Stephen Gaudet, December 12, 2011
The purpose of this report is to educate the buyer on homes built prior to 1977, on possible safety and health hazards. Please note, the pictures within this report are from homes inspected within the last three months of this year. This is a reminder; these products are still in use today. Based on the amount of foreclosures I see, I would expect to see more.
Know what you are buying. Otherwise, repairs or replacement costs can be very expensive.
· Asbestos introduced 1858, banned entirely Dec 2003. Used inside the home as insulation in walls, heating pipes and attic space. Breathing in asbestos dust can lead to lung cancer. Other uses flooring, siding, and roofing.
· Lead paint introduced 1970 banned in 1977
· Knob & Tube wiring introduced pre 1950, still in use today, many issues
· Aluminum wiring introduced in the 1960’s still in use, main concern is cross connections with copper wiring. Dissimilar metals, heat issues leading to fire.
· Lead piping used in late 1800’s until banned 1960’s. Still often found on the drain waste side.
· When plumbers and electricians change the structure that leads to expensive repairs.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope. There are several types of asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.
Studies show that breathinghigh levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in the forms of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.
Lead Paint 1970 banned in 1977
Are You Planning to Buy or Rent a Home Built Before 1978? Lead paint was introduced in 1970 and banned in 1977. Many houses and apartments built during these years have paint that may contain lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting or buying pre-1978 housing.
Knob & Tube wiring introduced pre 1950
If your home was built prior to 1950, you may have knob and tube wiring and not know it. Most homes with knob and tube wiring have been at least partly upgraded. It is not unusual to find all new wiring at the breaker panel and old knob and tube wiring for the lighting circuits on the top floor of the home. This may be an issue with securing a home loan or insurance and should be looked into prior to sale of the home.
Note, in December 2010 a home in Manchester burned down due to faulty knob and tube wiring.
Aluminum Wiring 1960 through 1970’s.
In mid 1960's due to high copper prices aluminum wiring was first used in branch circuit wiring, aluminum wire was not installed any differently than copper. Typical connections from electrical wire to electrical devices, also called terminals, are usually made by wrapping the wire around screw terminals and tightening the screw.
Over time, many of these terminations to aluminum wire began to fail due to improper connection techniques and dissimilar metals having different resistances and different coefficients of thermal expansion. These connection failures generated heat under electrical load and resulted in overheated connections.
Problems with aluminum wires include possible house fires mainly due to poor connections. The two main reasons were improper installation and the differences in the coefficient of expansion between aluminum wire used in the 1960's and the terminations. Another issue is the joining of aluminum wire to copper wire. As aluminum and copper are dissimilar metals, galvanic corrosion can occur in the presence of an electrolyte and these connections can become unstable over time.
Aluminum and steel both expand and contract at different rates under thermal load, so connection can become loose, and loose connections get progressively worse over time. This cycle results in the connection loosening slightly, overheating, and allowing intermetallic steel/aluminum alloying to occur between the conductor and the screw terminal. This results in a high-resistance junction, leading to additional overheating.
Lead piping seen here is dull gray. However, shines when scratched. If your looking at a home built prior to 1930 there is a good chance lead piping may be present. Water from such a system having lead piping should not be consumed under any circumstances. The only safe solution is to completely remove lead piping.
Only considered unsafe on the supply side of water in the home. The photos seen below have lead piping still in use on the drain waste side. Lead poisoning is still possible if handled with exposed skin.
Structural problems found due to tradesman not knowing what they are doing.
Improper notching and structure alterations made by electrician and plumbers can cost you money in repair bills. In some cases the entire structure has been altered and now you need a structural engineer to correct the problem.
Using the above guide. Does what follows agree?
Old homes often do not have insulated walls. Most home inspectors do not use a thermal imaging camera. Therefore, they can not report on missing insulation. Look at the photos below with temperature readings. If these homes are hot during the summer I think we can agree they will be cold during the winter costing you the owner money.
My clients know what they are buying. Will you?
I hope this was educational for you. Older homes require time and patience to inspect. Any inspector that is not willing to take the time, most require 3+ hours to inspect “will” missing something.
As you have seen above, even trades men make costly errors the inspector you hire is important. Otherwise I hope you have deep pockets.