It’s easy to fall in love with an old house. An older property tends to look more charming than a brick box built in the 1970s or 1990s. The windows are bigger, the rooms are larger, those tall ceilings are bordered with beautiful plasterwork and just think about that open fireplace.


Stop dreaming and take a good look at the exterior walls for any cracks in the brickwork. If cracks are larger than 1mm and become wider with height, they could indicate subsidence. A quick, tell-tale sign is a diagonal crack from the corner of a window or a door. In the worst case, a house could need underpinning.

Was the house subject to any serious vibrations in the past? These could have been caused by nearby railway lines, quarry work and excavations or even bombing during World War 2. The cracks and other damage caused by these could have been mended superficially and may reappear during heavy rainfall or drought.

Kitchens and bathrooms in older properties are smaller than those built today. Think carefully about the subsidence risk if you intend to convert a basement or old scullery into a new kitchen.


Check the plumbing for old lead pipes and collapsed drains. Many houses built pre-1940 still have exterior pipes made of rusty iron that can burst during a hard winter. Flooding by the house could cause further subsidence. Periodic moisture that dries out only to flood again can encourage dry rot. This is an easy-to-identify fungus with black tentacles that penetrates brickwork as well as woodwork. Wet rot is not always very obvious and often a seller may fill in a spot and paint it over.

New houses have a damp course with a guarantee. In older properties, a damp course may be decades old, ineffective and not worth the paper it’s written on. Check the plasterwork carefully for any damp behind it.


The electrical wiring in an old property could be a fire risk. A lot of the wiring can be hidden behind skirting boards and not be easily accessible. Renovations of Victorian and Edwardian properties in the 1970s and 1980s included their rewiring with aluminium, not copper, cables. Aluminium wiring oxidises easily, causes circuit breaks and can spark a fire.


Older properties can be expensive to heat. Cavity walls that provide insulation were introduced in Britain only from the 1930s. If the property you are thinking of buying is located in a conservation area, you may not be able to replace the windows with modern double or triple glazing.

Current safety regulations may imply that the central heating system in an older house is unsafe. You may have to replace an old boiler at the every least. Open fires may look very attractive at Christmas time but does the neighbourhood have clean air regulations that prohibit the burning of anything except smokeless fuel? Many new homeowners arrange a delivery of expensive fruit tree logs only to find that they can do nothing with them.

The internal and external woodwork in an older house may no be quite plumb. So doors may not close correctly and windows may be insecure. It is important to able to install efficient locking mechanisms on all doors and windows.

Remember to get adequate home insurance to ensure that if anything goes wrong, you’re covered. You can buy home insurance from SO Switch.