Introduction to Old Home Inspections

Introduction to Old Home Inspections

In addition to typical wear and tear and antiquated building methods, an older property may present safety hazards that you should take care of before moving in.

A skilled home inspector can examine a lovely old property and identify any warning signs or dangerous elements in your possible new residence.

To ensure you know what your inspector is looking for, conduct some preparatory study and use our simple room-by-room checklist to follow along with the pros when old home inspection.

If you do not know what a general home inspection is, please read the article what is home inspection, then continue reading this article.

Common Issues Found in Old Homes

The following is a summary of typical problems discovered while inspecting older homes:

Structural Concerns: Foundation and Roof Problems

  • Cracks: The walls or floor of the foundation may develop cracks as a result of settling and foundation movement.
  • Uneven flooring: Sloping or uneven flooring can result from foundations that settle unevenly over time.
  • Problems with Waterproofing: Older homes may not have enough foundation waterproofing, which raises the possibility of water damage.
  • Deterioration and Age: In general, asphalt shingle roofs endure fifteen to twenty years. Older homes may have roofs that are worn down and approaching the end of their useful lives.
  • Leaks: Missing or cracked shingles, damaged flashing, and blocked gutters can all be causes of leaks in roofs.
  • Structural Concerns: Damaged trusses or sagging roof lines may be signs of structural issues with the roof frame.

structural concerns in old home inspections

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Plumbing Issues: Leaks, Corrosion, and Pipe Material

  • Cast Iron Pipes: Leaks: Older plumbing fixtures, loose connections, and worn-out pipes can all cause leaks.
  • Low Water Pressure: Modern fixtures and appliances may require a higher water pressure than what older plumbing systems can offer.

Electrical System: Outdated Wiring and Safety Hazards

  • Older Wiring
  • Overloaded Circuits: The higher power requirements of contemporary appliances may be too much for older electrical systems to handle.
  • Unground Outlets

HVAC Systems: Efficiency and Functionality Concerns

  • Inefficiency: Older HVAC systems frequently consume less energy than newer models.
  • Lack of Maintenance: Furnaces and air conditioners in older homes may not have had the necessary maintenance, which might lead to malfunctions and reduced efficiency.

Presence of Hazardous Materials: Lead Paint and Asbestos

  • Asbestos Concerns: Certain older HVAC systems may contain asbestos insulation, which poses a health concern.
  • Lead Paint: Lead-based paint, which poses a major health risk, particularly to children, may be present in homes constructed prior to 1978.
  • Mold and Moisture Damage: Leaks, condensation, and inadequate ventilation can all encourage the growth of mold, which can have negative health effects as well as structural damage.

All in all, a home inspection, whether it is an old home inspection or not, provides you with several benefits. Click on the article benefits of home inspection to see what they are.

Detailed Inspection Checklist for Old Homes

Below we have mentioned a complete, detailed checklist for old house inspection, starting with the exterior and structural elements.

Before that, do you know how to get ready for a home inspection? If you do not, click on the article on how to prepare for a home inspection to find out.

Exterior and structural elements:

  • The foundation is important: Check for cracks in the floor or walls of the foundation, especially in the areas surrounding the chimney, windows, and entrances. Indicators of foundation issues may also include uneven flooring.
  • Siding: Look for indications of decay, warping, peeling, or loose panels in the siding material. Older homes typically have wood, vinyl, or stucco siding.
  • The roof: Look for loose flashing around vents and chimneys, broken or missing shingles, any indications of drooping, and any structural problems with the roof framework.
  • Make sure that the gutters and downspouts are securely fastened, clear of obstructions, and capable of diverting water away from the foundation.
  • Doors and Windows: Windows and doors should be opened and closed to check operation in inspecting old homes.
  • Wall and ceiling cracks: Inspect the house's exterior and interior for any cracks, particularly those that are substantial.
  • Uneven flooring: Sloping or uneven flooring can result from foundations that settle unevenly over time.
  • Alignment of Doors and Windows: Check to see whether windows and doors open and shut smoothly and without sticking.
  • Chimney: Check for loose bricks, crumbling mortar, and fractures in the chimney.

Interior components: walls, floors, and ceilings:


  • Cracks: Check the walls for any cracks, especially those that are above fireplaces, around entrances, windows, and corners. Large fissures may be a sign of structural problems or foundation displacement.


