What to watch out for with old homes and insurance

There’s no denying the romantic and practical appeal of owning an older home. As the owner of an older home, you might just be starting to think about old home insurance even if you already factored the cost of fixing up and remodeling your home into the price you paid for it. With housing prices in Ontario rising, especially in the Greater Toronto Area, purchasing an older home offers you a more affordable path to home ownership.

As a bonus, older homes are typically found in nice, established older neighbourhoods on larger lots than in newer housing developments. If you paid less for your home than a more modern home with similar features, it could be because it’s a diamond in the rough. This can be an excellent opportunity to add value to your home by updating important structural and design elements that highlight your home’s most unique and charming features.

What counts as an old home?

Unlike people, homes are considered “old” once they hit the age of 50. This is when some of us are just starting to live our best years, and it’s entirely possible that the same could be true for your home. Even if your home doesn’t look or feel a day over 39, it’s a good idea to talk with your insurance company about the considerations of old home insurance. If your home is over 50 years old and has never been renovated, it’s possible that your insurance provider will recommend you have certain parts of your home checked out or renovated to keep it up to date with current building safety standards.

Your home has experienced a lot of change in its lifetime. You could be experiencing any of these quirks:

  1. An old roof might not protect against water so easily.
  2. Frayed electrical wiring could present a fire hazard.
  3. The plumbing might need replacing.
  4. The heating system might need a safety inspection or an upgrade
  5. You might have retro shag carpet hiding in the basement.

All of these things could result in higher insurance premiums (except the shag carpet, but it could still use replacing!).

Unfortunately, an insurance company could even deem an old home too risky to insure until significant hazards are addressed. To help make sure that your old home can be insured affordably, read up on these 5 common building and maintenance issues that affect old home insurance.

Old home insurance upgrade recommendations from the government

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario recommends upgrading certain elements of your home if it possesses any of these features.

Nerves of galvanized steel plumbing

Galvanized steel piping was mainly used in home construction before 1950. This type of plumbing is likely to corrode and rust after 40 to 50 years, making them hazardous if they’re still around in an older home. When these pipes are damaged, water pressure problems can occur. A leaky pipe or rupture could put your home at risk for flooding and water damage. It’s recommended that galvanized steel pipes are replaced with more durable copper or plastic piping.

Boost your home energy from 60 to 100 Amps

Another common feature of homes built prior to 1950, 60-amp electrical service is more likely to overheat and cause electrical fires than its 100-amp successor. Replacing a 60-amp with a 100-amp electrical service will update your home with modern building standards. If you decide to stick with the 60-amp service, some insurance companies might require you to install a switching device that prevents more than one major appliance from being used at a time.

Knob and tube wiring aren’t as fun as they sound

If your home is older than 50 and hasn’t had its wiring updated, you should have your home inspected by a Licensed Electrical Contractor. Knob and tube or aluminium wiring is another feature of older North American construction that places your home at greater risk of electrical fires. This type of outdated wiring system consists of hot (or live) and neutral wires which run parallel to one another. If two of these wires come into contact as a result of damage to the insulator knobs or the ceramic tubes that separate them, a fire could occur.

Exposed wires can be dangerous to your family and home, and unlike modern wiring, knob and tube wiring is not equipped with a ground wire, which protects you family from electric shocks and power surges.

Check on wood stoves every year

Wood-burning stoves can give your home a cozy, rustic charm, but they can also be a fire hazard, which is neither cozy nor rustic. Some insurance companies will require your stove to be inspected by a certified Wood Energy Technical Training Technician before you can purchase old home insurance. If your insurance company also requires your stove to be certified, you can contact one of these organizations:

  1. Underwriters Laboratories of Canada
  2. Canadian Standards Association
  3. Warnock Hersey

Some insurance companies might also require an accredited sweep or technician to thoroughly inspect and clean your stove annually.

Replace fuel tanks older than 25 years

Like furnaces, fuel oil tanks that have recently seen their 25th birthday might need to be replaced. Two and a half decades old is pretty young in people years, but if an ageing fuel tank were to corrode and leak, the environmental damage to your neighbourhood (and the financial damage to your wallet) could be significant.

Even if your fuel oil tank or furnace is still a healthy teenager, your insurance company might ask you to have it inspected by a Technical Standards and Safety Authority.

Additional considerations of old home insurance

As with every home, it’s a good idea to have a thorough inspection conducted before you purchase an older house. Other potential insurance sticking points for older homes include:

  1. Mould
  2. Termite damage
  3. Sewer and septic system corrosion

Since every older home is so unique, it’s helpful to talk with an insurance broker about special circumstances that could affect your insurance coverage.

For example, if your home has received a heritage designation, it likely won’t affect your insurance costs, but your local government authorities might require that you limit renovations to preserve parts of your home that have historical significance. Even if your home isn’t officially a heritage home, you may still want to preserve the historical aspects that made you fall in love with it in the first place.

For the best coverage, you should record and tell your insurance provider about all of your older home’s special features.

Part of the allure of old homes is that they’re beautiful and uniquely imperfect, but that doesn’t mean finding old home insurance for your ‘young at heart’ home has to be overwhelming. Working with an experienced insurance broker will help you find the right provider for your home’s insurance needs.

The experts at aha insurance are always happy to help you find the best advice on home insurance coverage for young and old homes alike

Find out how much you can save on your home insurance by getting a quote with aha today.

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