5 Issues to Consider Prior to Purchasing that Older North Shore Home

Seems that most homes built prior to 1970 have little chance of survival in today’s real estate market. Older North Shore homes are especially vulnerable to the wrecking ball if they have ocean views or are on large lots. Over the last decade many homes on West Vancouver’s Inventory of Significant Architecture have been demolished with little concern to historic value. I’m a big fan of mid-century architecture and would love to see more of these homes preserved. Should you decide to move forward with a purchase and subsequent renovation of one of these homes be aware of the following issues:


Asbestos is commonly found in vermiculite insulation but can also be found in: vinyl & linoleum flooring tiles, drywall, furnace duct tape, window putty etc.  If asbestos contaminated air is inhaled it may cause serious chronic health issues. Once diagnosed, it’s often too late for corrective treatment. Property owners should always have older homes inspected for asbestos in advance of any renovation work.

Knob and Tube Wiring

Knob and Tube wiring is commonly found in houses built before the 1950’s. It is no longer an accepted electrical wiring system and posts more of an increase fire hazard  than contemporary wiring. Knob and tube is easily identified during a home inspection and, depending on any modifications, may need to be replaced to qualify for house insurance.

Poly B Piping

Polybutylene piping, commonly known as Poly B, was manufactured between 1978 – 1995. It is normally grey in colour and was used in hot water systems and residential piping in B.C due to its flexibility, low cost and ease of installation.  Poly B is no longer listed as an acceptable plumbing pipe material due to its tendency to leak when exposed to very hot water.

Underground Oil Storage Tanks

Many homes built prior to 1970 were heated with furnace oil that was stored in underground tanks adjacent to the home.  As natural gas emerged as a cleaner,less expensive heating method, these tanks were usually emptied and filled with sand.  However, as the tanks began to rust and corrode, any remaining oil would leak into the groundwater risking soil and/or water contamination.  West Vancouver and North Vancouver have different municipal regulations surrounding the removal of  oil tanks but a buyer should always ensure that the property has been inspected by a reputable contractor for the presence of a tank.

Insurance Issues

As noted above, insurance companies may ask for knob and tube wiring and Poly B piping to be replaced prior to insuring a home. Alternatively, their policies may simply exclude from coverage any damage as a result of leaking Poly B pipes, electrical fires where knob and tube is in place, and contamination from underground oil tanks. If there are any insurance coverage concerns a buyer may want to utilize a “subject to adequate insurance” clause when presenting an offer to purchaser an older home.