New England contains centuries of history. Since the first settlers landed, the East Coast has been the center of commerce and community for America.
So it’s no surprise that many homes in the New England area are well aged … from homes built during the wave of development following World War II, to buildings the first settlers occupied in the 18th century.
Older homes can be chock-full of character and history—a great place for your family or next investment property. But if you’re looking to put your name on the deed of an older home, you should know what issues you need to look out for.
As a regional HouseMaster franchisee, I’ve been working in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine for several decades. Our team has seen houses in all types of condition—from well maintained to severely run-down.
In this article, I will discuss the three most common areas that need repairs in older homes. Use this article so you know what to look for when you begin the process of vetting your next property—or how to upkeep the property you already have!
Let’s talk about plumbing
Depending on age and upkeep, plumbing systems are one major area where problems can start popping up. Usually these problems manifest as leaks … leaking faucets, leaking sinks, and leaking toilets.
Small problems like leaks can cause far worse ancillary damage over time, such as rotting or damaged floors and ceilings. It can cost up to 30 times more to fix damage caused by deferred maintenance as opposed to early intervention.
It’s important to look at what causes leaks. Acidic water can cause inline valves to corrode over time, leading to water damage. And this damage isn’t always obvious—leaks inside walls could lead to mold, structural damage, and air quality issues within the home. Private or municipal water testing is essential to make sure your water is not at a pH that will damage pipes over the long-run.
Leaks can also be caused by loose fixtures and disconnected drains.
If you are planning on buying an older home, have your home inspector walk you through the home’s plumbing system so you have a full picture of potential and current issues. You should know where your water comes from and how to maintain your plumbing system—a home inspection is the best place to start.
Check your roof
In the northeast, winter weather is likely to cause wear and tear. Without regular repair and maintenance, shingles with a 15- to 20-year lifespan may only last 8 to 10 years.
As a homebuyer, look for the following issues that can stem from improper maintenance:
- Leaks and mold from degraded boots
- Rotting sills from inadequate gutters
- Carpenter ant infestations anywhere there is rot
- Rot and mold from improper ventilation and insulation
And if you say “yes” to your dream home, do the following to make sure your roof lasts longer:
- Have a professional clear brush from your roof at regular intervals
- Inspect the boots on your roof regularly; they can degrade from UV light
- Make sure your gutters are cleared and are adequate for rainfall
- Install appropriate insulation inside your home
As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Don’t let your electricity go haywire
Your home may still have outdated electrical systems depending on its age.
Homes over 200 years old often still have knob-and-tube wiring, a wiring system that is no longer used for safety reasons. If you have this type of wiring, you may have to completely disconnect and remove it before you can get home insurance.
In general, age is a great reason to inspect your electrical system for odd, unsafe repairs made during the last decades. Past owners may have connected two lines to one breaker or overutilized one line without dropping it to a second box.
Before you buy your dream New England cottage, have a certified inspector check the electrical systems to make sure they are up to date—and if they aren’t, learn what it will take to get those systems up to code.
Home inspections are a must
Buying your dream property doesn’t need to be a nightmare.
Always contract a certified home inspection company to inspect your potential home—and make sure you accompany the inspector so you know whether the bones of the building may have future problems in store.
Click here to schedule your home inspection or find a home inspector near you. We provide services throughout New Hampshire and southern Maine. We would love to take a look at your mid-century beauty (no matter the century!).