Understanding reconstruction costs on homes built prior to 1945 can be challenging. What happened in 1945 to make construction costs change so much?
- The Federal Housing Administration mandated building codes and standardized mills for the first time in 1945. Previously, all lumber was “true dimensional,” which means a 2×4 piece of lumber was actually two inches by four inches. To create a consistent product that could be used contrywide, lumber mills created specifications and began scaling down dimensions making post-1945 lumber smaller. So, a home built with lumber milled prior to 1945 is much more expensive to replace than using today’s smaller materials because the newer lumber has to be retrofitted by custom milling to match.
- Some homes built prior to 1945 were built with post and beam construction instead of bearing wall construction. Roof weight is supported differently with post and beam construction and partial damage to the structure (especially a weight-bearing post) may result in a need for total reconstruction.
- Prior to urbanization, homes were often built using materials found on the property. Southern regions used hand-hewn timber, industrial regions used brick masonry, and mountain regions used stone masonry and logs. These regional materials and individual design resulted in very little consistency from home to home. In the event of a loss, retrofitting these unique materials can cost up to four times more than homes of more modern construction.
- Before 1945, doors and windows were not standardized. Older homes have larger windows that maximized the sunlight. Window panes were smaller, had true divided sections of glass and frames made of solid wood, all of which costs more costly to reproduce. Doors were often solid wood as well, which can be up to 10 times more expensive to create than today’s lighter, raised-wood panel or Masonite doors made of fabricated materials.
- In homes built before 1945, handcrafted features like crown molding, door casings and baseboards were thicker, made of solid wood and often more ornate in nature. Each piece was hand cut and carved versus today’s milled trim. Replacing part of the trim work to match the rest of the home is expensive as it involves both specialized labor and custom materials.
These are just a few of the reasons why reconstruction costs of homes built prior to 1945 can vary so drastically. While the cost to replace individual elements can be up to 10 times the cost of the modern material equivalent, the overall average cost to rebuild a home constructed prior to 1945 is about double the cost of modern homes.
Content from the Cincinnati Insurance Company