Restoring, Repairing and Reclaiming: A Design, Style and Advice Blog

3 Major Challenges When Remodeling An Old House

Older homes have a rustic charm about them, but they can be difficult when doing remodeling projects. Before building materials were standardized and construction codes established, homes could be built any way the contractor wanted. Here are 3 common issues you may encounter when remodeling your old home.  


The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety notes that many countries have banned the use of asbestos for construction. In Canada, the use of asbestos has declined starting in the mid-1970s.

If your remodeling project does not disturb structures that might contain asbestos, you won't have a problem. But if you will be tearing out a wall containing asbestos or a ceiling coated with the old "popcorn" textured paint, you'll need an asbestos removal specialist to do the work.

The danger is when you inhale the asbestos fibers. These fibers cause a type of cancer called mesothelioma. These cancer cells attach themselves to your internal organs, often with a fatal result. A licensed asbestos removal company knows how to do the work safely and will leave your home free of contamination.

Non-Standard Electrical

If your house is older that 40 years, you likely have older electrical wiring. The wiring may not be color coded, may not be running through metal conduits and may not be properly grounded. Switches and outlets may only have two wires going to them instead of the industry standard of three. Very old homes can have wires wrapped with paper insulation and be attached to ceramic insulators.

Repairing or replacing this wiring is a good job for a licensed electrician who can follow the hot and neutral wires and add a ground wire for protection. If you do anything yourself with the old wiring in your home, start at the fuse box and replace all of the wires to the desired switch or outlet. Check with the city codes for wiring standards first, as they may require you to enclose all wiring in a metal conduit from the circuit panel to the switch or outlet. 

Lead Paint

Prior to the 1970s, lead paint was still commonly used. As with asbestos surfaces, if you don't disturb a wall painted with lead paint, you'll have no problems. If you tear out a wall, cut or sand it, you'll send flecks of lead paint out into the air. The dust from the paint can settle on carpet and furniture to be breathed in later.

Services that specialize in lead paint removal can do the teardown and protect your home from the lead dust. Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, so even a small remodeling project that disturbs a lead-painted surface can be hazardous to your family.

You can keep the unique character of your older home while updating the interior. Use these professionals when you encounter any of these remodeling challenges and keep your home and family safe.