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Common Issues With Older Homes

By October 9, 2020October 22nd, 2020Home Buying, Podcast
Common Issues With Older Homes

There are many common issues with older homes that consistently raise concerns for home buyers, agents, and home sellers during the real estate transaction.

In this episode of Waypoint Real Talk, and on our blog, we will bring to light the most common issues Realtors and home inspectors find.

Read the full blog below!

Listen to the Podcast

Thank you Jane McCroary for joining us on this episode of Waypoint Real Talk!

Common Issues With Older Homes

Most of the items discussed below become a major issue during the four point inspection, which is an insurance required inspection for Florida homeowners. However, other states will still have these common issues that appear on their home inspection reports.

Furthermore, some items deal with the structural integrity of the home that are not included in the four point inspection but would be in a home inspection.

It is a good idea for sellers to look into a pre-listing inspection as this will alleviate many of the headaches when going to sell your home. You can view our timeline of home issues to coordinate which common home issues you may have depending on when your house was built.

Let’s break down the common issues with older homes that can be discovered.

Common problems found in electrical systems

Electrical


This an outdated wiring system made out of cloth insulated wiring. Many insurance companies will require cloth wiring to be removed and replaced.

Knob & Tube wiring is commonly frayed, exposed, and unprofessionally altered.

Single strand aluminum wiring was installed in the mid-1970s. It is important to note, we are only talking about single strand aluminum wiring or wiring for branch circuits. We are NOT talking about multi strand aluminum wiring which is commonly used today for grounding and neutral connections of panels and is safe.

Single strand aluminum wiring expands and contracts at different rates than copper. This can cause arcing, overheating, and potential fires as the metal connections loosen.

There are remedies available. Learn more.

GTE Sylvania Zinsco Electrical Panel

Hazardous Electrical Panels

Some electrical panels have been discovered to have faults that can cause fires, injuries, or damage. See the list below and click the links to read more.

Challenger Electrical Panels

GTE / Sylvania-Zinsco Electrical Panels

Federal Pacific Electrical Panels

Fuse Boxes

Two prong outlets are ungrounded outlets. Grounding is important for safety and if there is an excess of electricity through some type of surge, it will discharge the electricity to the ground rather than the appliance, or possibly a human.

Exposed electrical wiring

Exposed Electrical Wiring

Exposed electrical wiring can be anywhere and this is a sign of unprofessional workmanship.

All wiring should be in a conduit unless in an area that is not required by code. In most areas that are reachable and livable, wiring will need to be in junction boxes and in conduits.

It is common for home inspectors to find exposed wiring in a garage or in an attic, both areas of which are required to have junction boxes and conduits to protect the wiring, people, and your home.

GFCI’s are required in kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoors. – Basically any area that is near water.

GFCI outlets and breakers will automatically shut off electricity to a circuit if there is a surge detected.

Common problems with plumbing in older homes

Plumbing


Water Heater TPR Valve Failures

Water Heaters

Water heaters can last about 10-15 years so older water heaters will need to be maintained to extend the life of the unit.

Moreover, water heaters are required to have TPR valves and discharge tubes. If the discharge tube is missing, improper, or leaking, a professional should repair it.

TPR valves are required on almost all types of water heaters. Some tankless heaters do not require TPR valves.

Orangeburg drain lines are more common in northern and western climates than in Florida. They were common in the ’40s to early 70’s, and today are outdated, leak, and can collapse. Most Orangeburg drain lines have since been replaced.

Cast Iron drain lines on the other hand are much more common. These were commonly installed before the 1970s and now are outdated. Cast iron drain lines are beginning to corrode from the inside and require sewer scoping to inspect the integrity of the pipes.

With cast iron, it is not a matter of if they will need to be replaced, it is a matter of when.

why is an s trap illegal

Septic Systems

Outdated, or unmaintained septic systems can cause issues during the home buying process.

While most home inspectors do not inspect septic systems, you should have your own septic system inspection completed before purchasing any property. Sellers might want to consider having their septic inspected before they list their property.

Tankless water heaters

Washer Drain Lines

Washer drain pipes must be 2 inches in width. Some homeowners may try to unprofessionally drain their washer into a smaller pipe (1.5 inches) when looking to move their washer/dryer into their home.

Common problems with roofs and attics in older homes

Roofing/Attics


Hurricane clips and straps are used to tie down the roofing system to the exterior of the home.

The clips are required to be nailed into the top plates of the exterior wall and then have 3 nails into the truss cord over that exterior wall.

Straps/Wraps are required to have 3 nails as well, but at least two nails should be on the upside of the strap and one nail should be on the downside of the strap.

Important Note: These requirements are for insurance discounts for wind mitigation credits. If homeowners do not meet the standards noted above, they may have retrofitting completed to receive those discounts.

black mold in attic

Bathroom Vent Fans Venting Into The Attic

Bathroom vent fans are supposed to vent to the exterior of the home. However, in Florida, we see many vent fans just venting into attics.

This is because in order to discharge a bathroom vent to the exterior, most homeowners would have to put a hole in their roof and hire additional contractors to ensure it is properly sealed.

