You might not believe that your home could contain hazardous materials, but you may be wrong.
If your home was built before 1978, it could potentially contain lead-based paint. The federal government banned consumer use of lead paints, because it was found to be the leading cause of lead poisoning, which can cause life-threatening damage in children and adults.
Lead-based paint that’s in good condition and not subject to friction surface such a window or ceiling is less likely to be hazardous. But if the surface paint is heated, scraped, sanded or rubbed together, lead dust and chips can form. Lead dust can be inhaled or spread to the surfaces where your children play or where eat. The only way to know for sure if your property’s paint is risk free, is to test for it.
A hazardous material inspection will tell you if your home has lead-based paint and where it is, but it won’t tell if the paint is a hazard. A risk assessment can determine if the lead is a hazardous. You can also get a combination inspection and risk assessment.
Regularly check all painted surfaces that rub together or are subject to wear, such as windows, doors and stairways, for signs of deterioration.
Lead doesn’t just hide in the paint; the hazardous material can be found in your pipes as well. Toxic levels of the substance can accumulate in your drinking water and put you and your family’s health at risk from poisoning.
The only way to access if your drinking water contains lead is to get it tested. Although most water municipalities perform system-wide tests for lead, those results may not be an accurate picture of your individual water supply since many homes contain unique pipes and materials based on the year they were built.
If you know the pipes in your home were installed before 1986, they may be made from lead (a soft, dull, gray metal), or you have non-plastic plumbing that was installed, you may want to test your water.
Asbestos is a type of hazardous material-mineral fiber that was used commonly during World War II. It was used primarily in roofing and construction since it effectively provided fireproofing and insulation, but was also used in caulking, wall compounds, wallpaper, ceiling tiles, pipes and ducts, furnaces, and boilers. Asbestos treatments were even sprayed on ceilings and walls to provide a decorative overlay, to cover up any problem’s underneath, or to block sound.
In the late 1970s, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) started banning asbestos because of environmental concerns, and in 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completely barred any new uses of the material.
A troubling concern today is, many older homes still contain asbestos. Though a ban was put in place and you can no longer use, there was nothing requiring it to be removed.
As long as it remains in good shape and stays undisturbed, having asbestos in your home doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get sick. But if it starts breaking down either from natural deterioration or home remodeling, it can release tiny fibers into the air that can get trapped in your lungs, cause scarring and inflammation. Asbestos exposure can even lead to serious diseases like mesothelioma and other fatal cancers.
So, what can you do if you can’t see asbestos fibers? The best way to know, is to hire a certified professional to inspect your home and/or to remove any asbestos materials. You should never try to take samples of any suspicious material yourself; doing so can disrupt any fibers that are present, sending them into the air.
People rarely think of wiring as hazardous material. If you live in an older home and you’ve never had your electrical wiring inspected, you may want to do so. According to the CPSC, there are about 46,000 fires involving home electrical systems each year, and the majority of those could be prevented with a routine inspection. In many cases the CPSC says that, homes built between 40 and 100 years ago had not been inspected since they were built.
The obvious warning signs of failing electrical systems are flickering or dim lights, a shrinking of your television picture, frequent power outages, sparks, unusual sounds like sizzles or burning smells, smoke, any kind of electrical shock, damaged insulation, and warm or hot outlets or switches. Chances are, if you can’t remember the last time you had your electrical wiring inspected you probably should.
Balloon framing can also be considered hazardous materials. It was a commonly construction method from the late 1800s through about 1940. It involved using a continuous wood stud wall that stretched all the way from the foundation of a home up to the attic. That means in a home with balloon framing, flames can spread from the floor to the roof in just seconds.
Charm and character are one of the most things you love about your older home, but, mindful of what comes with its age. And when purchasing an older home, it’s better to be prepared for the unexpected dangers of hazardous materials, so you’re not surprised by the unexpected repairs.