Since the amount that a family can afford to pay for a house is limited, every detail of the house deserves consideration with respect to the return in service or satisfaction from the expenditure involved.
Stability in the foundation and in the structure is a first requisite in every new house, whatever its size or equipment, provided it is not strictly a temporary affair. Cracks in the woodwork and plaster, doors that stick and jam, and openings that let in rain and snow result inevitably if the foundations settle or if the walls or framework become distorted. The foundation wall itself should be at least eight inches thick if of solid concrete. If of other materials, it may need to be thicker. It should extend in depth below the frost line and have adequate footings whose width will depend upon the bearing value of the local soil. If piers or posts are used instead of foundation walls, corresponding precautions should be taken-and no wooden foundation posts should be used without preservative treatment to ward off decay and attacks by insects.
1 Adapted from "Some Problems of the Small Home," Journal of Home Economics, May, 1930.
The walls and framework of the house obviously should be substantial, with all the important parts well tied together. Yet, after severe windstorms, we learn of roofs that are blown off, because they merely rested on the top of brick walls, without being anchored by ties to the masonry; frame houses that get out of plumb because they did not have proper diagonal bracing; and porches and ells that are wrenched loose because they were not tied to the main structure. In regions subject to high winds, frame houses without plaster to add weight and rigidity are in an especially dangerous position, unless they are well anchored to the foundations. The too common sagging roof line is generally a sign of the spreading of side walls caused by the thrust of the rafters, a condition which might have been avoided by using proper ties. Mistakes in design of interior framework, resulting in unequal shrinkage, often result in distortion of the whole frame and cracking of the plaster.
Diagonal sheathing is recommended as preferable to horizontal, except for stucco houses, where it has been found that less cracking of stucco occurs with horizontal sheathing and adequate corner bracing. Eight-inch brick walls should have a row of headers at least every sixth course.1
Adequate protection from wind, rain, and snow is essential. Nothing adds so much to the expense of keeping up a house or makes it run down so fast as chronic leakage, and for this reason intersecting surfaces of the roof, wall, window openings, and other danger points particularly should be water-tight. Adequate protection against fire is important. In many houses, there is a free passage for air from the cellar to the attic between the studs in the outside walls. This means that a fire starting in the basement or on the first floor is given every opportunity to spread to the whole house. It also gives cold air from the attic free play to chill the basement and the side walls of rooms, and allows rats and mice to move about as they please. The remedy is to insert masonry or some other incombustible material, or 2X4 lumber, in these wall spaces at the floor and the top ceiling levels. Chimneys, fireplaces, stoves, furnaces, and stovepipes are frequently the sources of fires. Omission of flue lining and placing of combustible materials against chimnevs are faults to be guarded against.2
2 Farmers' Bulletin 1230, of the Department of Agriculture, entitled "Chimneys and Fireplaces," contains excellent material on such points and also tells how fireplaces may be equipped so as to serve as warm-air heaters. Pamphlets of the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Standards contain directions for protection against lightning.
In connection with interior wall finish and heat insulation, the home builder has a wide range of choices. In a frame house that is to be sheathed, good waterproof building paper in the wall is probably the least costly step toward assuring a warm house at reasonable expense. Weatherstripping around doors and windows comes next. Insulating materials over the top floor ceiling joists, or under the roof, and in the walls, and storm windows may all be used to advantage.1 It must be remembered that it is relatively hard to add heat insulating materials in the walls after the house is built, whereas weatherstripping, or heat insulation on the attic floor or under the roof can be added at any time. The interior walls may be finished with wood or metal lath and plaster, with plaster board, a composition material that takes the place of lath and of the rough coat of plaster; or with a wall board which can be used without further finish, or decorated as desired; or interior walls may be ceiled with matched lumber. Any of these can be surfaced with any of a wide variety of materials.