Housing Materials, 1950’s & Today

Here’s a pop quiz for would-be housing market experts:

Which of the following building materials used in contemporary home construction and repair are virtually unchanged from the 1950’s?

A. Windows
B. Asphalt shingles (roof)
C. Wood joists (used in framing)
D. Kitchen countertops

Answer: B

In almost every other category, building materials have become more varied, higher quality, environmentally safer — and often, longer lasting.

In many cases, they’re also cheaper; for example, factory-built trusses save an enormous amount of on-site labor.

So, too, consider the improvements in modern-day windows (double-pane, “low e”, virtually any size and shape); countertops (Corian, Silestone, various laminates, granite, etc.); plumbing (PVC instead of copper and galvanized steel); skylights (non-leak); flat-roof coverings (non-leak rubber membrane); and paint (non-lead; stucco-friendly).

Roofs: ‘Same as it Ever Was’

Which harks back to . . . roofs.

I’m not prepared to pronounce it a trend just yet, but I am noting an uptick in homes with metal roofs, particularly in newer homes in upper bracket neighborhoods.

To pick just one example in the Twin Cities, there are now at least a half dozen such homes near Minneapolis’ Cedar Lake.

Not only are they aesthetic, but their expected life can easily exceed 50 years (vs. 20-25 for asphalt shingles) — more than compensating for the extra material and labor cost to install them.

Older is Better — Sometimes

So, can it be said of anything in housing construction that “they don’t make ’em like they used to?”

I can think of at least three things: 1) cedar shingles; 2) hardwood floors; and 3) stucco.

In the first two cases, modern tree farming techniques — essentially, using agricultural steroids to accelerate growth — have reduced quality and longevity.

Modern stucco, meanwhile, isn’t much different than old-style stucco.

However, today’s “tighter” construction techniques, including the use of various barrier wraps (think, Tyvek and its imitators), can raise the risk of trapping moisture between the home’s framing and external sheathing.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.
1 Response
  1. Liquid Roof

    I am totally agree with you that roofs are very much same as they were before. But i wana mention that old roofs were much better than the new one. But however thanks for sharing such a nice article buddy.

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