The house was built in 1964. Walking into it is like walking into a 60's film set; nothing has been done to it since it was built.

It looks to be in good condition, but we're concerned about potential asbestos lined air ducts (it has warm air heating), and maybe it needs a whole rewire (it still has the massive 60's mains fuses).

What other things should I be wary of?

  • 2
    Based on your previous questions, I believe you're UK based. You may want to add this, as you seem to be getting US focused answers. The differences may or may not be significant. – AndyT May 10 '18 at 15:53
  • 1
    I'd be working under the assumption that a house like that needs a full renovation - at a minimum, you'll be wanting to replace electrical systems, plumbing, water heating and any central heating. At that point, you're going to be tearing the house apart anyway. Is it a bargain price, by any chance...? – Dan May 10 '18 at 15:58
  • 1
    60' S electrical can be just fine, there are homes with 20' S and prior wiring out there. 60' S will usually have breakers. The main issues with this age home in my area is popcorn ceilings & tile flooring (asbestos) and lead paint. For plumbing galvanized pipe was common and it may be corroded internally if the home was in use, in 99 I bought a home that only had been lived in for less than a year all the electrical and plumbing was fine except toilet flapers. – Ed Beal May 10 '18 at 17:13
  • 1
    I was built in 1964. i think you should prop me up in the corner and call me art. – Alaska Man May 10 '18 at 17:26
  • 1
    @SteveDunn - For a 3 bed semi with a complete renovation (including electrics, windows, new bathroom and kitchen, new boiler and adding central heating) in England I'd expect ballpark £50k-60k. With regards to a bargain price: I wouldn't expect the purchase price + renovation cost to be much less (if at all) than the resale price, anywhere in the UK. – AndyT May 11 '18 at 8:07

Answer based on it being a UK house:


  • An old style fusebox is unlikely to have RCD protection (UK wording of GFCI mentioned in another answer). Replacing with a consumer unit is recommended.
  • Old wiring may have degraded. They used to wrap the wires in rubber to make the cables, which deteriorates over time. If so, a complete rewire is recommended.
  • There are unlikely to be sufficient sockets (UK wording of "receptacle" mentioned in another answer) for modern usage. This can be fixed with a rewire.
  • There is unlikely to be an electric shower. If you want one, you need a new circuit for it. I don't believe you're allowed to add new circuits to old style fuseboxes, so score another one for replacing with a consumer unit.


  • As you said, the hot air ducts may be surrounded with asbestos. If you want rid (in order to install central heating instead) then removal is costly
  • The ceiling is probably artexed which may contain asbestos. Only way to find out is to get it tested.


  • A brick built house in the UK with a tiled roof is unlikely to be in much structural distress; most 60s houses are still standing fine.
  • In theory the roof is beyond its design life, but that doesn't mean there's necessarily anything wrong with it. A surveyor and/or structural engineer can help you determine if there is. Probably there isn't any felt underneath the tiles - it's not up to modern standards but it's not necessarily a problem; it's just a failsafe / back-up layer that you don't have.


  • I'd have a good look at the guttering. I'd be surprised if the original's lasted 50 years in good condition. Guttering failure leads to damp problems.


People have talked about getting in a home inspector, so a surveyor in UK wording. Not a bad idea, but the internet is littered with people complaining that surveyors refuse to comment on most of the important aspects (saying you should get in specialists) and make minor required repairs sound catastrophic. Getting in a structural engineer instead is probably more expensive, but probably more beneficial (at least for the structural aspects; they won't comment on electrical or asbestos at all).

Overall I like Dan's comment:

I'd be working under the assumption that a house like that needs a full renovation - at a minimum, you'll be wanting to replace electrical systems, plumbing, water heating and any central heating. At that point, you're going to be tearing the house apart anyway.

In which case the only thing that matters is the structure, as the rest of it is coming out. (Although I don't agree with Dan's whole list - the plumbing might be ok.)

