5 Potential Safety Risks in Old Commercial Buildings


The building is in a great location, has a charming facade, and leases for cheap. The downside? It’s super old. If you’re thinking of renting an old building for your business, here are the potential safety hazards that you need to know about.

Renting a commercial space in an old building is cheaper than renting a newer one. And for many business owners, the affordable rent is almost enough to get them sold on the idea. However, keep in mind that old buildings can come with many safety hazards. If you’re thinking of leasing a commercial space in a facility that’s more than twenty years old, here are some safety risks you should look out for:

1. Dampness and water damage

Older buildings, especially those that were not well-maintained, are prone to dampness. Things like faulty gutters, broken windows, cracked walls, and missing roof tiles can easily let moisture penetrate the building when ignored. Over time, the dampness can lead to even more problems, such as water stains, mold growth, peeling wallpaper, rotting wood, and structural damage.

The effects of excessive moisture in a building can cause health and safety risks. Mold growth is one of the most significant risks, which can lead to serious health problems. Structural damage is also a major one. If the building deteriorates due to moisture damage, parts of the building might eventually give out and potentially cause injury.

If the building shows signs of dampness (e.g., water stains, peeling paint or wallpaper, mold growth), call in a company specializing in building safety and COVID-19 pandemic safety consulting, among other safety services.

2. Asbestos

The use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products is highly regulated in the United States but is not banned yet despite government warnings made way back in the 1970s. Hence, it is possible that the old building you’re planning to lease contains asbestos or asbestos-containing products.

Asbestos was typically used as a fire retardant, which means that it is more commonly found in fire resistances or insulation. However, asbestos can also be found in various parts of a building such as roofing materials, boilers, pipes, and floor tiles, to name a few.

This natural mineral is banned for a reason. With prolonged exposure, asbestos can cause mesothelioma, pleural thickening, asbestosis, and asbestos-related lung cancer, which are all highly deadly diseases. Hence, if you suspect that the old building you’re planning to rent has asbestos, it’s best to call in a professional to inspect first.

3. Faulty wiring

Old buildings are notorious for having faulty wiring, mainly because the electrics are likely the same age as the building itself. This can manifest as flickering lights, sparking electrical sockets, electric shocks, and frequent power outages in the building. When these issues are not addressed, the electrical system will continue to deteriorate. The worst-case scenario is that the faulty wiring starts a fire or someone is seriously electrocuted.

Hence, if you plan to lease an old building that likely comes with old electrical wiring, have an electrician inspect the building first.

4. Pests

Older buildings usually have more openings where critters can sneak through, such as holes in the walls or broken vents. This is especially true if the building has remained unoccupied for some time, in which pests are free to roam and possibly even multiply in the building.

The presence of pests in an old building can denote health and safety issues. Pests, especially rodents and birds, might carry disease-causing pathogens that can cause serious health problems in humans and can be fatal. Rodents, birds, termites, carpenter ants, and other damage-causing pests can cause structural damage in the building and electrical problems.

When you inspect an old building, watch out for signs of pests, such as droppings, chewed up wires, nests, and of course, the pests themselves. If you still want to lease the building, be prepared to spend money on extermination services, as well as repairs that may need to be made because of pest-related damage.

5. Lead paint


Lead-based paint was banned in 1978 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its harmful effects on health and the environment. If a building was built before 1978, it might have lead-based paint underneath the newer layers of paint (if it was even repainted at all).

If you are unsure if the building has lead paint or not, call in a professional for an inspection. When you find lead-based paint, you have to use proper safety measures to ensure that the removal team does not inhale the lead-based paint.

These are the common safety risks present in buildings more than twenty or thirty years old. Should these risks stop you from leasing an old building for your business? Not necessarily, but they should motivate you to get the establishment thoroughly inspected before you start operations.

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