  • Uneven flooring: Sloping or uneven flooring can result from foundations that settle unevenly over time.
  • Floorboard creaking: While some floorboard creaking is common in older homes, excessive floorboard creaking or bouncy flooring may be a sign of loose floorboards, difficulties with the subfloor, or even structural issues.
  • Soft Spots: Proceed cautiously across the flooring, feeling for any areas that might buckle under stress.


  • Cracks: Check the ceilings for any cracks, particularly around light fixtures and corners, just as you would the walls.
  • Water Stains: Look for water stains on the ceiling as these may be signs of plumbing issues or leaks in the roof above.
  • Sagging: Sagging ceilings may be a sign of water damage weakening the ceiling joists or structural issues with the roof construction.
  • Asbestos

Roofing and Attic Space:


  • Age and Condition: Shingle roofs made of asphalt usually endure 15 to 20 years.
  • Shingles: Check for any that are curved, cracked, or missing.
  • Flashing: Look for any indications of rust, damage, or loose seals on the flashing surrounding skylights, vents, and chimneys.
  • The existence of moss or algae development might be a sign of possible roof degradation and moisture issues.
  • Valleys and Drainage: Look for any indications of debris accumulation or poor drainage that can cause leaks in the valleys, which are the points where two roof sections converge.


  • Structural Integrity: Watch for indications of drooping rafters or roof trusses.
  • Ventilation
  • Moisture Damage: Inspect the roof sheathing (the wooden boards beneath the shingles) and rafters for indications of water damage, such as water stains, mold development, or decay.
  • Wiring: Exercise caution when handling the attic's electrical wiring.
  • Insulation: Make sure the insulation is put correctly and inspect its state.
  • Indications of Pests: Search the attic for evidence of animal activity, such as droppings or nesting materials.

attic inspections in old house inspections

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For more information aboout attic inspection, click here.

Basement and crawl spaces:


  • Foundation Walls: Examine the walls for any fractures, particularly those that are horizontal or significantly broader than ¼ inch.
  • Water Damage: Look for indicators such as mold development, efflorescence (white, powdery deposits on walls), and water stains.
  • Drainage: Keep an eye out for any indications of water gathering or improper drainage on the basement floor.
  • Humidity: If at all feasible, use a hygrometer to gauge the humidity in the basement; it should preferably be less than 60%.
  • Airflow: Check the foundation walls for vents and make sure they are not obstructed.

Crawl spaces:

  • Accessibility: Prior to entering, make sure all necessary safety precautions are taken, such as donning protective clothing and having enough illumination.
  • Structural Integrity: Look for indications of water damage, fractures, or decay in the support beams and floor joists.
  • Moisture and Drainage: Check for evidence of water damage, mold development, or excessive moisture, just as you would in the basement.
  • Insulation: Enough crawl space insulation can save energy costs and assist control the temperature in the house above.
  • Pests: Keep an eye out for evidence of animal activity, such as nesting materials or droppings.

Electrical system evaluation:

  • Age and Capacity: Look for a panel with enough capacity to meet your demands and circuit breakers, which are often safer and more convenient than fuses.
  • Labeling: Each circuit on the panel, along with the appliances or spaces it serves, should have unambiguous labeling.
  • Safety Features: To assist avoid electrical fires, modern electrical panels are equipped with Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs).
  • Type of Wiring: By today's standards, aluminum or knob-and-tube wiring, which is seen in older homes, is dangerous.
  • Wiring condition: Look for any broken, frayed, or exposed wires.
  • Overloaded Circuits: Flickering lights or several appliances connected to one outlet may be signs of an overloaded circuit.

Plumbing system inspection:

Water supply pipelines:

  • Material: Galvanized steel pipes, which are prone to rust and corrosion over time, may be found in older residences.
  • Leaks: Check pipes for any obvious indications of corrosion, water stains, or leaks.
  • Water Pressure: Low water pressure may be a sign of issues with the main water supply, fixtures, or pipelines.
  • Material: Older homes frequently include cast iron drain pipes, however, these pipes are prone to bellying (sagging parts that trap water and waste) and cracking.
  • Clogs: An experienced inspector can determine the extent of any obstructions and suggest fixes.
  • Venting: Check to see if any of the roof's vent pipes are clogged.

