Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Older Homes - What you need to know

     In the home inspection world any home built prior to 1960 is considered a 'vintage' home.  Although building codes were being used as early as the 1920's often enforcement was spotty and each individual city or town adopted it's own.  There were 3 main building code groups in the US that combined in the 1990's and in 1997 the first edition of the International Building Code (IBC) was published and is used for the construction of homes today.

The main purpose of building codes are to protect public health, safety and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures. The building code continues to change and evolve as technology improves.
Some of the items listed below may be present in older homes and should be taken into consideration if you are living in, or are considering buying, an old home.  These items likely met the building codes in force at the times the homes were built but MAY no longer be considered acceptable in homes built today.
There is no requirement to bring an old home up to current codes but these items may result in an higher than average maintenance budget.
Galvanized Pipes – Prior to about 1960 it was common to use galvanized steel piping for water supply lines but it is no longer in use today in residential construction. Over time galvanized piping will corrode from the inside out effectively reducing the available water pressure. Also corrosion can occur if the piping comes in contact with dissimilar metals potentially causing a leak. At some point the supply lines will need to be replaced.
Knob and Tube Wiring – Prior to about 1930 knob and tube wiring was the original method used for running interior electrical lines and can still be found in use in old houses.  The individual wires were run through the house and connected to devices.  This is no longer considered a safe practice and should be replaced when found. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knob_and_tube_wiring
Aluminum Wiring (late 1960’s through mid to late 1970’s) – When the price of copper increased significantly in the mid to late 1960’s entire houses were often wired with aluminum wiring.  The use ended in the mid to late 1970’s when aluminum wiring CONNECTIONS were found to be the cause of some fires.  The problem can be solved by connecting the aluminum wire to devices that are made of materials that are compatible with aluminum and treating it with an oxide inhibitor that is intended for aluminum wiring. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminum_wiring
Repairing Aluminum Wiring http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/516.pdf
Lead Based Paint – According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) any home built prior to 1978 may contain lead based paint which can be toxic to humans’, especially children under the age of 6, if the lead is distributed into the air during repairs or renovations.  The EPA has established guidelines for the proper way to repair or renovate a home built prior to 1978 to reduce the chance of exposure. http://epa.gov/lead/rrp/index.html
Asbestos - http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/ Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. A common misconception is that asbestos has been banned completely from use in products. This is not true.  It is important to understand the dangers of asbestos and how to limit your exposure.  Click this link for a list of products in which asbestos has been banned. http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/federalbans.html.