There are two potentially hazardous sources of lead
in an older home: plumbing pipes and interior/exterior
"Even after lead pipes were replaced
in the 1940s, the earliest galvanized pipes still contained
lead until it was changed over to zinc," says Gehman.
"Lead was also present in much of the solder used
to join copper pipes up until the mid-1980s."
Owners of older homes often prefer to
install a filtration system to extract lead from their
water systems -- a kitchen filtration system might run
$500, a whole-house system $2,000 -- rather than replace
the pipes, unless the pipes are hopelessly clogged or
already included in the remodel.
The potential dangers from lead paint
lie in the possibilities that a child might ingest it
or that it might fall into a vegetable garden and be
ingested through the produce. The rule of thumb is to
encapsulate it in latex paint -- remove exterior siding
rather than sandblast it to avoid releasing the lead
into surrounding soil.
$6,000 to $7,000 to replace all pipes, $15,000-$18,000
to remove old siding and install new.
When your old home was built, chances are that grounded
electrical outlets were either not required by code
or only required in locations where water is present
such as kitchens and baths. But times and codes have
changed. If you're not sure if your outlets are grounded,
check them -- if they're two-pronged, instead of three-pronged,
they are not grounded outlets. But even if they are
three-pronged, have your electrician verify that they
are indeed grounded.
Completing electrical work in accordance
with code today requires that you install ground-fault-interrupter,
or GFI, outlets in your kitchen and baths and possibly
one outlet in your garage. The GFI cuts off power immediately
should an appliance come in contact with water. It's
a small price to pay to avoid tragedy.
It's likely that you'll also have to upgrade
your electrical box from the original 60/100- or 125-amp
capacity to today's 200-amp standard. A new box is a
good investment since older systems weren't built to
run modern appliances such as dishwashers, hair dryers,
garbage disposals and air conditioners.
But digging into a remodel doesn't mean
you're going to have to replace the wiring throughout
your entire home.
"Not usually," says Schloegel.
"Under the International Residential Code, the
building official has the authority. If it is a significant
amount of renovation, they can ask for the whole house
to be brought up to current code, but we have done major
whole-house renovations that were about 75 percent of
the house, and they have not made us bring the whole
house up to code."
On the other hand, it may be a good home-value
investment to do so. In homes where behind-the-wall
wiring is not practical, a good alternative may be to
conceal the new wiring behind baseboards.
A single GFI outlet can cost as little as $100. Cost
to rewire a kitchen so every appliance has its own circuit:
$1,000 to $1,700. Cost to rewire an entire house: $9,000
Behind your walls, in your basement or in your attic,
asbestos may be lurking. If it is, it can stop your
project in a New York minute because permits are required
to handle and dispose of it.
"Unfortunately, it was used in quite
a few products: floor coverings, as insulation around
duct work, even home siding," says Tyson.
Unless the asbestos is "friable,"
meaning it can be readily crumbled and released into
the air in the form of toxic dust most typically found
in duct insulation, it shouldn't present a problem.
"If we encounter it, we let the homeowner
know, and it will have to be removed by a professional
abatement company before we can come in," says
Estimated cost: $15,000 to $18,000 for
Strange as it seems, the old single-pane windows are
now typically more expensive and harder to find than
the double-pane energy-efficient windows approved for
new construction. The originals with new dual-paned
energy-savers typically run in the $600 to $800 range.
7: Tanks, wells and cesspools
Owners of old homes may not know what surprises await
beneath their lawns until renovation projects unearth
them. In previous generations, it was common to have
an oil tank buried in the backyard to hold heating oil.
Even older homes may have had a well, cesspool or septic
tank on the property that did the work of modern water
and sewer systems.
If you uncover a buried surprise, there
are numerous solutions, from removing the tank, if it's
empty, to draining it and filling it with rocks or other
solid materials. But if you have a buried oil tank,
your contractor may have to obtain a special environmental
permit and take soil samples to assess possible contamination
before digging up and disposing of the tank, usually
at a state-approved facility.
$1,400 to $1,600 to fill a septic tank; $2,000 to $2,500
to remove it; and $3,000 to remove an oil tank if no
Jay MacDonald is a contributing editor based in Mississippi.
Posted: April 12, 2006