Most houses built in the 1970s are still likely to be sound today, but there are some maintenance issues that you have to consider if you are buying or selling this type of home. Even if the 70s was a challenging decade with multiple recessions, around 20 million housing units were built during this time. For the most part, homes that were built back then are weathertight and structurally sound with good ventilation, airtight windows, subfloors and large eaves. There are, however, quite a few problems with 1970s houses that you might encounter with these older homes.
Here are some of the common problems with 1970s houses:
1) Floor Area
The average 1970s home is around 1,000 square feet less than newer homes today. The master bathroom was already a standard part of the house, but this was not much bigger than the hallway bathroom. If you are selling or buying a 1970s home like this, you could consider adding more space by building a porch. You could also knock down a wall and create an open-plan living and dining area.
The common plumbing materials used in the 70s were galvanized steel water pipes. Unfortunately, these types of pipes have a 20 to 50-year lifespan. You may begin to notice visible corrosion, especially on the pipes that are close to the water heater. What’s more, the interior surface of pipes could already be releasing tiny flakes of rust that clog showerheads and faucets. If these problems are not addressed, the pipes might begin to leak under the floor slab and cause major damage.
The upside about 1970s houses is that these often have the modern 3-slot receptacles that are similar to what are being installed today. The downside is that most homes do not have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), which provide shock protection.
The average life expectancy of a roof is 20 years, and since a 1970s home is more than four decades old, it should have been replaced at least once already. You home inspector can take a look at your roof up close, but you can easily tell if there is considerable damage by just looking up at it from the ground.
5) Lead and Asbestos
Asbestos was used in older homes as wall and roof claddings, soffit linings and textured ceiling finishes. Lead was also used in house construction in gutters, flashings, nail heads, waste pipes, and internal and external paintwork.
Most asbestos and lead-based materials were banned in 1977, so there is a chance that the home you are planning to buy or sell was built using these potentially toxic contaminants. You can opt to perform testing for lead and asbestos as part of the home inspection if you are concerned about these materials.
Houses before the 1970s were usually built on a stem wall or piers, but 1970s homes were concrete slab-on-grade, typically with thickened edges that serve as a foundation. Standing for over four decades, soil erosion might already be taking its toll. You should check for diagonal or stair-step cracks, especially if the house is on a slope. These cracks will tell you that the foundation is beginning to be exposed.
Note, however, that some foundation cracks are simply caused by temperature changes through the seasons. Your home inspector will be able to evaluate the defects further, and give you good insights on how minor or severe the problem is. If the issues are big, then you might need to call a foundation contractor to have it fixed.
If you are selling or buying a 1970s home, the best way to know the real condition of the house is to hire trusted professionals like the experts of RW West Consulting and Inspection Services. We have more than 30 years of experience in the business, and have performed over 15,000 inspections. Check out our Pre Listing Inspection and Pre Purchase Inspection services if you want to identify these major problems that will affect your life-changing decisions.