4 Important Maintenance Tasks for Older Homes

Older homes are attractive for homebuyers because they come with built-in character and style, but their advanced age can also create maintenance issues that are less common in newer homes. Depending on the home’s age, your maintenance tasks could touch everything from the foundation to the roof.

Here are four critical maintenance task areas you should prepare for if you’re in the market for an older home.


A house built in 1930 has experienced nearly a century’s worth of settling. And if you live in an area with earthquakes or notoriously shifty soil, it’s likely your home will have foundation issues. Even if you don’t notice problems like uneven floors, which is often a calling card for foundation problems, it’s best to seek a professional foundation inspection before you purchase the home, regardless of what region you’re in.

You’ll also want to continually monitor the outside of the home, including the roof, gutters, and downspouts, to be sure things like improper drainage of rainwater are not eroding the foundation.

Heating and Cooling

The high ceilings of that 1800s Victorian treasure might be calling to you now, but you could be cursing them when it’s time to heat your home. Old homes often are a challenge for HVAC systems, as they can lack adequate insulation, energy-efficient windows, or modern HVAC technologies. 

Additionally, it’s crucial to consider the age of the equipment used to heat and cool the home, as building codes and laws change over time. In fact, under the Clean Air Act, the refrigerant R-22, commonly called Freon, is being phased out, so if your home has a system installed prior to 2010, it likely uses R-22.


Another area where codes and standards of practice can change dramatically over time is plumbing. Most pipes installed before the 1960s used galvanized steel, which is prone to corrosion, leaks, and clogs. Because pipes generally are hidden in walls and floors, homeowners often don’t know there’s a problem until a pipe has burst. Today’s building practices call for copper or plastic pipe.


Image via Flickr by jasonwoodhead23

Like plumbing and refrigerant, the wiring in your old house is another area that could create concern. Knob-and-tube wiring, common during the first half of the 20th century, can be identified by its telltale white, spool-like knobs with wires snaking through. While it’s easy to identify this wiring when you can see it, because it’s hidden inside walls or ceilings, often the only obvious sign is a lack of three-prong outlets. 

Additionally, many old homes have seen multiple renovations, which could impact the electrical load. It’s best to have a professional electrician inspect your home to ensure that all appliances have adequate power.

Old homes tend to be well-made. After all, if they were poorly constructed, they probably still would not be standing after all these years. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t important maintenance tasks that are unique to houses from previous eras. With a bit of smart updating and ongoing love and attention, an old home can keep getting better year after year.

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