Behind all the charm, is every century home a huge money pit waiting to wipe out your savings? Not necessarily. But because century homes have been around longer than building codes, it’s wise to know what you’re getting into before taking the plunge.
First, you’ll want to know what kind of heating the house uses and ask for copies of recent bills. Be sure there isn’t an old oil tank that will be costly to remove. Inspect hot water radiators and the area around them for leaks, and check the boiler. Newer boilers are very efficient and the heating system can be wonderfully quiet. Older systems can be expensive to run, just like an older furnace.
Old plumbing, especially the sanitary lines, often used lead fittings. These leach lead into the water table and will need replacing. Cast iron pipes can last a very long time, but if they are already 100 years old, their time might be up.
Dreaded knob and tube might be lurking in the walls. As long as there is no longer a current running through it, you’re fine. However, the moment a contractor touches any part of the home’s electrical, the whole house will need to be brought up to code.
Any home built before 1970 is likely sporting a few coats of lead paint, especially on the millwork. As long as it’s in good condition, repaint it (don’t sand!) and leave it. If it’s peeling or chipping, or if you have pets or little ones who chew on things, you might want to have it replaced or professionally stripped.
Damaged plaster or cracking linoleum could contain asbestos, so DIY’ers beware. If it’s undamaged, it’s harmless. But once airborne, asbestos can be a health hazard, so check before you start knocking down walls.
If you do decide to purchase a century home, a little due diligence will go a long way.