BY Rebecca White-Martin
Homes built today must adhere to strict safety codes. Older homes, while offering plenty of charm and character, are more likely to have safety issues — potential problems can range from lead paint and asbestos to faulty wiring and wobbly stairs.
But you can make an older home a safe home. Educate yourself about some of the dangers associated with old homes and take any necessary action to transform your older house into one that’s as safe as possible.
If you are considering purchasing an older home, you should first determine if asbestos or lead is a problem, especially if you are planning on renovating or restoring the home. Always make sure qualified professionals inspect the house and determine the extent of the problem.
Another potential problem that can keep an older home from being a safe home is an outdated electrical system. While older electrical systems had no problems supplying enough power in previous years, many have trouble keeping up with today’s increased power demands. This can result in electrical fires — in fact, electrical fires are three times more likely to happen in homes that are more than 40 years old compared to homes that are only 11 to 20 years old.
Signs that your home’s electrical system may be outdated include:
• Your circuit breakers trip often
• You need to replace fuses frequently
• Your lights are dim or flickering
• You have seen sparks in your electrical system
• There are unusual sounds coming from your electrical system, such as buzzing or sizzling
• There is an unusual burning smell, which could be a sign of a hot wire inside your wall
• Your switch plates or electrical covers are hot
• You have experienced a mild shock from your electrical system
If you suspect your electrical system may be outdated, have a licensed electrician inspect it. This is especially important when you are deciding whether to buy an older home, since updating an electrical system can be costly and may affect your decision. The following electrical upgrades often need to be made in older homes:
• Two-hole outlets should be replaced with three-hole outlets
• Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets need to be installed in kitchens and bathrooms
• Add extra outlets to eliminate the need for extension cords
• Circuit breakers should be replaced with an arc fault system
These changes do not usually need to be made all at once. For budgeting purposes, fix the most dangerous elements first and the others over time.
5 Musts for Maintaining Your Older Home
The longer you live in your home, the more likely you’ll need repairs and renovations to make it safer. Consider the following:
• Make sure your stairs are stable and secure
• Ensure that your stair handrails, treads, and risers are up to code
• Install good lighting throughout your home
• Bathrooms should have proper handrails and grab bars
• Change smoke alarm batteries every year and replace the alarms every 10 years
Please keep in mind that most accidents are in the kitchen, stairs and bathrooms.
It’s important to keep your home in good repair and to make safety updates over time. Keep a log of all improvements and create a schedule to help you stay on track.
The above information is opinion based except where noted. Always contact a licensed professional for information on the above subject or BEFORE applying or practicing the above information.
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