Comment of the Day: The Disposable Home

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE DISPOSABLE HOME “There is a reason we build out of toothpicks and plastic… Unlike in Europe Americans do not live in their parents houses and do not generally inherit them, tastes and needs also change. Hence a home that will last a few decades is perfect because it will be torn down in that time anyway and will provide new construction jobs and loan interest income. It’s the cycle of life of a home. This metal house will be torn down around the same time the stucco ones around it lose their appeal.” [commonsense, commenting on Tin House Panic Grips West U]

16 Comment

  • Well that’s certainly not true in California where a lot of foresighted millionaires put their homes in family trusts after Proposition 13 passed so their children and granchildren would always have an affordable roof over their head. Nothing like living in a $25 million home that is only valued at $250,000. Some even bought a house for each and every child and put it in the trust.

  • Another example of the ability of the government to get people to do (or not do) things they would never (or certainly) do otherwise.

  • I hate new monstrosity construction in old neighborhoods. Last apartment I rented, they built a new modern monstrosity next door, I had a Port-A-Can toilet positioned underneath my kitchen window, for six months! Very pretty and aromatic for sure. It was really awful when the big truck came to hose out the Port-A-Can weekly. The smell was awful then. People constructing new properties are putting their neighbors through hell. Oh sorry you can’t open your windows without smelling Port-A-Can. Not our problem. Just live with it. That sucks.

  • My Oak Forest coworker was joking about putting a huge electromagnet under her front bumper to pick up all the nails in the street before she has to fix/replace another tire. 5 houses in various phases of construction on her block alone.

  • Nice rationalization of built in obsolescence in housing. Today’s home construction is just like 1970s automobile manufacturing at General Motors. GM realized that making cars that lasted ten years was bad for business. They also figured out that when you make a car that lasts five years, the cost of the materials are cheaper. In home construction, this has meant designing homes that just barely meet minimum engineering standards, using the cheapest materials that can be found. By comparison, the 1920s bungalows in town are made out of old growth hardwoods and are completely over engineered structurally.
    The 30 year house is simply a scam of modern construction methods to ensure that there will be an infinite teardown market for the hack builders out there. Architectural design of homes is completely forgetable for the very same reason. Thus, those who survive the housing bubble will be rewarded in 25-30 years when their home isn’t worth any more than the ground beneath it.

  • @old school, those bungalows aren’t built out of hardwoods, but rather old growth pine and cypress.

  • Ah yes, the old “they had better wood back then” argument. Those old homes are built from the same wood we build from now. The proportion of the homes that have lasted have lasted because they have been continuously maintained. Its the same with cars. Just because I’m happy driving a ten year old car doesn’t mean I can force anyone else to want to. However a modern auto engine is good for at least 300,000 miles with proper preventative maintenance, the result of infinitely improved quality control and engineering. Try actually driving and maintaining a 70s car rather than just waxing poetic about it.

  • Unless a house from pre 1970’s has been substantially updated, I’d be afraid to live in it… Lead in the paint which turns into poisonous dust, asbestos in insulation, asbestos in joint compound, asbestos in window sealants. Lead and rust in water pipes that may still be of poor quality Cast Iron which leaches toxins. Numerous spots for mold to take hold, rat and insect feces, which carry potential pathogens, everywhere because of age and the fact that those homes were not nearly as tightly built. Electrical wiring without Ground or GFI circuits. I could go on and on.

  • Jimbo, houses today are not built from the same wood. Don’t be silly. Like Ross said, pre-WWII houses tended to be built from old-growth… meaning old strong trees. The skeleton of my house is cypress. My attic ceiling is beautiful– I show it to people when they come over. Houses today are built from 3 year old new growth. Further, the wood in the old houses just gets stronger and stronger over time. Anyone who has ever worked on an old house knows the difference.

  • Or tried to even pound a nail or drill into a stud. I think the bones of my house have fossilized.

  • 3 years! Final harvest of farmed pine is at 30-40 years. A 3 year old tree would be less than 6 foot tall, good luck getting studs from that.

  • Jimbo, here’s what I know. New houses = new growth soft pine lumber. Old houses = old growth hardwoods. Not the same wood.

  • Cypress is a soft wood, same as pine. I wouldn’t argue that old wood hardens over time but that doesn’t say anything about the original lumber, just the age. The studs in my 30 year old home are undoubtedly harder than studs I could buy new and the studs in your home are undoubtedly harder than that. Of course harder also equals more brittle so it’s a bit of a double edged sword.

  • Jimbo, hopefully in 100 years your house will still be standing and the owners will fight with new construction folks (houses built from reclaimed diapers) on swamplot3000, marveling over the beautiful pine used to build it, and commenting “they sure don’t build them like they used to.”

  • Cheap money, and the homeownership “xperience is subsidized from top to bottom.

  • As long as we keep building houses out of wood, plastic and glue in the US, there will always be toxic substances protecting them and holding them together. Sure,old houses have lead (a big deal) and asbestos (not much of a problem if you leave it alone). But, let’s not pretend that new houses are some kind of safe zone. They’re full of glues that don’t stop out-gassing until the confetti their holding together falls to pieces. Their glued trusses are also known to collapse 5 minutes into a fire, while all those wood chips and paper feed the mold that grows in their condensation-soaked walls. And who would want to live in a neighborhood where every house is covered with vinyl siding; what could be more depressing? Of course, each era has its pros and cons; how many old houses had 2X6 walls or hurricane straps? I expect that most of the defects in today’s houses will be corrected over time; I just hope somewhere along the way they’ll also have their ugly vinyl replaced with something more tasteful.