Hidden Problems in Old Homes

Emily Udell
Written by Emily Udell
Updated March 1, 2016
asbestos removal
Older homes may contain asbestos, which requires properly trained technicians to remove it safely. (Photo by Steve C. Mitchell)

Buying an older home comes with a litany of potential complications.

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Historic homes have charm in spades, but also sometimes come with hidden problems.

Before you buy an older home, be sure to hire a home inspector who has familiarity with the potential challenges of houses built in past decades — they can cost you money down the line! Some problems, such as asbestos and lead paint, require contractors with specialized knowledge and certifications, to remedy.

Read on to learn more about some potential hidden pitfalls in dwellings built in days gone by.


Various building materials, including insulation, shingles and coating for pipes, contain this naturally-occurring heat-resistant mineral that creates a carcinogenic dust.

Knob-and-tube wiring

This outdated electrical wiring system installed in homes between the late 1800s and the 1940s poses a potential fire hazard.

Lead paint

Many homes built before 1978 contain lead-based paint, which can cause cardiovascular problems, fetal growth problems for pregnant women and development issues in children.

Lead pipes

Homes built as late as 1986 contain lead pipes, fixtures and solder, which can erode over time and leach into drinking water.

Sewers made of cast iron, clay or orangeburg

Scoping out your sewer situation can help you prepare for eventual repairs or a pricey replacement due to older materials, including Orangeburg, a tarpaper that was used primarily during World War II.


Wood-frame, single-paned or pulley-system windows found in older abodes often affect energy efficiency and can be expensive to repair and replace.

What problems have you experienced with your older home? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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