old house with lead paint and asbestos
Photo: Anthony Tieuli

The Ugly Truth

Raveen and Allison Sharma thought they knew what they were getting into when they decided to buy and overhaul a handyman's special, circa 1940, in Auburndale, Massachusetts. Given that the house—the subject of This Old House TV's Fall 2010 project—was built at a time when asbestos was still considered a miracle fiber and lead paint was par for the course, they weren't surprised when a home inspection revealed the presence of both. And since termite damage is the bane of existence for many an old-house lover, they weren't exactly shocked to learn the front sill had been devoured.

What the Sharmas weren't prepared for was the extent of these ills. The asbestos turned up all over the house, the lead paint coated the entire exterior, and the termites had already moved on from their appetizer of sill to the main course of studs. "We were just relieved that we didn't have any mold," Allison says.

The Sharmas faced some big decisions about how far they wanted to go—and how much they wanted to spend—to address all these issues. Their story may well help you tackle those decisions at your own old house.

Shown: The 1940s Colonial Revival will undergo major surgery, including the addition of a gabled garage roof, new entry, and an open, family-friendly kitchen.
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