Is it Better to Buy an Old Home or New Home When Considering Mold Avoidance?

The Context of the Question

Once someone has had one mold exposure, it is common that they become more vigilant and seek to avoid future water intrusions and water-damaged buildings the best they can. As we have emphasized in previous articles such as What is CIRS?, the first and often most critical step is to vacate a water-damaged building and avoid even minute levels of mycotoxins created by mold infestation. For many CIRS patients, mold avoidance is part of their routine lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, once clients call us, their body often knows what our testing seeks to prove: they must vacate a moldy home. In this process, clients are forced to find safe housing and consider their negative experience with mold, and they ask us many detailed questions to help them search for a new home. Among the top ten questions that clients whose goal is to avoid mold ask are: Is it better to buy an old home or a new home? 

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We wish that we could give you a simple yes or no answer. However, the answer is much more complex than it might seem. With running water in pipes behind the walls and weather as a factor, any home is a risk. Like anything, there are pros and cons to both choices – and there is a vast spectrum of mold sensitivity levels as unique as each client. In this article, we aim to share these pros and cons. For clients who are hypersensitive to the mycotoxins created by mold, information is indeed power.  

The Pros of Old Homes 

  1. Any foundation issues or settling that is going to happen has already occurred. 
  2. Plaster walls are naturally resilient when it comes to mold. They last longer and do not attract mold in the same way that modern-day drywall does
  3. No HVAC’s or ductwork in some cases – flex ductwork is incredibly porous, and once mold enters the ductwork, it is tough to get out without replacing it. Homes that rely on radiator heat or other methods that do not require ductwork can be much less of a hassle for a small mold problem spreading through the entire house. 
  4. Quality materials often used – one hundred years ago, with less technology and fewer homes being built, there was more focus on quality. Houses were made a little slower with more care. 
  5. Low VOCs – Naturally, because of age, off-gassing has already occurred in older homes, and VOCs are less of an issue for the CIRS patient. 

The Cons of Old Homes 

  1. Older homes usually have had many previous owners.  Older homes typically have more previous owners; the house has changed hands more often. This creates more of a possibility for varying degrees of dust and mycotoxins, which for the hypersensitive individual can pose a risk. 
  2. Older homes use older materials – in the presence of water intrusion and mold spores, mold can grow as quickly as 72 hours, so the older the house, the more chance for previous water intrusion and possible mold infestation. 
  3. They are more likely to have had water damage, and there is no way to know if the owner fixed it promptly and adequately decades ago. 
  4. The use of lead paint, asbestos, and other toxins are frequently found in older homes. The use of lead-based paint was common before 1978. The EPA banned asbestos in the ’80s, and it was not required for asbestos to be removed from properties. 
  5. In humid climates, such as Florida and Texas, older homes will age faster. Simply put, moisture ages building materials. 
  6. Big-ticket items such as roof, stucco or siding, windows, and HVAC usually have a recommended lifespan of 15-30 years, depending on the brand, type, and installation. If these items have not been replaced or maintained correctly, it is more likely for water damage to occur. 

The Pros of New Homes 

  1. New homes often have a builder’s warranty, and many items are covered for up to 10 years. 
  2. All materials are brand new, which can be reassuring when it comes to mold. 
  3. It is less likely that a previous homeowner would have cross-contaminated the space. 
  4. Asbestos and lead are not an issue as it is illegal to use those materials today. 
  5. They are more energy-efficient. 
  6. In some cases, you may have a say in the materials and finishes that go in the home. Tile floors are a great choice in Florida, and putting tile in early on can prevent issues. 
  7. Unless water intrusion happened in the building process, there are less likely long-standing, undocumented water intrusion problems because there are no previous owners. 

The Cons of New Homes 

  1. Off-gassing takes about a year. For the individual who is sensitive to VOCs, this can be problematic in new homes. 
  2. Depending on the climate, the framing of new homes may have been exposed to rain during the building process. 
  3. Modern-day drywall is food for mold. If moisture and mold spores are present, drywall can be easily compromised. 
  4. Sometimes lumber gets moldy at the lumber yard – before your home is even built! 

There are many solutions to the cons in both categories. It is a matter of personal preference, what it takes for you to have peace of mind, and what is available to you in a given market. As you look for safe housing, whatever your sensitivity level, we hope this information will help you weigh the pros and cons of any properties you consider. We believe that mold avoidance and minimization are possible when taking proper precautions. In this case, choosing a home is a top priority, and knowledge is your best defense in the battle against mold. 

For more tips, or if you are interested in learning how to prevent future mold issues or address current ones, please follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Also, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments below or on our social media. 

And of course, please book your inspection today!  While we are always sorry to hear of anyone who has a mold issue, we do look forward to sharing our experience, insight, and resources with you!