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Thread: Residential architects, do they know what they are doing?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Residential architects, do they know what they are doing?

    This weekend I was talking with a friend that lives in a new house that received their C of O back in May. He was pointing out all the issues that they have already had with the house, including mold issues in the bathroom, the AC had to be upgraded because it could not keep up, the furnace needed to be upgraded because it could not keep the house warm, they had to remove the carpeting from 4 rooms because they found out that it was causing them to get sick, and this spring they will be adding a few windows to the side of their house... because it had none. The interior doors are hollow and the walls are very thin and sounds (like a flushing toilet) seem to bellow throughout the house. He is very disappointed that they bought this house. It looked great on paper, but they have not been happy with it.

    He lives in a cookie cutter subdivision with his wife and two kids. I think it is around 2500 square feet, two story with an unfinished basement and attached 2 car garage. I see these types of houses all the time. The front and back might have limited windows, but the sides might only have one or two. They are built so tight, that there is no air flow in or out, the materials that are used are toxic.

    I admit I like the open floor plan of my friend's house, but you can tell that it was not built or designed well. I wonder if they will be around for 50 or 100 years. It also got me thinking about all the features in old houses that we talked about in another thread, and I wonder if there was a way to build a new house, with the same quality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail that was common 100 years ago... and that would be both healthy energy efficient, without looking super modern.

    Do you think such a house could exist and be affordable?
    If you're not growing, you're dying. - Lou Holtz

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    This weekend I was talking with a friend that lives in a new house that received their C of O back in May...

    He lives in a cookie cutter subdivision with his wife and two kids...
    I generally think that's where many of the problems arise. The house may have basically been designed well, but if it was being built on spec as part of a larger development, I have little faith in the actual developer, who is probably too busy building dozens or more houses at once, to use quality materials and not cut every corner possible in order to increase his profit.

    However, I think it is entirely possible to build an adequately sized home to proper standards with good materials, but you are going to have better luck in doing so if you (the final purchaser) are involved in the construction from the beginning and make sure that you pick out the finishes you want and that the contractors are following the actual plans. I know a few people who have bought spec-built houses in the past decade and many of them report the same problems that your friends do. I also know quite a few people who bought a lot and built their own house in a new subdivision - they had to adhere to the cookie cutter designs but I never hear the problems that the others have with bad materials and cut corners.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I have so many opinions on architects, mostly bad. I find most are either good designs or good at construction practice and only a few can actually do both. I had one who couldn't understand how to design an ADA bathroom to code (sorry, not residential, but it seems typical to me). I think for all the houses they design today, most cookie cutter homes are designed by architects who are trying to fit in everything people want to buy and don't care about the overall design or best practices. I think Frank Lloyd Wright said something like houses today are just ugly boxes with ugly holes punched in for windows and doors. Sounds about right to me. Architects are to busy making homes cost effective I don't think they can make them energy efficient, well designed, or healthy unless that becomes a selling point.

    Sorry for the rant, but I think to answer the actual question, yes a house can be built efficiently, but no one will take the time or cost to do it on a large scale. You would have to insulate around windows and doors, use low-e paint and flooring, and if you really want to get into it, add rain barrels and any of the other hundreds of improvements to make a better house. I don't think that's actually the architects fault, more of a construction problem. What I do want to yell at architects for, would it kill you to add a front porch of some kind to the new homes. It makes for a better neighborhood, it's a selling point, and it can't cost that much to put a concrete pad or something to imply a front porch.
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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    ^^ Just because it meets current building code standards does not mean that it's a quality built home. Frankly, many developers use cheap material and cheap labor to build homes, they also use cheap architects. I am an affordable housing project manager. I build to Energy Star 3.0 and Enterprise Green Communities (nonprofit alternate to LEED) standards both of which have a detailed process to right size the HVAC, ensure adequate air exchange because the house is sealed very well, and choose durable, sustainable, healthy materials for construction.

    It's entirely possible, but it does cost more. I've rehabbed a couple of 10 year old homes and they were built cheaply and had issues that they really should not have had things been done correctly. The state of New Jersey requires that every new home be provided with a 10 year warranty which is meant to keep builders honest and do a good job in building a home because warranty claims that are unsatisfied are reported to the state which increases our warranty policy rates. It provides a 1 year whole house warranty and then specific items have differing warranty timelines and minutely identifies what constitutes a defect and what does not. I am proud to say that we've never had a warranty claim in the past 10 years.

