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Old 04-03-2014, 08:43 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 20 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,008 posts, read 102,606,536 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JR_C View Post
When I was a kid, we rented a house that was less than 15 years old, when we moved in. It was the 1968 equivalent to the kinds of houses found in my previous neighborhood. (that I provided a Google link to, above)
I'm not sure what your point is. One visiting nurse job I had involved visiting young moms. Most of these moms lived in rental housing of some sort. Often, when driving down the street to find a home, you could pick out the patient's house from the others b/c it was the one with the peeling paint, the cracked driveway, etc. I'm not blaming the patients, I'm blaming the landlord. They buy these houses for rental property (once thought to be a great way to invest one's money) and don't keep them up. They may have been built exactly the same as the others, but over time, they don't get the maintenance they need. And few people buy an upscale home for a rental property. The few high end rentals tend to be homes that were owner-occupied until the owner decided to sell and move elsewhere, either across town or across the country as in a job transfer. When the house doesn't sell, the owner rents it out.
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Old 04-03-2014, 09:32 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
12,423 posts, read 11,929,235 times
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I just thought I'd link to some older intact houses on the market in Pittsburgh and show that these finishes were not just for the wealthy.

Modest-sized 1920s foursquare with stained glass and built ins.
Bungalow with stained glass from 1920s
Great surviving craftsmenship.
Modest house clad in real stone. I don't believe it's as old as 1910 judging from the features though.

At least locally, more vernacular houses with retained internal features don't really come to the fore until the Craftsmen movement started. Part of this was due to the materials being used actually increasing in quality, but part of also seems to be they just were better treated over time than the Victorians, which (except for the biggest houses) retain little original due to people ripping out most of their features in the mid 20th century.

Externally though, Victorians can still be plenty ornate. This street in Pittsburgh shows what Pittsburgh frame rowhouses looked like before remuddling (removing wood siding, wood trim, and even replacing windows) became common. You can see they were anything but plain, despite being of modest size.
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Old 04-03-2014, 09:47 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in America
12,304 posts, read 10,768,997 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
Did I say it was Victorian?

And seriously "purposely built to be boring and bland"?
The Victorian era of home building was wrapping up at that time and the foursquare was considered by some to be a Victorian.

And seriously the foursquare was designed to be boring and bland because there were people tired of the froofoo of the Victorian era. Highly decorated foursquares are rare. Many were jazzed up over the years as people came into money and decorating styles changed.
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Old 04-03-2014, 09:53 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in America
12,304 posts, read 10,768,997 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
Pine floors, not hardwood, as everyone claims ALL old houses had (except of course those purposely built to be boring and bland).
Old growth pine like what was used 100 years ago is NOT the cheap, CRAP pine that bends like a straw at the Depot. A 2x4 was actually 2 x4 inches unlike today where it's like 1 1/2 or 13/4 by 3 1/2 inches. Not all boards today are consistent and many are soooo warped that they shouldn't be used, but they are and then over time the wall twists a bit because the wood is such crap. I had a wall that did this in my bathroom when I built a house in 2010. I saw the crap they called lumber and questioned it and was told oh it's nothing to worry about. Didn't take long for the sheetrock to crack and need to be repaired. Having the central on 9-10 months of the year doesn't help since you're sucking all the humidity out of the air which does change the wood.
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Old 04-03-2014, 09:55 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in America
12,304 posts, read 10,768,997 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by North Beach Person View Post
I remember watching This Old House back when they were actually working on real old houses and Norm Abram said, "They don't build them like they used to and that's a good thing".
He wouldn't have a job without all these old houses. Some things are better yes. Some things are worse today. There's no clear cut answer.
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Old 04-03-2014, 11:03 AM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
33,896 posts, read 42,133,814 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ss20ts View Post
He wouldn't have a job without all these old houses. Some things are better yes. Some things are worse today. There's no clear cut answer.
That was his point, I think. I do know he is a real proponent of engineered trusses.
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Old 04-03-2014, 11:04 AM
 
Location: Youngstown, Oh.
4,896 posts, read 7,659,080 times
Reputation: 4508
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
And let's look at my parents' house, built 1918, bought by them in 1956, kind of "newish" by today's standards, a 38 yo home. This was the aforementioned "purposely built to be boring and bland" four square mind you. It had no place in the kitchen for a refrigerator, b/c in 1918 people didn't have refrigerators.
So, where did they put the ice box?