Appliances and fixtures:

  • Showerheads and faucets: To save water and stop leaks, replace any outdated or broken fixtures.
  • Toilets: Look for any leaks around the base of the toilet, misaligned flushing parts, or water-wasting toilets that run.
  • Water Heater: Check the water heater's age and state. Older water heaters may need to be replaced since they are getting close to the end of their useful lives.

Heating and cooling systems:

Warming device:

  • Type of System: Boiler systems and gas, oil, or electric furnaces are typical heating systems found in older homes.
  • Age and condition: Older boilers and furnaces may be less efficient than modern versions and may be approaching the end of their useful lives.
  • Efficiency: A system with a higher AFUE rating uses less energy and saves you money on your expenses.
  • Safety features: Carbon monoxide detectors and automated shut-off systems are two examples of the safety features included in modern furnaces and boilers.

Differences Between New and Old Home Inspections

The main distinctions between new and older house inspections are broken down as follows:

Inspection focus:

  • Brand-New Building: The main goals of inspections for newly constructed homes are to verify that installed systems are operating properly, that building rules are being followed, and that appropriate construction methods are used. They usually take place at different points during the building process in order to spot and fix any possible problems before it's finished.
  • Older Homes: The purpose of an inspection is to determine the general state of the property, point out concerns that are already present, analyze how well the key systems (heating, ventilation, and plumbing) are working, and find any hidden problems that may need to be fixed.

Common deficiencies:

The following is a comparison of typical flaws discovered in freshly constructed vs older homes.

Ancient houses:

  • Problems with the structure include water damage, drooping roof lines, uneven flooring, and foundation cracks.
  • Outdated systems include heating and cooling systems that are inefficient, cast iron or galvanized steel piping that is susceptible to leaks and corrosion, and knob-and-tube wiring.
  • Water damage symptoms include the appearance of mold or mildew growth and leaks around windows, doors, roofs, or foundations.
  • Lead Paint and Asbestos: If the house was constructed prior to 1978, there may be lead paint and materials containing asbestos, which might be harmful to your health.
  • Inadequate or antiquated insulation in older homes might result in insufficient energy efficiency and increased energy costs.
  • Inadequate Ventilation: Moisture buildup and possible mold growth can result from inadequate ventilation in crawl spaces, basements, or attics.

Fresh houses:

  • Construction defects include incorrectly installed windows, doors, siding, or roofing, which can cause leaks or structural problems.
  • Building Code Violations: Failure to comply with current building standards including electrical wiring, plumbing installations, structural aspects, or fire safety measures.
  • Problems with the HVAC system include improperly installed ducting that causes uneven airflow, a system that is too small for the demands of the house, or refrigerant leakage.
  • Cosmetic flaws include small drywall cracks, paint that has to be touched up, and flaws in tile or flooring.
  • The absence of paperwork for necessary inspections during the building phases results in missing permits or inspections.

Inspection techniques and tools:

The focus and particular equipment utilized may vary slightly between new and old house inspections, even though many inspection processes and tools are similar. This is an explanation:

Methods of Inspection:

  • Visual Inspection: The visual examination of easily accessible sections such as walls, ceilings, floors, exterior roof, foundation, electrical panels, plumbing fittings, and HVAC systems is a major component of both examinations.
  • Functional Testing: Major systems such as electrical outlets, switches, faucets, toilets, showers, and heating and cooling systems (including thermostats) will all be tested by inspectors in both inspections.
  • Moisture Detection: To find possible hidden moisture issues in walls, floors, or basements, moisture meters are utilized in both examinations.

Instruments (Same for Both Inspections):

  • Flashlight: A must for lighting cupboards, attics, and dark crawl areas.
  • Measure things with a tape measure, such as the height from floor to ceiling, the size of a room, or the spaces between windows and doors.
  • Screwdrivers: Required for opening electrical panels, taking off covers to examine fixtures, and looking for missing screws.
  • Level: Used to look for sloped walls or uneven flooring, which might point to problems with the foundation.
  • Ladder: Required for high wall locations, roofs (during some inspections), and attics.
  • Digital camera: A must for capturing images of flaws or places that need more investigation.

How to Prepare for an Old Home Inspection

Preparing for an old home inspection matters, just like preparing for inspecting brand-new houses. The old home might even require you to pay more attention when getting prepared.

