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iLearn

join:2013-01-16
canada

What to expect on a 50 year old house

Hi all,

One of my family friends is planing on buying a 50 year old house in Toronto and she wants me to come along with her to check it out. I want to be helpful to her with the purchase process but I am not really sure what exactly to except or to look for in such an old house.

I am thinking asbestos, AL wiring, lead and galvanized piping what else guys?

Thanks


UHF
All static, all day, Forever
Premium,MVM
join:2002-05-24
Reviews:
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I don't know about Canada, but I've owned a house built in 1960 and one built in 1962 (in Iowa) that had none of those issues. Rock wool insulation in both, copper wiring, and copper plumbing with cast iron drain lines. I'd be more worried about a 40 year old house, that seems to be about when they started cutting corners on construction.

garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
reply to iLearn
Evidence of a wet basement, drain pipe integrity (in house and below surface out to sewer), FP breakers (may be too old).


stevek1949
We're not in Kansas anymore
Premium
join:2002-11-13
Virginia Beach, VA
reply to iLearn
I would suggest hiring a licensed home inspector. Too many things to list, not enough information on the house.

Vermiculite, knob and tube, heat plant, water heater...etc.


LazMan
Premium
join:2003-03-26
canada

1 edit
reply to iLearn
60's is going to be a little early for AL wiring; but certainly not out of the question... Asbestos is likely, particularly if it's hot-water or steam heat; but to be honest, it's not that big a deal, as long as encapsulated, and left alone.

Rather then what was original, I'd be looking at what's changed - have reno's been done? Bathrooms/Kitchens, wall removals, etc - how were they done? If walls have been removed, was proper support/headers/beams/etc put in?

Has the electric service been upgraded, or is it still the 60A that was common in the 50's and 60's? Fuses or breakers? Fuses are fine, as long as the panel isn't overloaded... If the panel's been changed, is there an ESA inspection sticker on it? How's the general workmanship? Does it look good? (it's an old adage, but it holds true, if it LOOKS right, it's more likely to BE right...)

How's the house heated, what kind of condition is the heating system in?

Is there a full basement or crawl space - was it underpinned at any point, to increase the basement height (common in some areas in the city)?

Just the first things that come to mind, anyways.

EDIT - Forgot to mention a biggie - the roof - how many layers of shingles, what kind of shape are they in?


stevek1949
We're not in Kansas anymore
Premium
join:2002-11-13
Virginia Beach, VA
reply to iLearn

iLearn

join:2013-01-16
canada
reply to iLearn
ok thank you guys.

Yes, I have recommended a home inspection for sure but the buyer wanted to narrow down on the house first, make an offer and then get an inspection done. She just wanted to find out if there is too many variables, then she will go with a newer house.

It seems like there could be problems down the road because as far as I know a home inspection is just a visual inspection.

Follow up questions:

Does anyone know if a house built in 50s was insulated? - exterior walls. Is there a way to find that out or not?

I am thinking if nothing changed then the attic will not have enough insulation as per current standards.

So lead piping is a no-no, right? I mean she will have to then upgrade to copper or PEX sometime soon?

I dont think the house is old enough for Knob and Tube, right?

LazMan - what you have mentioned about reno work/support etc - can a home inspector look into that. If its a visual inspection then it might not work right?

I believe the house has asphalt shingles, and considering that it is 50 years old, I would assume roof has been replaced at least once - how many layers, I have no idea. Can a home inspector confirm this?


Fir_Na_Tine
Giggity Giggity
Premium
join:2001-01-03
Sout Joisy

1 recommendation

Home inspection should be able to tell how many layers the roof is, not sure about the age, maybe a guess or homeowners know. My house is 50+ years old and when I bought it it had 2 layers, with second layer only a few years old. Not sure what the code is there but here its no more than 2 layers.