    You are never going to return to the level of detailed craftsmanship (woodwork, built in cabinetry, etc) like there was 100 years ago, even then there were a lot of cheaply built homes-the ones you see today were the better built homes of yesteryear. Also it depends on what you consider to be affordable. Construction costs around here averages $100 to $110 per square foot, not including the land cost. I am sure that it is less in other areas of the country, but I'd be suspicious if it dropped below $80 per square foot.

    While I feel for your friend, I think there's some responsibility in being am informed consumer about the materials that are going into your home. There's a lot of good free information out there to help make informed decisions. As always, buyer beware.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    I admit I like the open floor plan of my friend's house, but you can tell that it was not built or designed well. I wonder if they will be around for 50 or 100 years. It also got me thinking about all the features in old houses that we talked about in another thread, and I wonder if there was a way to build a new house, with the same quality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail that was common 100 years ago... and that would be both healthy energy efficient, without looking super modern.

    Do you think such a house could exist and be affordable?
    First off, let's talk about survivor fallacy. People think older houses were built more solidly because those are the houses that survived through the years. We can't compare them with shoddy buildings from the era, because the vast majority of those are gone. IMHO, as a whole, the typical house of 1914 wasn't any more durable or sturdier than the typical house of today.

    Next, nostalgia gets in the way. We seem to compare the norm of today with the highlight reels of the past. Compare a typical new build house of 2014, that is intended to be inhabited by a middle class household, with that of a typical new build of 1914 intended to be inhabited by a middle class household of the day.

    Third, let's visit a "ticky tacky" suburb of the 1950s. What were folks saying then? "Those houses were built to last 25 years." Guess what? In suburban Buffalo, at least, where some blue collar suburbs were built out in a decade or two with a monoculture of modest frame Cape Cods and ranch houses, you'll find no urban prairie. About 99% of those "doll houses" from the 1950s are still standing today. Same thing in the 'burbs of Cleveland. Really, every other city I've been to except Detroit, and that's due to urban blight much more so than construction quality.

    Finally, come to the town where I live now. I've mentioned this before; a typical pre-WWI house that wasn't built for railroad barons or whatever will have 7' ceilings, awkward floorplans (daisychained bedrooms, main bathroom off the kitchen, etc), poor delineation of private and public spaces, tiny kitchens, and doorways and passages places in a way that makes it difficult to arrange furniture. They're functionally obsolete, but they remain standing because, thanks to the region's very high construction costs, they're still worth more than the land they sit on. Also, many residents here value "authenticity" and "character" over practicality and livability.

    That being said, here's why it's difficult to reproduce a 1914 lumber baron's mansion today:

    1) Granularity of materials. You can bet if 4'x8' plywood and sheetrock was available in 1914, builders would be using it.

    2) Labor costs. Skilled tradespeople were mostly low wage workers, and they weren't organized. It's among the many reasons why today. construction costs in upstate New York are so high compared to the rest of the US; there's no Mexican labor here.

    3) Physical plant costs. Compare the extent of HVAC, electrical systems, and plumbing in an old house to today.

    4) Distribution of "quality". Sure, old houses had magnificent woodwork. They also had very utilitarian kitchens with few cabinets, and only basic countertops.

    5) Labor skills. Drywallers probably outnumber lathers and plasterers by ... oh, a thousand to one?

