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Old 11-20-2010, 03:30 AM
 
Location: Wellsville, Glurt County
2,846 posts, read 6,277,109 times
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Originally Posted by progmac View Post
new homes have better mechanicals. standards of comfort and our electric needs have changed over the years and new houses come pre-fitted for a tv on every wall, and ten toasters in every room. new houses also have better insulation. the thinking today is to "seal the house." the thinking of yesterday was "let the house breath." incidently, if you do like a house to breath, older houses are typically built to take maximum advantage of natural ventilation. open a double-hung (top and bottom) window in every room in a house built before say 1940 and feel the air circulation. do that in a house of today. that is not a statement of build quality per se, but it was very important back then for a house to be comfortable in the summer.

so let's talk build quality. old houses win every time. consider what was available back then. start with the structural wood, the bones of most american houses. in 1910, that wood was usually old-growth pine. old-growth pine was alive and growing for a while time to develop heartwood (this was the dense wood in the center of the tree). growth rings were fairly compact and the wood strong. today's pine is grown with speed in mind, has no heartwood, and is more soft and pliable. the next step of the modern home is to design the house to use the least amount of that cheap pine possible. rather than pay for the wood, the national home building company pays for an engineer to figure out how to use the least amount of material but still obtain a reasonably sound product - er, home - that will pass building codes. considering this and that a 2 x 4 actually used to be 2 inches by 4 inches, an old house may be built with 50% more wood than today's home, and that wood that was used was of a much higher quality.

what else is a home made from? how about subfloor. you know, the plywood floor beneath your carpet padding or hardwood floor. in an old house, that subfloor will be solid 4-8" planks of high quality heart or old growth pine. today it is plywood or even worse - MDF - compressed sawdust.

how about walls? an old house will have 1 1/2 plaster walls. it took a real crafstman to produce these walls. the finished product has insulatory properties, reduces sound transfer and is, simply put, solid. today our walls are built in china, shipped across the ocean, and slapped up by someone as fast as possible. they are more or less hollow and can be punctured with a kitchen knife. the trouble is of course that it would cost a fortune to install plaster walls in today's homes and that few people are around that even have the skill to do it. it just isn't practical.

regarding interior detailing and finish, again there is no comparison. the old-growth hardwood trim in an old home is literally not available at any price today. the trees aren't there any more and the mills don't even cut wood the same way. doors used to be real, solid, hardwood. they typically still are in good shape after a hundred years - though often they need many coats of paint removed. windows were also made from old-growth hardwood. old windows were made to be repaired, not replaced. a well-serviced window from an old house can last literally hundreds of years.

the building philosophy is just different today. the housing industry is huge. everything has been "value engineered" to death. try to get even solid softwood trim from a builder today. some don't even offer it. try to get solid wood doors. price out decent trim around every window and door. that nice new hardwood floor is small segments of hardwood pieced together like a puzzle, designed in such a way as to make use of even the smallest scraps of lumber and to fit into boxes of a certain size so that it can be efficiently loaded onto a truck and delivered to lumber liquidaters. hell, i don't think i've even seen a structural brick house built in the last ten or fifteen years. what passes for brick today is merely a facade that in forty years will be cheaper to rip off and replace than to actually repoint.

it used to be different. it was even different 20 years ago. most homes were built by local guys with a local reputation to keep up. they cared deeply about quality and community. every one of the five or six houses a year that builder put out had to pass the walk-throughs from the owner of the company. this was on top of the fact that materials were better and what we today call "overbuilding" was then standard industry practice.

yikes, who got me started on this. what am i even doing in the long island forum? would a mod consider this topic for the house forum?
Wow great post, I learned a lot from that LOL....

One question though - and I'm only asking this cuz of a storyline on The Sopranos - but isn't any type of pine considered substandard for any residential structure? Or was that total BS and I've been lied to by TV again??

Would love to hear your opinion on the new "space efficient" 3-4 story apartment/condo buildings that have been going up like weeds in NYC's outer boroughs over the last 5 years. They all seem to be brick and poured concrete construction, but I've been inside a few of these places that were less than a year old and already falling apart or looked like they were about to be condemned. Building materials and quality of work appear to be the absolute crappiest garbage you can buy off the bottom shelf at Home Depot or hire out of it's parking lot.

