Should I buy/rent an old house with lead or a new house full of new chemicals? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 16 Old 11-30-2007, 02:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We are house hunting, maybe to rent, maybe to buy. Right now we are staying in an old house that probably has lead paint. In fact we have always lived in old houses. We have tried to be careful about handwashing, hepa vacs, and all that stuff, but the truth is sometimes I get a little lax on cleaning. DS's lead levels have come back at 4 a few times, which is not considered extremely high, but is not normal. He has some problems with behavior and dyslexia that could be lead-related so I am more concerned than ever. I love old houses, but I am so tired of living in them. I visited a new house today that was filled with all the new house chemical smells. I shudder to think about all the new toxins that are in the new houses that we don't even yet know the effects of. What do I do? All opinions welcome. Please help me figure this out.
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#2 of 16 Old 11-30-2007, 09:29 AM
 
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In an ideal world, somewhere in between would be nice. Maybe a house built in the 80's or 90's or early 2000's so that there is no lead paint, but not all new chemically laden stuff either.

I don't have a problem with old houses personally. We live in one, but it has been very updated. Not much for lead paint left. That said, I know of a lot of people (children in particular who have problems with high lead levels).

My mom bought a condo that needed a ton of work done to it. We ripped out carpet, painted, redid cabinets, etc. She and I both got very sick from all the new chemicals we were exposed to. She used a state of the art air purifier for months to get rid of the chemicals. I would never want to be exposed to that stuff again. I have had chemical sensitivities since I was exposed.

Not much help, but I guess if you can, stay away from both. Somewhere in between would be more ideal.

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#3 of 16 Old 11-30-2007, 12:04 PM
 
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We personally vouched for the old home. We tested paint with the lead strips and nothing so far. Also we repainted EVERYTHING when we moved in. I prefer the hardwood floors to carpet, the old wool insulation to fiberglass, real wood to particle board ect. I could find many more issues with new houses than I could with out old house so that was what we decided. Doesn't mean it will work for everyone but it works for us
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#4 of 16 Old 11-30-2007, 01:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks guys, your opinions are really helpful! keep em coming!
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#5 of 16 Old 11-30-2007, 02:49 PM
 
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I feel happy and comfortable in old houses and ill at ease in new houses. I figure my body is trying to tell me something.

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#6 of 16 Old 11-30-2007, 02:54 PM
 
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I would suggest post 1976. But NOT new construction. Many construction defects will take 1-3 years to show up (like settling problems, etc). I have seen "issues" and shortcuts even in very high end new construction.

If you go for pre-1976, have a lead paint test contingency in the contract.

I think solar orientation and the "right" yard is very important. Since you are in AZ, you will want south facing windows with overhangs, and a white or light colored roof.
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#7 of 16 Old 11-30-2007, 03:22 PM
 
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Not all new houses have the problems with chemicals you mentioned. We built our house and have to carpet or interior plywood/particle board. Our interior doors, trim, cabinents, and floors are all solid wood, plus the interior of our windows and exterior doors are wood.

We used low voc paint and finishes. We also have an air exchange system up in the attic space whcih brings clean air into the house and pushes "stale" air out without affecting the temp of the house (very important here where we can't open windows in the winter) So even when our house was brand spanking new, we had virtually no off gassing.

This is a style of building that is sometimes referred to as "clean". I am betting that there are a lot of those types of houses in Arizona.

Anyway, if I had to choose between a brand new chemical doused house and an older house with the possibility of lead paint I'd go with the older house. I think those problems are easier to solve. But...I think you probably have more options than just that. If you are working with a realtor ask about clean houses. If you are going it alone try to avoid places with wall to wall carpet and ask the owners about the construction materials and techniques used.

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#8 of 16 Old 11-30-2007, 09:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Why is a late 70s/80s/90s house better than a post-2000? Didn't they use a lot of toxic chemicals then too?

We are pretty specific about location. We want to stay in downtown Phoenix where the kids go to an excellent charter school. We'd like to stay close enough to bike in the same neighborhood with my mom and sister-- which means all 50s and pre-50s houses except there are a few new house that have gone up on the edges of the historic neighborhood here and there in recent years. I may be able to hunt down a 70s or 80s house, but it is going to be very tough.

Sometimes I seriously fantasize about buying a vacant lot and building an adobe or something... but its probably not realistic for us. Ahh...
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#9 of 16 Old 11-30-2007, 10:38 PM
 
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Build our own and build green! This is what dh and I plan to do.
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#10 of 16 Old 12-02-2007, 01:32 PM
 
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My daughter has lead poisoning, and she is still better off than any of the plasticized kids we know. Our bodies make a specific protein, metallothionen, to deal with metals. I don't know that our bodies have evolved to produce a plasticizothionen (ha) so even having lived the trauma of poisoning, old and intact seems safer to me for that reason alone.
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#11 of 16 Old 12-02-2007, 01:41 PM
 
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Originally Posted by harmonymama View Post
Why is a late 70s/80s/90s house better than a post-2000? Didn't they use a lot of toxic chemicals then too?
I think the idea is that the VOC (volatile organic chemicals) will have had a chance to dissipate five or ten years after construction. That "new construction" smell wears off, and presumably the chemical exposure is reduced too.

