Buying an old house to renovate, either for a property business or purely to make into your “forever home” can be such an exciting project to take on. Old houses possess such character and charm, and interior design can be so varied within them – either embracing their age or taking risks with colour and style. Despite the charm and excitement of renovating an older house, they can also possess many hurdles and issues that many people may fail to realise. Old houses come with lots of character, but they also come with a whole host of problems you can encounter too, that if not aware of could potentially be a huge drain on your budget and burden to your life.
In this post I will highlight 10 of the Common Problems in old houses, and how you can fix them. I am not a massive expert by any measure – our current house is only 45 years old. But, from growing up in a big old house at seaside, and living in an 1900’s back to back terrace for 6.5 years previous to this one, I have a few insights and at some point along the way, have encountered many of these things.
I remember in our family home that we moved into back in 1996, that they had these really charming sash windows. Whilst gorgeous and in keeping with the age of the house, they were the most draftiest things you ever saw and would even rattle when those sea winds picked up! It wasn’t long before Mum & Dad has them replaced with “double glazing”, choosing styles in keeping with the house, but oh the memories of that first Winter with rattling windows and extra blankets for bed.
If your windows are draughty or energy bills higher than anticipated, then chances are that you may need new ones. You could try to save a few quid by re-sealing the windows – this can help with draughts and potentially fix the issue, however if there are still issues after this then you may have to look at getting your windows replaced for something more modern and energy efficient.
The electrics were another big job I remember that needed doing in our family home growing up and at present is a job we haven’t need to do in any of our homes. I kinda liked the old fashioned light switches, but of course they were most likely unsafe and ancient! Electrics are a tricky one because it is a huge job to rewire a house and a job you cannot afford to cut corners on.
If the lights in your house flicker, buzz or spark, or if you ever smell burning, do not put off calling out an electrician because the chances are they are way out of date and will need updating. Once done though, you have peace of mind and increased safety. Don’t forget that there is nothing worse than decorating a room, only to have it disrupted with rewiring – this should be one of the top of your list jobs before anything else!
An insufficient boiler is a very common problem in old houses and can quickly be an expensive job too unfortunately. For starters it is important that your boiler is the right size for the house, and next to that you will need to be looking for things like its age and how well it works when under pressure. If your home never feels warm (even with the thermostat cranked up) or your bills are mounting, the chances are that your boiler has seen better days. Remember that the older your boiler, the more insufficient it will be!
To fix this issue you can begin by bleeding radiators or flushing pipes to remove any “sludge”! If this doesn’t do the job, then you will need to look at getting a new boiler fitted. Remember to get it serviced annually to ensure it is running efficiently.
Leaking Heating Oil Tank
A lot of the older houses we looked at before buying this one had oil tanks which to me was just too much of foreign ground. However, I have come to find that living rurally or even just in an older property, it is really quite normal to find heating oil tanks. If you have one in your home, or happen to buy a house with one in, then make sure you check it regularly. Old tanks are prone to cracks and leaking, so if you notice signs of leaks or suspect a leak then shut it off immediately and contact someone.
Companies like Certas Energy can help take care of your needs with this one – they deal with all things oil. From fuel to boiler care, and tanks to new Smart Monitors, they will have you and your needs covered!
Another issue I distinctly remember from my teens was the old lead pipes in our home! I remember when we had the heating replaced and new piping put in and all being in awe over the lead pipes and how riskay they were! Whilst you may not encounter this issue in this day and age (I feel old) you may come across other issues such as water marks on the floors, ceilings or walls (not from eager kids in the bath) which may indicate leaks. Also a drop in pressure can indicate issues too.
It goes without saying that the older the house, the older it’s plumbing system and simple jobs like blockages and loose pipes can be fixed by your own fair hands (if you feel confident to), but other things will probably need a professional.
If your home was built before the 1960’s then lead paint maybe present. It’s most likely to be found on radiators or around window and door frames, and can be damaging for your health.
The good news though is that it is pretty easy to get rid of. You can seal lead paint with a coat of modern paint, or strip it using specially designed solvent. Be sure to wear the right protective gear and masks though, as breathing in dusts and fumes can cause health problems.
A lack of Insulation
If you check wall cavities, floorboards and lofts and only see empty spaces, then the chances are that your home is lacking in insulation. Good insulation in your home will help regulate its temperature – keeping it warm in the winter and cool in the Summer and will also help you save a lot in energy bills too.
Installing insulation is something you can do yourself (provided you choose the right one) but if unsure, then get the professionals in.
Thankfully I have never come across asbestos in a house we have had or lived in, and whilst it is now banned in the UK, there is the unfortunate chance of it being present in older houses (or houses built before 2000). You can check areas like the walls and ceilings to see if it is present.
If you do suspect it is there, then be sure to contact a specialist. They will be able to offer safe removal, because when disturbed, asbestos becomes fibrous and if inhaled can be dangerous.
Damp and mould are really common problems in old houses. Often black and unpleasant smelling, it is usually found where the environment is warm and damp (so kitchens and bathrooms).
Mould is easily treated with specially designed sprays and some good old elbow grease. However, if there are big patches it may need treating or the exterior may need inspecting for cracks.
Leaks in the loft or upstairs room, missing tiles etc can all indicate that your roof has seen better days! Bowing gutters and moisture are other common signs of roof deterioration but it is relatively easy to repair small cracks yourself with roof sealants. If you discover you need it retiling though or bigger cracks and holes mended, then it is probably wise to call out the professionals!
Having your own home, as I have quickly discovered is so much work and upkeep! Older houses especially require much more attention and TLC, and whilst lovely when renovated, it can be a project far bigger than you anticipate. I hope that these 10 common problems will help you be extra vigilant when buying, renovating or simply maintaining your older home and help you and your family stay warm and safe.