Was wood used to make homes in the past stronger than todays?

tlbean2004July 18, 2014

Was the wood used to make homes in the 1960's and before that stronger that the wood used to build new constructions homes now?

I heard that was true.

How is that possible?

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bus_driver

âÂÂIt ainâÂÂt what you donâÂÂt know that gets you into trouble. ItâÂÂs what you know for sure that just ainâÂÂt soâÂÂ
-Mark Twain

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 3:37PM
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snoonyb

There were many different species of lumber used for standard building and as the technology was developed for grading lumber, standards were developed which led to the economical sourcing for building products.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 3:37PM
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Fori is not pleased

All the good trees were cut down.

(That's actually true in some contexts--wood from "old growth" trees is tougher than wood from younger farmed trees. You wouldn't use modern pine for flooring because it tend to be soft, but old homes with old growth pine flooring do just fine because the wood was from older trees.)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 3:46PM
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HandyMac

I've worked on/in older houses where the framing lumber was white oak. The studs were actually 2" thick and 4" wide. This lumber was rough cut.

Modern framing lumber is spruce/pine.fir/etc and are 1and1/2" thick and 3 and 1/2" wide. This lumber is surfaced by milling off 1/4" from each surface.

Old growth lumber of any species grew at the rate nature intended, slower than the specially cultured trees of today intended for building lumber.

The slower growth made for more growth rings which were closer together---and that did make that material stronger than todays materials.

Is the difference significant? With todays building codes, the lumber used today is more than sufficient.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 7:17PM
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Trebruchet

tlbean2004:

The quality of old growth lumber is more than offset by the lack of building codes in older homes. "Balloon" framing was possible with longer framing lumber, but they put no fire stopping in the stud bays, creating a "chimney" from ground to eve.

Anyone who's worked on old homes will tell you they don't build 'em like they used to and it's a good thing they don't.

Truss Joist International (TJI's) are essentially floor joists made of Oriented Strand Board with finger jointed wood top and bottom members. They can be made from bushes in 60' lengths and create floors that are stronger and stiffer than those of framing lumber.

This post was edited by Trebruchet on Fri, Jul 18, 14 at 21:44

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:40PM
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sunnyca_gw

I'm in earthquake country. When we bought our home we were here checking on everything before the ground was broken & every night for 6 mos. Our house is stronger than the other 19, why, well, we picked up all those short pieces of 2x4 which like the man said is no longer that thick but they were all over the ground along with lot of long nails so we added number of nails to actually make things strong & forget what those little cross pieces that go in between upright 2x4's are called but we used them up in the house when we were sure that no electrical was going in that area. My dad had built 7 houses & hubby had some experience & we consulted with builder, he told us guys get sloppy & leave all that stuff on ground & it ends up in trash. So quake 1 we had less damage & it hit right in our town but most of our damages were things we could repair but both neighbors entire kitchens were split all the way across. 2nd quake I was able to repair house. Less damage than neighbors again, not to say I didn't have furniture & appliances get damaged & 1 full trash barrel full of wedding china etc. Also notice out here that my house has 2x6 beams in roof area & everything is properly joined so my roof is not going to fly off. I notice that some houses built in last few years have 2x4 roof supports, wow, scary. Texas if you see damage lot of times the entire roof is off Looks like it wasn't attached to rest of the house by much if anything. I don't remember if it was on this forum or not but 1 man from there bought a house & the beams in attic weren't joined to each other just hanging there. He got lots of comments & some great advice to get the house up to code! It's hot there a lot & inspectors may not actually climb in attic to check out the work done. Inspector showed up to check my attic insulation with a suit on & I arrived just in time & said to give it another go as only place insulated is right by the opening. They had to redo my whole attic. Guy should of had overalls on. You didn't say what the problem was, if you have a house smart thing to do is check it over as much as you can & add some more wood in the attic if it is not looking good & like roof might take off.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:45AM
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sombreuil_mongrel

A house from 1898 we regularly work on was balloon framed: no chimney effect because they blocked the basement access bays with stonework; but it has continuous 3x12 pitch-pine joists up to 32 feet long. How did they lift those bastids?
Casey

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:56AM
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Trebruchet

Casey:

Great if the fire starts in the basement, but if it starts on the first floor once it's through the wall, every stud bay is a chimney to the eve.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 12:04PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

Has to burn through the 4x4 top plate to get to the eaves, but point taken; can get to second floor joist bays.
Blown in insulation slows it down a bit, like the rockwool in my old house :)
Casey

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 1:19PM
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toolbelt68 (7)

You have to go way back past 1900 for good framing wood. Back then the 2x4s were true 2x4s. Around 1950 they started building sections of homes in factories. It was a big deal to have a 'stick built' home instead of a modular one. However, it was still the smooth 2x4s that were in use. That is; 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Today they have advanced to almost all modular homes. They have joists that are super strong due to laminating 2x12s with plywood. Earth quake homes are even stronger.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 1:43PM
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SaltiDawg

Toolbelt68,

What you said makes no sense in any part of the country in which I've lived... additionally, "around 1950" it was a "big deal" to have a stick built home??? lol

What's with " 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 " ????

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 4:46PM
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toolbelt68 (7)

Saltidawg,
Mis typed the size of today's 2x4s, it should have been 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches, but you knew that, didn't you.....

Don't want to get in a peeing contest with you, but have you ever been in a home that was built after --oh, let's say 1930-- that had true 4x4s in it? Between 1900 and 1930 they changed over to smooth lumber so the little boys didn't get splinters in their hands.

