The millions of dollars invested in the cellars under American homes have been described as "buried treasure." It has been estimated that over two billion dollars have been spent in cellar construction. This means for houses already built. And the busy estimators have figured it out that at the present rate of home building there will be invested annually in new homes over three hundred million dollars for cellars alone.
The first cellars in American homes were provided in districts where rigorous winter weather demanded insulation of the first floor against the penetrating of cold air. The most feasible method was realized to be the provisions of at least a shallow air space beneath this floor and, as excavation was also necessary for foundations, it soon became customary to provide full cellars which were also found useful for storage and partial refrigeration purposes.
The advent of central heating plants, including hot air, steam, and hot water systems, all-coal burning types, was the next step in the establishment of the cellar as a fixed habit in home planning. For the heating plant was located there with the fuel supply.
During recent years the high cost of building materials and labor has forced home builders as well as investment builders to consider ways and means of reducing the cost of building. Rooms have grown smaller, ceiling heights have been lowered, hallways cut down, beds and furniture built in the walls and even the dining room is now being classed as an unnecessary room.
A recent development in small house construction, along this line of greater economy, has brought to light a big opportunity for saving - that is the elimination of the basement, and the placing of a central heater on the first floor of the house. According to some of the country's leading architects, this represents a saving of at least 15 per cent of the total cost of a small house. Until a few years ago, the builder of a small home was forced either to build a basement to house his heating plant, or else to heat his home with stoves and fireplaces. Several of the leading heating plant manufacturers have made a scientific study of ground floor central heating plants, and there are now various forms of such heaters on the market which heat five or six rooms very comfortably.
1 In Small Home, November, 1925.
It will not do at all to build a cellarless house without taking into consideration matters of ventilating the space underneath and removing the top soil and following out other principles of sound building. While the cellarless house is not a new idea in any sense of the word a good deal of attention is nowadays being given to this type of home, because of the fact that it offers one way of reducing the cost of a small home.
High costs of houses and difficulties in financing handicap home ownership. With costs as they now are, a family of a low-income group must necessarily live in the cast-off house of a family with more money, and the problem of housing becomes one of keeping the standard high for every new house that is erected. Since the cost of a particular house varies considerably in the different sections of the country, little information has been gathered on actual costs. The United States Department of Labor has collected information on dwelling costs for a number of cities. These cost figures compiled by the Bureau show decrease and increase in costs over a period of years. Some information also is available on the cost of each class of work necessary in building a home, cost per cubic foot, and costs of building materials.