Modern and New Homes? Or Historical and Older?

The topic of polybutylene plumbing pipes recently sparked a little exchange in another venue, one in which I just had to participate.
Modern methods vs. historical methods.
Modern materials and components vs. historical materials and components.

I like a historical gem of a home as well as the next person. Historic Oakwood. Boylan Heights. Mordecai. All great Raleigh neighborhoods with wonderful examples of old homes that have been loved. We have nothing like these in Cary.
But I don’t have blinders on regarding the topic of quality across time.  We have slap stick builders today.  Of course.  We have always had slap stick builders, all through the history of building.
Plumbing kicked it all off:

Some polybutylene pipe fails.  In some homes.  The existence of polybutylene water supply piping is not a material fact that must be disclosed by a home seller in North Carolina.

Copper plumbing has a 40 year life expectancy.
Lead pipe will last just about forever. I don’t think that makes it a desirable water supply option.

The vast majority of homes I visit have no foundation issues, whether they are a year old, or 20 years old, or 50 years old.  Get to 100 years old and the foundations have issues much more often.

I have been in many 40 year old homes with trussed roofs, where that roof framing appears to be easily good for another 40 years.

I would like to have a brick home at some point. I may be able to afford one. Many people can’t, particularly when they require the space they must have at a price point. In compromise by consumers, brick loses to more space.
Good quality wood siding, as used 100 years ago also is prohibitively expensive, and would be difficult to offer to a million new construction buyers. It also takes a lot of maintenance. White wood is passe for exterior use, IMO.

I have been in old homes that were junk when they were built, and are still standing as historical junque today. I predict that the home I am in will be here in 100 years, absent flood, hurricane, tornado, fire, or other act of God.

The slap stick homes of 100 years ago have tended to settle in, like Grandpa into his recliner, and often are revered as survivors. Well, that is, the ones that have been highly maintained; the slap stick homes that have not been expensively maintained have mostly crumbled into their foundations already.

It’s comparable to having Grandpa in the home, and helping him find his glasses or slippers, and overlooking his forgetfulness with love.
We tend to forgive the foibles and shortcomings of older homes, the sloped floors and crooked doorways, constricting floor plans, outdated construction methods with high rates of failure, and seriously outdated mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems, and high maintenance costs, because of respect and love of the memories and the hearkening to another time.

That forgiveness is certainly laudable. It is just oversimplification to make an across the board attribution of a higher level of workmanship to any era of homes.

Modern engineering and modern building codes have done a couple of things.
1. Provided minimum standards that were not in place 100-125 years ago.
2. Allowed homes to be built to those minimum standards. Too much reverence for minimum standards does NOT make a fine home, to be sure. Exceeding the minimums with most bang for the buck structurally may be a wise investment.

As consumers, we have helped cut our own throats on quality by worshipping maximum square footage per dollar invested in a home and surface appearance without substance beneath it.
Most people will not pay the price for quality they cannot see every day. “Gotta have granite and stainless steel. Don’t bother me about 2×10 floor joists on a 16 foot span.”
But, the minimum codes probably ensure the long term survival of structures that receive at least the maintenance which was given to the typical 100 year old home.

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