Quote:
The first Christmas we were there, someone put a piece of bread in the toaster
when the Christmas tree was lit, and the lights flickered. Oh, no! Need new
wiring.
Yep, the house probably had 30 amp service, at the time. And, as I said earlier, our modern wiring is likely to be just as antiquated in the future.

Quote:
When getting the house wired, they discovered it had also originally been piped
for gas. Apparently the builders didn't think electricity was here to
stay!
Piping for gas lighting was still common, because electrical service wasn't reliable, at the time.

Quote:
Kitchen reno, living room reno, always something, always something.
Why did you need to renovate the living room, what did that involve? But, the "always something" is true for any house, even new ones, apparently.

Quote:
My mom once said that she thought in "these old houses" as she called them, they
took whatever space was left over after building it and called it the
kitchen. When I did some research on kitchens, I found out she was
basically correct. A kitchen was not considered important in real old
houses, b/c you had "help" to cook. Who cared what they had to put up with?
Yes, kitchens were much more utilitarian. But, in a foursquare, kitchens were usually a decent size; often about 1/4 of the first floor plan. In my mom's 1924 house, the living room was on the left side of the house, from front to back. The dining room and kitchen were on the right side of the house, split almost equally. In my previous house, built in 1915, (not a foursquare) the living room spanned across the front of the house, and the dining room and kitchen split the back of the house about 60/40. Again, I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm just interested in the different ways old houses are laid out.

Quote:
Fireplace hadn't been used in years, couldn't be used until the living room reno
was done and the chimney rebuilt. (They found a dead bat in it, LOL!) One
bedroom had no closet and no heat (no furnace register). My dad put in a
space heater in that room. Tiny closets.
Maybe there was a gas space heater in that room, originally? I have a couple I found in the attic. I don't know where they were used, but they are interesting, so I won't be scrapping them. (I won't be using them either. ) As for tiny closets, remember, people had fewer items of clothes, and they also used wardrobes more often.

Quote:
Single pane windows, practically no insulation. After the "energy crisis"
of 1973 (before most of you were born, I suspect), my dad was constantly trying
to improve efficiency, but really, there wasn't much that could be done w/o
major renovations.
If in good repair, and when paired with storm windows, single pane windows are about as efficient as modern windows. The 2 biggest steps (so probably the first things that should be done) to making an old house more efficient are: 1. stop air infiltration. (find and fill gaps/cracks/etc.) 2. insulate the attic, since heat rises. A lot of people recommend having insulation blown into the walls. But, because there isn't a vapor barrier, moisture can be trapped in the walls, and rot the studs.

Quote:
Pine floors, not hardwood, as everyone claims ALL old houses had (except of
course those purposely built to be boring and bland).
A lot of people mistakenly call any finished wood floor a "hardwood" floor. But, finished wood floors (whether pine, oak, maple, ash, etc.) were extremely common in old houses.

Quote:
One bathroom.
Quite common through the 60s. This is easy for me to say, since my house was retrofitted with a 2nd bathroom, and I live alone, but I wonder how generations of people survived with only one bathroom?

Quote:
Now this was a nice house for my parents to raise a family in. And whenever you
own a home, it's always something. We've owned two, and I learned that early
on. When I was a visiting nurse, I went in many homes. I've seen a lot. I'd
say it's a toss-up.
But, how much of what forms your opinion is caused by: lack of maintenance, current trends, and advancing technology, versus shoddy construction?

