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What are the most common problems revealed in older properties?

27/07/20What are the most common problems revealed in older properties?

Surveys of older properties can be very different propositions to houses built in the modern era. Problems such as damp can be more prevalent in older properties, as ‘building regulations’ (such as they were) were very different to today’s parameters. You can also encounter an array of vintage building materials. These can include lathe and plaster with horsehair and even ancient building materials like wattle and daub! You never know what you might uncover when you start to survey an old property, so having an RICS surveyor identify any issues gives buyers a clear idea of any additional costs that may be incurred.

Insulating your home

Insulation was almost entirely absent from very old properties, as internal heating was often just an open fire. The concept of heat loss and environmental impacts were distantly in the future. Building materials may include stone walls and single-glazed windows – walls may need dry-lining, while roof spaces and any cavities will require the addition of insulation, to improve heat retention. Most properties have had some form of insulation introduced, and this includes lagging to water and central heating pipes, which years ago would have been at risk of freezing and bursting.

Water encroachment

Issues such as wall and roof construction can also give rise to problems like damp, either rising up or seeping in from above. Damp courses can be injected into old properties to mitigate against rising damp. Flat roofs in particular can cause problems, as years ago felt and tar products could be damaged over time by extremes of heat and cold. Window frames, fascias, sills and doors can also be affected by damp and the weather, becoming rotten and requiring replacement. Roof materials like slate and tiles deteriorate over time and will need replacing and pointing; flashings on chimneys can also degrade in the elements. Water can pass right into the heart of a building via a chimney breast and can show as damp patches in bedrooms and ceilings. An RICS surveyor will spot these tell-tale signs and flag them up as potential problems that may need attention.

Current regulations

One of the most dangerous aspects of old properties to look out for is outdated, obsolete or downright faulty wiring. Outmoded light fittings and circuits boards are usually signs that they may not meet current requirements and again may have to replaced. This can even be the case with properties build in the 1980s and ’90. In some cases, upgrades to circuit boards will be enough to bring the property in line with today’s regulations, while in extreme cases a property may require a complete rewire, which will prove costly.

Older properties can be badly affected by woodworm and other insects that affect timber. This can be a particular problem in period properties, such as half-timbered buildings or barn conversions that have retained original features. Woodworm and beetles can do serious damage to timberwork – especially structurally – and should be caught early to minimize their impact. Again, the worse the damage, the higher the cost and the complexity of the remedy, which you’ll need to be aware of before purchase.


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