The older the house, the bigger the renovation. Many home renovators enjoy older homes because of their great “skeletons”; the framework is more solid, and the infrastructure can give way to charming little quirks, such as antique cabinets or dumbwaiters, that were prevalent in older times. However, older homes are also more dangerous to renovate.
Substances such as asbestos and lead were once widely used in home construction because no one knew of the dangers that they posed to a home’s inhabitants. If you have committed to a property that more than a decade old, you are likely to find some of these substances, quickly transforming your renovation from a passion project to a health hazard. What should you look for before you begin your home overhaul? Here are a few tips.
Asbestos. This is one of the most common dangers in old housing. This material was used for siding and insulation until the 1990s when it was officially banned because of its high risk. Asbestos, when inhaled, can cause damage to the lungs and the lining of the chest. However, some symptoms take as long as four decades to appear, making it difficult know if you’ve been exposed. In fact, many workers who were exposed to the material in the 60s are just now filing for mesothelioma compensation.
Lead. Lead was once used in paint to create specific pigments. It may seem harmless, but once the paint begins to chip, there’s a risk of children ingesting it, which can cause problems such as growth hindrance, concentration problems and headaches. The effects on adults, although not as serious, include reproductive issues, high blood pressure, and damage to the nervous system. For this reason, it is best to have a professional inspection and removal.
Radon. Radon is created when uranium in air and water breaks down into smaller components. This gas usually does not pose a health risk because it has enough space to dissipate. However, if you are working a in tight space (such as in a crawl space or basement) where radon has the chance to build up over time, exposure could lead to serious conditions such as lung cancer.
Electrical wiring. All of the charm of that old home may stop short once you get a glimpse of the electrical wiring. Worn wires that bend easily or fray are reason enough to dread this kind of overhaul, but in addition to that danger, there’s also the fact that modern appliances use far more voltage than ones that were created decades ago. This could quickly lead to a system overload and create a fire risk.
Mold. This may be your old property’s best kept secret. Mold is often invisible to the naked eye because it lurks behind walls and under carpets. It can also be a challenge to get rid of for the same reasons. However, mold spores that settle and grow could cause you to feel like you have a perpetual “common cold”; in fact, its symptoms are often misread as such. It can also make things worse for people (especially children) who suffer from asthma.
If you are aiming to do it yourself, you should at least get a professional inspection to search for these substances before you get started. Making over a property can be a great way to pass the time, or even make extra money, but only if you do it safely.