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How old is considered “old” … for a house?

A few days ago, the news ran a story about a study that asked people the age at which they’d consider someone to be “old.” For instance, people in their mid-60’s believed old age began at 75. But over the previous years, they had raised their definition of “old” by 1 year every 5 years.

Which got me thinking about what our CUSTOMERS are thinking, when they warn us in advance they live in an old HOUSE. In our experience at Fix St Louis, that would narrow it down to — let’s see, oh about a century. Maybe from 1880 to 1980, ending a couple of years after the Brady Bunch’s last family shot along that staircase. Even back then, as just a wee little handy-boy, I marveled at how they fit a full staircase into a split-level home.

But to your humble correspondent, the age of a house is not counted in years. It’s counted in milestones as Man moves from archaic building practices to conquer the brutal elements of pre-subdivisional existence.

So now, Fix St Louis proudly takes it upon ourself to establish the “Ages of Handy-Man”, with apologies to anthropology PhD scholars who are supposedly paid to do such things, yet whose claims to be “doctors” seem no more legitimate than my own.

Plaster-cene Era: 1700-1940
Before WWII, most walls were created by slopping wet plaster over wooden strips called “laths.” Now our walls are mostly made of solid sheets of “drywall”. Drywall construction is cheaper, faster, easier to repair, and requires less craftsmanship to produce a quality result. It’s also MUCH easier to mount objects to, like pictures and TV’s.

If you want to add walls to your otherwise plaster house, you should make the changeover to drywall. And if you want to repair plaster walls, in most cases you’ll want to use the type of tapes and joint compounds used in drywall work. Fix St Louis can handle these jobs.

The Romex Empire: 1960 –
Early 20th century homes used “Knob and Tube” wiring, with circuits consisting of single wires and porcelain hardware all throughout the house (you’ll know what this means if you have it). Then in the 1940’s and 1950’s there was a short period in which fuzzy, cloth-sheathed “rag wire” was used. But, with any repairs or new circuits, you will NOT want to extend these systems, but switchover to modern materials. 

Since then, the standard has been Romex wire, which usually consists of 2 wires and a ground wire coated in an insulating plastic. Fix St Louis can handle all electrical repairs, install new outlets and switches, and install light fixtures and ceiling fans.

Pane-ozoic Era: 1970 –
Before the 1970’s, most windows had a single pane of glass. There were also these separate, removable things called “storm windows” that would be installed on the outside to improve insulation. 

Since then, most windows have been made with 2 panes of glass, with a sealed area between them filled with a non-toxic gas or just ambient air that somehow provides insulation. Double-paned glass is clearly superior, and it eliminates the need for those clunky storm windows. Although these double panes introduce a new repair need — if that seal that holds-in the gas/air in between the panes fails, your windows will fog up and will no longer provide good insulation. Fix St Louis can replace your damaged window panes and fix your other window problems, too!

Plastic Age: 1970 –
That man who gave career advice to Dustin Hoffmann in “The Graduate” was as close to a prophet that we will see in our lifetime. Plastics ARE replacing a whole lot of home building materials that would otherwise rot and wear out, especially in decks, floors, windows, doors, siding, and exterior trim. When you call us for repairs or remodeling, Fix St Louis can show you the options.

So with your house, its age is not a number. It’s only as old as its building technologies. And just as you can replace a hip when you’re older, Fix St Louis can replace a whole lot of parts in your home to make things like new. Take it from this old handyman, your house can actually get BETTER with chronological age. Call us to make your home young again!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis