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Old 05-20-2012, 01:29 PM   #1
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old vs new homes


i dont understand what people are saying when they say "they dont build them like they use to" every old home i've ever been in is always out of level and out of square. has home made roofs not trusses, crappy old lath and plaster walls, crappy wool insulation if they even have any at all. old windows that are a major heat loss. old crappy basements with really low ceilings. the list goes on and on. new homes are built with trusses and they may not have true 2x4s but the homes are designed to take 40% more snow loads then the most snow in the past 100years. we have plywood and drywall! windows and insulation making good sealed homes. we have basements with stronger concrete and tall basements walls with full large windows. and the list goes on. i dont understand they anyone would even want an old home other then for the style and gut the thing to the studs and redo it. can someone enlighten me?
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Old 05-20-2012, 01:41 PM   #2
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I believe the expression refers to the "throw away" mentality that pervades our culture.

The old-timers may not have had the science but what they built, they meant it to last.

Too many companies in every industry now (not just building and construction) take the stance of "well, if I build a good one, they won't ever need to by another from me again. That's no good".

Soooo, we'll

1. Change the part fittings every couple of years so they can't be repaired
2. Even if we make replacement parts we'll make them hard to get.
3. If we can figure out a way to build in Obsolescence we will.
4. Plastic weld the body together so you can't get to the parts.

The list goes on and on.

My Grandparent's vacuum cleaner lasted 50 years. I've owned 3 in 15.
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Old 05-20-2012, 01:53 PM   #3
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i dont understand what people are saying when they say "they dont build them like they use to"
Sounds like you should stick with new construction.
Someone has to buy the new stuff.
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Old 05-20-2012, 02:12 PM   #4
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I loved working on antique homes and buildings because they had character and a sense of craftsmanship. All it takes is to pull a piece of trim off and realize their are gorgeous solid oak panel doors hiding behind it to make one a convert. And if you are lucky and can find the original drawings, old houses came with details for how every piece of the staircase should be turned and its finials or the claw feet at the base of the posts should be carved. Same for limestone and other mantle pieces and so forth.

And suggesting old homes are out of square is a criticism I often use for new construction. People seem so anxious to have at their nailing guns they forget to even sight walls, let alone take a string line to them or something. I know framing carpenters that proudly admit to not owning a full size square. Come on. Something is lost in this?

The last major restoration I did was over 100 years old and the thing was so square it was scary. It had sunk to one corner over that period but the degree of this was constant and easy to compensate for when hanging doors and things. Everything in the balloon construction was tied to everything else. Imagine 2500 or so square feet actually functioning as a working unit? Not going to see this in most slapped together new construction. "Nice bones" is a term you hear those of us who did restorations use a lot.

Now you are correct. Lathe and plaster walls do sometimes sag after a century and a lot of old homes do not have insulation. Firewood, coal and heating oil were cheap. And people even wore sweaters, in the house, in winter. Windows were drafty too.

So you put insulation in the walls and replace the windows but true to the look and feel of the old places. If you can and it is appropriate you do gut to the studs and rafters and do all the infrastructure---electrical, plumbing, HVAC---when the walls and ceilings are open. And few but absolute purists argue to put lathe and plaster back up. There is nothing wrong with adapting modern materials to old homes if it does not compromise what they are.

The nicest thing is when you are done restoring an old home, rather than one 20 years old and already falling apart, you know you have accomplished something that will last another 100 years barring disaster. It will also look architecturally significant and not like it was built from some second graders track housing plans.

Can one universally say we don't build them like they used to? Or that we no longer know how? Of course not. Not all new construction is crappy. My best friend does new construction only but prices start around $800K.

With new construction, we have learned to settle too often. So what if the coverplates do not cover the holes made for electrical boxes. The mismatched seams in the countertops will not be noticed by many. Nobody will notice the crown molding is not level and up against the ceiling. Etc.

I am pleased I got to work on old houses and was spared having to do much with new construction. Those that commit to their restoration and preservation deserve some real credit in my opinion. Old home owners go through a lot and often underestimate what is in store for them taking on a restoration. There is a reason those who stick with it smile when talking about their houses. Real estate agents do not have to apologize for or hide the name of the builder who did the house or restored it either.
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Old 05-20-2012, 02:16 PM   #5
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all i do is fixed old homes. i work in restoration fixing homes after flood, fires, etc. you cant believe the butcher jobs ive seen and you can see why something happened by looking at the rest of the house. there are very few new homes with claims but yes they do happen. i find mold in walls that look like its been there for the past 20years and homes that look like they were built with scrap wood. most are trimmed out and floors with real solid wood and not mdf though that needs to be replaced probably every ten years and cant hold up to a drop of water
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Old 05-20-2012, 02:21 PM   #6
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all i do is fixed old homes. i work in restoration fixing homes after flood, fires, etc. you cant believe the butcher jobs ive seen and you can see why something happened by looking at the rest of the house. there are very few new homes with claims but yes they do happen. i find mold in walls that look like its been there for the past 20years and homes that look like they were built with scrap wood. most are trimmed out and floors with real solid wood and not mdf though that needs to be replaced probably every ten years and cant hold up to a drop of water
I can certainly believe the butcher jobs you find. I think we are talking about different kinds of work on old houses and perhaps a different class of old houses? I have never done much flood or fire work specifically for remediation. I will concede to your observations on finding what you do in patching up homes that no doubt were bandaided to get by before you got there to do things right. My work involved more complete restoration of homes and buildings for the purpose of saving and preserving them. Large Queen Annes, old theaters and that sort of thing. Fairly major projects.