As for buying old or newer. You could buy a brand new house and have lots of problems and have a 100+ house be perfectly fine, it all depends on how it was constructed and how it was taken care of I think. A good through home inspection is a must in either case.
--
"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."
-Jimi Hendrix


LazMan
Premium
join:2003-03-26
canada

1 recommendation

reply to iLearn
Insulation? Hard to say - there could be cellulose in the walls, there may not be... No way to know, visually; unless the seller's had upgraded insulation done. Even if there is existing in the walls and attic, it'll be pretty lean by today's standards.

An inspector familiar with the area will know the basic design of homes... I know in my area, there was a couple of pretty common plans built in the 50's and 60's - and major renos (like moving walls, etc) stand out. It's not fool-proof, but it's a start. If the basement's unfinished, it may also help 'tell the story'...

The house will likely be wired with 2 wire fabric-covered cable - it may or may not have a ground... It's far too new to have K&T. If there's 3 prong plugs, you may want to check a few with something like one of these:

»www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R···yJ7_C2So

If the inspector gets up onto the roof, it's trivial to see the condition of the shingles and number of layers - if they do the inspection from the ground, well, besides being a crappy inspector, they aren't going to be able to tell you much about the roof... 2 layers are allowed, but I've seen houses with 3-4 before, and heard of houses with more then that... If there's 2 or more now, and they are in rough shape, budget a strip and re-do.

I'm not much on plumbing, but galvalized supply lines are a problem, for sure... At 50 years, most plumbing will need some attention, to be honest - even copper will be showing it's age.

Yes, home inspections are visual, for the most part - but a good inspector can at least see signs that will tell you where you need to look further... An inspector with a background in the trades (electrician, roofer, etc) will have a leg up on someone who took their 2 day course, and - BAM! -are now a home inspector... I also recommend against using an inspector suggested by the buying or selling agents - they have 'skin in the game' - and have a motive for the house to sell. But that's a WHOLE 'nother conversation...

robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1

1 recommendation

reply to iLearn
A house of that age does not have lead pipes. Personally I believe that many houses of that age were better constructed than a lot of the newer ones I have seen.

iLearn

join:2013-01-16
canada
reply to LazMan
To be honest with you, its a 2 story house with a very steep slope and if it is snowing, I am not sure the inspector is going to get up there. This is what I was told when a called a couple of inspectors in the area - damn.


KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK
reply to robbin
I'd tend to agree. My house is built in the mid 60's and it seems more well constructed then modern light weight construction. It's a brick over wood frame structure. I like brick due to the maintenance and strength benefits, but the color of brick chosen does period date the home. Many people in the neighborhood have repainted the bricks to modernize the exterior, but that seems to defeat one of the main reasons for having brick--- ease of maintenance.

The most obvious thing about this home was the terrible original windows and sliding doors. I replaced those. The home is surprisingly energy efficient. The outer walls have fiberglass batt insulation, the attic has blown in cellulose insulation with a thermal cover lying over the tops of the joists. Due to some settling part of the home had to be piered by the original owners about 20 years ago and you can see where the bricks and drywall had some cracks as a result and were repaired (although not that well IMHO.)

An interesting thing about my house is that the drywall was hung with nails instead of screws and some of them have clearly "popped" up some over the years as the house settled. I'd definitely recommend screws over nails based on this experience but I believe drywall nailing is still common today. Other issues I feel are related to the time period of the house I have found... IMHO the attic ventilation isn't up to modern standards, with just three of the spinning vents and some soffet vents that were pretty obstructed when I bought the home... also, both the bathroom fans exhaust directly into the attic, not outside. That's something that still needs to be fixed and as a result I rarely if ever use them. The ceilings are popcorn ceilings and I don't like that, would prefer flat smooth ceilings... they may or may not contain asbestos, they have been painted over so economical removal isn't really an option, so they stay.
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini


evil_gusgus

join:2008-04-14
London, ON
reply to iLearn
A good house inspector will have all the tools needed and will also take pictures of what is wrong. You don't want one that just looks around and doesn't actually inspect things. Sometimes they don't even do simple things like flushing the toilets, testing light switches. The last thing you want to do is move into a house the has a light switch on the main floor turn on a light in the attic or every time you use the tap you get water hammer.


