The city builder is often saved, willy-nilly, from making certain mistakes because his building has to meet certain building-code requirements. On the other hand, these same building-code requirements may, because they are obsolete or poorly framed, involve him in extra expense. In many cities, for example, the plumbing soil stack must be four inches in diameter, in spite of the fact that three inches has been found satisfactory in practice for small dwellings, and has been found, on the basis of experiments at the Bureau of Standards, to be more satisfactory from a sanitary point of view. Needless to say, the three-inch stack is not only cheaper in first cost, but is much less expensive to install since it fits much more readily into walls or partitions of customary dimensions.
The country builder may, theoretically, have a wider range of choice of materials than the city builder. He may be able to use posts or hewn timbers from his own woodlot, stone from his own fields, or sand and gravel for concrete from his own deposits. Yet he can purchase also basic and special materials from a local dealer or from a mail-order concern. As I have already indicated, however, financial limitations may severely restrict his purchases.
The country home builder has more space, light, and air, and as a corollary to this is usually farther away from his neighbors than his city cousin.
The city builder can more easily call upon builders who have had experience in building houses of the same type, but, as I have already suggested, the country builder may be able to obtain more helpful advice from his relatives and neighbors - a process made easier by the advent of the motor car and improved road.
The city builder has readier access to public libraries, but I believe that the country builder can readily obtain such pamphlets as he may require in connection with building his home at a relatively small expense.
The modern builder to be successful must be able not only to cope with situations as they come up but must have an idea of what information can be obtained readily from printed material. He should know where and how to get what he wants without having to go through quantities of irrelevant or unauthoritative material.
Good foundations, as I have already indicated, are essential for a satisfactory house. The foundation wall itself should be at least eight inches thick if of solid concrete. It should extend in depth below the frost line and have adequate footings. It is impossible to recommend a uniform width of footings because so much depends upon the bearing value of the local soil. That is one place where general rules need to be considered with relation to local conditions. In order to insure the cellar against flooding or chronic dampness it may be necessary to lay draintile outside the wall or to use a damp-proofing compound on the outside. The cellar floor itself may have to be laid on gravel or cinders, and it is well to remember that a leaking cellar is much harder and more costly to remedy after building than before. A good cellar-floor drain to carry off water which may enter, or water which may be used for cleaning, is most desirable, especially so when the floor, if it has a pitch, slopes toward the drain.
Good concrete is occasionally the product of good luck rather than good management. The careful builder will do well to consult the pamphlets of the Department of Agriculture and of the Portland Cement Association, which explain the proper mixtures, including the amount of water used - a most important factor - and means for determining whether or not the sand and gravel used contain too much silt or inorganic matter. Such precautions may take time but are well worth the assurance of a good piece of work. Furthermore, the pamphlets contain many helpful suggestions for lessening the amount of work involved. If the family cannot afford to take the precautions necessary for a good cellar and chooses not to have one it is better to rest the house on piers of adequate depth than on a shallow wall. In such a case there should be a free circulation of air under the house in order to prevent rapid decay of the floor joists and other wood on the under surface, and heat insulation under the flooring is desirable in the climate of most parts of the country.