    Could you build a 1914 house today at the same cost of a 2014 equivalent? Maybe, but it'll have 1914 plumbing, 1914 HVAC, 1914 electrics, 1914 insulation (i.e. none), a 1914 kitchen, and 1914 everything else. Also, you'd have to build it in a place where labor costs are about the same as in 1914, adjusted for inflation.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    ...
    5) Labor skills. Drywallers probably outnumber lathers and plasterers by ... oh, a thousand to one?
    Closer to 4 to 1 according to the BLS, but still a good point. Interestingly, nationally, plasterer masons and drywallers are paid about the same - I would have expected the plasterers to have a significantly higher annual wage. I couldn't find any data on woodworkers in the construction industry, which tells me that it is a skill being used so little anymore that it's probably being lumped in with the basic carpenters. (Also the data series doesn't count the self-employed, but still...)
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  7. #7
    If it is a cookie cutter home, it probably wasn't designed by an architect but more of a 'Builder's Spec' type of home. These things are almost always of dubious quality and typically see the least-efficient appliances/HVAC systems installed. It all depends on the quality of the builder and construction inspections.
    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
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    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    If it is a cookie cutter home, it probably wasn't designed by an architect but more of a 'Builder's Spec' type of home. These things are almost always of dubious quality and typically see the least-efficient appliances/HVAC systems installed. It all depends on the quality of the builder and construction inspections.
    Not all builders are the same, and as such, not all tract houses are the same as well. But most builders are looking for a profit, and with more pre-fabbed options available relative to yesteryear, houses can seem pretty shoddy. I think Dan's list is pretty relevant though; the average house has never really been that extraordinary, but the ones that have survived from several decades ago usually do have a certain charm about them. I typically think the tract houses from the 80's to the early 90's seem to be the worse since it has all of the prefabbed features, but without all of the modern conveniences (single-pane windows, less visual variety (the pseudo- craftsman or spanish style beats the blotchy stucco exterior), less functional spaces, and outdated appliances/equipment).
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    If it is a cookie cutter home, it probably wasn't designed by an architect but more of a 'Builder's Spec' type of home. These things are almost always of dubious quality and typically see the least-efficient appliances/HVAC systems installed. It all depends on the quality of the builder and construction inspections.
    I was going to post something similar, but regarding modular houses. There are good designs out there, but the vast majority I've seen just seem to have proportions that are off in some way. It's usually an unadorned front entrance, odd fenestration, and lack of any kind of detailing.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    After I posted this thread, I also got to thinking about how homes are built in other countries. For example there are many parts of the world that lives without AC in warm climates because of how the homes were designed. Granted things are a lot different in terms of culture and contractors, not to mention building codes.

    When my house was built, it had a large coal fed steam heat boiler with massive radiators in the rooms. It also had 3 coal burning fire places. If it was not for the drafts in the house, people would have suffocated. I know of several of the other homes in the neighborhood that have modern boilers with natural gas, but they are connected into the historic steam radiators... Their boilers are expected to last 50 years or so and is more cost efficient than my double forced air system.

    I think that it is possible to build a house today, to the same quality and craftsmanship as 100 years ago but with quality comes price. Furthermore, in some cases the quality of the materials are no longer available. For example, lumber 100 years ago was old growth with tight growth rings. Things were not just nailed or tacked together, they were constructed, shaped, and trimmed to establish a perfect fit. Lumber today is not nearly as good... heck the sizes are different. A 2 by 4 is no longer 2 inches by 4 inches... it is only 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches.


    On a side note, there is a 100 year old net zero house in Ann Arbor (in the historic district too), that has been tightened up by rebuilding and repairing the historic windows, installing basic aftermarket storm windows, and installing a geo-termal HVAC system with an air exchange system and solar panels. As long as it is not too humid out, the owner can open the basement windows and put fans in the attic window and it will cool the entire house. I think it was an interesting that he took an old house and made it operate in a modern way.
    If you're not growing, you're dying. - Lou Holtz

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    New construction, 2 family home. Sold in June last year. I've done two more like it, all of them infill projects.

    Some interior photos of the owner's unit. Development cost $300K including land acquisition, architect/engineering, building and utility permits, construction cost, Energy Star certification, homeowner's warranty, and occupancy permits. Sold for $196K and received NSP & HOME affordable housing subsidies for the rest.







    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  12. #12
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    I think that it is possible to build a house today, to the same quality and craftsmanship as 100 years ago but with quality comes price. Furthermore, in some cases the quality of the materials are no longer available.
    Old growth lumber: maybe for floors, but for studs, it was mostly the same pine as today, except it was untreated, and there was less consistency with the final size. Few houses were framed in furniture-grade hardwoods, except maybe in Florida (cypress), and places where there were nearby hardwood forests. That's more of a phenomenon of using locally available materials. With transportation costs being so low compared to 100 years ago, maple or pine studs shipped from across the country or Canada are cheaper than local oak or cherry. Also consider that softwoods are more workable; something that would have also been even more of a a consideration 100 years ago, when carpenters were trimming wood by hand.

    For example, lumber 100 years ago was old growth with tight growth rings. Things were not just nailed or tacked together, they were constructed, shaped, and trimmed to establish a perfect fit.
    The typical turn-of-the-last-century house was either brick or balloon frame. The only frame houses that were fitted together like you describe were log cabins, and those with post-and-beam construction. Post-and-beam construction is uncommon after the 1870s, except for Amish barns and the like.

