What Realtors Need to Know About 1960s Housing Styles
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American housing styles have changed and continue to change across the country and as homeowner tastes and lifestyles have evolved. As the country has undergone industrial and economic changes, both good and not so good, housing styles have adapted out of necessity.
In this new series, I’ll walk you through the predominant housing styles of the past 12 decades, starting in 1900. A basic understanding of each architectural style that defines a decade will position you as a knowledgeable agent with your clients and facilitate finding a home with your buyers easier for everyone.
Agents familiar with housing styles from different time periods can easily discuss with their buyers and sellers the pros and cons of different decades and styles. Homes built in the 1960s were mostly well-built, with copper plumbing and decent wiring.
Most homes had hardwood floors that were usually carpeted as soon as buyers moved in, preserving the floors. Another consideration that real estate agents should be aware of is that lead paint, used both indoors and outdoors, was still in use.
Popularly known as the “Swinging Sixties”, a period of youth culture, political and cultural upheaval, housing styles remained fixed in the 1950s, with few exceptions. Kitchens became larger with adjoining dining rooms or breakfast nooks, in addition to formal dining rooms.
Families still sat down to have dinner together each evening, usually in the kitchen. Kitchen cabinets were constructed of hardwoods, such as oak and cherry, or laminated plastic. The countertops were also made of plastic laminate, providing kitchen color choices not available in the past.
A 1960s innovation was a passage, or opening, between the kitchen and dining room to allow meals to be served and used dishes to be cleaned. Kitchens and bathrooms were more colorful than ever, with a proliferation of colorful wallpaper, often in aggressive, over-the-top floral designs. It is not uncommon to find carefully preserved kitchens and bathrooms with period wallpaper even today. The ceilings were also covered with wallpaper.
Ranch-style ‘ramblers’, built on a slab with no basement, are indicative of 1960s housing. Flat roofs of tar paper and gravel were used in these homes because they were easy, quick, and inexpensive to build. This type of roof leaves room for insulation or air conditioning ducts.
When looking at 1960s homes today, most roofs will likely have been replaced at least twice since the original construction. Other 1960s homes were Cape Cod or Saltbox and Mediterranean style. Attached garages were common during this period, and some may have been converted into bedrooms or family rooms.
Large yards surrounding the 1960s home were the norm, with a back patio or deck, in addition to the screened porch.
Screened porches were popular at this time, as central air conditioning was not yet available to the masses. Window air conditioners are often used in a 1960s home. Another innovation in the 1960s was a ceiling fan in an upstairs hallway, with gray metal louvers, which, when activated, sucked fresh air through the attic in the evening.
Insulation and double glazing did not appear until the late 1960s and early 1970s when energy was abundant and inexpensive. An almost certain clue that a house was built in the 1960s is the jalousie window, which consists of glass louvers, usually in enclosed verandas. These windows allowed air to circulate when open, but were far from watertight when closed.
When presenting a home built during this era, an inspection is strongly recommended to determine if attic insulation has been added to prevent heat loss. The walls were also uninsulated, and the weatherstripping, storm doors and storm windows may have been added by later owners, but were not included in the original construction.
Homes built in the 60s tended to be larger as the baby boom peaked during that decade. Three or four bedrooms were shared, with a bathroom for family use and an en-suite bathroom serving the master bedroom.
This was the first time that two full bathrooms were included in the standard housing stock. The bathroom serving the master bedroom was smaller than the hallway bathroom for family use. Half baths, or “powder rooms,” were also becoming commonplace on the first floor of the 1960s home.
The plumbing materials used in 1960s homes will present the biggest challenge for modern buyers. Galvanized steel water supply pipes were used until the 1970s and their average lifespan is 40 to 50 years. If the pipes in a 1960s house have not been replaced, they are most likely full of rust, affecting water quality and starting to leak.
Cast iron pipes, the most reliable type of plumbing, will last 60 to 70 years, so determining what type of plumbing was used in the construction is crucial.
Wiring and electrical service were other concerns with 1960s homes. In the 1960s, building codes changed from screw-in fuses to modern circuit breakers. The electrical panels have a lifespan of 50 years, so the 1960s construction will most likely have improved service to meet building codes and pass inspection.
The 1960s was also the first time the three-slot electrical outlet, or plug, came into existence. If the electrical sockets have only two slots, they cannot be used with modern electrical appliances or lamps.
It is important to know that asbestos was still used in flooring and siding until the early 1960s. If surfaces containing asbestos are not disturbed by drilling or sawing, possibly releasing asbestos, then it is safe to live in a house built with this material. Again, inspection is always the surest way to avoid surprises.
The real estate agent who understands the construction, design and materials typical of each decade will be able to provide their clients, buyers and sellers, with useful knowledge. The ability to recognize which elements of a home are original and which have been upgraded or added later is also helpful when selling a home that has been upgraded with an awareness of construction and design. ‘origin.