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Buying an Old House? Get the Floors Inspected Back to Blog

Buying an Old House? Get the Floors Inspected

Older Properties Bring Their Own Challenges – A Close Inspection is Essential

Many dream of owning an older property. Arrange the right inspections before you buy to ensure it does not turn into a nightmare.

One of the most unique things about living in the UK is the sheer variety of homes. In any town or village, you will see brand new developments standing alongside buildings that date back to Tudor times. Turn into another street, and you might encounter a row of Victorian terraced houses or 1930s semis.

Older properties have their own character, and if those walls could talk, they could share the secrets of generations that have lived there before you, so it is easy to get caught up in the emotion of buying a period house. However, this is also a time to be pragmatic. A house is a huge investment, the largest you will ever make, and companies that specialise in timber treatment services are only too well aware that
some contain secrets that can lead to horror stories.

What’s under the floor?

Most old houses are built with a suspended wooden floor, supported by wooden joists. Over time, this can be a common place for damp to accumulate. It is not any fault with the design per se, but instead can be a consequence of the improvements and works that will have been carried out over the years.

Chances are, the property you are looking at has central heating. The pipes will be running beneath the floor, and any slight leaks can result in rotten joists over the course of time. Or perhaps there is an extension that was added on years ago – how sure can you be that during the construction, air bricks were not blocked up or rendered over?

Won't the survey cover all that?

Unfortunately not. A standard homebuyers report does not go into great detail, and will certainly not look at the subfloor of your house. Even if you pay extra for what the estate agents and solicitors call a “full survey,” the surveyor is unlikely to look under the floorboards unless you specifically instruct him to. This is why it pays to get an expert in to look properly at your subfloors so that you know what you are getting
yourself into.

What if there’s a problem?

If the inspection reveals defects in the joists or signs of rot, it is better to know about it before you buy. The action you need to take depends on the nature of the problem, but the good news is that if you have your heart set on the property, it does not necessarily mean you have to walk away. Here’s an example of somebody who moved a bungalow and had to replace and insulate rotten floors after being quoted
£4000 to correct the problem.

There are three stages to dealing with this type of problem. The first is that any seriously weakened joists or beams will need to be carefully removed and replaced. Next, those that are showing signs of rot but have not been weakened can be treated by specialists to literally stop the rot. And finally, it is a case of identifying the source of the problem and carrying out the necessary repairs to stop it happening again.

By identifying the problem and getting an estimate of the costs, you can discuss a way forward with the seller, for example by adjusting your offer accordingly, and your dream of owning that period property can still lead to a happy ever after.

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