Monday, August 12, 2013

Maintaining an Older Home

Older homes offer solid construction and beautiful architectural details. Some are situated in neighborhoods that have aged into vibrant communities with many amenities and mature trees. A home that looks aesthetically perfect can conceal problems if systems and structures have not been regularly upgraded. Some can be simple fixes while others will require complicated overhauls and skilled professionals in order to accomplish them.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive and easy to install. Carbon monoxide risks may be elevated by some older heating systems so this should be one of the first things to check off your list. It is probably a task that you can accomplish yourself, if you wish.

Lead paint can be a problem. Be aware that contractors must be licensed for lead-safe practices by the EPA when working on construction that predates 1978, so this is something to look for if you are having renovations done to your older home. It not only protects the environment from lead exposure, but it protects people in your home from potentially serious effects of lead poisoning.

Aging electrical systems will have knob-and-tube or aluminum wiring. Both of these can pose a fire risk and should be replaced with new wiring as soon as possible. This is especially true where the wiring is surrounded by insulation, like in an attic.

Plumbing systems that use old metal pipes can corrode. Failing pipes can obviously cause very expensive water damage, in the event of a serious leak. Low water pressure in an older home may be evidence of mineral build-up within the pipes.

Since the beauty and history of older homes is often the reason they are so loved by homeowners, caring for that aspect of the house can be a labor of love, but it is still work. Cracks in settled walls will need to be patched and old oil based paint may need to be covered. Rather than removing paint from wood trim, it may be preferable to smooth over uneven spots with spackling compound. Using a high quality paint will be essential to covering surfaces that were painted with oil-based paint in the past.

Preserving the architectural details that make older homes stand out may require custom carpentry for replacement pieces, as oftentimes pre-cut trim pieces will no longer be available in the style that is required. A skilled professional can handle this beautifully, as well as tackle the task of replacing square doors and windows in walls that may have settled and shifted.

Saving and enhancing a home with history can be a joy for homeowners. Avoid unpleasant surprises by evaluating and maintaining the home as needed. If you are considering buying an older home to renovate, be sure to understand what will require attention so that you can enjoy the projects and budget for them.

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