aannoonn

@optonline.net
reply to iLearn
If you see the snow melting on the roof on a cold day, you have a problem.


alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1
reply to iLearn
An inspector will just look if there are no major problems, he won't go as far as checking if there is insulation in the walls. It's a 50 years old house, it probably doesn't and isn't a flaw because that's what it was back then.

Just like the attic insulation, if it's not enough, that's not a flaw, that's how it was.

Your friend shouldn't DEMAND new features in an old house. If there's no ground, she can think about it, but she can't claim it's a flaw.

I have a 1964 home and it has copper wiring with ground, copper pipes, a decent fuse panel 100A that is plenty, and little insulation (been working on it for a while and it's showing).

Do you have a link to the listing? Im curious to see the model.

said by KrK:

An interesting thing about my house is that the drywall was hung with nails instead of screws and some of them have clearly "popped" up some over the years as the house settled.

It's funny you say this. In my basement reno project, I ripped out drywall that was installed after the house was build. Those were nailed in and easy to pop out (good thing I'd say). Then when I tackled the basement staircase, they were nailed in as well, but with rigged nails. Those were a PAIN to remove and those were original construction drywall panels.

bkjohnson
Premium
join:2002-05-22
Birmingham, AL
Reviews:
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reply to iLearn
The older houses that I have lived in had single pane windows that have lasted longer than the double pane windows in newer houses that I have lived in. People talk about the energy savings due to double pane windows, but in my experience that is offset by the cost of having to replace them because of seal leaks, etc. I am reminded of an economy car I had in college that got pretty good gas mileage between the engine changes it needed.


djrobx
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Valencia, CA
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reply to iLearn
My Mom recently sold her 50 year old house. Inspect all drainage systems THOROUGHLY. Consider hiring a plumber with a drain cam.

Holes had formed in the cast iron, and the clay sewer pipe had been infiltrated by roots. We paid for all of these repairs.
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John97
Over The Hills And Far Away
Premium
join:2000-11-14
Spring Hill, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
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reply to LazMan
said by LazMan:

Yes, home inspections are visual, for the most part - but a good inspector can at least see signs that will tell you where you need to look further... An inspector with a background in the trades (electrician, roofer, etc) will have a leg up on someone who took their 2 day course, and - BAM! -are now a home inspector... I also recommend against using an inspector suggested by the buying or selling agents - they have 'skin in the game' - and have a motive for the house to sell. But that's a WHOLE 'nother conversation...

That is outstanding advice right there.
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MaynardKrebs
Heave Steve, for the good of the country
Premium
join:2009-06-17
kudos:4
reply to iLearn
Most Toronto area homes built in the 1950's-60's will have Romex-type copper wiring cables, but may not have a ground wire - those built after 1965 will for sure. Late 1960's and 1970's houses may have aluminum wiring. Houses with aluminum wiring can have a plethora of issues, reanging from mixed wiring and incompatible devices (switches, outlets, and breaker panels), to corroded mixed connections & arcing.

Plumbing will typically be copper hot/cold iside supply, and copper or cast iron DWV. The street cold water supply will likely be galvanized steel pipe unless it has been replaced - if the house has low water pressure or rust coloured tap water, then you likely have steel coming in from the street, otherwise it's likely copper.

It's unlikely that any 1950's era home will have insulated walls unless they were gutted and insulated later. Wall insulation didn't become commonplace until the 1960's. What was done to many 1960's and earlier brick-wall homes in the 1970's was the injection of urea-formaldehyde foam (UFFI) into the walls from the outside into the 1"-2" gap between the plaster interior walls and the inside surface of the brick (presuming brick construction).

