Renovating an Older Home: Things to Think About

November 21, 2017


So you’ve bought a home that was built before the horseless carriage was a thing. A pre-war abode...and I mean pre-US Civil War. Renovation and updating are a must. However, older homes can come with a whole host of problems that can increase reno budgets dramatically. Here are some things to think about before you start ripping things down to the studs.

1.Outdated layouts. Sometimes a certain style of layout can come back in fashion and all you really need to think about is cosmetic. However, many homes built in the 60’s and 70’ feel very compartmentalized and today’s buyer wants more of an open concept. This level of construction, where one start removing walls, can become costly very quickly. The upside is changing a layout can increase the value of the home.

2.Asbestos. A huge problem in many older homes that were built before we knew about the dangers of breaking up tiles and drywall containing the highly dangerous substance. Before doing anything with an older home you’ll need to get an inspection done to see if asbestos is present. If so, you’ll need hire experts to demolish and remove the material. This, of course, means time and money. But let’s face it, cancer is worse.

3.Old windows and seals. Windows are always a concern when it comes to water ingression. Long-term ingress can lead to mold and rot issues within the walls around the window. Unscrupulous owners will try and cover this up with wallpaper or paint. One would hope a home inspection took place before purchase and these issues, if present, would have been taken into account. However, sometimes you don’t know the scope of the problem until you start pulling off all the drywall. Moldy areas require professional cleaning to make sure it does not become a health hazard.

4. Old plumbing and electrical. Building codes change. Naturally, many properties were built before building codes were updated but don’t require upgrading until big renovation jobs come along. Discovering outdated plumbing and electrical can add thousands to your already stretched budget. Old galvanized pipes can become corroded over the years and need to be replaced with modern PVC pipes. Old knob and tube wiring may not be properly grounded, nor may they be able to handle the requirements of today’s multitude of modern appliances. Be prepared that this can happen.

5.Aging brickwork. Yes, bricks and mortar are strong but these too can develop cracks where water can get in. In fact, they can simply erode over time. Brick walls and features will need to be inspected and/or replaced altogether.

Before you start your demolition and remodel, make sure your job has been given the green light by your municipality, or if need be, your strata. A competent contractor should be able to get all of the required documentation. As well, make sure your home isn’t on a preservation list that may require certain aspects of the home to remain true to historical accuracy.