Renovation projects and upgrades are often on the minds of new homebuyers and settled homeowners alike. While consulting a professional is always the safest option, many people try to make a go of it themselves and end up deep in the throes of a remodel nightmare. Before you start pulling out the power drill, remember to stay wary of a few issues that could pop up.
When dealing with electrical wiring during a renovation, problems can surface in a number of ways. One of the most common is improperly grouping too many wires on one circuit, causing them to overheat. It may be necessary to add additional circuits to better allocate and position wiring. It’s also crucial to encase and secure electrical wiring, especially wires that might be exposed and accessible. In some cases, it may be recommended to run wires through a conduit or cable tray in order to fasten them safely to studs or beams.
The National Electrical Code has direct guidelines about proper wiring and maintenance. It’s best to consult a professional when looking to rewire or expand electrical systems in the home.
Asbestos and Lead
Many older homes were constructed using what we now know are harmful substances, including asbestos and lead. Asbestos saw its peak use in the United States from the 1930s-1970s, and was added to a number of manufactured goods, including insulation, roofing, cement, and drywall. As a mineral that is naturally-sourced, asbestos was mined and mass-produced at a number of sites across the country. After years of rampant production and consumption, it soon became apparent that asbestos was carcinogenic and capable of causing a variety of cancers, including mesothelioma.
In a similar vein, lead can be found in three-fourths of older homes built before 1978. Lead-based paint and water pipes were exceedingly popular before lead was found to be toxic. Inhaling or consuming lead paint chips or dust can lead to serious health complications, especially for children, including cognitive development issues, kidney failure, and fertility problems.
Before doing any work on an older home, it’s a good idea to have the rooms tested for lead and asbestos. Contractors will likely be more familiar with what to look for, and abatement or removal of substances like asbestos and lead should be carried out as soon as possible, before proceeding with renovation.
Galvanized steel pipes were a popular choice for home builds during the early to mid 20th century. As time passes, minerals found in water sources gradually accumulate and lead to pipe corrosion. This buildup creates pipe blockages and low water pressure throughout the home, eventually leading to unusable pipes and toxic sediment. Mineral deposits reacting with the corroded piping can leach toxic heavy metals, like lead or cadmium, into your home water supply, leading to harmful health effects like liver, kidney, blood, and bone damage.
When pursuing renovations that may disrupt or interfere with existing plumbing, it doesn’t hurt to check to see if galvanized pipes are running through your home. This can be done with a magnet, which will stick to a galvanized pipe. Plastic or copper may be a healthier fit for your home when considering replacement options.
Dry rot is the result of a certain form of fungus growing on wooden structures in damp conditions. The fungus appears as a milky or grayish growth, along with splintering or cracking wood and peeling paint. This can happen in any part of the house, but windows, doors, and non-wood materials that touch the ground are most prone to damage. While dry rot is not considered toxic to human health, in some cases it has been known to aggravate asthma and spawn an allergic reaction.
Homeowners can proceed by either replacing the rotted materials or repairing them. Both methods are effective, but any structures providing stability to the house should be replaced to ensure safety, with all nearby surfaces cleaned and removed as needed.
Dry rot is sometimes mistaken for wet rot, another form of fungus that may form on your home. The best way to go about treating the issue is to enlist the help of a professional in order to make sure fungal growth is prevented
Your home’s foundation is vital to its structure and stability. When issues arise here, it’s important to handle them with the utmost care to ensure your home remains standing for years to come.
The root of foundation issues can surface from a number of factors, including foundation settlement, heaving, and stem wall damage. While these can sometimes be the result of weathering or age, they aren’t exclusive to older homes and can still impact newer structures.
Signs of damage include sticking doors, buckling porches, leaking chimneys, and cracked floors and walls. If you notice any of these red flags, it may be a good idea to call a home inspector to diagnose the damage. Foundation repair is a tricky business that should be handled by a professional.
With all of these challenges in mind, it’s important to consider the health of your home and your own safety when pursuing a renovation project. Whether it’s a simple cosmetic fix or a larger structural issue, getting the input of a contractor or home inspector may be the best option. If you do decide to take on a remodeling project by yourself, knowing the specifics of your home and what potential hazards may pop up is the best way to prepare and protect yourself. In many cases, it’s important to remember that professionals are experts in this field, and are the best equipped to handle the challenges of home renovation.
– Emily Walsh