There were several problems with UFFI:
1) as it cures it off-gasses formaldehyde - which isn't good for you
2) it can crumble into powder after a number of years
3) it reacts with water/moisture

The first problem precipitated a furry of crap and panic in that nobody wanted to buy a UFFI insulated house unless it was stripped out of the walls by gutting the house. Sellers were forced to sign UFFI clauses when selling homes. You couldn't get a CMHC insured mortgage back then if the house still had UFFI in it.

As it turns out, the amount of formaldehyde leaching into homes as a result of UFFI was less than that given off by brand new nylon or polypropylene based broadloom (at least the way the carpets were made in the late 1970's and early 1980's). CMHC later relented in the face of scientific studies confirming this, and the no UFFI issue legally disappeared, but dumb-ass real estate agents still shove contracts with the UFFI exclusion clause into deals.

»www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/corp/faq/faq_004.cfm
»joneakes.com/jons-fixit-database···h-hazard

So for the UFFI issues, install an HRV and live with it if the house has it (look for patched circular holes in the exterior walls - this would be where the UFFI was injected into the wall cavities).

peterboro
Avatars are for posers
Premium
join:2006-11-03
Peterborough, ON
reply to iLearn
There are reports on home building issues and renos in here for different years in Canada. BTW a 50 year old house is practically brand new in my neighbourhood where my home predates Canada as a country. »www03.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/catalog/ho···21128375

doechsli

join:2003-11-26
Louisville, KY
I'll take my 1959 built home over a relatives 1998 built home....the quality of workmanship is far superior as are the materials. With good bones a house can last several lifetimes.....

makaze
Premium
join:2004-02-23
USA
said by doechsli:

I'll take my 1959 built home over a relatives 1998 built home....the quality of workmanship is far superior as are the materials. With good bones a house can last several lifetimes.....

Same here, we looked at a few new homes and then decided on a 1969 built home. The new one looked fancy.. but looking behind the scenes (in the mechanical room) you could see how cheap it was built.


Draiman
Let me see those devil horns in the sky

join:2012-06-01
Kill Devil Hills, NC
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reply to iLearn
I rented a brand new house a few years back. I can tell you new construction has as many issues as my 1960's house. New construction you run into settling so cracks possible anywhere from the foundation to the drywall. You can run into doors and closets that aren't square so doors don't close right. You have no idea if the basement will flood. The new houses being built across the street from us don't come with gutters. You get a contractor grade lawn. They also don't come with plants or trees. Even then it will takes years or decades to get a nice shade tree or privacy from shrubs. Often times you get far less land with a new house then an old house as well. The new houses across the street from us get around 7,500 sq. ft. for their backyard. We have about 60,000 sq. ft. behind our house. Developers know they can make more money by packing houses closer to get more houses on the land.
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aannoonn

@optonline.net
reply to djrobx
»/r0/download/1···wer1.jpg

said by djrobx:

Holes had formed in the cast iron, and the clay sewer pipe had been infiltrated by roots. We paid for all of these repairs.

Good idea to run a camera down the sewer line. Otherwise, you could be buying this - »Sewer line repair

bemis

join:2008-07-18
Reading, MA
Reviews:
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reply to iLearn
50 years old as in 1963?

Asbestos... could be floor tiles, original counter tops, backsplashes, some ceiling tiles, pipe wrap, vermiculite insulation, exterior shingles...

Lead paint will almost certainly be there...

Ungrounded wiring...

Abandoned in-ground oil tank...

Any pipes in the slab...

How many layers of shingles on the roof? Around here you're allowed up to 2 layers... at 50 years old it might have a 2nd layer and be getting ready for a new roof which will be more expensive with 2 layers of tear off...

Underground Sewer and Water mains are usually getting near the end of their lives at 50-60 years (I'm facing that with my 1949 house)


cybersaga

join:2011-12-19
Welland, ON
reply to iLearn
We bought a house built in the late 50's in the Niagara region about 3 years ago and have been doing some renovations. A few things to look out for, some because of the age, some just because it's not new. Some have been touched on by others already.

