… is often heard by those who praise the virtues of an old home. Many home buyers might talk about the character and charm that exudes from an old home, while others might point to the quality of materials and workmanship that cannot be matched by new homes built today.
In some respects, it’s good they don’t build homes the way they used to because some materials used in the past that were thought to be beneficial have been found to be toxic and/or hazardous. Building materials have changed through the years and continue to evolve for safety, strength, durability, and environmental impact. Many home components are engineered and prefabricated to make installation straight forward, as well as make the home increasingly efficient and environmentally friendly. Floor joists and trusses are engineered to allow for larger and open home designs; while roof and siding components engineered to help reduce heating and cooling costs. Foundation and basement construction techniques and components are designed to be effective in preventing water penetration.
Workmanship has also changed over the years as well. Because engineered materials are typically prefabricated, onsite custom design and installation is not necessary; construction crews are basically required to know how to use and install the pre-manufactured components.
Hazardous materials aside, there is something about old homes that grabs our attention. Because the building materials and components were not mass produced or prefabricated, perhaps it’s the workmanship of the construction that demonstrates that the on-site craftsmen were not just masters of their trade – but artisans.
Although new homes incorporate modern fixtures and appliances designed for comfort, functionality, and efficiency; many are drawn to the antique quality of the old home. Old home parts are highly sought after items for modern homes too. Many are lured by the appeal and personality of vintage home parts, but I also sense there is also something about the durability of the parts that lets them continue in service. Vintage doorknobs, especially the crystal type, are collectible and sought after antique home parts.
Those who appreciate old homes talk about the hearty materials that were used in construction. Compared to the new engineered components manufactured to an exact specification, the craftsmen who built the old home onsite appeared to use ample materials that made the construction feel sturdy and robust. This “over-engineering” is typically frowned upon today; using too much raw materials is expensive and considered wasteful.
Another comparison between old vs. new homes is the lumber that is used in a home’s construction. Some are keen on old homes because they were built from first generation lumber, compared to engineered composites typically used in modern homes. Compared to the wood composites often comprised of glued wood pieces and fibers, first generation lumber is believed to be stronger and more durable. Also known as old growth lumber, first generation lumber refers to lumber that was milled from virgin forests where trees were hundreds of years old. Because of deforestation, old growth lumber is no longer harvested for construction materials.
To incorporate the virtues of vintage and old building materials in modern homes, many reclaim those resources from tear downs. From classic fixtures and hardware to first generation wood, the reclaiming industry has become popular not only to be environmentally friendly – but to reclaim the charm and character of a bygone age.
by Dan Krell ©
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of February 3, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.