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evitarolu
No craftsmanship
evitarolu

Hi,

I am making an offer on a 1890 house (I already made another post about foundation issues and got tons of great advice) but this post is about another thing. Considering purchasing this house has gotten me hooked on Old House stuff, I have never owned a home and have always wanted to...I crave having a place to call mine and do projects on. Anyway, something I have started to notice is that a lot of old houses that are talked about here and other sites have amazing craftsmanship but many do not, I have actually seen some with very recent trim work...How come some older houses dated to late 1800's don't have the old wood craftsmanship...would those be the houses of the labor workers? while the houses with all the great wood details belong to the higher social class? Just curious about the history of these places.

Eva

dj1
Re: No craftsmanship
dj1

It looks like you are going to purchase this property after all...

What you are asking now is a question about society. A home is a piece of real estate, and with time, it depreciates (in appearance). It's up to the owner to keep it up.

Rich people can afford to maintain their homes, so after many years they look good. That's true everywhere. Poor people can't do that, and as a result their homes look like neglected like fixer uppers very quickly. Home ownership is not a walk in the park. It takes money, time and sweat to keep keep your home.

HoustonRemodeler
Re: No craftsmanship
HoustonRemodeler

Some neighborhoods were cookie cutter or ala carte when it came to options. Did you want the porch on the right or the left? L shaped house or rectangle. Pick a floor plan.....

Then not all houses were maintained the same over the last century. Some folks painted the old wood. Some ripped it out....

Do you want to live in an old house* or one that looks like an old house**.

* complete with crooked walls, unlevel floors, and everything has to be custom made, windows that are painted shut or need sticks to stay up.....

**insulated, modern HVAC, Modern pipes and wires, Low E glass, standard sized everything.

Mastercarpentry
Re: No craftsmanship
Mastercarpentry

Just as today, some old houses were built to be as minimal as they could be for lowest cost. Elaborate has always cost more. Much 'craftsmanship' gets hidden under finished surfaces so you can't really say craftsmanship was lacking because of plainness. Craftsmanship is an attitude exemplified, not necessarily an appearance observed.

Until the late 1800's when power machinery took over, most moldings were planed out by hand, a time consuming process which cost far more than afterward. A machine could cut an elaborate molding in one pass; a jointer might need 5 planes to create that same shape. The machine did in minutes what it once took hours to do. This is why few really old homes have really fancy moldings- only the very rich could afford them. There are several plantation homes around Charleston SC which making the moldings alone would have taken one man his entire working lifetime to create and install. The Biltmore house north of here took 1000 men ten years to finish. Can you imagine what that would cost today in labor alone?

As the others have said, the socio-economic class of the homeowner selects which homes have endured the rigors of time, yet the well-cared for plain homes which were once common were built with the same level of craftsmanship as the fancy ones. The difference is that most of them usually fell into disrepair and are no more. Nobody saw anything worth saving in them, while the fancy homes were and are seen differently. What I think you are commenting on is 'artisanship', not 'craftsmanship', and the quantity, not quality, of it. It's still rare and expensive to have a real artist do their work for you whether it's painting a mural on your wall or carving an elaborate embellishment for your mantlepiece. You'll never find that in cheaper homes then or now.

Phil

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