Want To Buy an Old Home? Be On The Lookout For These Big Issues

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Every week, the detail-oriented folks at Green Scene Home Inspections will give CandysDirt.com readers an education in inspection. Want to see what they see? Tune in  for “Upon Closer Inspection.”

When we inspect older homes, we often find original or “as-built” conditions that are no longer up to the current building code. As a homeowner (or home buyer), you’d want to know about this because 1) the material or installation is no longer considered safe and 2) replacing it may be costly.

Here are a few examples of things we’ve found that were considered OK when the house was built, but aren’t anymore:

Knob And Tube Wiring

Knob & Tube Wiring was the standard for electrical wiring in homes from about the 1880s through the 1930s when it was deemed both unsafe and more costly than cable wiring. We don’t often see Knob & Tube wiring, and even less often do we see it actually in use. This was found in a historic home and would be even more of a fire hazard considering the age of the equipment.

Cast Iron Pipes

Cast iron pipes first came into use in the US in the early 1800s, and you still see them in use in older homes. Unfortunately, cast iron pipes have a life expectancy, and begin to corrode over time. Replacing them can be pretty expensive. This is a corroded and blistered cast iron pipe, seen from the crawl space in a pier & beam house. You’ll see cast iron pipes in homes built before about 1980.

Grey Ductwork

Grey ductwork, or grey flex duct, is a product that was used in homes, mostly in the 1980s, as insulation for ductwork. It fell out of use by the early ’90s because the outer grey coating was found to deteriorate when exposed to high heat or UV rays.

Of course, that means attics are generally a bad place for it to function.  This one has pretty much disintegrated.

Zinsco Electrical Panels

Zinsco was a popular brand of electrical panel in the 1970s. The company is now defunct, but some homes built in the 70s still have these unsafe panels.

Our inspector Brian demonstrates the danger using his thermal imaging camera.  


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    • mmJoanna England says

      Hi James. Super curious about your comment. What homework is there left to do? This is a column submitted by Green Scene Home Inspections, who are hired to inspect homes of all ages all over the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

      Now, if you do have specific issues you’d like to rebut, feel free to reply. If you have a more in-depth perspective, let us know — we could include your column, too.

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