Are you the proud owner of an old home? For our purposes let’s say an ‘old home’ is anything built before 1970 (no, that doesn’t mean I’m calling you old. Please don’t hurt me…). You were probably quick to make sure that the paint in your home is lead-free and asbestos is absent from the pipes and insulation, but there is still a lot more to your old house than meets the eye. For example:
1. An Outdated Electrical System
Federal Pacific. Pushmatic. Zinsco.
Go to your electrical panel and take a look at the brand- do any of these names sound familiar? If so, you may have a dangerously outdated panel. Federal Pacific distributed millions of panels before 1980, but since then it has been revealed that many of those panels did not test to UL safety standards, yet were distributed anyway. If you’ve got a Federal Pacific panel, it may be a serious accident waiting to happen. Zinsco panels are a similar story- a design flaw causes the connection to the bus bar to become loose, which can result in the breaker contacts fusing together, which in turn will result in the panel’s failure to trip. Failure to trip = serious shock/fire hazard. Pushmatic panels do not have such a dangerous history, but it is recommended that they be replaced because they are well past obsolete. The older a system is, the more likely a failure is. If you think your old house has an outdated electrical panel or wiring, call a professional electrician.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that has been pinpointed as one of the leading causes of lung cancer in the United States (only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths). It is colorless, odorless, tasteless…. and radioactive. Radon is produced in the soil as the result of the natural decay of uranium, and seeps into your home through cracks in the foundation and other openings. Once in the air in your home, where it becomes trapped, radon can build up to dangerous levels. You can test for radon in your home by yourself, but you will probably need to hire someone else to fix it (it is very fixable).
The foundation of an older home can crack due to age (poor soil conditions that cause your home to sink/pull apart over time) or poor craftsmanship, but it needs to be fixed immediately- not only because cracks in the foundation can allow more radon to seep in, but because a sagging/cracking/bowed foundation can lead to a multitude of other problems. Depending on the issue (sometimes the cause of the cracking is unclear), you may need to call in a structural engineer.
All photos from Wikimedia Commons.
Share your $0.02! Have you experienced any of these (or other) problems with your old home? What did you do to fix it? What other issues do you recommend owners of older homes watch out for?
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