Renovating Old Properties: Know the hidden dangers

If you speak to any builder, they will tell you that when you start to knock things down ahead of renovations that you have to tread carefully. Anxiety about what is in and around the area is normal and at any point you can find a potential problem. We have heard about materials like asbestos for years, and although it is a well-known issue it can still be hidden.With a steady increase year on year for things like mesothelioma claims, it is crucial that you can find any hidden dangers quickly. Not only do they pose serious problems to in the short and long-term to health but they can also make the cost of a renovation considerable larger than anticipated.

What to look out for during renovation

You have the materials ready, you’ve mapped out a plan and you have the perfect team for the job, but what do you need to look for in these old properties? Well, there are probably more things than you would imagine and you need to be careful of:

Electrical wires – With a building of a certain age, it is likely to have loose or incorrect wiring here and there. Plus, the age means that they are more liable to fray or break. Twisted or bent wires are a particular concern.

Asbestos – For many decades this was a mainstay in construction but now we know how deadly it can be.

Lead – Ahead of the 90s, using paints that were lead-based was legal but now it gives women and men reproductive-related conditions.

Mould spores – Walls, floors and carpets are the perfect spots for these things to settle. From here, health issues to people in the home can arise.

Radon – Found in both water and earth, this gas is found in tight, close spaces.

How to find dangerous materials

The list above includes the big five that you need to be careful of when renovating an old property, but how do you find these?

Electrical wiring – It is a tragedy waiting to happen. Not only for electric shocks but fire hazards as well. What you need to do is have a look at the circuit breakers and fuse boxes to see if they are up to scratch. People often call out electricians to have a look first because if you don’t get the problem sorted then you will be forking out a lot of money in reperations.

Asbestos – Make sure that you know what it looks like – check the most obvious places first like an old furnace. Have a look at floors, on the ceiling, in the piping and also the basement/attic. The exterior of the home also needs a thorough check, and if anything is found then you should ring an environmental agency.

Lead – There are home test kits that can be bought but these aren’t always reliable. Alternatively, paint chips can be sent off for analysis and/or a risk assessor can be hired to take a look.

Mould spores – A microscopic fungi, mould can affect a property’s occupants. You can find out if there is mould due to discoloration or odour/smell. It has been known to be in any colour, from violet to black and it can be discovered by dropping bleach – if it changes the colour it may well be mould. Alternatively, it may be hidden and give off an earthy or musty smell. Be sure to have things checked out.

Radon – Generally speaking this is something that you need a test kit to find.

Cost problems with hidden dangers and faults

It goes without saying that looking for these dangers will cost a little bit of time and money, but they can save thousands in the long run. If you begin work and find this after then the whole plan of action can be changed. Be sure to know the hidden dangers of renovating old properties before getting stuck in.

5 thoughts on “Renovating Old Properties: Know the hidden dangers

  1. The asbestos issue is still a big one for us with our kitchen and bathroom refurbishment work. Not so much in the ordinary houses, but when we get into hostels or other accommodation that has often belonged to local authorities for a few decades, that’s when we encounter problems.

  2. We have lived in 200-350 year-old buildings and have been told of anthrax risk in old horse-hair plaster.

  3. Your comments on asbestos are verging on dangerous. It is not possible to identify asbestos visually – the only way to be certain is to have suspect materials tested by an appropriate lab – samples having been removed by someone who is trained to do so. Did you know for instance that asbestos is highly likely to be in lino floor tiles; window mastic and some putties; often in all that spiky artex that people so keenly sand off etc etc.
    Also almost certain to be in those old fuse boxes you were suggesting needed to be carefully examined!

  4. You suggest ‘ringing ‘an environmental agency’ if asbestos is suspected. This sounds rather vague – which one? In my experience, you get passed from pillar to post and no-one is prepared to take on responsibility for advice.

Comments are closed.