Understanding the Impact of Modern Building Standards on Older Home Inspections
By Texan Inspection CEO Ray Hinsley
Older homes present a specific set of challenges in the home inspection process. When current building standards are used to assess an older home, both the inspection process and the results are impacted. The home inspectors at Texan Inspection have years of experience with older home inspections in the Houston Metro area.
The first thing to remember is that older homes were built according to the building standards at the time of construction. However, since that time, standards have likely evolved or been amended, and homes that initially passed inspection might not meet today’s more rigorous requirements.
In an effort to help clear up misconceptions, I have addressed a few specific questions below.
Q: How does an inspector handle all the current building requirements during an older home inspection?
A: Buyers and sellers should expect a lengthy inspection report detailing each building standard the inspected older home does not meet. The older a home is, the more likely it is that it doesn’t meet today’s standards. Expect a longer inspection time to allow your home inspector to thoroughly inspect and identify all the changes. You’ll often find that this additional time and attention to these details translates to additional charges.
Q: Is a seller required to update an older home to meet today’s building standards?
A: Unless specified by the buyer’s lender, neither party is required to repair the deficiencies identified in a home’s inspection report. The purpose of a home inspection report is to provide a buyer information on the home’s current condition. Once a buyer receives the home inspection report for the home, they can choose which items to request the seller repair and which items to accept as-is.
To make a buyer aware of a home’s condition, Texan Inspection home inspectors – and all Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) inspectors – are required to report as deficient any current building standards an older home does not meet. TREC wants a buyer informed of the features, especially health and safety, that an older home may not currently include.
Q: What items should a buyer focus on when buying an older home?
A: Important items to consider include the following:
- Foundation – Time takes a toll on construction materials, so foundations of older homes are more likely to need repair.
- Sewer pipes – There are several types of in-slab sewer piping that have been used on older homes. Materials such as clay (1900-1980) and cast iron (before 1975) are common. Regardless of material type, it is always a good idea to have a plumber conduct a hydro-static test (pressure test) to identify possible leakage.
- Water supply pipes – Galvanized piping (most common before 1960) and polybutylene piping (1978 – banned in 1995) are two types of piping that are susceptible to failure and leakage. Today’s re-piping repair or installing new PEX piping techniques have made it much easier and less expensive to repair.
- Lead paint and asbestos – These toxic substances are not uncommon in older homes, especially prior to 1978. Ingestion or exposure to the dust and chips from either can have serious consequences. Both elements can be contained or removed; containment typically being the more affordable option.
- Two-wire electrical wiring – Two-wire house wiring (early 1960’s and prior) does not have a grounding wire and therefor presents a greater risk of causing an electric shock. Updating to three-wire electrical systems minimizes the risk of electric shock and are compatible with surge protectors to keep your electrical equipment safe.
Q: Are there items that the buyer should consider updating after purchase to bring the home into compliance?
A: Standards evolve for a reason. As new technology gives us enhanced understanding of the integrity of our building structures, we gain new insight into how to improve the safety or their inhabitants. So while, a new buyer is not required to bring their older home up to modern standards, I believe there are some items you should seriously consider addressing for the sake of your family’s safety.
- GFCI outlet protection – These provide additional protection from electrocution in wet areas such as bathrooms, kitchen and outdoor areas.
- Smoke/carbon dioxide detectors – Install these in all required locations to protect your family.
- Electrical panel – Update your electrical panel. Many older electrical panels do not provide the capacity to power all the new appliances and additional electronics to meet lifestyles of today.
- Gas appliances – Endure that all gas appliances are installed and vented according to today’s standards.
- Insulation – Adding insulation can significantly reduce energy costs for older homes without sufficient insulation.
Home inspections are important for so many reasons, not the least of which is the protection of your family. When you are armed with a thorough inspection and have all the facts at your fingertips, you can make informed decisions about what you do and don’t want to bring up to modern standards.
We specialize in older home inspections, so please contact us today at 281-342-5762 to schedule an inspection that you can trust to give you all the information you need.