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We Love Old Homes!

We are fortunate enough to be inspecting homes in an area that is rich in history and fascinating landmarks. New England prides itself on having some of the most beautiful and interesting homes in the country. Old homes are amazing, but not without their faults. This page is dedicated to understanding what to expect when dealing with an old home. We have inspected homes dating back to the 1600s and love doing it!

Knob and Tube Two Button Switches

What Are The Risks?

While old homes do have benefits there are also risks with purchasing and living in an old home. We are experts on inspecting old homes and have inspected many old homes in the past. While you could find any material in any home, there are general trends we see with materials. You should know depending on your homes age you you will have a higher likelyhood of certain materials or defects being present. We provide general age ranges based upon our experiance and training, but it should be known, none of the information on this page is absolute and a home inspector and related qualified professional should be checking your home for these problems.

Knob & Tube

Electrical Common Issues By Age

  • 1882 – Electricity in Homes
  • 1880 to 1940s – Knob & Tube Generally Installed
  • 1925 – Half of American Homes With Power
  • 1920s – Late 1940s BX Generally Popular
  • 1926 – NM cable listed (Woven Rayon)
  • 1950s to 1980s – Federal Pacific Panels
  • 1960s to late 1970s – Aluminum Branch Installed
  • 1960s – NM prevalent (Plastic Sheathed)
  • Pre 1960s – Ungrounded Circuits/Two Prong Receptacles Prominent

*These dates are all estimated and not absolute

Outdated Electrical

We examine the electrical systems of all homes but various types of equipment is no longer in use or has been deemed unsafe. in many cases electrical equipment that looks old is in fact outdated but here are some specific examples of aged or undesirable components. 

Fuse Panel
knob and tube

Knob & Tube Wiring

Knob and Tube wiring is an aged early form of electrical wiring that can be unsafe. We recommend replacing Knob & Tube and seeing components of Knob & Tube may indicate it is present, particularly in concealed areas. In many cases, much of the wiring is removed where accessible and only small clues will help determine if it is still present and active.

Aluminum Wiring

Aluminum Branch Wiring 

While some aluminum components are still present in other appliacations in the home, there was a window of time when aluminum wiring was used for branch wiring throughout or in sections the home. Failures occured and this wiring is no longer used in this way today. We recommend replacement or evaluation of the wiring system when aluminum circuits are identified.

BX Wiring

BX Wiring

BX wiring is an older version of an armored cable where the casing was utilized as a ground. This is not a proper grounding system. When updating fixtures and receptacles to modern components, replacement of these circuits is likely needed.

Potentially Asbestos Containing Insulation

Environmental Concerns

  • 1980 – 9×9 floor tiles
  • 1900s – Mid 1980s UST Tanks Popular
  • 1978 – Lead Paint Banned
  • 1982 – Formaldehyde Foam Insulation Banned
  • 1990 – Asbestos banned for many materials 

*These dates are all estimated and not absolute

Asbestos

We are not Asbestos experts and we don’t test for Asbestos. It was used prior to 1990 and if you purchase an old home it may be present. Asbestos was found in just about all building materials other than glass, metal and stone. Here are some common forms we see on old homes. Consider an asbestos inspection from a qualified inspector and beware of the potential when buying an old property.

Vermiculite Insulation

Vermiculite Insulation

Vermiculite is a mineral that was heated and “popped” to make a larger material. It was light weight, fire resistant, and a good insulator. Vermiculite is used in a variety of materials including wall and attic insulation. For a time vermiculite came from a mine in Libby Montanna and was exposed to and contaminated with Asbestos. The Vermiculite that was exposed to Asbestos is also extremely friable and one of the more concerning forms of Asbestos. 

Asbestos Insulation

Pipe Insulation (Right)

Asbestos is commonly found on ductwork, piping and other areas. It was used as insulation, seal tape, fireproofing and dampering materials. It is often very friable in these installation and with changes of temperature and proximity to ductwork can be one of the more concerning forms of Asbestos.