Quote:
Originally Posted by North Beach Person View Post
I remember watching This Old House back when they were actually working on real old houses and Norm Abram said, "They don't build them like they used to and that's a good thing".
Often, IIRC, he was referring to a hack job that was done later to add plumbing, or some other renovation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
I'm not sure what your point is. One visiting nurse job I had involved visiting young moms. Most of these moms lived in rental housing of some sort. Often, when driving down the street to find a home, you could pick out the patient's house from the others b/c it was the one with the peeling paint, the cracked driveway, etc. I'm not blaming the patients, I'm blaming the landlord. They buy these houses for rental property (once thought to be a great way to invest one's money) and don't keep them up. They may have been built exactly the same as the others, but over time, they don't get the maintenance they need. And few people buy an upscale home for a rental property. The few high end rentals tend to be homes that were owner-occupied until the owner decided to sell and move elsewhere, either across town or across the country as in a job transfer. When the house doesn't sell, the owner rents it out.
You seemed to be using homeownership rates as proof that architectural decoration was rare, and only for the wealthy homeowner, and wouldn't be installed in a modest home that would soon be leased to a renter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
I just thought I'd link to some older intact houses on the market in Pittsburgh and show that these finishes were not just for the wealthy.

Modest-sized 1920s foursquare with stained glass and built ins.
Bungalow with stained glass from 1920s
Great surviving craftsmenship.
Modest house clad in real stone. I don't believe it's as old as 1910 judging from the features though.

At least locally, more vernacular houses with retained internal features don't really come to the fore until the Craftsmen movement started. Part of this was due to the materials being used actually increasing in quality, but part of also seems to be they just were better treated over time than the Victorians, which (except for the biggest houses) retain little original due to people ripping out most of their features in the mid 20th century.

Externally though, Victorians can still be plenty ornate. This street in Pittsburgh shows what Pittsburgh frame rowhouses looked like before remuddling (removing wood siding, wood trim, and even replacing windows) became common. You can see they were anything but plain, despite being of modest size.
I agree, it looks more like a house from the 30s.
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Old 04-03-2014, 12:40 PM
 
Location: Sugarmill Woods , FL
6,235 posts, read 5,903,542 times
Reputation: 13647
Yes! a lot of low end new housing developments are just going to be too soon a blight on the communities that allowed them to build there! Big and cheap what could go wrong?!
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Old 04-03-2014, 02:15 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 20 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,008 posts, read 102,606,536 times
Reputation: 33064
Quote:
Originally Posted by JR_C View Post
So, where did they put the ice box?

I'm not sure. There was an alcove like space off the main hallway near the kitchen where the previous owners had their refrigerator. My dad was an engineer and was able to figure out how to get it in the kitchen. But maybe that's where they kept the icebox. Or, perhaps in the pantry, or on the back porch. (Not a good idea in the summer, though.)

Yep, the house probably had 30 amp service, at the time. And, as I said earlier, our modern wiring is likely to be just as antiquated in the future.

Oh, absolutely! But if you're a young couple on a tight budget, having to rewire the whole darned house is a pretty big deal. If you buy a newer house, the wiring will most likely meet your needs now. In the future, who knows?

Piping for gas lighting was still common, because electrical service wasn't reliable, at the time.

Apparently.

Why did you need to renovate the living room, what did that involve? But, the "always something" is true for any house, even new ones, apparently.

Gosh, that was a huge project. They (my parents) removed the walls separating the entry way from the living room proper. That made the living room, which was not large, a bit bigger and a lot brighter. They fixed the fireplace, so it could be used. This involved some repair work inside the fireplace, e.g. flue, and repairs to the chimney. They also replaced the mantel, and put in brick around the fireplace. Ironically, the brick is similar to what is being done today with fireplaces, what DH and I would like to do to ours. They built some built-in bookcases and put up some paneling to cover some of the uneven wall area. They installed wall-to-wall carpet, which was the hot thing of the day. I agree with you that many people consider a finished wood floor "hardwood". These floors weren't hardwood, and according to my mom, they were pretty crappy looking. ETC.

