Old House/Fresh Ideas

You’ve bought a “fixer-upper” and you’re very excited about the changes you’re dying to make.  But wait – are you sure you’re ready to jump in? You’ve watched TV and scoured the hardware stores for tools and tips. You’ve looked at photos and picked out your favorite colors but, have you thought about the foibles already “built-in” to your house?

If your house is more than 50 years old (that’s built before 1970) consider this:

  • A world-wide copper shortage in 60s and 70s may mean that your electrical work is made of aluminum.  Not a bad choice at the time but now, decades later, it may be corroded and, connecting two different metals (aluminum and today’s copper) could cause additional corrosion.
  • Your 100 AMP service panel may not have space available for all those appliance up-grades you’ll want and, it was common practice to put all the kitchen appliances on one circuit – today’s energy load requires one for each appliance and remember, in the 1970s we didn’t think a wine-fridge and a microwave were “kitchen essentials” like we do today!
  • And, when you decide to add that “bonus room” over your two-car garage, it of course will need to be heated and air-conditioned.  Don’t assume your 70s HVAC system is ready to service another 400 to 500 square feet! So, you may need to replace or augment your system, not just add duct-work.
  • You might not think so, but in some parts of the country, we were still using asbestos into the 1970s.  Add funds for potential abatement costs and, if you’re not sure, include testing in your pre-purchase inspection if you can.

These are just a few of the surprises that you might uncover on your journey to realizing your fully remodeled and updated fixer-upper.  That is not to discourage your hopes and dreams, but it is to offer a reminder to consult with the professionals before you assume, “This will be fun; this will be easy!” It may not be either if you’re not prepared.

Old houses offer charm, quaint warm spaces, mature trees, finished landscaping and also a number of challenges that you’ll want to consider and prepare for.