Renovating a House – Keeping an Eye on Renovation Costs

hammer, nails, wood

Old, but charming: used houses bring some advantages when buying. Compared to a new home, they are usually cheaper. Also, they are often located in a grown environment, far away from the development area.


Above all, however, it is the house itself that is convincing: the style of a bygone era, the walk across historic parquet floors, or the view from high windows.


Nevertheless, buyers should not get too carried away by the initial enthusiasm. Behind the beautiful appearance, there is often more need for the renovation than one might think.


If you want to estimate the effort and costs of remodeling realistically, you should, therefore, consult a building surveyor to be on the safe side.


Fire hazard: Renovation costs for obsolete electrical installation

Sometimes the electrical installation in used houses is outdated, and the electricity grid is no longer sufficient for the connections that are needed today.


As a result, if too many household appliances are connected at once, the power grid is quickly overloaded.


Besides, older houses often only had screw-type fuses installed, and old installations had no RCDs. However, this switch can prevent serious accidents: if there are significant differences in current intensity, it interrupts the circuit. But if it is missing and a person touches a live wire, he or she can get an electric shock.


Inefficient: Old heaters have to be removed

Similarly, old as the house is usually also the built-in heating. The Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) stipulates that older heating systems must be replaced. This applies to boilers that were installed up to the end of 1984.


Boilers installed after 1985 may be in operation for a maximum of 30 years and must then be removed. According to Michael Pils, the only exceptions are condensing boilers or low-temperature boilers. Nevertheless, it is possible that the homeowner has not fulfilled this obligation.


Risk of breakage: water pipes with too much lime

Often the hot water pipes of used houses have to be replaced because, over time, more and more limescale settles in the ducts, less water flows through them. Often the pipes are also corroded, i.e., rusted – then there is the danger of a water pipe breakage.


Building expert Pils says: “If the pipes are clogged with lime, they have to be replaced.” And that can be expensive


Harmful: building material made of asbestos

Temperature resistant and stable: because of these two properties, asbestos was a common building material and a component of corrugated roofs, façade panels or floor coverings in the 1960s and 70s. It was not until 1993 that its production and processing were banned, as asbestos is a serious health hazard.


Michael Pils explains: “The material is extremely short-fibred; the asbestos fibers are about two micrometers in size. If they are inhaled, they settle in the lungs and can cause lung cancer”.


Even today, older houses could still contain asbestos-containing material in the form of asbestos cement. If the cement part weathers, the fibers get into the air and become a health hazard.


Spread: Mold is not always visible

Mold is an insidious fungus because it is not always visible. In used houses, it may have appeared in the past and disappeared again. But that is not why it is gone right away.


Often its roots are still in the walls because wallpaper paste, woodchip wallpaper, and emulsion paint provide an ideal breeding ground. According to Pils, the risk of mold growth is very high as soon as the surface of a building component is exposed to a humidity level of seven or eight percent for 48 hours.


Property damage to the house

There are many types and causes of damage to the substance, making the renovation of the house expensive:


When the earth under the house sinks, settlement cracks can form. According to Pils, you can recognize them by the fact that they run from the outer façade to the inside and are stair-shaped.


But they can also occur between the ceiling and the wall. The building expert explains: “There are many reasons for the foundation to be laid, for example undermining by defective sewage or rainwater pipes, neighboring building sites in the underground car park or unsuitable building ground.


Rising damp: According to Michael Pils, this problem occurs particularly in houses from the Wilhelminian period. In pre-war buildings, the basement is usually not made of concrete but brick, which can lead to rising damp.

The civil engineer explains: “You can often tell this from the exterior plaster; at the height of about one to two meters above the floor, there is a strip around the old building where efflorescence appears, and the plaster falls off.” To prevent further damage, there are various methods of stopping the moisture. According to Michael Pils, the costs for this start at around 10,000 to 12,000 euros for a family house.


Dry rot: Dry rot is a fungus that first appears in the roof or cellar.


The building expert explains: “If fungus-like outgrowths occur, especially on wooden parts, this can be the dry rot.” This is particularly dangerous because it can also grow inside the house wall until it has grown from the cellar into the roof truss.


Michael Pils explains which renovation work will be necessary: “Wood components usually have to be completely replaced. This is followed by chemical and/or thermal treatment.” He advises that the help of an expert is essential here.


In the case of severe infestation, the renovation costs can become so high that renovation is no longer worthwhile, and the house is better demolished.


Have renovation costs estimated: do not buy a pig in a poke

Even if the enthusiasm for the old building is great, interested parties should not rush the purchase.


To be on the safe side, it is better to arrange another viewing appointment and take an architect or civil engineer with you. Although this also costs money, he can realistically estimate what it will cost to renovate the house. In this way the buyer protects himself from a possible bad buy.

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