-Ungrounded wiring: our place had some updated electrical, some original
-Cast iron/clay drain pipes: as someone else mentioned, it would help to get them inspected for cracks/roots before purchasing. If they're in good shape, there's no rush in replacing.
-Furnace: If it's old, get it inspected by an HVAC contractor. We knew ours was old, but figured it was still working so we had a few years. Turns out it had a cracked heat exchanger that we didn't know about till a year after we bought the house.
-Water heater: same as furnace. Also, check if it's a rental and don't take the seller's word on it; check with the utility company. We were told ours was a rental and when we realized it sucked and wanted it replaced, the utility company told us it wasn't rented.
-Roof: Any home inspector will tell you how much life the current shingles have.
-Mortar: If it's a brick house, check the condition of the mortar. It might need repointing. If water gets into holes in the mortar and freezes, it'll cause more damage. If bees get in there, that's not fun either.
-Water in the basement: Ask about water problems in the basement, especially if the house is in a low area. Ask if any foundation repairs have been done, like waterproofing, and if so, ask whether the whole foundation was waterproofed, or only part.

As someone else said, it's often not the original building you have to worry about; it's the renovations done since. That was the case in our house. Almost every renovation that was done in our house had things horribly wrong done: a joist cut and not properly reinforced, drains in the basement vented into the ceiling (without an air admittance valve), an electrical splice hanging loose in the wall, both hot and neutral wires tied to the same side of an outlet.

Our house does have original fibreglass insulation, though it's not great.

Always remember that you can put anything in the purchase agreement. If you ask the seller about any repairs that were done, and they say certain things were fixed, put that in the purchase agreement. You can state that you're purchasing the house with a fully functional and safe furnace and/or water heater and/or sump pump, or water pump if there's a pool in the backyard. If you find out later that some things aren't as they said they were, it's a lot easier to go back to them if it's in the purchase agreement. Otherwise it turns into a he said/she said game and you'll probably end up swallowing the cost.

This probably all sounds scary, but even if there are things wrong with the house, it doesn't mean you shouldn't touch it. It just means you should subtract the cost of the repairs from the price of the house (or what the value of the house would be if it were fully upgraded). That is, of course, if you're willing to do the upgrades.

iLearn

join:2013-01-16
canada
reply to iLearn
UPDATE:

So I went to this house yesterday and here is what I found.

- It was block foundation. There were signs of moisture in the basement and some areas were damp.

- 2 layers of shingles on the roof of the addition at the back not sure if the main roof also had two layers of shingles.

- The electrical panel was a newer combination panel but I could not tell if they service size was 60 or 100 amps.

- Main water supply piping was galvanized steel but I did see some copper there as well. The basement was finished so could not tell much.

- I noticed that the outlets were 2 prong so I am assuming that they were all ungrounded.

- The exterior was in a great shape, I did not see any cracks or mortar damage.

Anyways, I thought I should post an update.

Thanks for all your comments.

TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI
Check the outlets again. The house I just purchased was built in 1959, and had 2-prong outlets everywhere. However after removing the outlets, I found that ground wires were in fact installed and grounding the metal retainer boxes. All I have to do is replace the outlets with self-grounding 3-prong outlets, and I'm all set. You may be just as lucky.

Check to see if you have any 3-prong outlets already in the basement and/or garage. If you do, there's a good chance ground wires were run to the rest of the outlets as well.

If not, you should check anyways. Only takes a screwdriver and a couple of minutes to take a look, and a VOM to insure the ground wires are actually connected at the breaker box.

I also ripped the old wood paneling off the wall in one of the rooms and found cruddy 1" thick cotton insulation. It's no good by today's standards (has an R4 rating) but given the age of the house I should be happy it has any at all.