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Buying an Older Home? How to Make Sure It's up to Code

No matter where your property lies, there are building codes a home must comply with to ensure the structure is safe for the occupants. As times change, older homes may not meet current building codes. If you’ve purchased an older house as your starter home, there are steps you should take to be certain it’s up to code.

Check the Foundation

The foundation is the most important thing to consider. A poor foundation could cause structural damage and be very expensive to repair. If there are cracks in a concrete foundation, significant wood rot or termite damage in a wooden one, or the foundation is not level or infested with mold, you may be in store for serious problems.

Climb to the Roof

Whether you use a ladder or a drone, take a good look at your roof. If it hasn’t been maintained, it could be admitting rain or snow melt that can seep into wood and cause warping or other damage. Roofing codes are quite specific depending on the materials used, but check for worn, damaged or missing tiles or shingles, gaps, holes, loose flashing around edges or chimneys, sagging gutters, or depressions in the surface where water could collect. Trapped moisture could also be indicated by growths such as algae.

Bad Plumbing

Visually inspect as much of the home’s plumbing system as possible. Rusted cast iron or dated lead pipes need replacing. A hot water heater more than eight years old should probably be replaced. Be sure to check for leaks and adequate insulation throughout the home. Check that water pressure is good and drains flow properly. There should not be any discoloration or mineral scale in the water. Have your water quality tested.

Inspect the Wiring

Electrical fires are quite common, so good wiring is a priority. If you smell burning insulation, or switches, light fixtures, or outlets get warm or make buzzing sounds, you may have wiring issues. Other bad signs are flickering lights, breakers that trip frequently, and in some older homes insufficient illumination in interior spaces. Current codes also require GFCI electrical outlets in kitchen and bathrooms. If you detect such issues, work with electrical contractors in your area to get them updated.

You can always call in a qualified home inspector, but there are many problems you could spot on your own. Your next step is to call in a professional who knows what the current codes are and can get any problems fixed properly.

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