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A living room stripped to the wall studs for renovation.

7 Updates That Must Take Priority During a Home Remodel

March 31, 2016

Remodeling a home is a dream for many, but what if you run into an issue you didn’t plan? We’ve compiled a list of seven potential issues that should take priority if you should find them during your remodel. While you had perhaps planned on those fancy new bath fixtures or that gorgeous lighting, remember that these seven problems can lead to major property damage and health issues.

Most of these issues also need to be disclosed to insurance providers, home inspectors and future buyers. If you skimp on repairs here, you’ll pay for it later. It could be an increase in your insurance or a lower price for your home when it comes time to sell.

1. Damage to the Foundation

A new foundation can cost $40,000 or more, so fixing problems, even if they seem insignificant, is a big cost-saver in the long run. Cracks and fractures on outside walls or in your basement, sagging floors, buckling walls and moisture or mold could be signs of a larger problem.

Damage to your home’s foundation can cause problems you might not expect. If you notice doors and windows are not closing properly, they may be misaligned due to the foundation shifting. Tree roots and large shrubs, erosion and extremely wet or dry conditions can also cause problems for the base of your home. Even burrowing animals like moles can damage your foundation by loosening the dirt around the house.

2. Termite Damage

Termites can do major damage to a home, so seek immediate treatment when you notice the smallest sign of infestation, such as wings shed by the insects, tubes through the wood or any other unexplained damage. Attics, crawl spaces and anywhere with substantial woodwork are the most likely spots to find termites.

Unfortunately, termite damage can often go unseen for years as the insects weaken support beams, floor and ceiling joists, posts and studs. Homes of any age are vulnerable, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that a home is too new for termites, or that an older home has survived long enough to be “termite-proof.”

3. Old Wiring

Homes built during the late 1800s through the 1930s often utilized knob-and-tube wiring, meaning single wires insulated by a rubber or cloth sleeve.

Compared to modern wiring standards, knob-and-tube wiring leaves a lot to be desired. Chief among the problems is the fact that the system doesn’t use a grounding conductor, so three-pronged appliances can’t be used. The wires also dissipate heat into the air, which can cause a fire hazard if the wires are near insulation.

Because knob-and-tube wiring is so old, if you find it in your home it’s likely that it has been modified over the years, upping the odds that something can go wrong. The wiring just wasn’t designed for the electrical requirements of modern homes, so running too many appliances can overload the system much more easily than with modern wiring.

4. Mold

Just like termites, mold can do unseen damage to your home for years. Beyond that, it can be a health threat, causing respiratory problems and a host of other health issues.

Mold often grows behind walls, drywall and wallpaper, or in spots where water has accumulated over the years. The smell of mold or mildew may be the only sign that something is wrong. If you see mold, take action immediately. Even a small amount of visible mold may be the result of large patches hidden behind walls, the ceiling or under floors. Look for water stains or discoloration for an idea of where the problem areas may be.

Running dehumidifiers in the basement or other damp areas can help prevent the formation and spread of mold.

If you want to verify the presence of mold, there are mold kits available at most hardware stores.

5. Leaks

Leaks can be a source of mold in your home, as well as many other issues. An old roof, foundation damage, old pipes or even bad drainage in your yard could lead to water damage in your home.

If your roof leaks, the water is likely rotting wood, staining walls and creating ideal mold conditions on its way down. Similarly, leaking pipes may be damaging the nearest walls, floors and ceilings.

Keep an eye on hoses for washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters and refrigerators to make sure you catch any wear or damage early. Make sure areas with water pipes are getting enough warmth, or insulate the pipes to prevent them from freezing.

6. The Roof

Roofs can last anywhere from 15 to 40 years, and since they last so long, a new one is pricey. A new roof can run from $5,000 to $25,000 or more, so you want to make sure you take good care of yours.

Near the end of a roof’s lifespan, it’s more likely to leak. But there are other issues that can damage your roof. In colder climates, ice dams are caused by poorly-insulated roofs and can damage the roof by expanding below shingles and into existing cracks. Ice dams can form on old and new roofs, depending on the heat radiating through the roof.

Watch for leaks inside, as well as torn, cracked or missing shingles outside. If a roof is more than 20 years old, it’s likely you need a replacement. If the roof is 10-15 years old, you might be able to get by with repairs to a section.

7. Asbestos

In older homes, this form of insulation can sometimes be found tucked away in attics, behind walls or wrapped around pipes. If you’re tearing out walls and find asbestos insulation, stop work immediately to deal with the hazardous material.

As a carcinogen, asbestos is a major health concern. When asbestos ages, it begins to flake and can release asbestos flakes into the air. If you inhale the flakes, it can cause cancerous mesothelioma.

If you suspect there is asbestos in your home, the first step is hiring a certified asbestos professional to test samples. If asbestos is present, a contractor can remove it or encase it, which is sometimes safer. Between inspection and removal, asbestos-related costs can range from $600 to $4,000.

Everyone hopes for an easy project when remodeling their home, but surprises are bound to come up. What might seem like a straightforward remodel could reveal unexpected expenses lurking in your home. For more information on ways to keep you and your family safe, check out ​our monthly newsletter. It’s full of helpful tips and need-to-know facts!  Click below to learn more.

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