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‘My lights flicker and I hear banging noises at home. What does this mean?’

Homeowners must look out for signs of their home ageing to keep on top of repair and maintenance. Picture: Maria Orlova/Pexels

Homeowners must look out for signs of their home ageing to keep on top of repair and maintenance. Picture: Maria Orlova/Pexels

Published Jul 26, 2022


All materials have a life-span and even well-built homes will eventually start to show their age.

So as a homeowner, you need to know what signs to look for so you can prevent these issues from becoming long-term problems.

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Most of them are actually easily managed if caught in time, says Grahame Diedericks, manager principal for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Midrand.

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“With ageing homes, it’s definitely a case of ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, and this can be especially critical if you are thinking of selling in the not-too-distant future. Having to fix several major problems in one go can be financially crippling.

“Also, it could delay or even scupper the sale as you won’t be able to transfer the property until you have all your compliance certificates which include plumbing and electrical.”

Diedericks says that the following issues are the most common signs to be on the lookout for:

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Water Leaks

Look for evidence of leaks or water stains around the interior of your home, especially beneath bathroom areas, as this could be an indication of a plumbing system that’s nearing the end of its lifespan.

“When checking visible piping, look for any rusted or corroded materials and if you find any, it’s best to call in a plumber sooner rather than later as you are very likely to spring a major leak.”

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Sagging gutters

These can simply be a result of neglecting to regularly clean them out, especially in autumn, but it can also be an indication of more serious wear and tear over the years, he says.

The remedy may be a matter of just replacing one section of guttering, but it could also be an indication of a rotting roof with mould growth from excessive water. So if yours is an older home, it’s advisable to get the whole roof checked out if the gutters start to sag.

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Damaged roof shingles

“Your home’s exterior is its first line of defence against the elements, and the roof generally takes the worst beating. However, as it’s mostly out of sight and not easy to inspect, it’s easy to miss the first signs of damage.

“If the edges of your shingles are curling, your roof needs attention and if granules are missing and worn and starting to appear ‘bald’, it’s an indication that the shingle is thinning down and will therefore no longer hold up very well against the elements.”

Likewise cracked shingles should be replaced as soon as spotted, Diedericks says.

Breaking brick-and-mortar

Brick is a classic material that is associated with strength and integrity and, although it is more durable than most, it will also age over time and you need to keep an eye out for brick that’s starting to break apart.

Known as spalling, this usually happens in colder weather when brick is penetrated by moisture which can freeze and it can’t be repaired; it needs to be replaced.

“Mortar, too, will also eventually begin to break down, and as soon as you see this start to happen, you need to scrape out the old mortar and replace it, sealing any gaps between the bricks.

Your pipes make banging noises

While even properly-installed plumbing isn't always silent, pipes can bang because they're not secured properly in the walls and this often happens over time.

“So, if you notice that there's a cacophony of noises behind your walls every time you wash the dishes or take a shower, your pipes need to be inspected and may need reinforcement or even replacement,” he says.

Flickering lights

This could be a sign of loose service conductors in your main electrical panel, an outdated breaker box with worn connectors, or a switch failure, all of which are not uncommon problems in older homes.

Loose or outdated wiring is one of the leading causes of house fires, so Diedericks says it’s not an issue that should be ignored. Call the electrician as soon as you notice the flickering begin to occur.

“Wear and tear is par for the course with older homes but it needn’t be a catastrophe, and by regularly checking for these signs of ageing, you’ll be able to stay on top of the matter rather than have to do major – and expensive - repairs at a later stage.

“And, at the end of the day, your home is probably your largest investment and it makes sense to protect it and ensure it retains its value.”