If you live in a home built prior to 1980 as millions of Americans do, you’ve probably found that upgrading your home has become a necessity. In order to take advantage of today’s modern living that relies on eco-friendly and energy efficient homes, high-tech programmable appliances and HVAC systems, dependable electrical power, “smart” home technology, digital connectivity, and 21st Century lifestyles that embrace casual entertaining and a functional, creative use of space for everyday living, remodeling is key.

When you’re undertaking a major remodeling project on an older home, you’re bound to encounter conditions and problems that are unique to homes built in the 70’s, 60’s, 50’s and much earlier. As much as we appreciate the style, charm, character, and architectural beauty of older homes, many of the materials used for construction back then have been discontinued due to modern restrictions and regulations.

We’ve outlined some important items to consider and discuss with your home remodeling professional before starting any remodeling work.

Encountering the Outdated and Unexpected

In homes built prior to 1980, going back as far as the 1940’s, asbestos was used widely as an insulator and fire retardant in roofing, flooring HVAC insulation, some types of paint, and adhesives. The biggest problems come about when asbestos is disturbed for removal by sawing, sanding, scraping, or other means that can lead to it giving off powdery residue. Once that asbestos powder becomes airborne, it can easily be inhaled, which could lead to lung damage or poisoning.

Remodeling Tips: If you’re considering getting asbestos-containing materials removed from your home, keep this in mind: Do not sand, drill or saw materials that contain asbestos. And don’t use power tools on materials containing asbestos.

Get a professional asbestos removing service if you think doing it yourself is too big for you to undertake.

Leave spray coatings, insulation or insulation board that contain asbestos to asbestos removal professionals to handle, since they have the know-how and the equipment to handle complicated asbestos removal situations.

Paint containing lead was once used on surfaces throughout homes for decades: walls, ceilings, radiators, doors, window frames and sills, and just about anything that could be painted. Homes built before 1978 are required to be checked for lead paint before any renovation or remodeling can begin. If left undisturbed, lead paint isn’t hazardous, but when you start remodeling, the dust created by it can be. Old lead paint can chip, peel, and be extremely dangerous to young children.

Remodeling Tips: Most paint stores sell lead encapsulants that will allow you to paint over lead paint surfaces and seal the lead paint inside, covering it with a topcoat. You can pick up a brochure about taking care of lead paint problems at paint stores.

Control lead dust with six-mil polyethylene (poly) plastic and duct tape. Spread the plastic sheeting over the floor and seal up edges with duct tape. If you have area rugs and furniture that can be moved, remove them from the room.

If you have a furnace blower and heat registers, turn them off and seal the registers so that lead dust can’t get in them. Also keep windows closed to keep dust from blowing around, especially on breezy days.

The foundations of older homes can pose serious structural and mold issues if left unrepaired. Many homes built before the 1940’s were constructed without decent grading to run off water from rainstorms, so moisture was able to seep into basements through cracks in the floor and walls forming mold, which might go unnoticed until it’s spread throughout most of the foundation walls. If you notice cracks in the basement floor, interior walls and corners around the basement, it’s likely that the foundation is not as solid as it could be and needs to be examined by a .

Remodeling Tips: If you notice that your foundation floor has ¼-inch wide cracks or greater, or notice cracks that resemble stair steps, you could try to seal them up with epoxy putty, or calling in a contractor to inject epoxy, which can be expensive.

Foundations that have tipped, bowed or cracked severely will need to be reinforced considerably to keep them from degenerating more severely. Walls should be repaired on the inside with wood or steel braces, carbon-fiber mesh, or wall anchors that are at least 6 feet apart around the perimeter of the wall.

The kind of reinforcement or foundation repair you may find you need could depend on the severity of the foundation problem you’re experiencing. There are a number of solutions for any situation, so learn about your options and repair costs so you’ll know when to enlist the help of professionals.

Older homes possess plenty of style, charm and character that make them easy to fall in love with. Some need a little TLC, while others need a gut rehab. Whatever category your home falls into, remember that before you can get to the more exciting aspects of remodeling an older home, you’ve got to deal with the essential grit and grime of it as well!