By Andy Meredith
If you’re thinking of investing in an old home, you could have a great project waiting for you that will teach you a lot and really pay off when you’re finished. You already know that it’s going to involve some work, but you may not know that old houses tend to hide some pretty expensive and time-consuming problems that may or may not be worth your time and money to fix.
I love restoring old homes, and seeing them come back to life is one of the best things in the world to me. But sometimes there’s just so much work that you couldn’t possibly hope to budget for everything, so it’s better to move on to another project. Other times, it’s definitely worthwhile to do the repairs, but it’s good to know about them from the beginning.
A Leaky Roof
So many areas have been in droughts lately that it might be difficult to pick out a leaky roof when you first look at a house. Fortunately, though, you can usually find the evidence when you take a look at the ceilings, especially in the attic and upper floors. Look for water damage and stains in the ceiling, and check for water damage on the floors, too. If you find it, you’ll likely be able to follow it back to a leak in the roof.
Most roofs are really only meant to last between 25 and 50 years at best, so if you’re renovating an older home, you should probably budget for a new roof anyway. You’ll just need to budget a bit more for repairs if there’s already damage due to one or more leaks.
Problems with the Foundation
An uneven or cracked foundation can be an inexpensive fix, or it can be a budget nightmare. Pay attention to the floors as you walk through the house. A little bit of unevenness is to be expected, but watch for slants, peaks, and valleys. Also, open and close the windows and doors. If they’re jamming or sticking, it could be because the foundation of the house has settled, shifted, or has cracks in it, causing other problems.
Check these issues out and visually inspect the outside of the house for cracks in the foundation. Then call a professional for a thorough inspection and get an estimate on what it’ll cost to fix any problems they find.
Back in the day, architects and builders dealt with shedding or retaining heat in a home by building taller ceilings or locating fireplaces in a central part of the house. They didn’t have the insulation technology we have now, so updating an old house can be tricky when it comes to energy efficiency. When faced with this kind of challenge, I usually look at the best ways to insulate without tearing out all of the walls and completely rebuilding the house. Updating the windows and caulking them can be really helpful here.
Finally, open floor plans are really popular right now, but older homes will reflect the layouts and floor plans that were popular when they were built. This means you might end up with a beautiful house that has a tiny kitchen and/or no closet space. You’re going to have to figure out whether or not you want to change the layout of the house and how you can add more space where needed without ruining its charm.
Just knowing about these four problems can help you put together a better plan for renovating almost any old house. Keep them in mind and look for them before you commit to buying the property, and you’ll be in good shape to start renovating.