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Old 03-28-2014, 07:54 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 27 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
And I'm talking more about buildings from the past 20 years or so, not mid-century development--which may not have been as robust as pre-WWII housing, but not quite as disposable as more modern housing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Why would housing built in the last 20 years would be less durable than Levittown-era housing, which was meant to built as cheaply as possible?
Exactly! Ever been in one of those 50s houses? I've described the one we rented for a while. No original furnace, in Champaign IL! No basement or even crawl space, water pipes embedded into a slab. God forbid your water pipes would freeze! Not that any of that is much of a concern to someone in California, mind you!

You think houses were being built crappily in 1994, wburg? That was in the thick of the "big house" era, not necessarily "McMansion" (which means nothing anyway), but bigger, bigger, bigger. Also, after the "energy crisis" of the early 70s, building codes were strengthened for energy efficiency, again, not that Californians have to care too much about heating costs. Far more energy efficient than a house built in 1954, or 1924!

And the funny thing is, people have been saying the same (they don't build 'em like they used to) for forever. My parents said the same about the 50s "cracker boxes", those tiny little Levitttownish houses built everywhere across the country in the 50s. They're still here.
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Old 03-28-2014, 08:02 AM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
Exactly! Ever been in one of those 50s houses? I've described the one we rented for a while. No original furnace, in Champaign IL! No basement or even crawl space, water pipes embedded into a slab.
I grew up in two 1950s houses [it would be hard not to on Long Island]. They're in good shape, both rather cozy, though some stuff (windows) were outdated and got replaced, but I don't think doing some updates after 50 years is that big of a deal. Both had basements, though the Levittown houses did not.

Edit: I suppose you meant the cheapest 50s houses? The first one was definitely not fancy, but probably considered a little nicer than Levittown houses, still a "working-class" neighborhood.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
You think houses were being built crappily in 1994, wburg? That was in the thick of the "big house" era, not necessarily "McMansion" (which means nothing anyway), but bigger, bigger, bigger.
Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. My parents called the new houses built in the neighborhood "McMansion"; I'm tempted to link but that'd give too many personal details.
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Old 03-28-2014, 08:25 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 27 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,034 posts, read 102,707,476 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I grew up in two 1950s houses [it would be hard not to on Long Island]. They're in good shape, both rather cozy, though some stuff (windows) were outdated and got replaced, but I don't think doing some updates after 50 years is that big of a deal. Both had basements, though the Levittown houses did not.

Edit: I suppose you meant the cheapest 50s houses? The first one was definitely not fancy, but probably considered a little nicer than Levittown houses, still a "working-class" neighborhood.




Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. My parents called the new houses built in the neighborhood "McMansion"; I'm tempted to link but that'd give too many personal details.
No, bigger doesn't necessarily mean better, but it's the bigger houses that usually get the upgrades. There is absolutely no doubt that insulation and overall energy efficiency is better now than it was in 1954 (60 years ago) and was probably about the same in 1994 as it is today.
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Old 03-28-2014, 11:03 AM
 
Location: Bothell, Washington
2,704 posts, read 4,677,806 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
Exactly! Ever been in one of those 50s houses? I've described the one we rented for a while. No original furnace, in Champaign IL! No basement or even crawl space, water pipes embedded into a slab. God forbid your water pipes would freeze! Not that any of that is much of a concern to someone in California, mind you!

You think houses were being built crappily in 1994, wburg? That was in the thick of the "big house" era, not necessarily "McMansion" (which means nothing anyway), but bigger, bigger, bigger. Also, after the "energy crisis" of the early 70s, building codes were strengthened for energy efficiency, again, not that Californians have to care too much about heating costs. Far more energy efficient than a house built in 1954, or 1924!

