Tuesday, March 7, 2017

By: Jess Jordan

They DO Make Things Like They Used To!

The all too common phrase, “They don’t make things like they used to,” is often applied to modern structures, homes, appliances, clothing, you name it.  People remember a day when objects were hand built with care by a skilled craftsman.  They remember automobiles that were put together by a worker’s own two hands and ran flawlessly for twenty years, they remember when clothes were hand sewn, when homes were built with character and sound structure.  These products were made by a human who was personally invested in the final product.  His or her livelihood depended on producing quality material, and a machine can’t always achieve the same quality and degree of excellence as a human who’s put his or her heart and soul into a project.

This seems to translate into home building on a regular basis.  It is true that many homes have lost their sense of quality, and they seem to start falling apart after about twenty short years.  Around that time cabinets can be seen loosening at the hinges, hanging crooked.  Cracks begin to develop in the foundation, and floors start to sag.  The floors need to be replaced, the moldings (if there are any) have begun to crack.  There are entire neighborhoods that seem to disintegrate, all the houses at the same time.  

The Enduring Charm of Historic Structures

On the other hand, it seems that more historic homes, the ones built in the early 1900’s and before, tend to be standing tall with all their character and charm, given past homeowners have completed routine maintenance throughout the years.  The hardwood floors might need refinishing and the cabinets repainting to match the changing taste of the homeowners, but the bones are good.  The charm of the era is still apparent and the entire home remains intact long after what it would seem a modern home would have lasted.  Continue reading to learn the truth behind the phrase, “They don’t make things like they used to.”

The Overengineering of Old Word Products

Let’s begin with this overall concept.  Why were products originally made to last a lot longer?  When there isn’t much competition for a product or market, when something is a new invention or hasn’t been popularized in mass production, that product tends to be overengineered which makes it stand the test of time better than the same product would once the free market steps in to drive competition, efficiency, and, in the end, a cheaper price.  Thus, cheaper products tend to fall apart quickly.  To drive down costs quality is compromised.  A good example of this phenomenon is the fact that appliances really did used to last much longer than they do now.  Original appliances lasted somewhere around fifty years, while the average lifespan of current appliances is roughly just ten years.  While high end appliances today do last well above the ten-year mark, but not even they remain in good condition anywhere close to the fifty-year lifespan of original kitchen appliances.

Old Homes that Last Longer

Home building is no exception to this rule.  More likely than not, if one enters a historic home that’s still standing today they’ll find that it looks as good as or better than a lesser home built just twenty years ago.  What causes this to happen?  Why can modern homes be seen in decay just twenty years after production, when these old homes, engineered well before modern technology, are standing strong to this day?

Any hundred-year-old home (or older) has endured many circumstances.  Not all homes that were built before modern technology were built with excellence in mind, and the ones that weren’t have been long destroyed by weather or other causes.  The ones left standing are simply superior to the other contemporary structures that have been destroyed, and they were built with material and care that will endure many more storms and damages. 

Another fact is that, in general, older homes were built with greater care than many modern structures.  Large volume production builders have streamlined their processes to be more efficient and cost effective, but this is the same process that applies to modern appliances and necessarily results in inferior quality.  Large volume production builders simply didn’t exist until the post-WWII boom when many families found themselves with steady income, ready to have their own piece of the suddenly achievable American Dream.  Builders recognized this consumer influx, and many adapted through efficiency and cost-cutting, enabling them to produce homes in large volumes in shorter amounts of time and for cheaper prices.

A New Home with Superior Quality IS Still an Option

Thankfully, as in any other market sector, quality homes do still exist.  Small volume, fully custom builders remain, and they value quality over quantity.  They refuse to cut costs at the expense of quality, and they don’t cut corners.  They’re personally invested in each home, and they provide exceptional expertise that proves invaluable for one of life’s biggest investments: a homeowner’s dream home.

These homes aren’t intended to be the most affordable option for an up and coming family.  They’re intended to be the realization of a homeowner’s dream; fully custom home builders walk alongside their homeowners through every step of the process to ensure each aspect is up to par with homeowner expectations.  They use suppliers and skilled workers who are familiar with the builder’s level of quality, and they expect the same excellence from each worker on the site.  These homes cost significantly more than a production home, but they stand every test of time, and they’ll remain in great condition through the ages. 

The fact is this: they do make things like they used to, but you must search for quality and refuse to compromise your vision as a homeowner.  Find a builder who shares your values about quality and integrity, and in fifty years’ time you will continue to proudly display your beautiful abode.