    Lumber today is not nearly as good... heck the sizes are different.
    Did pine trees devolve in the past century or two? Why would a pine tree planted in 1870 grow any differently than a pine tree planted in 1970?

    Two-by-fours were never two inches by four inches. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimensi...nsional_lumber

    Lumber's nominal dimensions are larger than the actual standard dimensions of finished lumber. Historically, the nominal dimensions were the size of the green (not dried), rough (unfinished) boards that eventually became smaller finished lumber through drying and planing (to smooth the wood). Today, the standards specify the final finished dimensions and the mill cuts the logs to whatever size it needs to achieve those final dimensions. Typically, that rough cut is smaller than the nominal dimensions because modern technology makes it possible and it uses the logs more efficiently. For example, a "2x4" board historically started out as a green, rough board actually 2 inches by 4 inches. After drying and planing, it would be smaller, by a nonstandard amount. Today, a "2x4" board starts out as something smaller than 2 inches by 4 inches and not specified by standards, and after drying and planing is reliably 1 1⁄2 inches x 3 1⁄2 inches.

    Early standards called for green rough lumber to be of full nominal dimension when dry. However, the dimensions have diminished over time. In 1910, a typical finished 1-inch- (25 mm) board was 13⁄16 in (21 mm). In 1928, that was reduced by 4%, and yet again by 4% in 1956. In 1961, at a meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Committee on Grade Simplification and Standardization agreed to what is now the current U.S. standard: in part, the dressed size of a 1 inch (nominal) board was fixed at 3⁄4 inch; while the dressed size of 2 inch (nominal) lumber was reduced from 1 5⁄8 inch to the current 1 1⁄2 inch.


    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    If it is a cookie cutter home, it probably wasn't designed by an architect but more of a 'Builder's Spec' type of home. These things are almost always of dubious quality and typically see the least-efficient appliances/HVAC systems installed. It all depends on the quality of the builder and construction inspections.
    Cookie cutter homes aren't a recent phenomenon.







    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  13. #13
    To echo kjel-building code is the minimum standards. However, there are those who treat them as the maximum. Further, as Dan stated, the codes have evolved over time. As for the other discussion, you get what you pay for. If you want a better quality houses you have to pay for it. Most middle class houses are built to achieve the maximum with the minimal cost. Related, a lot the people doing grunt work on job sites, are Hispanic, unless they are strong union states. A lot of the houses built within the past 40 years, will not be around in 100 years.
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    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Old growth lumber: maybe for floors, but for studs, it was mostly the same pine as today, except it was untreated, and there was less consistency with the final size. Few houses were framed in furniture-grade hardwoods, except maybe in Florida (cypress), and places where there were nearby hardwood forests. That's more of a phenomenon of using locally available materials. With transportation costs being so low compared to 100 years ago, maple or pine studs shipped from across the country or Canada are cheaper than local oak or cherry. Also consider that softwoods are more workable; something that would have also been even more of a a consideration 100 years ago, when carpenters were trimming wood by hand.


    Did pine trees devolve in the past century or two? Why would a pine tree planted in 1870 grow any differently than a pine tree planted in 1970?
    Pine trees didn't devolve, but they are no longer given a chance to grow. Old growth timber in my area (spruce, hemlock, and fir) was 300 to 400 years old. Trees were tall and straight, ususally with no limbs (think knots) below the upper 50 feet on a 150' tree since they grew in a climax forest.. Trees today are on plantations and are cut on a rotation of 40 years or less. Compare this: http://www.bluebook.state.or.us/fact...ch/beach13.htm with this: http://www.google.com/imgres?biw=124...r:81,s:0,i:327

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    A lot of the houses built between 1870 and 1910 are gone, too. That's due mostly to urban renewal or some other kind of redevelopment, fire or natural disaster, or abandonment. 100 years from now, things might not be so different. Are today's houses really built so shoddy, that even with normall maintenance, they'll collapse around their future inhabitants?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    We shouldn't equate architects with the actual builders themselves. A great architectural plan can be turned into a craphole by the builder.