And the funny thing is, people have been saying the same (they don't build 'em like they used to) for forever. My parents said the same about the 50s "cracker boxes", those tiny little Levitttownish houses built everywhere across the country in the 50s. They're still here.
Yes, I just get tired of people trying to say homes built today are garbage compared to ones built in the past. Fact is new houses today are built BETTER than they were 30 or 40 or 50 years ago. They are more energy efficient with better insulation, there are tougher codes to adhere to these days, and of course the basic framing and such is basically the same as back then, so it's not like they have gone down hill at all in that regard.
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Old 03-28-2014, 12:36 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jm31828 View Post
Yes, I just get tired of people trying to say homes built today are garbage compared to ones built in the past. Fact is new houses today are built BETTER than they were 30 or 40 or 50 years ago. They are more energy efficient with better insulation, there are tougher codes to adhere to these days, and of course the basic framing and such is basically the same as back then, so it's not like they have gone down hill at all in that regard.
There have been structural improvements in newer houses, but these are often masked due to how higher-quality finishes and cladding have become rare. You don't see houses anymore with real stone lintels, and seldom even see ones with fake concrete ones which try to look like stone. In many parts of the U.S., they only bother to put brick on the front face of a house, if at all. Ornate wood trim has fallen out of fashion, both internally and externally. You also don't get stained-glass windows, hardwood floors, or ornate stairwells unless you are rich and/or put them into your house yourself.

Also, it's quite common in newer houses to not have a functional attic (due to the use of prefab roof trusses) or slab foundations instead of basements, which many people can see as negatives, as they cut down on house storage space, leaving you with the garage and little else to house random crap. That's not to say that every modern house lacks both of these features, but it's much cheaper not to include them, so unless you're building for a wealthy customer, they'll often be skipped, particularly in areas with high labor costs.

So yeah, you may have a point that modern construction, when done well, is actually structurally superior. It just tends to look bland. Houses have become more the blank canvass we then decorate than something which has artistic features in and of itself.
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Old 03-28-2014, 12:58 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 27 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,034 posts, read 102,707,476 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
There have been structural improvements in newer houses, but these are often masked due to how higher-quality finishes and cladding have become rare. You don't see houses anymore with real stone lintels, and seldom even see ones with fake concrete ones which try to look like stone. In many parts of the U.S., they only bother to put brick on the front face of a house, if at all. Ornate wood trim has fallen out of fashion, both internally and externally. You also don't get stained-glass windows, hardwood floors, or ornate stairwells unless you are rich and/or put them into your house yourself.

Also, it's quite common in newer houses to not have a functional attic (due to the use of prefab roof trusses) or slab foundations instead of basements, which many people can see as negatives, as they cut down on house storage space, leaving you with the garage and little else to house random crap. That's not to say that every modern house lacks both of these features, but it's much cheaper not to include them, so unless you're building for a wealthy customer, they'll often be skipped, particularly in areas with high labor costs.

So yeah, you may have a point that modern construction, when done well, is actually structurally superior. It just tends to look bland. Houses have become more the blank canvass we then decorate than something which has artistic features in and of itself.
You're recycling some old information that you posted either here or on the Pittsburgh forum that was deemed inaccurate at the time.

You don't get stained-glass windows, hardwood floors, or ornate stairwells in old houses either, unless the original owners were rich or someone put them into the houses themselves. Where does the idea come from that ALL old houses were built like that? Most people were living in tenements, or something just a step or two up from that!

I do not know of very many old houses that actually have a "functional" attic, though functional depends on how you define it. Is it for storage, or for living space? Can you stand up in it? The house we rented that was built in the 50s had a slab foundation, but frankly, I have looked at many houses to buy over the years and also at many "Tour of Homes" and just new developments over the past 30 years, and I haven't seen a ONE that was built on a slab. Out here, most have basements, and most of the rest have crawl spaces.

ETA: Now I remember, it was on the Pittsburgh forum, where you referred to my daughter's house, sight unseen by you, as "cheap". Do Pittsburghers prefer hardwood floors or carpeting?