Last edited by user1007; 05-20-2012 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 05-20-2012, 02:46 PM   #7
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i agree full restorations are great to keep 100year old places around. there are just so many homes with bandaid over bandaid. from what ive seen i'd fear buying an older home unless i was gutting and restoring it.
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Old 05-20-2012, 05:05 PM   #8
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i agree full restorations are great to keep 100year old places around. there are just so many homes with bandaid over bandaid. from what ive seen i'd fear buying an older home unless i was gutting and restoring it.
Many in the campus town where I did most restorations were so badly chopped up and abused they had to be leveled. Some slumlords let them get into such shape on purpose which was sad.

One definitely has to be careful buying an antique home. And your best estimates as to time and money to fix one are not going to hold for long. It is still worth it though I hope.
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Old 05-21-2012, 06:21 AM   #9
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I love my 100 year old home. The classic lines, proper orientation, and solid lumber are just a few of the attractions. I also hate it. 100 years of band aids, as mentioned.....deteriorating plaster, etc...make for some additional challenges.

But when I am done, my house should be ready to stand another 100 years, and look great while doing so. I'm not sure that many houses half the age have the same potential to do so.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:27 AM   #10
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i dont understand what people are saying when they say "they dont build them like they use to"
My response to this phrase is always "Thank Goodness"..........

Sure, some "builders" build junk homes now, but I'd say overall, today's quality built homes offer more than alot of the older homes I've torn into.
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Old 05-21-2012, 09:18 PM   #11
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It's the materials used in most newer homes that turns me off. OSB as opposed to plywood. Fixtures labeled as builder's grade as opposed to quality Delta faucets. I suppose advances on building scince that go into new homes makes up for a lot. But to get high quality materials in a new home makes the cost prohibitive.
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:10 PM   #12
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My wife & I drove through a few new developments recently. All the homes are less than 5 years old, and all sold for $169,000 to $249,000 new. Already, most of those houses look like absolute crap.

One of the worst things about it is that the owners were sold a bill of good when they bought those "affordable" houses. In order to be affordable, the mortgages were stretched out to 30 years. But within 10 years every one of those houses is going to need major work - and I do mean major. Unfortunately, in 10 years the houses will be worth much LESS than the owners owe on them. And guess what? They're screwed.
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:12 PM   #13
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My response to this phrase is always "Thank Goodness"..........

Sure, some "builders" build junk homes now, but I'd say overall, today's quality built homes offer more than alot of the older homes I've torn into.
I don't know what "quality built homes" sell for in your area, but around here they're going to run at least $300,000. Unfortunately, the people who can spend $300,000+ usually opt for more square footage, rather than better quality.
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Old 05-22-2012, 08:03 AM   #14
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I've had 6 homes in 6 different states over the past 10 years. All but one was older (from the 1930s or 40s) and in need of repair/updating. One was newer, built in 2005 and I was excited to finally own a newer home that didn't need any work.

Turned out the worst home was the 2005. It creaked so badly when the wind blew that I worried the roof would blow right off; there was a substantial crack in the foundation due to them pouring a concrete patio before the foundation had sufficient time to settle; it was 2x4 construction but the studs were nowhere near 16" on center. In some places, they were as far as 24" on center. The veneer on the wood floor was a joke.

In short, older homes are generlaly built with significantly higher quality materials, and took longer to build. Stone is stone because they didn't have veneer...a 2x4 is more likely to be hardwood instead of pine...floors are solid wood, not 2mm of veneer, etc. Now, builders seem to be under so much pressure to build so quickly in order to make more money, they cut corners everywhere from flooring to cabinetry to what's inside the walls.

Yes, older homes need to have things like insulation and electrical replaced and kitchens/baths remodeled. But, when the work is done, the house will stay happy for a long time to come. You can re-finish old worn floors rather then having to rip them up and replace them because the new floor's veneer is so thin it can't be refinished.

Oh, and by the way, I currently own a 1941 home in Connecticut. My contractor always comments on how it's a pleasure to work on my house because it's not just nearly perfectly square but also plum. It's wonderful :-) and I wouldn't trade it for the 'nicest' new home on earth.
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Old 05-22-2012, 10:11 PM   #15
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I don't know what "quality built homes" sell for in your area, but around here they're going to run at least $300,000. Unfortunately, the people who can spend $300,000+ usually opt for more square footage, rather than better quality.
I certainly don't live in Beverly Hill's, but the vast majority of homes we work on are "life homes", rather than starter homes. It's not uncommon for the hones we work on to end up in the $250-$350 per sq. foot range. I'm not saying that junk isn't built as well, just that quality certainly still exists....... Probably some of the worst quality homes I've worked on and repaired in my experience are those from the post-war boom, late 40's to mid 50's.......
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