It has become common in construction, as well as in other fields, to define the standards of performance expected of the finished product.
What is it that we expect from the structure of a house? In the first place we must have stability in the foundation and in the structure. Cracks in the woodwork and plaster, doors that stick and jam, and openings that let in rain and snow, are the inevitable consequences if the foundations settle and crack, or if the walls or framework become distorted. 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, the roof, wall surfaces, and danger points, such as flashing and window openings, should be water-tight. A dry cellar and reasonable insulation against heat and cold are also expected of a modern house.
Sufficient protection against fire and lighting is desired by every prudent owner.
Durability and economy in maintenance should be considered when a house is built. They depend largely on factors already mentioned but also involve the use of proper materials and workmanship at other points.
Good appearance outside and inside is rightly emphasized as another quality for a satisfactory structure, and it is unnecessary to dilate on the fact that it depends on good proportion, adaptation of the house to its setting, and good taste in combining the various elements of the house, rather than upon expenditure for costly knickknacks.
2 Adapted from The House We Build (address before the Eastern States Extension Conference, Washington, D.C., February 27, 1929). U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension Service Circ. 99.
Sanitation and health are fundamental, and we want a house that is easy to keep clean and which is so well built that rats and vermin cannot readily get into it or become easily established. The structure should be adapted, wherever possible, to convenience in housekeeping and to the installation of mechanical equipment to lighten housework.
Finally, the home-owner has to keep an eye constantly on his pocket-book while he plans. Economy in first cost and in operation after the house is built is essential.
The resources of no two rural home builders are alike. There are families to-day who are like their pioneer ancestors in that they must depend mainly on their own resourcefulness and ability to do hard work, using whatever raw materials are available, with the minimum of purchases from outside, such as window sash and a few iron and steel products. Others are able, for one reason or another, to afford up-to-date structures that embody all the worth-while features that present-day industry provides.
In a consideration of the resources of rural home builders, however, some general comparisons may be made with those of the city home builder. We may recall the old-fashioned house raisings wherein the spirit of cooperation and friendliness which has so permeated our rural life in America was revealed at its best during generations. I believe it is safe to say that this underlying spirit is still strong enough so that a family established in any rural community in America can count on obtaining much sound and helpful advice on building. The friendly counsel of an observant man or woman who has made a specialty or hobby of building can be invaluable, although it must be admitted that much of the free advice offered to a home builder may be not only worthless but a liability if it is followed.
Nearly every home builder finds it hard to get a house of the size and kind he wants at a cost which is within his reach. For the rural builder manufactured materials come relatively higher and labor relatively cheaper than for the city builder. Higher transportation charges usually add to the price of articles purchased in the country, while the owner's own labor and lower wage scale make the addition of a greater amount of labor less burdensome financially than in the city. Hence a higher-priced material, which saves labor on the job, may be profitably used in the city but not necessarily in the country. All owners must decide whether they want a small structure of high quality, well equipped with conveniences, or a larger structure of a less expensive type. The cost per room of two houses of approximately the same size in the same locality, for example, may vary from $600 or $800 to $2,500 or $3,000.