Last edited by Katarina Witt; 03-28-2014 at 01:12 PM..
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Old 03-28-2014, 01:20 PM
 
Location: Youngstown, Oh.
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Yes, technology has advanced in newer houses. A modern furnace is more efficient than a 100 year old gravity furnace. A brand new window will be a little more efficient than a 100 year old single-pane window paired with a storm window--for a couple years. There has been quite a bit of advancement in insulating materials over the last century. Electrical wiring has also changed a great deal over the last century. (but, with the advancement of technology, current wiring standards will probably be as antiquated in 100 years, as knob and tube wiring is today)

But, while technology has advanced, the quality of many building materials has deteriorated.
- A modern gas furnace may be more efficient, but it only has a life expectancy of about 18 years. (Life expectancy | Old House Web) The gas furnace in my old house is about 60 years old.
- The best modern windows are expected to last only 50 years. (per link above) But, my 112 year old windows are like new, after spending a few dollars on materials, and a few hours of labor to refurbish them.
- I was recently able to compare the end grain of a modern 4x4 post and the 112 year old railing from my front porch. The modern 4x4 only had about 4-5 growth rings. The porch railing (about 5" wide, and 3" deep) had dozens of growth rings. This would hold true for most wood used in a new house vs. wood in an old house.

Those Levittown houses may have been built as cheaply as possible, but the basic materials were still inherently better than their equivalent counterparts of today.
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Old 03-28-2014, 01:32 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 27 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,034 posts, read 102,707,476 times
Reputation: 33083
Quote:
Originally Posted by JR_C View Post
Yes, technology has advanced in newer houses. A modern furnace is more efficient than a 100 year old gravity furnace. A brand new window will be a little more efficient than a 100 year old single-pane window paired with a storm window--for a couple years. There has been quite a bit of advancement in insulating materials over the last century. Electrical wiring has also changed a great deal over the last century. (but, with the advancement of technology, current wiring standards will probably be as antiquated in 100 years, as knob and tube wiring is today)

But, while technology has advanced, the quality of many building materials has deteriorated.
- A modern gas furnace may be more efficient, but it only has a life expectancy of about 18 years. (Life expectancy | Old House Web) The gas furnace in my old house is about 60 years old.
- The best modern windows are expected to last only 50 years. (per link above) But, my 112 year old windows are like new, after spending a few dollars on materials, and a few hours of labor to refurbish them.
- I was recently able to compare the end grain of a modern 4x4 post and the 112 year old railing from my front porch. The modern 4x4 only had about 4-5 growth rings. The porch railing (about 5" wide, and 3" deep) had dozens of growth rings. This would hold true for most wood used in a new house vs. wood in an old house.

Those Levittown houses may have been built as cheaply as possible, but the basic materials were still inherently better than their equivalent counterparts of today.
These "life expectancies" you post are basically CYA stuff. Most things last longer than their stated "life expectancy", particularly windows, especially if you're going to add in "a few (?) dollars on materials, and a few hours of labor to refurbish them".

Here is what your link said:

**The following material was developed for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Economics Department based on asurvey of manufacturers, trade associations and product researchers. Many factors affect the life expectancy of housing components and need to be considered when making replacement decisions, including the quality of the components, the quality of their installation, their level of maintenance, weather and climatic conditions, and intensity of their use. Some components remain functional but become obsolete because of changing styles and tastes or because of product improvements. Note that the following life expectancy estimates are provided largely by the industries or manufacturers that make and sell the components listed.**
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Old 03-28-2014, 01:59 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jm31828 View Post
Yes, I just get tired of people trying to say homes built today are garbage compared to ones built in the past. Fact is new houses today are built BETTER than they were 30 or 40 or 50 years ago. They are more energy efficient with better insulation, there are tougher codes to adhere to these days, and of course the basic framing and such is basically the same as back then, so it's not like they have gone down hill at all in that regard.
It is a mixed bag. Insulation is better but doors are hollow. There are tougher requirements, but lower quality materials and less craftsmanship.
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Old 03-28-2014, 02:06 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 27 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,034 posts, read 102,707,476 times
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
It is a mixed bag. Insulation is better but doors are hollow. There are tougher requirements, but lower quality materials and less craftsmanship.
I don't think you can say that across the board.
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