I’ve been in a few older homes recently and it has reminded me of just how differently we build homes today. And it made me ask myself the question “Why?” Why do we build laundry rooms now instead of tucking them away in the furnace room on a concrete floor? Why are ensuites in master bedrooms considered a standard feature? You get the picture. A home built today has rooms and features that weren’t even considered 30-40-50 years ago.
The root of many of these differences is in our lifestyles. In the 50’s just being able to have a machine to do your laundry was a luxury, so who really cared if it was tucked into a dark corner? Now that automatic washers and dryers are the standard, we’ve been able to focus on the environment around the laundry appliances and make it so that a person is comfortable when doing the laundry. After all, we spend hours per week, sorting, transferring and folding our laundry. As for the ensuite, even in the 50’s and 60’s having only one bathroom shared by the family was inconvenient. However, just like automatic clothes washers, indoor plumbing was a bit of a novelty so even having just one bathroom was considered a luxury. Now, homebuyers expect standard conveniences like not having to wait in line to use the bathroom.
Moving on from design, the largest difference between homes built today and homes built 50 years ago is construction techniques. There are too many to list here but let me start with a few big ones.
Insulation- Insulation has evolved over the years from shredded paper, to cellulose, to yellow fiberglass to the still common pink fiberglass, to modern methods like site-sprayed foam and SIP panel systems. Old style loose fill insulation would settle over the years leaving a strip of uninsulated walls across the top few inches of the wall. You can sometimes actually see frost in these areas in old homes on really cold days. Yikes! Modern fibreglass batts hold their shape well over the years but require a good installer to work properly. Spray foam systems are the full package, leaving no uninsulated voids, providing more R-value (insulation value) per inch of material and contributing to the air tightness of the home. Another difference in insulation is that modern homes are almost exclusively built with 2×6 walls verses the 2×4 walls used right up till the early 80’s. Why does this matter to insulation? It allows a deeper wall cavity to fit more insulation!
Structural Elements- Go into any basement in any home built prior to the mid-80’s and look up, what do you see? 2×10 floor joists. While perfectly able to support the weight of the floors they are under, 2×10’s are no longer the material of choice. In today’s homes you will see engineered floor joists made out of different materials or actual floor trusses built out of various lengths of wood and supported at angles. Why do we use these systems now? Of the many reasons, the 2 main ones are that it allows us to span greater distance than the old 2×10’s and eliminates the problem of floors that rise and fall. Going back to that pre-80’s home, remember how uneven the floor felt and that one hump that usually ran right across your most oft used travel path? And remember how almost every basement had that one lone metal post in the middle of the room right where the couch should be? New floor systems not only provide a more stable product but also eliminate some of those annoying issues seen in older homes.
Bottom line, “they don’t build ‘em like they used to” is a true statement. And one that any new home buyer should appreciate. We’d love to get into greater detail with you regarding why building a new home with today’s design ideas and technology is so much better than an older home. Come see us, send us an email, or give us a call any time!