As we all know, older homes have that kind of character that captivates us. Boasting beautiful architectural features such as classic windows, antique doors and solid walls that you might not find on newer buildings anymore. When it comes to refurbishing though, older houses pose a myriad of challenges and costs that might overwhelm the owners. These problems are very evident especially in houses that already have an extensive list of previous owners since you would not know what kind of refurbishing they already did in the past. Although some of these problems can be rectified with modern methods, you should understand that they do things differently in the past and might not be a good thing if you are on a very tight budget. We will discuss in here the most common refurbishing issues for old houses and how to prepare for them.
Use of unsafe/banned building materials
There’s a good chance that if your house was built several decades ago, the paint that was used on it has lead content and asbestos was used on old tile floorings, ceiling tiles and wall linings. Although not harmful if left undisturbed, this might scatter and pose a health hazard to people when the refurbishing project requires extensive intrusion on the building materials. If you are unsure if these materials were used in your house in the past, you can have a professional check these dangerous materials for you before starting refurbishment. Albeit costly, the peace of mind and safety of your family must always be your top priority.
Obsolete electrical and plumbing
Most older homes have already electrical wirings and plumbing pipes installed on them by the time they were constructed. This is where the problem starts; since you can never be sure if they are still suitable for use in the modern setting. Old electrical wirings are a serious safety hazard which might cause fire if left unreplaced. You should understand that the electrical loads used in the past is of lesser consumption compared to our modern appliances. The insulation of the wirings is also susceptible to wearing especially if there is pest infestation such as rats in the past. These pests love to gnaw anything including electrical wirings. If ever you have experienced a sudden and unexplained loss of power, you may have to consider upgrading and replacing all old wirings. It will be costly, but this will ensure that your house is ready to cater all your electrical needs.
In the past, galvanized pipes were extensively used in homes as well as drainage lines. Although it was a safer alternative to lead pipes when it first came out; we had learned that decades of exposure to water causes galvanized pipes to corrode and rust on the inside. You can tell that there is corrosion inside the pipes if there is 1. Low water pressure 2. Uneven distribution of water 3. Discoloration of water and 4. Presence of leaks. Consider using PVC pipes for your plumbing as they are corrosion-resistant, low-heat conductivity and easy to install. PVC pipes also have a long-life service at about 50 – 100 years; you install and basically just forget about it.
Unavailability of materials
Building standards and codes were very different when old houses were constructed. Most often than not the materials that was used were completely different or already banned from use because of health hazards. The rooms were smaller, the doors much narrower and partitions/corridors were not ergonomically designed. Maintaining the beautiful characteristic of an old house can be very difficult and tricky since you need to match everything in your renovation. For example, depending on the country; the use of wood in highly regulated due to environmental concerns. This adds to the difficulty in acquiring certain kinds of wood needed for your home. There are other options if you really want to acquire these materials such as salvage and reuse stores. Bear in mind that aside from the expensive initial cost and specialized professional installation fee, you may not get the exact match for your specific material. Sometimes, it is much better and affordable to use modern techniques and materials that mimic how old houses look like in the past.
Old-fashioned building layouts
Most houses built in the olden times have outdated layouts that would make modern living uncomfortable and difficult. Back in the day, houses are built with rooms for every single purpose. Open floorplans that encompasses the kitchen, dining and living rooms were non-existent. This is very difficult for people who always re-arranges the setup of the house every now and then since the freedom to do so is very limited. Having multiple room built for every single purpose will also feel like your house is a maze. Walk-in closets and bathrooms attached to the master bedroom is also non-existent in old building designs since they are separated on other rooms. Just tear down the walls you say? don’t. Not before you have consulted a structural engineer or an architect about it. Reckless tearing down of walls is not only costly but also dangerous. You need to understand that there are load-bearing walls that ensures that the whole structure is will not fall on its own.
Frequent bad refurbishing works
The more times it’s has been sold and changed hands, an old house is more likely to have been refurbished repeatedly. Sometimes, with complete disregard to the original design of the structure. And in worst case scenarios, these renovations are stacked on top of each other. Without removing the previous works done by the previous owner to speed up the refurbishing process. These previous “improvements” is difficult to notice not until the start of your renovation project. You might even notice “shortcuts” done just to complete a project on time. This a very clear indication that there more underlying problems hidden beneath those numerous refurbishing works. It is very important to employ a competent refurbishing contractor that you can trust to deliver quality works and good workmanship that is worth every penny.