Historic Home Inspection Issues in Phoenix, AZ

Greetings from your Urban Real Estate Team. Today we are going to talk about inspecting a historic home. Getting a great home inspector and inspection when buying a home is VERY important. It is even more essential when buying a historic home. Older homes have very specific issues that are best addressed by a licensed inspector who knows historic real estate in Arizona.

Since we are merely real estate guys, we have turned to our friends at AJF Engineering for this article. Paul and Sharon, the owners, grew up on the east coast and have seen more older homes than most. Joey, another inspector at AJF is a second generation home inspector from another place with lots of old houses, Louisiana. They are really good at recognizing issues and problems with historic homes… thus the reason we have turned to them for this article on historic home inspections in downtown Phoenix, AZ.

by Paul Furman

Although the majority of homes in Phoenix area are built after the 1970s, there are historic neighborhoods where many homes are built in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. These neighborhoods and homes offer charm, diversity in construction type, close proximity to downtown Phoenix, unique architectural details, wood floors, crown molding, real grass and other features that are in stark contrast to the stucco and tile homes that populate the greater Phoenix area. These homes remind many people of their childhood homes and they really desire living in these neighborhoods.

After months of searching, you finally found that dream home in the historic neighborhood that is within walking distance of your perfect job. The house and neighborhood are perfect; beautiful wood floors, charming built-ins, remodeled kitchen, gorgeous new paint, lots of neighborhood kids and the price is so-o-o low. You have an accepted offer and you can’t wait to move in.

The next step is to have a professional home inspection by a trained and experienced inspector. Older homes have systems and components that may not have been upgraded or replaced that can pose significant safety and financial risk to the new homeowner. It is imperative that your inspector have familiarity and experience with these systems. AJF Engineering has completed thousands of inspections on older homes and described below are examples of issues that are frequently encountered during the inspection:

Electrical Systems In Historic Homes in Phoenix:

Historic Home Knob and Tube Wiring Phoenix AZ Modern, grounded electrical systems were not required until approximately the mid-1960s. Homes built prior to this time frame can have:

· Undersized electrical panels that lack the number of circuits to operate the microwave, toaster oven, coffee makers, dishwasher, etc. without tripping the breakers or blowing fuses.

· Ungrounded, 2-conductor wiring where the 3-hole electrical receptacles and circuits are not grounded. Ungrounded electrical systems and receptacles pose a significant safety risk to the homeowner.

· Knob and tube wiring was used up until the 1930s and consists of single conductor wiring supported along its length by porcelain knob insulators. This wiring is considered antiquated and should be replaced.

Plumbing Concerns with Historic Houses in Phoenix

Galvanized Pipe Historic Home Phoenix AZ· Galvanized steel water supply piping was used up until the mid-1960s. This piping consists of steel pipe, dipped in zinc to provide corrosion resistance. Over time, the zinc coating wears off and the steel piping corrodes from the inside out. The corroded piping increases the risk for leakage and can result in low water flow to the plumbing fixtures. We always recommend replacing the galvanized steel piping.

· Older homes can have cast iron or ceramic drain pipes. These pipes have an increased likelihood for clogs and breaks due to their age. A visual home inspection will not identify clogs and breaks in buried piping. We recommend our clients have a plumber conduct a fiber optic camera scan of the drain pipe interior to identify potential adverse conditions (approximate $150-250 cost).

Unprofessional Upgrades and Remodels:

Older homes have more opportunity for unprofessional/improper upgrades and remodels. The Home Depot has everyone convinced that “you can do it”. Unfortunately, for the potential homeowner, many upgrades and remodels are completed by unlicensed and untrained homeowners and contractors. An experienced inspector who is familiar with proper construction techniques and methods is required to identify improper work. We also recommend the potential homeowner contact the city to determine if proper permits were obtained for work in the home, since permit verification is not within the scope of the home inspection.

Termites in Historic Homes:

termite-damage-in-historic-home-PhoenixSubterranean termites, and to a lesser extent drywood termites, are common in Arizona. They feed on wood cellulose and over time can cause significant structural damage. Conducive conditions such as plumbing leaks (termites love moisture), earth to wood contact, improper grading, etc. can promote and increase the likelihood for termite infestation. Termites can be effectively treated and controlled for a relatively low cost. Older homes have a greater likelihood for termite damage, because termite infestation may be present for long time periods without treatment. A professional termite inspection can reduce the risk of buying a home with structural damage.


Historic homes offer charm, close proximity to work, unique homes and neighborhoods. Hiring a trained, experienced and qualified professional home inspector, can significantly reduce the risk (although not eliminate) of purchasing a money pit.

If you have any questions about inspecting homes, please contact the AJF Team at 480-661-8888 or office@ajfengineering.com

Look for other articles on historic homes in the historic home section of UrbanConnectionRealty

The Urban Team at Realty Executives
7600 N. 16th Street, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85020
602-234-5777 (voice)
602-486-4839 (text)

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