Three hidden dangers lurking in century homes

There’s something about a 100-year-old home (a century home) that appeals to certain people. Perhaps it’s the history of the previous owners, the now-unavailable materials, or the craftsmanship. Nevertheless, sentiment cannot be the only factor in a home purchasing decision. If there are 100+ year old homes for sale on your search list, make sure to be aware of these three hidden dangers. To learn more, there is plenty of useful information available at Calgary Homes.

1. The wiring

Up until the 1930s, most homes were wired with “knob and tube”(K&T) wiring. State of the art for the time, knob-and-tube no longer lives up to the demands of today. Moreover, after almost a hundred years of use, many of these wires are deteriorating. The price of failure is high: an overloaded K&T circuit can cause an electrical fire. More immediately, these systems have no grounding wires, so forget plugging in new appliances.

Be sure to ask the current owner to see if any K&T wiring is left. If so, the only solution to knob and tube is to rewire the entire home. Costs can quickly add up, so make sure to talk to an electrician before making an offer.

2. The pipes

Up until the 1970s, lead could be found everywhere — paint, varnishes, gasoline, and — unfortunately for us — the pipes. If your home was built before the 80s, there’s a good chance that there is lead in the plumbing system in some form. Even non-lead pipes such as copper or galvanized steel may have been joined together with lead solder. It can be difficult to ascertain exactly what materials your pipes are made of. The current owner may know, but it may be smart to do a water lead test anyway.

3. The grounds

One of the biggest developments in the past 100 years has been the switch to natural gas and electricity for heating. However, many older homes currently have — or used to have — kerosene (or oil) heating. These bulky systems often had underground tanks. Unfortunately, these tanks can deteriorate and leak toxic sludge into your lawn. These tanks may still be around even if the system has been upgraded. During the inspection, be sure to ask your inspector to conduct a tank sweep.


Whether it’s living in a piece of history or taking care of the exquisite craftsmanship, 100-year-old homes for sale have a je-ne-sais-quoi that appeals to a certain segment of the population. However, any home must be functional for its occupants. The charm of an older home can quickly get old when costly repairs start adding up or if the occupants have to move out for physical safety. Luckily, with your new knowledge, you’ll be able to check for these hidden dangers before closing.