Always loved older houses, and I still would even if they were death traps. If quality has declined over the last century, style has taken a freaking nosedive. To me, this is incredibly evident in suburban architecture. Drive through LI's older suburbs - Garden City, Sea Cliff, Floral Park and they're absolutely stunning. Go through the pre-war developments and former vacation spots - Mineola, Babylon, Lawrence, etc. and it's still beautiful. Housing boom tract housing? Function before fashion but still many attractive capes, brick split-levels and ranches, and decades of remodeling and landscaping has dialed out the uniformity. Anything newer than that? Blech. I'm not sure if the McMansion excess of the last decade or the high ranch boxcars of the 70s are worse....but they both suck.
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Old 11-20-2010, 08:00 AM
 
Location: Union County
5,130 posts, read 4,979,435 times
Reputation: 3751
Quote:
Originally Posted by sean sean sean sean View Post
Wow great post, I learned a lot from that LOL....

One question though - and I'm only asking this cuz of a storyline on The Sopranos - but isn't any type of pine considered substandard for any residential structure? Or was that total BS and I've been lied to by TV again??

Would love to hear your opinion on the new "space efficient" 3-4 story apartment/condo buildings that have been going up like weeds in NYC's outer boroughs over the last 5 years. They all seem to be brick and poured concrete construction, but I've been inside a few of these places that were less than a year old and already falling apart or looked like they were about to be condemned. Building materials and quality of work appear to be the absolute crappiest garbage you can buy off the bottom shelf at Home Depot or hire out of it's parking lot.

Always loved older houses, and I still would even if they were death traps. If quality has declined over the last century, style has taken a freaking nosedive. To me, this is incredibly evident in suburban architecture. Drive through LI's older suburbs - Garden City, Sea Cliff, Floral Park and they're absolutely stunning. Go through the pre-war developments and former vacation spots - Mineola, Babylon, Lawrence, etc. and it's still beautiful. Housing boom tract housing? Function before fashion but still many attractive capes, brick split-levels and ranches, and decades of remodeling and landscaping has dialed out the uniformity. Anything newer than that? Blech. I'm not sure if the McMansion excess of the last decade or the high ranch boxcars of the 70s are worse....but they both suck.
Yeah, that was a good post for me as well... Especially when it's nearly impossible to not consider new construction as you move off LI, so interested to see other comments here. But, in reference to your last sentence I have to say I struggle with the exact question you ask. I won't own either a McMansion or a High Ranch.

So much is said about "quality", but my 2nd home on LI was a balloon framed energy wasting beast... my 1st was an aluminum wired fire trap. What happened in the 60s and 70s, which shaped much of the landscape on middle to Eastern LI seems little different then what they're doing today. The mechanicals and efficiency being huge. So, I seriously wonder about all the hype around new construction today as if poor, crappy, and cheap workmanship was only invented post 2000. 40 years or so of remodeling dialed out the uniformity is right... But I only imagine what so many of those folks saw when they opened the walls of those 60s and 70s crappola.
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Old 11-20-2010, 12:48 PM
 
39 posts, read 129,764 times
Reputation: 18
When my wife and I were looking for a home when we moved out here from the city a while back we wanted a new home. Coming from the city we wanted everything new, and easy. We bought a spec home in the Manhasset area that was beautiful. We experienced the same problems everyone has mentioned, shotty workmanship, poor insulation, paper thing walls, leaks, and a few of our outlets didnt even work. Overall i felt it really lacked character, on the outside it looked great, but inside it was bland.
We moved into a late 1800's house and boy is it a completely different world, there are good and bad. Changing plumbing and wiring things is a nightmare. Installing an outlet for my tv in the den was terrible, but i wouldnt trade this house ever. It has soo much character, chair rails, the staircase, the crown molding. I just feel like this house has a soul, if you know what i mean. Things arent perfect like in a new house, but i appreciate the slightly bent handrail on the stairs or the fact that my garage is insulated with news paper from 1890 (which is really cool).

