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Tips When Renovating An Older Home

By Mike Holmes

Mike’s Advice / Home Renovation

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 @ 3:32pm

I’m in the renovation business and business is booming. Everyone is renovating, which is one of the reasons it’s so tough to find a good contractor. Consider the age of your house when deciding on kitchen renovations, bathroom renovations, home improvement renovations and house additions.

If you are buying an older home to renovate and bring it up to date, be sure to do your homework—it can also be a money pit.

Asbestos & Home Renovations

Many older homes and buildings today still contain asbestos. When we started demo on the River House on Holmes+Holmes, we realized that there was asbestos. When asbestos fibres are disturbed they get released into the air, and if they’re inhaled they can get trapped in the lungs and cause serious health issues, including cancer. Canada has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer caused by asbestos.

Although asbestos isn’t currently used in construction materials anymore, there are still many homes that contain asbestos—usually older homes. Any home built before 1980 should be professionally checked for asbestos, especially if you’re planning a renovation or investing in home improvement projects. If your home has materials containing asbestos, getting them properly removed by a professional company through remediation can drive up the cost of your reno.

There are many materials that could contain asbestos. Read more here.


Get To Know Your Wiring

Older houses can be a spaghetti factory of wires—copper, aluminum or even knob and tube–often mixed together.

Knob and tube - mike holmes advice make it right

Knob and tube wiring can be a safety concern and will definitely impact any renovations you might have planned.


If you are using about the same amount of electricity as people used in the 40s and 50s, then there may not be any issue with your wiring. But that is rarely the case. Old wiring was designed for different amperage, when people just didn’t use as much electricity. Most insurance companies won’t even insure houses that have knob and tube wiring.

Is It Dangerous?

Absolutely. First it leads to blown fuses–then homeowners replace 15 amp fuses with 30 because their fuses keep blowing. Which leads to overloaded circuits and possibly electrical fires.


How Can You Tell If The House Has Knob & Tube Wiring?

  • In older homes, one plug was usually all you got in a bedroom. If there are two or three outlets, you can bet there is old and new wiring patched together.
  • New plugs installed with new wiring to make it look like the entire wiring was replaced. Sometimes it could be attached to old knob and tube about four inches away inside the wall.
  • Any time you find surface wiring run along the top of the baseboard and around the door casings, it’s likely you have new patched into old.

Other Problems In Older Homes

When budgeting for a home renovation, I always recommend getting a pre-reno home inspection done. A home inspection can alert you of safety issues prior to starting work, so you can budget appropriately. It will point out deficiencies in your home. Here are some other issues with older homes:

  • Rusting pipes
  • Rotting beams
  • Mould and termites
  • Water damage
  • Hazardous framing
  • Uninsulated walls and ductwork
  • Undermined foundations
  • Damaged exteriors, such as cracks in plaster.

In Holmes Next Generation, we got to work on a Heritage Home which presented its own set of issues. His transformation was awesome though, check out the before and after here:



Potential buyers need to do their homework. Always hire an inspector to check out any home you’re thinking of buying. But especially if you’re thinking of buying an older house.

Look for a Holmes Approved Homes renovator in your area.

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