Here is what you should pay attention to before your old house gets inspected:

Select a Reputable Inspector:

  • Choose an inspector who is qualified, has worked on older homes before, and is conversant with the building codes in the area. Check internet reviews and get references.

Pre-inspection checklist for homeowners:

  • Ensure that the house is accessible: Make sure the attic, basement, or crawl space (if applicable), as well as the outside, are all easily accessible to the inspector. Move any debris or anything that might get in the way of the inspection.
  • Turn on Utilities: Prior to the inspector's arrival, ensure that all utilities (gas, water, and electricity) are switched on.
  • Locate and unlock the gas and water shut-off valves in case the inspector has to turn them off while conducting the inspection.

What to expect during the inspection process:

  • Be Present: Try to make yourself available for the inspection. This gives you the opportunity to raise any concerns you may have, get clarification on any observations made by the inspector, and ask questions.
  • Make a note of it: Make a note of or document any significant observations the inspector makes.
  • Bring Up Any Concerns: Let the inspector know about any past issues you have with the property so they can focus more of their attention there.

Post-Inspection: Understanding Your Report

You most likely received a thorough report detailing the inspector's findings after your old house inspection. This is a guide to help you through the post-inspection stage:

Interpreting inspection findings:

  • Emphasis on Deficiencies: Keep a close eye on the locations, descriptions, and possible outcomes of these problems.
  • Severity Is Important Differentiate between significant structural issues (like foundation cracks) and minor cosmetic flaws (like chipped paint). Significant problems may affect property value, safety, and functionality.
  • Examine Beyond the Signs: To determine how urgently the issue has to be resolved, look for phrases like "recommend further evaluation," "safety hazard," or "requires repair."

Prioritizing repairs and renovations:

You're probably looking down a list of faults following your previous house inspection, some small and others serious.

For your older house, the following approach will help you prioritize repairs and renovations.

Classify inadequacies:

Problems that endanger your safety or the structural integrity of the house come first.

Next, deal with issues that affect the lifetime and functionality of important systems.

Think about the intensity and severity:

Serious structural problems, substantial water damage, or malfunctioning systems need to be fixed very quickly.

Problems that can wait, like old finishes, should be prioritized over those that can get worse rapidly, like a leaky roof.

Budgeting for necessary updates:

Sort repairs according to importance using the money you have. Think about the intricacy of the repairs and your ability to do it yourself. For intricate plumbing, structural, or electrical repair, hire trained experts.

Special Considerations for Historic Homes

Inspecting an older home; especially one with historical significance; makes maintaining its architectural legacy a top priority in addition to figuring out what needs to be fixed.

Preserving historical integrity:

During an old home examination, follow these guidelines to make sure utility and historical integrity are balanced:

Seek an inspector who has assessed historic houses before. They will be aware of the special qualities and possible difficulties that come with older properties.

During the examination, make it plain that you want to maintain the historical integrity of the house. Take the inspector through your priorities and concerns.

Working with specialized contractors:

If you are inspecting an ancient home, especially one that is historically significant, you may find flaws that call for the knowledge of experienced contractors.

Here's how to collaborate with these experts to guarantee appropriate renovations and repairs that preserve your home's historical integrity.

Get in touch with the local historical society or conservation group. They are able to recommend experts who have worked on historic properties before.

Look through internet directories that have a specialized list of historic restoration contractors. Seek out credentials such as Rehabilitation.

Navigating local regulations and permits:

Making planning for repairs and modifications stems from inspecting an older property.

Even though it's a thrilling procedure, local laws and permissions required might make it difficult.

To begin with, find out which local government organization is in charge of granting permissions. This can be the county planning office or the building department in your city.

The majority of communities have building regulations that specify the minimal requirements for repair, construction, and security. Learn these codes, particularly the ones that deal with historic restorations.

If your house is situated in a recognized historic area, there may be extra rules or restrictions on the kinds of repairs and materials that are allowed. For information on particular criteria, contact your local historic preservation commission.


An ancient home inspection aims to not only find issues but also to comprehend and value the history of the house.

You may make sure that there is a balance between preserving the home's historical beauty and establishing a secure and useful living area by collaborating with an experienced inspector and placing preservation first.

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