Building Inspections in Older Houses: 6 Key Things We Look For
We at House Inspections Melbourne have seen many houses in our time, new and old. We understand the appeal of older houses. Classic features, solid structures, and often located in some of Melbourne’s most popular suburbs. Whilst nothing beats the charm and character of an older house, there are some things you need to look out for before making the commitment.
Luckily, with a professional building inspection in Melbourne, you know that someone else is looking out for you. This means you can be confident with your new home, and enjoy it for years to come. And what exactly do we look for? Lots of things actually, but we know the concerns that are specific to older homes, and can help ensure yours is going to stay strong with you.
Asbestos, a word able to strike fear within anyone buying a new home. Frequently used throughout the 20th century, asbestos seemed like a miracle in its ability to fireproof and provide insulation. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s when concern about the health dangers of asbestos spread around Australia. Eventually it completely banned in 2003, when it was undeniably linked to many types of diseases. It is fibres from asbestos that cause issues, only when the material starts to break down and spread in the air. However it can be hard to track asbestos break down, meaning that any asbestos in a house is a potential health risk. These fibres lead mostly to lung issues, often potentially deadly ones.
Any houses built before the complete banning of asbestos in Australia need to be inspected to ensure they have not been built using the material. It’s most likely to be found in houses built around the 80s. However, since our discovery of its dangers, asbestos has been removed carefully by trained professionals in many houses that originally contained the material. Once removed properly, asbestos is no longer a potential health risk.
This means that even if we discover use of asbestos in your potential new home, you don’t need to automatically give up on your dream home. There are many licensed removalists operating around Melbourne. We are more than happy to offer advice on how to proceed if asbestos is found during your house inspection.
2: Insufficient Insulation
As you can tell from reading about asbestos, we were not as educated about insulation back in the days as we are now. The technology and science has come a long way, but this means that an older house may not be properly insulated. In Melbourne’s extreme weather, keeping the cool in during the summer, and the rain and wind out during the winter, is extremely important. When conducting a house inspection in Melbourne we know how to look for signs that your house is properly insulated.
The two biggest worries is insulation in the ceiling, and the windows. Ceiling insulation sometimes needs to be updated if it has been in an old home for too long, and no longer performing efficiently. This poor insulation can easily start racking up higher energy bills if not addressed. But don’t worry, if your home inspection discovers that there is poor insulation, it is a reasonably easy fix. Installing new insulation is not too difficult of a task, it can be done as a DIY or by a professional.
Why windows? It’s simple really, windows often make up the biggest source for potential weather leaks between your house and outside. One of the problems with windows in older houses is that when the wood and glass start to age they can warp a little bit. This will create gaps in the windows even when they are closed. That little bit of room can allow air to get in without you realizing what the problem even is. The actual glass on the window also changes their effectiveness. In any old house where the windows have not been updated recently we would suggest looking into installing new energy efficient windows.
3: Lead Paint and Plumbing
Another substance we only discovered was harmful once we built houses with it is lead. Lead is particularly harmful to young children or expectant mothers. Lead was commonly used in paint during and before the 1970s, meaning houses from this era might be painted using lead paint. Lead paint scrapings can become airborne and enter our system. This could lead to a variety of illnesses and should definitely be avoided. Lead paint should be removed by experts before considering moving into a home.
The other potential source of this harmful substance is in the plumbing. Lead plumbing could be installed in any house built before 1986. It is okay to have small traces of lead in pipes throughout the house, this won’t let lead enter your body. However, too much can be a danger. Thankfully this is the one problem you don’t even need us to address. Lead testing kits can be purchased to test your water quality for less than $50, and can ensure peace of mind.
Pests are a commonly known issue for older houses. Termites, amongst other pests can love the structure and wood found in older houses. Sometimes the damage signs are obvious, but in other situations it can be hard to pick up unless by professionals. Damage can grow over time, and in older houses with attics or more room under the house, they can cause significant damage.
Don’t worry though, we have the tools to check for termite infections, and are experts at discovering them. Although, if you have chosen an older home to purchase and move into, we do suggest being wary of possible termite infections and keeping an eye out. For more information on how and why to do these, read our post on termite infections.
5: Structural Damage
Older houses have had more time to be exposed to natural things that may start to weaken the structure of a house. What might have started out with a small level of unevenness can increase to a level where it has serious effects. The wood can slowly start to root and weaken. Moisture in the soil can start to seep up. Walls can start to crack.These are only possible occurrences, and not things that are definitely going to happen.
We are used to detecting when these issues are happening, or have potential to happen. For example, during a house inspection we conducted in Richmond recently, we found that the timber was in contact with soil. This had not yet caused damage, but was something that had the potential to be an issue over time.
Structural damage can be a minor problem, that when addressed early can not cost very much to fix. In these cases you can still make a purchase and simply be sure to make the needed changes before settling in. However, it can also be a serious issue that could potentially cost you extra tens of thousands of dollars. On top of Melbourne housing prices, this is the last thing you want to have to deal with, so be sure to conduct a home inspection that looks for these issues.
6: Outdated Appliances and Wiring
Older mechanical equipment in a house can cause problems down the road. You need to be sure when purchasing a house that you know what appliances and equipment are already installed, so you have the information on when and how to update them. The how is important, as the older wiring in a house may be incompatible with new appliances, or can even be dangerous.
Faulty older electrical systems are known to cause fires in houses where the owners are not aware of what is going on. Our house inspection reports will be able to look into the current wiring and appliances of the home and see if they are safe or need to be replaced.
Replacement can sometimes mean replacing all the wiring and electrics to ensure safety. Whilst this may be expensive initially, it will allow for brand new appliances, which might be something you desire when setting up your dream home. It could also mean replacing just a few parts, but being aware of upkeep for everything else. We don’t just provide you with a report, we provide you with practical advice on how to proceed if your dream home does have any of these issues.
Yes, this may be scary hearing about the dangers of older homes. But no home is perfect, even newly built ones. Not every old house will have all of these problems, or any of them. As long as you have your home inspected, either before auction or before purchase, you will be okay. We will pick up on any potential issues of the house and offer advice as to whether they are fixable, or an issue too large to risk. Older homes can be lived in and loved without sacrificing your family’s safety. Considering an older house for your new home? Contact us today to arrange an inspection.