peels or chips. Remodeling can generate a lot of dust and can cause lead paint to breakdown. 


3.   Foundation Problems

If you are buying an older home, assuring that the foundation is solid is one of the most critical issues you will face and may discourage the sale if problems are found. Many homes built prior to 1940 often did not have adequate grading for water runoff, which leads to moisture and mold in basements. Signs of foundation problems include cracks in the basement floor; cracks in interior walls near the corners of doors, windows and fireplaces; doors and windows that stick; and nail heads that pop through drywall.

4.   Radon

Radon gas is an odorless, invisible gas that can cause lung cancer. It can enter a home through cracks in the foundation, pipes and wells. Radon is a problem in many Central New York homes. It is important to test periodically for radon, especially if your home is in an area where radon problems are common, and to test prior to the purchase of a home.


5.   Electrical Wiring

Electrical wiring may be a problem in an older home because the wiring may not be adequate to power today’s modern appliances. Faulty wiring is one of the leading causes of house fires. Old wiring and circuits may also be out of code. Even wiring from the 1960s and 1970s can be out of code. It is essential to bring wiring up to date.


6.   Plumbing

Plumbing issues most often occur in homes built prior to 1960 when galvanized pipes wear out or clog. Plumbing problems are not just confined to the house but also can be found in sewer lines.


7.   Homes Built Prior to Current Building Code

Local bui;ding codes govern many aspects of construction ranging from structural design to energy efficiency. When we work on an older home, we advise homeowners about the importance of code compliance to protect both the occupants and their investment.


8.   Plaster Walls

Plaster walls in older homes can be so problematic that replacing them is an attractive option. However, if you own a historic homeplaster was an essential element in the way homes were built during the period and may be worth the cost of repair. If your home is on a historic preservation list, repairs may be governed by a zoning ordinance requiring “preserving distinctive materials, features, finishes, construction techniques and craftsmanship that characterize a property”. Plaster has a number of benefits. It is strong and durable, fire resistant and provides sound insulation in an older home.


9.   Mold

Older homes sometimes have musty odors which signify a potential mold problem. Mold is most likely to occur in places where there is a water leak such as a roof, leaky pipe or basement walls. Look for water stains that may indicate the source. Sometimes mold is not easily detected and you may need to consult a specialist to solve the problem.


10.  Dry Rot

Older homes are susceptible to dry rot Dry rot is caused by a fungus that feeds on wood and weakens it. Wood becomes cracked and brittle and eventually breaks down. Dry rot is often a problem in older homes because wood may not have been treated to prevent rot damage.

If you own an older home, it’s important to be aware of these issues when you begin a remodeling project and discuss them with you contractor.  In Minneapolis Saint Paul contact CT Construction. Complete remodeling and new construction services.

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