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The Hidden Secrets of Older Homes

Living in the Pacific Northwest comes with its own unique charm, particularly for those lucky enough to own a home in Seattle. The region’s rich architectural history boasts a multitude of older homes, each with its own story to tell. However, over time or during a remodel, some homes may start revealing worrisome secrets. Amidst the flurry of design ideas and renovation plans, it’s crucial to be aware of potentially hazardous materials that could be lurking in your home, especially if it was built several decades ago.

Read on to learn more about common issues in older Pacific Northwest homes and how a reputable Seattle remodeling contractor can help you safely transform yours into the modern dwelling of your dreams. It’s important to note that these hazardous materials and conditions are common, and very much treatable. An expert contractor will be able to spot problems and find lasting solutions to keep you and your family safe.

Mold and Mildew

One of the most common problems in older Seattle homes is the presence of mold and mildew. Mildew is typically surface-level and is powdery in appearance with a bad smell. Mold is typically fuzzy in appearance with a damp, musty smell. Mildew is easily treated, but mold can be dangerous to disturb and remove if it’s a toxic variety.

The region’s rainy climate can contribute to growth, especially in older homes with inadequate insulation and ventilation. Not only can mold and mildew potentially cause structural damage, but they can also have serious health implications. Mold and mildew can cause minor respiratory symptoms, but in rare cases can cause infections and mycotoxin poisoning too.

A remodeling contractor can help identify sources of moisture and recommend appropriate solutions, such as improved insulation, ventilation systems, and mold remediation. In especially airtight homes, it’s important that your contractor or HVAC specialist ensures the HVAC is setup for adequate ventilation to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Wood Rot

Another issue prevalent in older Pacific Northwest homes is rot, particularly in areas exposed to moisture such as windows, doors, and siding. Rotting materials can lead to structural instability and compromise the home’s integrity. A professional contractor can assess the extent of the damage and suggest the necessary repairs or replacements.

Wet rot is caused by water intrusion. Damp conditions encourage fungus growth that turns wood soggy and mushy. You will generally see wet rot because of a visible leak, bubbling paint or wood that is wet to the touch. The wood may also have a white or black appearance, depending on the fungus.

Dry rot is also common here in the Pacific Northwest, and can be more serious. Dry rot is wood decay caused by a type of fungus that digests wood. It’s often found in areas that are damp, with a moisture content of around 20%, but not continually wet. This dampness causes a certain strain of fugus to thrive. Wood with dry rot will be visibly brittle and crumble.

Before renovating areas with water damage or dry rot, be sure to address any existing mold issues by seeking professional mold remediation. Then a remodeling crew can use modern, rot-resistant materials and techniques to restore a home’s beauty while ensuring its structural integrity and longevity.


In older homes, most notably those built before the 1980s, asbestos may be lurking within the walls, insulation, or flooring materials. Exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to serious health conditions, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Be sure to hire a remodeling contractor experienced in asbestos abatement to safely remove asbestos-containing materials during demolition. By adhering to strict guidelines and regulations, they can ensure the health and safety of the occupants and their construction crew.

Lead Paint

Lead paint is another hidden danger lurking in older Seattle homes, commonly found in houses built before 1978. Even though lead paint may be hidden beneath layers of newer paint, it can still pose a risk, especially if it begins to deteriorate or is disturbed during a remodel.

A general contractor can test for the presence of lead and safely remove or encapsulate any lead paint found in your home. By prioritizing the elimination of lead paint hazards, homeowners can create a healthier living environment for their families.

Read more about the dangers of asbestos and lead paint here.


Older Pacific Northwest homes may also attract unwanted guests in the form of pests. From rodents to wood-destroying insects, these intruders can wreak havoc on the aesthetics and structural integrity of a house. Mice, carpenter ants, silverfish and sugar ants are the most common pests in Seattle area homes.

An experienced remodeling contractor can identify and address any pest-related issues by sealing entry points, repairing damaged wood, or recommending pest control services. Fortifying your home against pests helps protect your investment by preventing further damage.

Home Hazards Awareness

When considering a home remodel in Seattle, it is essential to be aware of these potential issues. By partnering with a reputable home remodeling contractor, homeowners can address these hidden secrets from the start and prevent future problems. Before hiring a contractor, be sure to ask them about hazardous material remediation, jobsite safety precautions and how their work crews will protect your family and pets with site protection once the remodel commences.

Removing mold, mildew, rot, asbestos, lead paint, and pests can not only enhance the aesthetics and functionality of a home, but also ensures the health and safety of the home’s occupants. Before diving into any renovation project, it’s wise to educate yourself about potential hazards, and consult with professionals who can identify, manage, and safely remove these materials.

Written by Model Remodel

Model Remodel is a design-build, remodeling contractor located in Seattle, WA. For over 20 years we’ve been building with purpose, craftsmanship and sustainability in mind. We are proud to continually make the list of top Seattle contractors for our beautiful interior designs and homeowner-focused remodeling process.

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