  • Thanks @AndyT, much appreciated and thanks for the translations :) – Steve Dunn May 11 '18 at 5:38

As much as I'd like to think I know what I'm doing when buying new properties, I ALWAYS hire a home inspector. If you are concerned about Asbestos, you aren't going to be able to negotiate on price or to get it fixed unless you have a home inspector come in. The added bonus of hiring an inspector is that if they miss something that should of been caught during the inspection, like termites, they are insured to cover it for you.

Further, if you suspect Asbestos, you should work testing for that into your P&S contract. The tile floors and ceiling plaster are just as likely to be asbestos.

Moreover, an untouched house from that era is likely to have a leaky roof, and a leaky roof means you have mold (another reason to have an inspector). The air ducts may / may not be full of dust. The intake plumbing may be made out of led. The cast iron waste lines may be rotting and depending on water quality you may even need to verify the that the copper piping doesn't look like it has any pitting. At this point, the the foundation likely has a few cracks and you'll wanna test for Radon if you are in an area prone to in.

I just noticed Jasper posted while I was writing this. While I agree with him, you'll likely want to update your windows. The electrical capacity probably isn't as much of an issue as it would have been a decade or two ago now that people are moving to LED bulbs and laptops. Similarly, if your appliances either work or they don't - This isn't a 60s specific thing. Moreover, I'd argue appliances were better built and easier to repair back then, so if they are in good shape may even outlast a modern one.

TLDR; Don't do it your self. get an inspection!

  • Thanks @virtualxtc - we'll definitely be getting an inspector/having a survey that covers everything. – Steve Dunn May 11 '18 at 5:40

Does your area have good, ethical home inspectors?

Charles Buell is a Seattle-area home inspector whose blog provides examples of a variety of worst-case (and/or funniest case) inspection findings. A large number of Seattle-area homes were built in the early 20th century, but he also has examples from inspections of mid-20th century homes.

Mid-20th century construction often had asbestos in a variety of places, including roof shingles, siding shingles, floor tiles, insulation, and popcorn ceilings.

50-year old homes often have several obsolete systems:

  • Electrical.
  • The plumbing might be excellent copper pipes (except for the lead solder), or it might be clogged galvanized pipes.
  • Single-pane windows. (Consider adding custom-fit interior storm windows instead of replacing the windows with new double- or triple-pane windows.)
  • Kitchen appliances, especially stoves, refrigerators, and a possible lack of microwaves and dishwashers. There might not be space for larger appliances.
  • HVAC systems.
  • Water heaters.
  • Lead paint. (It can be painted over.)
  • (Lack of) earthquake-resistance and high-wind resistance.

Leaks and vermin infestations can cause serious problems in homes of any age.

  • Thanks @Jasper - thanks for link to the interior windows – Steve Dunn May 11 '18 at 5:41

One important item you need to know about houses that were built before the 1965 NEC was approved and went into effect in you area.

Grounding and GFCI protection were nonexistent. Now if no new work was ever done, then the resident falls under the grandfather clause, meaning it can stay as it is unless it stops working. So when you walk around the house and look at the receptacles they should be the type with only 2 slots and no ground connection. This is important because someone may have gone around and changed out these receptacles, and they have no ground protection which make it illegal. If the receptacles are labeled as ungrounded they may be protected by installing a GFCI protection device at the beginning of the circuit. So be sure and ask if they are protected in such a manner and ask to point out the location of the protection. I doubt any seller would want to rewire and entire residence because of the cost.

As everyone has already recommended hire an independent inspector yourself and follow his recommendations. Do not be misled by having someone else bring one in and paying for it. It's a matter of legal liability. If I were to hire an Inspector, Engineer, Lawyer or any professional, then they work for me and in my best interest. If you hire them yourself then they work for you and in your best interest.

Good luck.

  • Thank you - yes, we'll definitely be getting an inspector for this house! – Steve Dunn May 11 '18 at 5:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.