Also there are a few builders who do a fabulous job of building homes with character on Long island. Obviously they arent cheap, but i thought i'd mention it as it seems all new home builder were getting bashed. Kean development in CSH, and a few others build some really nice houses. I got to take a look at a job site with my contractor a year back as they work together. They were actually hand making the crown molding with a plane saw (i think its called) i was really impressed with the detail. But that kinda thing really gets my juices going, if its not your cup of tea, its not worth it.
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Old 11-20-2010, 01:08 PM
 
Location: Cincinnati
3,198 posts, read 3,361,697 times
Reputation: 1874
Quote:
Originally Posted by sean sean sean sean View Post
Wow great post, I learned a lot from that LOL....

One question though - and I'm only asking this cuz of a storyline on The Sopranos - but isn't any type of pine considered substandard for any residential structure? Or was that total BS and I've been lied to by TV again??
You'll have to clue me in on the storyline. Pine has never been considered a high-end wood but it has always been used in places where it is not seen - the framing of the house and the subfloor. Today in those places you can't see they don't use pine, they use sawdust-board (MDF) or plywood. In older homes you'll usually have an oak or other hardwood floor and then under that you have a pine plank subfloor which runs diagonally across the floor trusses underneath. Today you have your hardwood floor (today's hardwood is different than yesterday's too, but nevermind that for now) then under that plywood (or god forbid MDF) and then trusses underneath. The trusses are farther apart today, so the floors aren't as strong, but that is another story too.

Usually trim in an older house is a mix of pine and hardwood. Hardwood for the formal rooms and pine upstairs. Six to eight inch trim was common. Of course the governor or the very rich would not have pine anywhere visible. Today you're talking a high-end custom home before you get any decent trim at all and i don't even know where you can eight inch or even hardwood trim and baseboards today. Certainly not from home depot.

Quote:
Would love to hear your opinion on the new "space efficient" 3-4 story apartment/condo buildings that have been going up like weeds in NYC's outer boroughs over the last 5 years. They all seem to be brick and poured concrete construction, but I've been inside a few of these places that were less than a year old and already falling apart or looked like they were about to be condemned. Building materials and quality of work appear to be the absolute crappiest garbage you can buy off the bottom shelf at Home Depot or hire out of it's parking lot.
I don't know these buildings, but i'm picturing cinder block walls rather than brick, but i could be wrong. There is nothing wrong with this per se. The trouble would come into play if they rushed the foundation and didn't prepare the site properly. If the earth is settling under the poured foundation....yikes.

Inside i imagine you're looking at paper-thin walls and floors using the cheapest materials available. 3/8" super-thin drywall, MDF everywhere, etc. Cheap trim slapped up quickly, hollow core doors. Add some apathetic workers on top of this and you've got a place that feels very cheap.

Quote:
Always loved older houses, and I still would even if they were death traps. If quality has declined over the last century, style has taken a freaking nosedive. To me, this is incredibly evident in suburban architecture. Drive through LI's older suburbs - Garden City, Sea Cliff, Floral Park and they're absolutely stunning. Go through the pre-war developments and former vacation spots - Mineola, Babylon, Lawrence, etc. and it's still beautiful. Housing boom tract housing? Function before fashion but still many attractive capes, brick split-levels and ranches, and decades of remodeling and landscaping has dialed out the uniformity. Anything newer than that? Blech. I'm not sure if the McMansion excess of the last decade or the high ranch boxcars of the 70s are worse....but they both suck.
I could go on about this too but have to run, more later

Last edited by progmac; 11-20-2010 at 01:27 PM..
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Old 11-20-2010, 07:07 PM
 
Location: In my house
3,308 posts, read 4,976,657 times
Reputation: 1355
Cool thread. Actually enjoying this one.
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Old 11-20-2010, 08:18 PM
 
