6 things to watch out for when renovating an old house
There are some things that can turn renovating an old house from a dream to a disaster, but never fear – there’s always a solution. Renovating a home can be stressful enough without encountering unexpected problems like asbestos, rising damp or dodgy plumbing.
Unfortunately, these problems are more common than you may think and will require instant and often costly repairs – immediately.
Here we list the most-common renovating issues to watch out for and what to do if you’re unlucky enough to encounter them.
Removal of asbestos should be left to the professionals, but legally you can remove up to 10 sq m of it yourself. However, it is a serious health risk, so if you must do it, here are a few dos and don’ts;
- Work in a well-ventilated area and in open air, if possible.
- Wet the material thoroughly before you start and wet it regularly during the demo process, until it’s packed for removal.
- Carefully pull out any nails first to help remove sheeting with minimal breakage.
- Use non-powered tools such as a handsaw.
- Carefully lower the sheets to the ground and stack on two layers of heavy-duty plastic sheeting.
- Where possible, try to minimize cutting or breaking the asbestos cement products.
- Shower and wash your hair immediately afterwards and, regardless of whether gloves were used, thoroughly clean your hands and fingernails to remove any dust and asbestos that may be on your body.
- Use a high-pressured hose to wet the sheeting.
- Use power tools or abrasive cutting or sanding discs.
- Slide one sheet over the surface of another as this may abrade the surface of the materials, and increase the likelihood of the release of fibres and dust.
- Dry sand, wire brush or scrape surfaces to be painted.
- Walk on corrugated asbestos cement roofs if it can be avoided – you could fall through.
- Leave asbestos cement products around the garden, or where they may be broken or crushed.
If you find mould, moss, rotting timber or crumbling paintwork, masonry and plaster inside or outside your home, chances are you’ve got damp. Here are the two types of damp and how to fix them.
Rising damp: Damp patches or powdery mould on your wall that looks like it’s rising up from the floor. This is likely due to poor installation or absence of a damp-proof course.
How to fix it: Call in the damp experts (do an Internet search in your area). They will either fix the damp-proof course or use another treatment in which they drill a couple of holes into the lowest-level bricks and inject them with a silicone-based waterproofing fluid.
Penetrating damp: This is when moisture comes through laterally or vertically, usually from rain or water from broken pipes, guttering and inadequate drainage. You’ll know you have penetrating damp if you see peeling paint and plaster, rotting timber floors, windows and doors, crumbling mortar or mould.
How to fix it: Locate the cause of the damp (broken pipes, guttering, roofing etc) and call in a builder to repair the problem. Then, it’s a matter of replacing and fixing damaged plasterboard, masonry and painting.
3. DODGY WIRING
If you didn’t get a proper building and electrical report done on the doer-upper you just purchased, and it was built before the 1980s, you could be in trouble for several reasons:
- Older wiring systems might not be equipped to handle modern appliances and could be overloaded. The system will either shut off or heat up so much it causes a fire.
- Due to deterioration, there could be faults in the wire that could electrocute whoever touches it.
- The system might not be properly grounded and that could cause short circuits, which can lead to a fire.
HOW TO FIX IT: Have a licensed electrician inspect the wiring in your home.
4. DODGY PLUMBING
The most common hidden problems usually relate to plumbing. Besides damp issues, problems can include corroding or outdated pipes, issues with sewerage, stormwater and drainage.
5. STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS
So, you’ve ripped out the kitchen only to find inadequate framing and stud work behind the plasterboard. It’s a miracle the house is actually standing! Or, perhaps, upon replacing the flooring you’ve discovered the home’s foundations aren’t strong enough. Structural problems are a big deal and need to be addressed immediately.
They may be small, but they can cause major structural damage! They eat away at the timber, usually without you knowing until there’s a problem.
Signs that termites have moved in include muddy tunnels in walls (usually only seen when walls are opened up), “frass” – little piles of termite droppings that look like sawdust on the floor, hollow-sounding timber or weak skirting boards and door frames (termites eat the timber, leaving only the paint), and hard-to-open doors and windows – the termite’s mud traps moisture, which causes the timber to swell.
HOW TO FIX IT: Unfortunately the only solution is to call in the experts for treatment. Then you might have to have some building or carpentry work done to repair the damage.
PREVENT IT: They love dark, humid and damp spots, like under the house, so ensure your home is well ventilated and don’t leave timber cutoffs or firewood nearby.