Business Development

What to be Aware of When Using an Older Building for Your Business

By Mashum Mollah

August 30, 2021

Older Building

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When it comes to choosing a physical location for your new business, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. There’s the location of the property, whether to buy or rent the property, and whether to go with an older property or a newer property.

More often than not, older properties tend to be cheaper than newer properties that were built in the last few years. Older commercial properties also tend to have a certain charm and history, as opposed to a newer property. There are many good reasons to use an older property for your business, but there are also a few things to be aware of before doing so.

Check for any foundation or structural issues

Check for any foundation or structural issues

Foundation issues aren’t something that is uncommon in older properties, whether it’s a commercial property or a residential property. Many of these issues can be easily corrected by professionals, if caught early on and if you know what to look for. Usually, doors that don’t open and close properly are good indicators of having a foundation problem, but there are also other signs.

1. Interior and Exterior Cracks

A classic sign of the foundation settling unevenly is the presence of vertical cracks on the walls (horizontal cracks may be caused by a plumbing issue). Other interior signs of a foundation problem include molding detaching from the walls,  gaps in the drywall, and cracks in the floor (with an unknown cause).

When it comes to the outside of the property, cracks are another classic sign of foundation issues. Look for cracks/gaps on the brick exterior— especially cracks that form in the shape of stair steps. Also, if the property has a chimney, check to see if it’s broken because that is another indication of a foundation problem.

2. Flooring

Pay close attention to the flooring on the inside of your building. Cracked ceramic tiles, warped hardwood or laminate flooring, buckled linoleum flooring, and bunched-up flooring of any type without any known cause can be a sign of a foundation issue. Also be aware of unlevel and sagging floors, since the floors are directly above the foundation this is another sign of a foundation issue.

There’s a possibility of toxic chemicals

There’s a possibility of toxic chemicals

Older buildings, especially those built in the 1970s and earlier, tend to contain chemicals that are known to be harmful to humans when inhaled. Of course, at the time, this was not known, but now that it is, newer buildings are no longer built using the same chemicals as they once were in the past. Two of the most common toxins that are found in older buildings are lead paint and asbestos.

1. Lead Paint

Decades ago, lead was commonly used in paint to help it adhere to walls and other surfaces better. Lead in paint was banned in the late ‘70s, but the use of paint that still contained lead was still allowed well through the ‘80s. If the building you’re using for your business was built in the mid-1980s or before, it is likely that the paint used in the building contains lead if it has not been removed before. If this is the case, it is best to call professionals to have it removed instead of trying to do it yourself.

2. Asbestos

Like lead, asbestos was used because of its benefits (tensile strength, heat resistance, and high absorption of sound), and the lack of knowledge of it being harmful. The use of this substance was banned in 1980, and there continue to be strict regulations regarding asbestos.

Today, it is widely known that continuous inhalation of this substance causes mesothelioma, a severe and fatal form of lung cancer. Some older buildings may still contain asbestos, so be sure to have a professional check the building for it, especially if you are not sure what you’re looking for.

Other potential issues to be aware of

1. Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC) is likely to be outdated in older buildings, meaning that the entire system may have to be replaced. Some commercial properties may also have more than one unit. Consult with a professional HVAC technician if you are unsure.

2. Electrical

The most outdated electrical wiring systems stem from the late 1800s and the early 1900s, but they’re probably aren’t too many commercial buildings from this time still around. Electrical wiring from the 1970s and 1980s isn’t as outdated, but that doesn’t mean that there may not be any hidden issues, as the electrical wiring may have not been properly maintained in the past. Common signs of electrical issues include:

  • flickering lights
  • buzzing/crackling sounds
  • warm/vibrating spots on the walls
  • burning smells
  • smoking outlets
  • frayed wires

3. Plumbing

Plumbing issues can also be present in older buildings, especially if the building has been sitting vacant for a while. Several factors can cause certain problems, such as snow or ice storms causing pipes to freeze and even burst. Contact a plumber from plumbing Phoenix and have the system inspected to know how to fix the issues.

Buying Old vs. New

Buying a new commercial property is likely to be more expensive than buying an older one, but an older property is likely to require a lot of repairs— which also costs money. Newer properties also aren’t free from issues, though they are not likely to be as costly as a newer property.

Each type comes with both costs and benefits, and it’s important to weigh those out before buying. Whether you’re the owner or the renter of commercial property (old or new), it is still important to make sure that the property receives all of the necessary repairs before you open your business.


The key thing to remember is to have the building you are looking into buying inspected before purchasing/renting. Investing in an older building for your business gives you the opportunity to increase the value of the property by making some renovations and remodels. And not all older buildings will cost you a fortune to fix up.

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