Discharging bathroom vents into attics can be a bigger deal in northern climates since the humid air from bathroom showers easily condenses with the air in your attics. This can cause mold, and stains to appear on your ceilings.

But, in Florida, we have very humid air, so an argument could be made that the humid air from bathrooms will not condense in our attics.

Offset ridge vent

Improper Attic Vents & Roof Leaks

Many times if there is a roof leak, it is going to be an area with a roofing penetration from an attic vent or a plumbing stack.

Attic vents will need to be installed to manufacturer’s specifications, and be properly maintained.

Roof leaks can also occur in roofing valleys that are highways of water runoff.

Issues with air conditioning systems

Air Conditioning


Goodman Ac Age

Old Air Conditioning Systems & Temperature Differentials

Older A/C systems tend to not work as well or were improperly maintained.

During inspections, we look for temperature differentials, which is the temperature of the air going into the unit versus the temperature of the air coming out of the unit. The differential should be between 14 and 24 degrees.

This means the air should be cooling anywhere from 14-24 degrees. If it is not cooling enough, your A/C unit would be working harder to keep your home cool. If you A/C is cooling too much, you can damage your A/C unit or not get enough humidity out of your air.

Learn about air conditioner maintenance.

Mold Near/In Air Handlers: A Common Place for Mold

Accessibility for Air Handlers

Air handlers should be properly accessible even if in the attic.

Accessibility requirements are by code, but in general:

  • There should be a walkway to get to the unit if in the attic.
  • There should be a platform to work on the unit.
  • There should be plenty of space for tools and an outlet nearby.
  • There should be a light if in the attic.

You should check with local code requirements on specifics of accessibility of air handlers.

Old Freon & Newer Units

Older air conditioning systems use a less efficient and now more expensive freon named R-22.

R-22 freon can be damaging to the ozone layer and is now being phased out, therefore, it is a lot more expensive.

Newer air conditioning systems use a freon that is more efficient and cheaper named R-410A.

You cannot mix freons and you must ensure units are capable of receiving a type of freon before using. So, if you are planning to replace your air conditioning system, you may have to replace both depending on the type of freon your older unit is designed for.

Miscellaneous Items


Broken Window Springs & Rough Sliders

Broken window springs, where windows do not stay open is a common find in older homes. While easy to fix, it can be difficult for those that are less handy.

On the same accord, sliding glass doors tend to get rough when they are aged. The door tracks should be cleaned and the sliding door rollers should be replaced.

Termites & Evidence of Termites

Evidence of termites is a common find for homes in specific climates, like Florida.

Most older homes will have termites at some point if they are not properly maintained with termite treatments/bonds. Termites like wood that is wet, so most areas with termites will also have a water intrusion problem that will need to be addressed.

It is a common myth that concrete block homes cannot get termites. There is a lot of wood in concrete block homes such as the: framing, baseboards, doors/trim, and truss system.

Stucco In Contact With The Ground

Wood-framed homes should not have its stucco in contact with the ground. There should be a minimum of 2 inches between the ground and the stucco.

The clearance between the stucco and the ground will help keep moisture, termites, and other bugs away from the wood siding.

If stucco is in contact with the ground, this can cause water intrusion and wood rot.

Lead Paint

Lead paint can appear in homes prior to the 1950s. Lead paint, if flaked, can get into the air and then be breathed in by humans. If inhaled, a person could get lead poisoning from lead-based paint.

Homeowners can conduct lead-based paint testing with some home inspection companies.

Additionally, lead paint might occur under newer layers of paint. While this is generally considered okay, homeowners should be aware if there is lead-based paint in the home. If a homeowner designed to do renovations, humans might get lead-based paint poisoning from demoing walls.

Mold Growth

Mold growth is common in older homes from water intrusion issues. Mold can either grow on surfaces or become undetected in the air.

You can have mold growth in attics, from your air conditioning systems, and many other areas.

Learn how inspectors test for mold.

Structural Issues

Last but not least is structural issues.

Structural issues are a frequent discovery for older homes since our building standards have changed.

Furthermore, the Earth can move and if the home has poor water drainage, it can further affect house movement.

Experienced home inspectors can detect when there is a concern of a structural problem. However, homeowners should call a structural engineer to further evaluate their homes and consider possible remedies.

Concluding Common Issues With Older Homes


If you have not already, check out our old home timeline that shows issues with older homes and what aged homes will have those issues.

Again, these are all common issues with older homes that Realtors, home buyers, and sellers, can run into during the home buying process. Home sellers can have a pre-listing inspection to avoid many of these issues. Homebuyers can have an experienced realtor and home inspection company on their side to help them during the negotiation process.

Huge thank you to Jane McCroary, with Re/Max Metro in Pinellas County, Florida for joining us on the Waypoint Real Talk Podcast!

If you have additional questions or comments about common issues with older homes, leave them below!

Aaron Shishilla

Author Aaron Shishilla

Aaron Shishilla is the youngest registered professional inspector in Florida. Coming from a family-owned home inspection company and now the marketing manager at Waypoint.

More posts by Aaron Shishilla

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