Location: Cincinnati
3,198 posts, read 3,361,697 times
Reputation: 1874
Quote:
Originally Posted by ubmonkey View Post
When my wife and I were looking for a home when we moved out here from the city a while back we wanted a new home. Coming from the city we wanted everything new, and easy. We bought a spec home in the Manhasset area that was beautiful. We experienced the same problems everyone has mentioned, shotty workmanship, poor insulation, paper thing walls, leaks, and a few of our outlets didnt even work. Overall i felt it really lacked character, on the outside it looked great, but inside it was bland.
We moved into a late 1800's house and boy is it a completely different world, there are good and bad. Changing plumbing and wiring things is a nightmare. Installing an outlet for my tv in the den was terrible, but i wouldnt trade this house ever. It has soo much character, chair rails, the staircase, the crown molding. I just feel like this house has a soul, if you know what i mean. Things arent perfect like in a new house, but i appreciate the slightly bent handrail on the stairs or the fact that my garage is insulated with news paper from 1890 (which is really cool).

Also there are a few builders who do a fabulous job of building homes with character on Long island. Obviously they arent cheap, but i thought i'd mention it as it seems all new home builder were getting bashed. Kean development in CSH, and a few others build some really nice houses. I got to take a look at a job site with my contractor a year back as they work together. They were actually hand making the crown molding with a plane saw (i think its called) i was really impressed with the detail. But that kinda thing really gets my juices going, if its not your cup of tea, its not worth it.
I agree with the part about older houses having a soul. Not only have older homes been lived in by people who lived very differently than we do, but everything about them was a craft. Back then it took a true craftsman to make something as simple as a wall. Try your own hand at plastering sometime and see how hard it is to even make a small area come out nicely.

Another fun thing to do. Go into an older home and count the number of different sizes and types of windows. Now do that in a new home. It will open your eyes to how standardized and mechanized everything is today. On the other hand - it makes it hard for old house people to buy window treatments!

But your second point also rings true - there are still good builders around, although they probably aren't out there raising whole subdivisions at once. Maybe they are doing five houses a year. There are ways to recreate some of the older character with modern materials. It takes creativity and a fair bit of money, but a lot is possible. But none of it is standard.

I once asked a builder what it would cost to upgrade all the trim in the house to stained softwood or hardwood. They told me it isn't even an option but it might be possible - that no one had asked them to do that in ten years.
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Old 11-21-2010, 07:27 AM
 
Location: In my house
3,308 posts, read 4,976,657 times
Reputation: 1355
Watch "This Old House"
They blend old world craftsmanship with new technology.
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Old 11-21-2010, 08:31 AM
 
153 posts, read 360,737 times
Reputation: 31
I have to agree, my house was built in the 40's and still standing strong. Now there are SOME advantages to newer homes.

Sometimes they're built "smarter" (not better), in terms of new waterproofing techniques or no old unhealthy products lingering (ie: older homes may still have asbestos tiling or other stuff).

Also, newer homes will have (should have) better insulation and electrical (when I moved in to my house, not 1 outlet was grounded, and there was little insulation).

But in terms of sturdiness and quality parts, yes, older homes are way better.
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:07 AM
 
150 posts, read 287,095 times
Reputation: 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.mrs.b.i View Post
I have to agree, my house was built in the 40's and still standing strong. Now there are SOME advantages to newer homes.

Sometimes they're built "smarter" (not better), in terms of new waterproofing techniques or no old unhealthy products lingering (ie: older homes may still have asbestos tiling or other stuff).

Also, newer homes will have (should have) better insulation and electrical (when I moved in to my house, not 1 outlet was grounded, and there was little insulation).

But in terms of sturdiness and quality parts, yes, older homes are way better.

It really depends on the builder. I moved into a brand new home two years ago and was impressed with the workmanship. Its a colonial that has 2 X 6 construction, real plywood (not composite), it has two metal support girders in the basement and the second floor with metal risers that makes the place solid. It has nice hardwood floors, wains coat in the foyer and dining room plus has nice 6 inch wood trim around every interior door and window and does have nice ceiling molding in some of the rooms plus the master bath and master bedroom have cathedral ceilings. Besides the Anderson windows, the place is well insolated and does have the high efficiency heating system. Everytime I looked at a older home when I was looking to buy, I only saw work to be done.
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Old 11-21-2010, 02:52 PM
 
924 posts, read 1,144,229 times
Reputation: 525
Older homes were built to last. New homes are built to pass inspection.
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