7 Common Electrical Problems with Older Homes

So You Want To Buy an Older Home?

Older HomeUnless you pay for a unique design, construction companies tend to use the same floor plan for multiple projects.  This may save some money, but it makes so many houses feel like they come off an assembly line.  If you want a house with some personality to it, you might consider buying an older home.  Older houses have a rustic charm to them that you often don’t see in modern buildings.

It’s not all glam and glitz, though.  Older homes have unique problems to deal with.  If you are going to buy an older home, you should be aware of the kinds of electrical problems you can run into.

Insubstantial Power

The power needs of modern homes have changed considerably over the years, as have the codes and regulations.  In the “good, old days,” contractors built houses with just enough power to run the basic needs.  It wasn’t much compared to the high-energy demands of today.  If you buy an older home, it might not be equipped to handle your needs and this can lead to all sorts of electrical problems.  You may find the lights flickering as soon as you turn on any appliance.   Be sure to have your home examined by an electrician before you buy it to find out if it meets your needs.  It might be worth it to upgrade it (if possible).

Old Wiring

With old houses comes old wiring.  Rats and other pests can damage the insulation, or it can simply deteriorate over time.  Once the wiring gets exposed, you’re at risk for all kinds of problems.  The biggest risk is fire.  Stray sparks from an exposed wire can turn the old walls into a bonfire in minutes.  When buying an old home, it’s best to replace the wiring to be safe.

Lack of Proper Grounding

Older homes often lack ground-fault circuit interrupters. As a result, running more than one appliance at a time could cause your fuses to start popping.  While older fuse boxes are usually safe, they won’t be able to handle a modern energy load.  The easiest and best solution is to have an electrician upgrade the fuse box to a circuit breaker panel.

Knob and Tube Wiring

Knob and Tube WiringReally old homes, especially those built before the 30s, often used knob and tube wiring in their construction.  This consists of open wiring running through tubes in the walls held up by knobs.  These materials deteriorate with age, creating a high risk of fire.  You cannot install new insulation over the wiring, so be sure to have your electrician replace these bygone relics.

Backstabbed Wiring

At the back of every outlet and switch in any building is a terminal for securing wires to it.  If you look, you’ll see holes where wires can be stabbed through, as well as the terminals for wrapping wires around.  In a lot of older homes, it is common for the wiring to be stabbed through. It’s faster and cheaper, but it’s easier for the wires to come undone, posing a fire hazard.  Be sure to check that all the outlet wiring is properly secured before moving in.

Bad DIY Projects

The older a house is, the more people are likely to have lived there.  Every homeowner tries to do some upgrades to their house on their own, even when they really should get a professional.  If you’re buying a house that others have lived in, you’ll probably find remnants of DIY projects that didn’t turn out quite right.  The most common DIY screw-ups occur in the wiring and the plumbing. If you find something in your new home isn’t quite right, call a professional to take a look rather than trying to fix it yourself.  In the long run, it will save you time and money.

Flickering or Dim Bulbs

You might think flickering and dim bulbs are normal for old houses.  While you will get this from time to time, you definitely shouldn’t think it’s normal for it to occur regularly.  This is often a sign of a problem in the wiring and could even indicate a fire hazard. If your lights flicker like the house is haunted, don’t ignore it; have a professional check it out as soon as you can.  It might just save your house from burning down.

Call the Professionals

Buying an older home is always a fixer-upper project.  There’s no way around it.  You might be looking to save money on the repairs and that’s understandable, but never let money concerns override good sense. Older homes have unique electrical problems that you need to resolve before you move in and it’s better to get it done right the first time.  You may balk at the expense of a professional, but it will be more expensive to do it wrong the first time and have to have it fixed later.  This is especially true if the first time you realize you’ve done it wrong is when a room goes up in flames.

Don’t take chances when buying old homes.   Get in touch with us first.  Let us look over and fix up the place before you move in.  We can make sure that the house is up to standard and fix up what isn’t.  An initial expense when you first buy it could save you a lot of money – and stress – in the long run.