Moving Into an Older Home? Here Are the 4 Most Common Issues You May Run Into

older row homes
crawfordmech September 13, 2021

Are you looking into buying an older home? You are not alone. Purchasing older homes is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons. These reasons include people wanting to expand their real estate portfolio, “fixer-upper” projects and the fact that it’s generally less expensive to buy an older home. But what are the common issues that affect old homes? In this post, we will detail what to look for in an old home.

What Is an Old Home?

The definition of an “old home” varies, depending on who you ask. The oldest homes in the United States date back to the 1600s. Here are some of the oldest houses in America.

  • The Fairbanks House, Massachusetts: 1637
  • C.A. Nothnagle Log House, New Jersey: 1638
  • Rev. Henry Whitfield’s House, Connecticut: 1639
  • Richard Sparrow House, Massachusetts: 1640
  • Loomis Homestead, Connecticut: 1640

However, your home doesn’t have to date back to 1640 to meet the criteria of an older home. While opinions are subjective, many prospective homebuyers might consider homes built in the 1960s and earlier as old.

One source for what defines an old home is the National Register of Historic Places. In general, a home must be at least 50 years old for inclusion on this venerable list.


Plumbing is one of the prevalent problems an owner of an old home can expect to experience. One of the most common old home plumbing issues is that some houses have pipes made with materials that no longer meet United States building codes. Below are three of the most common outdated materials used to build pipes.

  • Polybutylene: Pipes made of polybutylene were popular in the 1970s and 1980s as a replacement for copper. Polybutylene pipe owners later sued manufacturers in a massive class-action lawsuit because the pipes were defective. By the 1990s, U.S. building codes no longer rated polybutylene pipes as safe.
  • Galvanized: Galvanized pipes made of iron and zinc were popular in homes built before the 1960s. Homeowners discovered that the zinc used in these pipes eroded over time, causing the pipes to break prematurely. Another issue found with galvanized pipes was that they tended to become clogged with rust as they aged.
  • Lead: Lead is perhaps the best-known material used in old plumbing pipes, dating back to ancient Rome’s famously extensive pipe network. Lead is so synonymous with plumbing that the word itself derives from the Latin word plumbummeaning “lead.” Despite its history as a piping material, lead can be highly hazardous due to its toxicity. Scientists uncovered various undeniable links between lead and health problems, leading to the material’s ban for use in plumbing.

Another difficulty associated with plumbing in older homes is “bellied lines.” As a house settles over time, pipes underneath the house can bend. If pipes become bellied, it will restrict water flow, leading to clogs or leaks. If your home is experiencing any plumbing problems, contact a skilled plumber to remedy the issue.


Problems with roofing are another common issue found in older homes. As homes age, the roof is one of the first parts to deteriorate. Over time, weather conditions, maintenance frequency and many other factors can contribute to roofing issues. Below are some signs of an aging roof that will require professional attention.

  • Moss: If you notice an excessive amount of moss on your roof, it is best to have a professional take a look at it. Moss can trap moisture on the roof’s surface, which will cause damage to the shingles over time. If left untreated, the damage caused by moss can lead to more severe problems like leaks.
  • Dark spots: On many roofs, the only concerns associated with dark spots are cosmetic. However, on metal roofs, dark spots are often a sign of rust. Rust can destroy the material of metal roofs, causing the structure to weaken.
  • Blistered paint: Blistering paint is another roofing issue seen in older homes. Blisters in roofing paint form when there is extra space between the roofing material and the protective coating painted on top. Broken blisters can cause roof damage that leads to several potential problems.
  • Missing or curled shingles: If your older home is missing shingles or some of its shingles have curled up, contact a professional to inspect the roof for leaks.

Hazardous Building Materials

Hazardous building materials used in construction are among the most significant concerns for those looking to purchase an older home. Here are a few of the materials used to build older homes that are no longer in use today.

  • Asbestos: Before the 1970s, builders commonly used this material for its insulation and fire-resistant qualities. However, later in the 20th century, researchers discovered links between asbestos and severe health problems like pleural disease, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Today, products must contain less than 1% asbestos.
  • Lead: As previously mentioned, lead can be incredibly toxic. Besides pipes, lead was also a typical paint component in older homes. Exposure to lead can lead to health issues like abdominal pain, depression, nausea, memory loss and appetite loss.

Inefficient Windows

Drafty, leaky windows are another common issue in older homes. Below are some signs that you need to have your windows inspected or replaced.

  • Faulty insulation: Wooden windows used in older homes are notorious for insufficient insulation.
  • Outdated glass: Over time, glass can become damaged without you realizing it. It is best to inspect your windows a few times per year for signs of wear and tear.
  • Mold: Like roofs, mold can grow on windows as they age.
  • Difficulty opening the window: If you notice your window is becoming harder to open, it could be a red flag that the window is experiencing balancing problems. It could also signify that rust, rot or mold are forming on the window.

Call Crawford Mechanical Services for Expert Plumbing

Issues with plumbing, roofing, building materials and windows are typical in older homes. If you are experiencing plumbing problems in your home, contact Crawford Mechanical Services. We are a family-owned business based in Columbus, Ohio, that specializes in residential and commercial plumbing. Our team of experts can handle any plumbing need, from a small leak to a full bathroom remodel.

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