Home Improvement shows add an element of glamour to historic home renovations, and people who invest in them relish in the charm. In one hour-long TV show a cute bubbly couple can turn a moldy, abandoned shack into a bright, trend-forward bungalow. Fixing up a historic home can be very rewarding, but what’s hiding in the walls or even in plain sight, can be downright scary.
In homes built prior to 1977, and especially homes built in the mid 20th century, there is a good chance that there are deadly chemicals in those “good bones”.
Older homes were designed to stand the test of time, but some of the materials used become hazardous or even deadly as they break down over the years. Asbestos and lead were present in significant levels in homes built between 1930 and 1950. Code laws and building guidelines have evolved, but there are serious health risks involved with renovating homes that contain these materials.
This danger goes beyond lead paint and asbestos floor tiles. Homes built before 1977 can have asbestos in popcorn ceilings, exterior insulation, HVAC duct-work insulation, plumbing insulation, and even roof shingles. Luckily, when undisturbed and in a solid form, exposure can be prevented. However, a simple project like moving HVAC ducts, replacing insulation, or scraping a popcorn ceiling could create dust which poses immediate danger.
Lead was used to make paint, water pipes, old window blinds, radiators, and it can even be present in the soil around older homes due to leaching. Despite our knowledge of the danger of lead, it’s still out there. There are still school systems and municipalities replacing lead drinking water pipes to this day. Serious health problems, particularly in babies and children, can be caused by the chipping of lead paint and exposure to the dust on lead pipes.
Despite the risks, there is value and satisfaction in taking something old and making it new again. If you are planning to take on a renovation of an older home, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning 800-461-3010 for an HVAC and electrical inspection.