Good luck with your househunt, we are dealing with the same choice.

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#12 of 16 Old 12-02-2007, 01:42 PM
 
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Originally Posted by harmonymama View Post
Why is a late 70s/80s/90s house better than a post-2000? Didn't they use a lot of toxic chemicals then too?

We are pretty specific about location. We want to stay in downtown Phoenix where the kids go to an excellent charter school. We'd like to stay close enough to bike in the same neighborhood with my mom and sister-- which means all 50s and pre-50s houses ......
If you have the budget for professional lead remediation before you move in, I see no problem with buying pre-1976. Get it tested though, so you know what you are dealing with. (our 1949 house never gave us a positive lead test ... was the kit not sensitive enough, or were we lucky?) If you want the right neighborhood, and the pricing is reasonable, this is a good way to go.

I prefer "older" used houses to avoid the "new house depreciation" . This is especially important in the current sinking real estate market - if you buy new, you can expect to loose money on resale, most likely. I see nothing wring with a house 2006 or older if you have a good inspection and the price is right. There could be some very motivated sellers out there. And most of the new carpet smell will be gone.

Lead solder in the pipes/plumbing was phased out here around the year 2000, so this is an advantage to a newer house. (The home lead test kit will be able to determine which type of solder is present.) I am not sure if that was a state-wide phase out or a national.
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#13 of 16 Old 12-02-2007, 07:51 PM
 
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I think it's a very individual thing. I LOVE my Arts&Crafts styel 1920's era house. Love the full-masonry, plaster construction, tile roof, brick exterior, hardwood floors and solid doors. Love the beveled glass, glass door knobs, tiny lot, and stained glass. I've had my DD lead tested once (huge problem in my city) and she came back fine, but she's in day care all day and not in our house.

And I accept the associated problems with my older home - low water pressure, tuck pointing, new underlayment on the roof and now a HUGE "wet chimney" problem.

Ocaisionally I have master bath envy, but we we live close-in to "the city" which I also value. The new construction is too far away from the places I want to go.

However, I sense that you might be "done" with these sorts of issues and would really prefer a newer house with different materials and it's own sort of problems. That's OK, too.

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#14 of 16 Old 12-02-2007, 07:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. Well, we are looking seriously at an old brick, but just remodeled house. It is lovely and the price and location are right, but it has new carpet and pergo floors and tile, new walls, etc. and was just finished a month ago. New windows (instead of lead painted ones) which I guess would be good, but... Tell me honestly, would this be the worst of all worlds new chemicals off-gasing and an old house, or might it be an acceptable compromise... hmm!?

BTW, DS is doing really well on feingold and may have chemical sensitivities, hmm?

Does anyone happen to know about demolishing old houses? What if we bought an old, dilapidated house, tore it down and built new? Would that spread lead dust everywhere? Would there be lead dust everywhere? God, this feels overwhelming!
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#15 of 16 Old 12-04-2007, 12:33 AM
 
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Does anyone happen to know about demolishing old houses? What if we bought an old, dilapidated house, tore it down and built new? Would that spread lead dust everywhere? Would there be lead dust everywhere? God, this feels overwhelming!
With a project like this, it is very easy and very likely to go over budget. A big house upgrade project we did a few years ago went 2X over budget due to a series of changes and poor cost control. This can happen so easily.

Tear down would make sense in Cleveland, where the house and lot costs $2000. (total) Expect $100 a square foot (and up) in new construction costs.

An older rehabbed house, with lead paint testing and a good cleaning, should be just fine for you - especially if there is no carpeting. If you worry about that sort of thing, have the soil tested before you plant a garden.
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#16 of 16 Old 12-04-2007, 10:56 AM
 
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Well, around where sleeplessmommy (: Thanks for lunch! It was fun!) and I live, most of the time you are stuck with older houses or you have to shell out $200K plus for a poorly built new one. My house is 100 + years old, and I know it's not going anywhere. It's brick & stick, oriented properly to the sun, and as far as I know, Lead Free. We'll have DS's lead test in the new year, but expect it to be close to normal. We don't have any chipping or pealing paint, so no worries for us.

I love old houses, new ones are sterile. Old ones have character, have been filled with love and memories. Our only real trade off is energy efficiency. It's drafty. We put up plastic every winter. I won't replace the windows, though, as I feel it would actually DETRACT from the value of the house to have replacements - they're the original ones.

HTH - I would look for something you feel comfortable in until you can build your dream home. I guess the real question is, do you want to continue to rent while you save to buy/build your dream home, or would you rather live in a good home you own while you do that? Lead is something that can be contained/fixed. The deeper question seems to be more important to me.
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