Check out the history of the Great lakes about sunken barges with old timber on them. The really good stuff that people pay an arm and leg for now days. What dates do you find? Not 1950!

Most homes from 1950 on were build by tract builders, that is, go in and build a bunch, set to a few different plans, and use prefabbed units where possible. If you wanted a builder to build you a home using your plans it was considered 'stick' built. That really surprises me that you didn't know that!... hmmm

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 7:16PM
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Deeby

I have a question and its probably a dumb one. Why are houses made of wood anyway? Why something that burns? Is it possible to make houses from steel beams/steel "boards"" and stucco or cement on metal screens? Or even super hard plastic? Why is it always wood?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 7:23PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

I saw some 1940's era planed lumber that was 1 5/8 x 3 3/4, I guess they hadn't standardized it yet. It was heavy fir.
I noticed recently that the #1 pressure treated "2x4's" from the Borg have been nominalized down to 1 3/8 x 3 3/8!!! Soon they will be toothpicks!
Casey

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 7:56PM
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SaltiDawg

Peeing contest? lol

"Most homes from 1950 on were build by tract builders, that is, go in and build a bunch, set to a few different plans, and use prefabbed units where possible. If you wanted a builder to build you a home using your plans it was considered 'stick' built. That really surprises me that you didn't know that!... hmmm "

If you say so. Just not correct in WA, CA, MA, MD, VA, SC, ID, and NJ. (Areas where I have bought and sold residents.)

You have a nice day.

Bye.

EDIT: I inadvertently left off CT and NY. Same experience there.

This post was edited by saltidawg on Sun, Jul 20, 14 at 21:33

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:18PM
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toolbelt68 (7)

You lived in MD and most likely never heard of Columbia which was built by the Rouse Company. The whole town was built from one set of plans, with slight variations, using prefabbed units where possible. If you wanted something other than their offered models it was considered stick built. Sounds like you don't really understand what stick built means.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:54PM
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snoonyb

" Toolbelt68"

"Most homes from 1950 on were build by tract builders, that is, go in and build a bunch, set to a few different plans, and use prefabbed units where possible. If you wanted a builder to build you a home using your plans it was considered 'stick' built. That really surprises me that you didn't know that!... hmmm"

I have to disagree with you.

Prefab, may have been the method east of the mississippi, but not in the grain belt and west.

Most were "stick-built" and even on spec. houses of today, which are also considered stick-built, only the trusses and some shear panels are considered prefab, and they are an engineered product.

" Deeby"
I have a question and its probably a dumb one. Why are houses made of wood anyway? Why something that burns? Is it possible to make houses from steel beams/steel "boards"" and stucco or cement on metal screens? Or even super hard plastic? Why is it always wood?"

It is a less expensive and more readily available and know product.

However, there are housing projects which are constructed using steel wall and roof framing, cementatious exterior cladding and steel roofing products.

Plastics unfortunately, have to great a flame spread to be considered an economical alternative.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:24PM
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HandyMac

It is possible and even financially feasible to build a house today with little to almost no wood at all.

CIF(concrete insulating forms) for walls, metal studs in walls, metal roofing, steel doors, PVC clad windows, and composite siding. Sheetrock and composite flooring inside.

Wood is used because wood is still less expensive and faster to use than all the above methods.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 1:31AM
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Deeby

OK, thanks. I really have wondered about this, also why wood is used since it attracts termites. What's a flame spread?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 3:47AM
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snoonyb

"Flame spread," Is one of the test used in determining the viability of products proposed for use in particular applications, such as insulation, carpet, drywall etc.

It is also used in determining fire resistance standards in construction methods such as fire stopping, doors, exiting and facilitating safety.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:01AM
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klem1

Actually there is a custom builder in Fannin County Tx called "Silver Plumb Line"that has built homes with metal frame for 20+ years. Currently,most of their homes start at $400k . A good portion of office,retail and warehouse space has used metal frame since the mid 70s. With people's urge to remodel perfectly servicable homes I'm supprised commercial type clear span that alows easly moving walls hasn't caught on.
When it was still satisfactory to teach a man to fish so that he might feed himself thereafter,I worked on a project where low income families were taught to build homes of concrete block. The generic 8x8x16 hollow core block is dry stacked then parged with various mixtures of sand,clay,stucco,lime and portland enriched with fiberglass strands. Cost savings were great for labor because it is possible for one to do it with only a few hours instruction.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 5:00PM
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akamainegrower

This thread has wandered rather far afield from the original question, "was the wood used in the past stronger than the wood used today". I'd say absolutely if we define the past as roughly prior to the post WWII house building boom. Lumber of all types tended to be tighter grained and therefore stonger per cubic measurement than just about anything you can buy today. My own house and those of several neighbors are 200+ years old. How many houses built today will last as long is a very open question in my mind. This, of course, has to do with more than the strength of the lumber used.

Building codes, btw, may have standardized construction practices and attempted to make houses safer for their occupants, but ask any firefighter about the dangers of toxic fumes from adhesives, plastics, and other materials commonly used today in the name of energy efficiency, lower cost, etc.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 5:28AM
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Trebruchet

akamainegrower:

If your wood frame walls are burning, toxic fumes are the least of your worries.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:55AM
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Deeby

Guys, (I'm assuming you're all guys) thanks for the education. I'm just a lady who's wondered about things like that. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:15AM
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