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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    To echo kjel-building code is the minimum standards. However, there are those who treat them as the maximum. Further, as Dan stated, the codes have evolved over time. As for the other discussion, you get what you pay for. If you want a better quality houses you have to pay for it. Most middle class houses are built to achieve the maximum with the minimal cost. Related, a lot the people doing grunt work on job sites, are Hispanic, unless they are strong union states. A lot of the houses built within the past 40 years, will not be around in 100 years.
    There are a lot of builders that treat the code as the maximum quality standard. My GC and I hear over and over again that the institution of the Enterprise Green Communities standard was going to inflate their costs 25%. Because we were already building high quality homes with energy and water efficiency plus durability in mind for first time buyers, we only had to swap out 2 plumbing fixtures and rethink our construction debris strategy.

    Nearly all of my subcontractors are from south of the border, many of them quite skilled, and this is a union state. I don't work with any union tradespeople and don't have to because they are generally a right pain. I am also not paying slave wages either. The minimum wage we mandate the subs pay their workers is $20/hour. In lower cost markets they often work for $10/hour and that's the kind of work you get.

    As far as dvdneal's comment on his experiences with architects, I will agree that there are many more bad and mediocre ones than genuinely good ones. I got stuck with a crapitecht on a facility improvement project that made me want to jump off a bridge. Never prepared, didn't want to listen, didn't want to understand how the space currently functioned, and didn't want to put any effort in improving functionality. Unfortunately he was not my pick and he already knew that he would never get another job from me, so it was like give me the plans so I can pull a permit and get lost.

    Builders and developers are the chief culprits when it comes to spending the least amount of money they can in construction in order to increase their own profits. It really has very little to do with the architect.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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  19. #19
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    This has evolved into quite the discussion.

    I agree that there are many great architects out there and they do amazing work. But they cost a fortune.

    As for the quality of the house, Dan, I think you hit the nail on the head. Most of the houses constructed between 1860 to 1920 were removed for urban renewal or because of some other development... not because they were substandard. In terms of materials... the guy who did the inspection for my house before I bought it, and is a personal friend of mine, was telling me about how he sees so many repairs or additions done in the neighborhood with new lumber and they fail much faster than the original structure and lumber.

    I also think that in many cases there are things that were done for a reason with old houses... transom windows, large wrap around porches, large windows where both the upper and lower were fully operable, whole house fans, awnings over windows, tall ceilings, and windows on all sides. Now home designers think don't include these features because they are deemed unnecessary because of mechanical advances. But as we have found, we still need those features for air circulation and to provide fresh air. Especially when the air inside the house is far more polluted than the air outside in many cases.
    If you're not growing, you're dying. - Lou Holtz

  20. #20
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    This has evolved into quite the discussion.

    I agree that there are many great architects out there and they do amazing work. But they cost a fortune.

    As for the quality of the house, Dan, I think you hit the nail on the head. Most of the houses constructed between 1860 to 1920 were removed for urban renewal or because of some other development... not because they were substandard. In terms of materials... the guy who did the inspection for my house before I bought it, and is a personal friend of mine, was telling me about how he sees so many repairs or additions done in the neighborhood with new lumber and they fail much faster than the original structure and lumber.
    I don't think that urban renewal is the only reason why homes from 1860 to 1920 were torn down. I'd hazard a guess that some were just at the end of their lifespan. Just because it's old doesn't mean that it is high quality and much depends on how well the home has been maintained over the years. The reason why repairs and additions with new lumber fail is because they are often done poorly. You can use high end material and if installed or utilized wrongly it will fail. Period.

    I also think that in many cases there are things that were done for a reason with old houses... transom windows, large wrap around porches, large windows where both the upper and lower were fully operable, whole house fans, awnings over windows, tall ceilings, and windows on all sides. Now home designers think don't include these features because they are deemed unnecessary because of mechanical advances. But as we have found, we still need those features for air circulation and to provide fresh air. Especially when the air inside the house is far more polluted than the air outside in many cases.
    Examining vernacular architecture style is valuable in determining how our predecessors dealt with local issues. A lot of function was built into the form.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  21. #21
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    As for the quality of the house, Dan, I think you hit the nail on the head. Most of the houses constructed between 1860 to 1920 were removed for urban renewal or because of some other development... not because they were substandard.
    One thing: I don't see any houses from the post-WWII era with sagging roofs, porches drooping at an angle, and the like. Around town, where the majority of housing stock is pre-WWI, such issues are very common.