Yes, kitchens were much more utilitarian. But, in a foursquare, kitchens were usually a decent size; often about 1/4 of the first floor plan. In my mom's 1924 house, the living room was on the left side of the house, from front to back. The dining room and kitchen were on the right side of the house, split almost equally. In my previous house, built in 1915, (not a foursquare) the living room spanned across the front of the house, and the dining room and kitchen split the back of the house about 60/40. Again, I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm just interested in the different ways old houses are laid out.

This kitchen was the farthest thing from "utilitarian", meaning user-friendly. There was no work triangle. There were five doorways in the kitchen which is maybe 12 X 12 ft, roughly. (I'm going by memory here.) A door into the kitchen from the main hall, a door to the basement, a door to the pantry, a door to the dining room and a door to the back porch. I would have redone it a bit differntly than my folks did.

Maybe there was a gas space heater in that room, originally? I have a couple I found in the attic. I don't know where they were used, but they are interesting, so I won't be scrapping them. (I won't be using them either. ) As for tiny closets, remember, people had fewer items of clothes, and they also used wardrobes more often.

It may have had a gas space heater at one time, but what's that all about? Shouldn't all the bedrooms be heated? This was only a 3 BR house, mind you, and only two of them were heated. In PENNSYLVANIA! And that room had no closet, so yes, they did put in a wardrobe, but that took up a lot of space in a small room.

If in good repair, and when paired with storm windows, single pane windows are about as efficient as modern windows. The 2 biggest steps (so probably the first things that should be done) to making an old house more efficient are: 1. stop air infiltration. (find and fill gaps/cracks/etc.) 2. insulate the attic, since heat rises. A lot of people recommend having insulation blown into the walls. But, because there isn't a vapor barrier, moisture can be trapped in the walls, and rot the studs.

Yes, it had storms and screens, but a couple large windows and a small one did not.

A lot of people mistakenly call any finished wood floor a "hardwood" floor. But, finished wood floors (whether pine, oak, maple, ash, etc.) were extremely common in old houses.

Agreed.

Quite common through the 60s. This is easy for me to say, since my house was retrofitted with a 2nd bathroom, and I live alone, but I wonder how generations of people survived with only one bathroom?

Common yes, but just another example of "they don't build them like they used to, and that's good". Again, my folks did put in a bathroom in the basement, with a shower, but there was really nowhere to put one on the main floor, except if they'd closed in a portion of the back porch. Some friends of ours did that in their house. It does make it awkward, but it works.

But, how much of what forms your opinion is caused by: lack of maintenance, current trends, and advancing technology, versus shoddy construction?

Don't have time to do a PhD thesis here. Lack of maintenance is a problem whenever you buy any "used" house. You don't know what the previous owners did or didn't do. My daughter and her husband found that out when they bought their 15 year old house this summer. All sorts of little surprises. As they were moving in, before the closing, they found out they'd have to buy a new water heater, before they could even hook up their washer. Just one example. Neither house we've owned has been shoddily constructed, though the first one was definitely a "starter". No upgrades.


Often, IIRC, he was referring to a hack job that was done later to add plumbing, or some other renovation.

I've watched enough of TOH to know that Norm is also referring to materials, workmanship which may not have been shoddy for the day, but which can be done better these days with better tools, etc.

You seemed to be using homeownership rates as proof that architectural decoration was rare, and only for the wealthy homeowner, and wouldn't be installed in a modest home that would soon be leased to a renter.

Well, that's probably true! Believe me when I say I've been in a lot of houses. I have yet to see much of anything in the way of upgrades in a rental house, particularly in small houses (like the 50s house we rented) that are owned by an investor. And people who have been landlords will tell you all sorts of horror stories about ruined homes, so they're probably smart not to put anything too fancy in them.


I agree, it looks more like a house from the 30s.
Mine in teal.
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Old 04-03-2014, 02:41 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JR_C View Post
Yep, the house probably had 30 amp service, at the time. And, as I said earlier, our modern wiring is likely to be just as antiquated in the future.
Hopefully not. I hope energy conservation would mean we wouldn't need more energy.
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