Are you living in an old house full of character and history? While there’s no denying the allure of vintage homes, they often come with unique issues.

Some of these problems may have slipped your mind or been overshadowed by the home’s charm. Here are five common old house problems you might have forgotten about:

Outdated Electrical Systems

Older homes often have electrical systems not designed for today’s electricity needs. These systems can be unsafe due to frayed wires or overloads, leading to fires.

Annually, an estimated 51,000 fires are attributed to home electrical issues, resulting in nearly 1,500 injuries and causing approximately $1.3 billion in property damage.

Identifying outdated electrical systems in your home is essential for safety and efficiency. Here are some signs that can help you determine if you have an ancient electrical system:

    • Age of the home. The age of your home is a significant indicator. If your house was built several decades ago, it will likely have outdated electrical systems. Homes built before the 1960s may have knob-and-tube wiring, while those built before the 1970s may have aluminum wiring, both considered obsolete.
    • Frequent circuit breaker trips. If you experience regular circuit breaker tips, it could indicate that your system is overloaded or not equipped to handle your electrical needs. This is a common issue with outdated systems.
    • Blown fuses. Older homes may still have fuse boxes. Suppose you find yourself frequently replacing blown fuses. In that case, it’s a sign that your system is struggling to cope with modern electrical demands.
    • Dimming or flickering lights. Dimming or flashing lights, mainly when you use multiple appliances or devices simultaneously, can indicate inadequate wiring or an outdated system.
    • Unusual odors or burning smells. Suppose you detect unusual odors or burning smells near outlets, switches or electrical panels. In that case, it’s a red flag that something may be amiss with your system. This should be addressed immediately as it can be a sign of overheating or damaged wiring.

Drafty Windows and Doors

Old windows and doors can let in cold drafts, making your home less energy-efficient. Drafts can be energy vampires, causing your heating and cooling bills to skyrocket.

Upgrading to energy-efficient windows and doors can save you on your energy bills. These modern options come with advanced insulation, multiple glazing and high-quality weatherstripping. Here’s how to identify, address and enhance your home’s energy efficiency:

    • Inspect for drafts. On a windy day, carefully feel around the frames for cold air. Check for visible gaps, cracks or damaged weatherstripping.
    • Replace or repair weatherstripping. Weatherstripping is designed to seal gaps and prevent drafts. Ensure it’s in good condition and provides a tight seal when windows and doors are closed.
    • Consider window and door sealants. Sealants and caulking can seal gaps and cracks around window and door frames, preventing drafts and improving energy efficiency.
    • Elevate stored items. Store items off the basement floor on shelves or pallets to prevent them from absorbing moisture. This can also make it easier to inspect for signs of water intrusion.
    • Ventilation. Ensure proper ventilation by using exhaust fans or opening windows to reduce humidity.


Asbestos was a popular building material due to its fire-resistant properties. It can be found in various places in older homes, including insulation, floor tiles and siding. Asbestos is generally harmless if left undisturbed but when disturbed, it can release fibers into the air, leading to serious health issues.

If you suspect asbestos, be cautious. Always consult experts for proper asbestos removal to avoid exposure during remodeling or repairs. DIY removal is risky and not recommended.

Damp Basements

Basement dampness can lead to mold growth and damage your home’s foundation. Here are steps to address and mitigate basement dampness:

    • Identify the source of dampness. Determine the start of the moisture. Common causes include poor drainage, groundwater seepage, leaks and high humidity.
    • Improve exterior drainage. Ensure that your home’s exterior is graded away from the foundation. Ensure your gutter and downspouts function correctly and direct rainwater away from the foundation.
    • Seal foundation cracks. Inspect the foundation for damages and seal them with waterproofing sealants or hydraulic cement. This will help prevent water from entering the basement.
    • Install a sump pump. Consider installing a sump pump if your basement experiences frequent flooding or water seepage. It will collect excess water and pump it away from your home.
    • Waterproofing membranes. Apply waterproofing membranes or coatings to the interior walls and floors to prevent moisture from seeping through the foundation.

Lead Paint

Lead-based paint was commonly used in homes before 1978 when it was banned for residential use in the United States. While it might be buried under layers of newer paint, it can still pose a significant health risk. The problem with lead paint is that it deteriorates over time, creating dust and chips that are particularly hazardous for children and pregnant women.

Finding lead paint in your home is a critical step. Here’s how to identify lead paint in your home:

    • Visual inspection. Start with a visual inspection. Examine painted surfaces, especially those that are deteriorating, peeling or chipping. Lead paint is often present in layers below newer coats of paint. Look for areas where the paint is cracking or where there are visible layers of paint.
    • Lead paint test kits. Home lead paint test kits are available at hardware stores and online. These kits include swabs you can rub on the painted surface. They change color if lead is detected. Follow the instructions carefully when using these kits.
    • Professional inspection. Consider hiring a certified lead inspector or risk assessor for a more thorough and reliable assessment. They have the expertise and tools to test for lead in your home accurately. You can find certified professionals through your state’s environmental or health department.
    • Request a lead disclosure. Federal law requires the seller or landlord to provide a lead disclosure form if you buy or rent a property built before 1978. This should include information about any known lead hazards in the property.
    • Use caution during renovation. If you’re planning to renovate an older home, it’s essential to be cautious. Lead paint can be disturbed during renovations, creating a health hazard. Always assume lead paint is present in older homes and take appropriate precautions when sanding, scraping or disturbing painted surfaces.

Old Houses and Vintage Homes

Old houses, with their unique character and craftsmanship, are worth preserving. While these common problems may have been forgotten, addressing them will help you maintain the beauty and integrity of your vintage home, making it a comfortable and safe haven for generations to come.