Renovating Historic Buildings

Are you looking to get started on a home renovation project? If you are renovating an old buildings there could be serious health hazards lurking within their ancient walls. Before you begin a renovation project, make sure you understand the dangers involved and how to prevent them from affecting you.


Previously used in pipes and in paint, lead can cause health problems in humans, including neurological disorders and infertility. Lead is most-commonly found in buildings that were built before the 1970s. If your home pre-dates this time, it’s very important to get the property assessed for the presence of lead. If there is lead, have a professional come in and dispose of it in a safe way, as lead can enter the air and also contaminate your water supply.


Asbestos is another extremely dangerous substance often found in older buildings. Made from a fibrous mineral, asbestos was widely used in construction materials up until its ban in the 1980s. Because of its flame-retardant qualities, asbestos was used in a variety of places in homes, including acoustic ceilings, drywall, vinyl floors, roofing tiles, fire blankets, insulation, and the lining of heating ducts.

However, during the 1980s, asbestos was linked to lung damage. Because the fibers break off and enter the air, they can be inhaled and damage human lungs. Even just a little asbestos dust can settle in the lungs and cause permanent scarring and irritation, which can lead to a disease called asbestosis. Asbestos has also been linked to cancer, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that grows in the membrane lining the chest cavity, heart and abdomen.

If your home was built before the 1980s, there is a very good chance that asbestos could be there somewhere. Generally, if the material is in good condition, asbestos is not considered a health threat because the particles cannot enter the air. If the material is deteriorating, then you’ll need a professional to remove it. The Health & Safety Executive has a helpful pictorial guide which can help you identify the material in your home.

When to Call In Professionals

It’s always a good idea to get a professional assessment for health hazards like asbestos and lead if you have any reason to think they might be present in your building. Not only will these dangers affect your own health, but also as the owner you can be held liable for any accidents or illnesses that occur to other people. You don’t want to be sued for asbestos compensation by visitors or tenants to your building.

Faulty Construction

If the building you’re working on was built more than fifty years ago, you may have some physical hazards to deal with. Rotting floors, faulty wiring, and decrepit foundation can all pose significant risks. Some problems may require complete replacement with new materials and construction, and what may have started as a little DIY renovation may require months of labor and possibly professional assistance.

If you think you might come across these issues consider getting a professional in to inspect the building and give you an idea of the size of the job and then you can decide if to use a professional or attempt it yourself.

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