"They don't make 'em like they used to."
This is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot about older homes. And usually, there's a tone of sadness to it—a lament that the careful craftsmanship of yesteryear has been tossed aside in favor of the mass-manufactured McMansions of the rapidly sprawling suburbs.
But sometimes, "not making 'em like they used to" is a good thing. And as an owner of a 1922 Craftsman-style home, I can attest to that.
Because while my house might have stunning woodwork, beautiful hardwood floors, and the structural integrity of Giza's pyramids, they weren't really concerned about things like energy efficiency.
My house has tons of huge, double-hung pulley windows with gorgeous window sills. And every single one of them is drafty. In the wintertime, you can feel the icy chill seeping through the space between the panes from five feet away. Sure, we might be able to replace them with more efficient windows, but let's be honest: most of those are super ugly.
In the six years we've lived in our house, my wife and I have come up with our own ways to deal with the inefficiencies of our home.
Instead of sitting idly by while our poor insulation gives way to Old Man Winter, we pull out every old blanket we have in our house and hang them as curtains and lay them down on our hardwood floors to trap every ounce of heat we can. And, it turns the house into a sort of blanket fort, and you can't get cozier than that.
Summer is another story. While most of the windows on ground floor face north or are obstructed by trees, our bedroom—a gorgeous master suite in a converted attic—has two skylights that face due south. It also isn't connected to the central air. The sun beats down and turns our bedroom into a sauna. To combat it, we have a portable air conditioner that we leave blaring all summer long.
As you can expect, that gives our electric bill a pretty big boost. But the same sun that beats on our house also powers the solar panels that supplement our home's consumption, so it balances out.
We've been lucky to avoid most of the other problems that plague older homes: our wiring was updated before we moved in. Our home was built before the asbestos boom, so we dodged that bullet. We're a block away from the river, but we're above the flood stage, so our house has never suffered significant water damage.
There are the occasional nuisances, such as the hundred-year oak tree in our front yard whose roots creep into our sewer main and cause backups, or the front door's latch that doesn't always catch (we usually keep it locked just in case).
But these are small flies in the fragrant ointment of our absolutely lovely home. And if it were to come down to dealing with the problems of this old house (pun intended) or living in an antiseptic, cookie-cutter McMansion, I'd make the same choice every time.