    Also consider that many of those old houses may have been structurally sound, but they were functionally obsolete. Builders often cut corners in other ways; consider the lack of bathrooms or their odd location in older houses, and lack of hallways and private/public space delineation in some mid-end units/

    Quote Originally posted by Otis View post
    Pine trees didn't devolve, but they are no longer given a chance to grow. Old growth timber in my area (spruce, hemlock, and fir) was 300 to 400 years old. Trees were tall and straight, usually with no limbs (think knots) below the upper 50 feet on a 150' tree since they grew in a climax forest.. Trees today are on plantations and are cut on a rotation of 40 years or less.
    Very true. What's the alternative, though? We narrowly avoided denuding the United States of forests at the end of the 19th century. We can't wait 300 years for all our timber. Thus, treatment and improved structural engineering make up for tight grain and brute force.

    Consider the old farts that claim cars from the 1950s are "better" than newer cars, because the materials are thicker, and there as little if any plastic used.



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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    There are many problems. One that has not been mentioned is that there is really no architect designing an individual home (until you get into the upper end). Developers buy a set of plans and then do what they like with them. The original plan may have been good, or maybe deisgned with a different climate in mind, or whatever. Most builders then look at it and think how they can get by cheaply. Vinyl instead of cement board. Texture walls so you don't have to spend as much time (and have skilled drywallers) to get a nice finish, put in cheap HVAC systems, and finishe with ceap laminate floors, carpets, etc. On the other hand, modern codes do lead to some improvements like good insulation, and modern preferences may result in some nice amenities. Still, there is the issue of craftsmanship. I have known a couple developers that I would buy from, as I could see that they took the initiative to do more than required because they thought it would make a better home. But then you can watch Mike Holmes and see that many developers do not think that way, and the people they hire do not take enough pride in their work to do it right (assuming they actually know how to do it right).

    I have lived in three houses, built in the late 1800's, in 2003, and in 1975. The 1800's house was built using solid materials but not using solid engineering. One ell was two inches out of plumb leaning to the south. The other leaned three inches to the north. Plumbing came some years after the house was built, and was undersized. The original knob and tube wiring was replaced. They layout was poor, even though the rooms were large. A low ceiling and bend in the staircase meant that it was impossible to get anything larger than a queen mattress upstairs, and it had to have a split box spring.

    I did not live in the 2003 house very long. It had a wonderful layout, but overall, the material sused were cheap. Floors had a hollow sound and shook if you jumped on them. Walls seemed thin in places. They reminded me a little of my family's cottage - built in the 1920's.

    My present house was built in 1975. As I have been working on it I have found several things that I view as shoddy. Take, for instance, the particle board sheathing covered with aluminum siding. There are also gaps where the interior was not sealed as well as it should have been, such as along the rafters in the garage, where I found that the drywall does not extend to the ceiling and mice have been getting into the wall. In several places where I have pulled off drywall I have found that the workers simply slipped remnants into the wall rather than throw them away. Try installing a new outlet or Cat5 when the cavity is filled with three 4-foot pieces of drywall. Instead of a hole the size of an outlet box, I have to open the wall, then patch, sand, texture, and paint. Another common problem from that era is the lack of a vent pipe for the range hood.
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  23. #23
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    I worked in residential production landscaping and then high-end floor covering many years ago now (sheesh....that many?). For landscaping we'd be on the lot just after foundation and finish up after the carpet guys left, so I got to observe all aspects of the process involved in production housing. I'm not a fan. When I did high-end floor coverings I mostly did custom or high-end spec homes - I'd much rather live in one of those if I could afford it - night and day in the quality of workmanship. Some of it is in the plans (and who draws them up and are they checked) but a lot of it is in whether the developer needs to slap them up as fast as possible, and who they get to slap up these houses.

    Some of it is in the buyer, too, not demanding better choices and quality (or unaware what is a better choice or good quality).
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian terraplnr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    We shouldn't equate architects with the actual builders themselves. A great architectural plan can be turned into a craphole by the builder.
    Agreed. I rented a condo for a while that had a really nice layout and materials (both the condo development and the unit itself), but the owners told me that first few condos built in the development were not constructed well, they were built during the height of the housing boom in 2004-ish and they must have used some inexperienced company/workers. The condo that I rented was fine because it was one of the last ones to be built, I guess they had had enough practice by then.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    I agree that there are many great architects out there and they do amazing work. But they cost a fortune.

    .
    No they don't cost a fortune. Their fee is based on the construction cost - typically 10% or so.
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