It's not uncommon to be hesitant about buying a house that was built in the 50s or 60s — even the 80s! Will everything still be in good shape? Are the inner workings of the house up to snuff?
Just like cell phones and laptops, houses evolve over time, incorporating new and improved technologies and doing away with approaches that are out of date. In other words: an old house is sometimes just that — old.
Houses built before the 1980s (now forty years old, at least!) often have a number of underlying issues that need to be addressed. Here are just a few to look out for.
An old-school electrical system
Electricity became a staple component in the home in the 1950s. For the first time electric appliances were introduced in mass quantities and marketed heavily by electric utility companies looking to expand their business.
While amazing at the time, these old electric systems often only had a few circuits — enough to run an appliance or two, but not much more than that. As a result, older electric panels (sometimes even those from the 1980s) are very unlikely to be able to provide enough electricity for the modern family.
To resolve the issue, hire a home inspector to examine your main panel and its capacity, then upgrade the electric panel per their recommendation and your family's particular needs.
An inefficient heating system
Many current family homes still have the original furnace in place. They may be functioning, but it's likely that they are extremely inefficient, noisy and don't have the safety features of a modern unit like overheat protection or shut-off switches to protect against house fires.
Old furnaces also use energy very inefficiently. It's possible they still have a standing pilot light that stays on year-round instead of electronic ignition, and that they rely on convection (not a forced air system) to provide hot air throughout the house.
If your furnace is more than 20 years old, it's important that you have a licensed heating contractor provide a safety review and check for components that contain asbestos.
Generally speaking, electrical systems installed in the 1970s are considered modern electrical systems. By then, most homes were built with circuit breakers instead of fuses and outlets were grounded with three-prong receptacles. All good things!
Unfortunately, a few technologies that appeared promising turned out to be ineffective. During a copper shortage that stretched from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, many builders turned to the next best conductor: aluminum.
Sadly, this swap led to a host of house fires due to unexpected corrosion of the wires. To avoid catastrophe, have your home inspector or a licensed electrician evaluate your electrical system and recommend necessary upgrades to decrease fire hazards.
Another system that is likely to be at the end of its useful life in an old home is the plumbing system. Older homes were typically plumbed with galvanized steel pipes with have a propensity to rust over, causing clogs and leaks.
Upgrading your draining system can be costly, but necessary, as avoiding the issue can cause serious water damage down the line — to the tune of thousands of dollars!
Poor insulation (or none at all!)
Prior to the 1960s, many homes in moderate climates didn't have insulation as a required feature. At the time, insulation was reserved for affluent home buyers with lots of cash to spend. As a result, hundreds of thousands of homes throughout the United States are under-insulated or not insulated at all.
Even if the attic is insulated, the walls most certainly do not. Luckily, while getting insulation into finished walls can be quite the challenge, our experts at Ward Insulation have a drill and fill process that makes the whole thing much more manageable. You can learn more about that here!
Wondering if your insulation is up to snuff?
Give us a call and we'll give it a look!