Older houses can inspire the romantic in all of us, bringing forth fond memories of the past, and having a striking aesthetic that is incredibly different from new and modern building design. An older house seems to ooze possibility from restoring it to its former beauty, to renovating it and fusing the old with the new. Although it can be an exciting prospect, these buildings are not without their pitfalls. In this article, we are going to look at some of the most common issues found in Aussie homes from the 1940s – 60s.
Energy prices haven’t always been this high. Going back 80 years, things like energy efficiency weren’t really hot on people’s minds. That means people were not overly concerned with insulation, leading to houses that are hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Worse still, once you heat the house up or cool it down it quickly loses that temperature as the building is not designed to keep it in.
While not the most expensive problem to have to deal with, level and consistency of insulation it is worth looking into before you make the final decision on a purchase.
Bathrooms are something almost everyone pays attention to when looking at a property. People look at old bathrooms and think ‘this won’t be too hard to update, a new toilet some new tiles and this will look great’. Sometimes that is all it takes to bring a dated look to modern standards. However not many people think, ‘I wonder what the pipes look like under the house’. But they really should. Also check out our tips on spotting problematic water damage.
Pipes were usually made of clay and cast iron and both materials have their problems. Clay terracotta pipes are prone to chip, crack, or break, whereas cast iron can corrode over time. Both materials are also quite susceptible to roots growing into them. The problem here is that it is often a huge costly to dig up and repair the pipes, and depending on your particular house, additional repairs may be warranted to bring your house up to current building codes.
Today everything is electrical, but back in the 40’s and 50’s, there weren’t quite so many devices in a family home. But things have changed drastically. The modern office or home has printers, computers, desk lights, chargers, monitors, modems and routers. Kitchens are chock full of electronics, from microwaves, food processors, and coffee machines, and electrical outlets are a must.
Be sure to check the amount of outlets present, room by room, and also how the outlets look. Have they been updated or are they the original fittings? Simply adding a few outlets isn’t that costly but if the wiring is old and dated, things get much more complicated. Electricians are often not allowed to repair outdated wiring, and are only able to update and replace. Not to mention buildings were often built with fewer fuses meaning when you plug everything in you’ll constantly be tripping a fuse.
We haven’t always known the dangers of lead paint, and we certainly didn’t know about in the 40s. It is impossible to identify lead paint with a visual inspection. A good rule of thumb is that in houses of this age, assume there is lead paint until you’ve proven otherwise.
It was used extensively on both the interiors and exteriors of homes in this era. Lead paint becomes the most dangerous when it is flaking and cracking which is how it becomes airborne. Care must be taken when removing to reduce the risk of exposure during the removal process.
Asbestos was a common building material from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. It has been incorporated into many products, like weatherboarding, pipes, cement, and insulation. Asbestos can lead to several severe health conditions and professional asbestos removers are the only truly safe way to remove it. A property inspection will usually look to identify potential asbestos risks.
Houses of this period can experience structural problems from poor or undersized bracing. These problems are often encountered as sagging roofs and dangerous chimneys. Much of the time these were caused by new buildings techniques that did not last or perform in the way they were envisioned.
Building inspections are always a good idea when buying any property, but particularly in old houses where there could be lots of problems hiding in places that only a trained professional could see or know to look for.