Asbestos Siding

Asbestos Siding

Asbestos was very durable, fire resistant and moisture resistant making it a popular form of siding. Many homes are sided with Asbestos or have a layer of Asbestos concealed under other siding materials. When the siding because brittle and deteriorated, or with renovations it can pose a health concern.

Aged Sheet Flooring

Flooring

9″ x 9″ has a higher probability but 12″ x 12″, sheet flooring, and other materials were often manufactured with asbestos. There was also Asbestos used in some of the glue materials.

Aged Wallpaper

Wall Coatings

Wallpaper, textured ceilings and other surface treatments also contained asbestos. These are frequently considered outdate components and are likely to become friable during renovations.

Asbestos Roofing Material

Other Materials

Roofing shingles (asbestos) and even asphault shingles had Asbestos content in some cases. Also drywall, muds and various other building products. 

Aged Drum Trap

Plumbing Common Issues By Age

  • 1935 – Brass Supplies No Longer Used
  • 1940 – Lead Supplies No Longer Popular
  • 1943 – Copper In Use
  • 1950 – Galvanized Steel Supplies No Longer Used
  • 1965 – PE Plyethylene In Use
  • 1968 – PVC or Polyvinyl chloride in use
  • 1978-95 – PB or polybutylene in Use
  • 1995- PEX or Cross-linked polyethylene in use

*These dates are all estimated and not absolute

Aged Plumbing

We have used many methods of plumbing over the years. Some methods have changed and materials have proven ineffective. Many old homes have aged components, some still in use.

polybutylene piping

Polybutylene Piping

Polybutylene piping (PB) is a plastic piping that was used as a plumbing supply pipe from 1978 to 1995. It is prone to failure and is no longer in use.

Lead Piping

Lead Piping

Lead piping is aged and prone to failure. While waste piping is pictured here, when used for water supply piping it is a health concern for water contamination. 

Aged Cast Iron Piping

Cast Iron Piping

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Brass Piping

Brass Piping

Brass water supply piping was used in homes for a number of years and brass components are still produced today. Some aged brass supply piping is at the end of its service life. 

Steel Piping

Steel Supply Piping

Aged Galvanized Steel Piping is no longer used today. It deteriorates from the inside out and can develop corrosion and pinhole leakage over time. This piping should be replaced proactively.

Aged Structure

In many ways the lumber and materials used in historic homes has its advantages. While this is true there are various structural concerns that come up during the course of an inspection. 

Powder Post Beetle Damage

Wood Destroying Insect Damage

Old homes sit very low in many cases and wood soil contact was not avoided or has worsened over time. A combination of this and moisture issues, low crawlspaces, and other design issues create conducive conditions for insect activity. Many old homes have moisture issues and related insect problems.

Sagging Framing

Undersized/Deteriorated/Sagging Framing

Many old homes were built by normal members of the community. Today we use engineers and architects to ensure how a structure is designed will be properly supported. Many homes have framing that is deflecting to a point where a structural concern is present.

Mold Like Staining Door

Moisture Infiltration Issues

Many old homes were not built with the intention of getting a waterproof basement area. Today we use homes differently and have a better understanding of building science. As a result, we see numerous homes with old, wet foundations that have been finished for living space. These create various mold issues and air quality problems.

“We are first time home buyers and we’re looking at a historic property. We knew the inspection was going to be complex, but a lot of it was more over our heads than we expected. Jameson not only came on short notice, but spent at least an extra hour with us explaining everything in detail, not just what he was seeing but also giving a detailed explanation of the different types of contractors/professionals we would need to engage in.


His write up afterwards was also the most detailed we’ve ever seen, with detailed explanations and annotated pictures.

Would whole heartedly recommend to anyone looking for a home inspection before buying!” – Five Star Rating

Daniel

But wait…there’s more….

This is just the tip of the iceberg

While we have provided some of the most common issues we see, there are many more things to know. Building products have evolved over time and our homes have changed drastically for a reason. This guide may help you understand what types of things make an old home a challenge, but when it comes down to it you can’t be prepared for everything. Make sure your inspector knows old homes and can be prepared for the various issues you might run into.