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5 Maintenance Curveballs Old Homes Like to Throw

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Jessica
10.23.13

You may have bought an older home for its history and character, but that character can come with a few maintenance surprises. If your house is over 35 years old, you could be dealing with unique issues that don’t plague the newer-house crowd. Fortunately, these issues are easy to deal with if you know the warning signs.

Note: If your home was built before 1950,  it’s considered “Pre-War,” and was built with materials like wood, masonry and stone. Contact a professional before doing any major repairs to make sure modern materials will work for the job.

Here are 5 home maintenance curveballs you could be facing in an older home:

1. Pre-1940s: Grade Issues and Moisture Problems

Before the 1940s, moisture issues were typically dealt with by simply building the house off of the ground – typically about 24 inches up. Over time, however, a house can level and can now be sitting firmly on the wet, moist ground. These grading issues can lead to leaks and other moisture problems. If you haven’t had your home’s grade inspected by a professional, doing it now could save you from costly repairs in the future.

2. Pre-1940s: Steel Pipes

Steel pipes were common in pre-war homes, but they are susceptible to rust, clogging, bursting and low-water pressure (a.k.a. a huge headache for you). Professionals recommend a pipe replacement if you have steel plumbing. It sounds like a big job, but it’s better to change them out now than deal with any moisture problems or a burst pipe fiasco!

3. Pre-1960: Drafty Windows

Before the mid-century modern craze took flight, windows were typically made from wood, which means they frequently become drafty. These leaks could be costing you big bucks on your energy bill, so do a thorough window inspection to make sure air isn’t sneaking in (or out).

4. Pre-1970s: Fuse Boxes Instead of Circuit Breakers

Older homes typically have fuse boxes instead of circuit breakers, and some even have more than one fuse box. If this is the case in your home, do a thorough test so you know which box controls which area of the house. Also, always have extra fuses handy in case of a power outage. Fuses are inexpensive and can be found at any hardware store, so it’s best to stock up now before the lights go out!

5. Pre-1978: Lead Paint

In 1978, the U.S. government banned lead in paint, but before that, lead was used in almost all home paints. If you have an older home, it’s extremely important to check your home for lead-based paint, especially if you have children. Lead-based paint is dangerous if ingested, and has been linked to numerous health issues in children including nervous system damage, learning disabilities and slow growth. In adults, lead poisoning can cause irritability, nerve damage and a low sperm count. So make sure your home has been checked!

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