Features found in older homes
When searching for a home, shoppers have may have an idea of where they want to live and what type of house they want to buy. A new house is fashionably designed, fresh and pristine with all construction and mechanicals up to code. Consequently, new houses will likely have a higher price tag than older homes in the same area that might be missing some modern conveniences or in need of upgrades or even a total renovation. However, some shoppers believe that older homes are full of personality, history, charm and unique features that new houses don't have. Here are some features that can be found in older homes:
Coal chute door
During the 19th century coal was a common home heating fuel. Old houses of that era had openings built into the foundation for coal delivery where the delivery person would open the coal door and insert a chute from back of the truck that allowed the coal to roll from the truck into the basement. Jamie Wiles, writing for Urbo.com explains, "Delivery drivers brought coal to each home on the street, sort of like fossil-fuel-toting milkmen. They'd open an iron door that led to the basement and toss in the coal, which would tumble into a collection bin." The homeowner would shovel the coal into the nearby boiler. The small iron doors can still be found on some old houses although they've probably been sealed for decades.
Another small door that might be found on the outside of an old house is the ice door. Before electric refrigerators were a common home appliance, ice was delivered to homes in a large block and then stored in an ice box in the kitchen or pantry. The ice delivery person would insert the block of ice through the ice door directly into the ice box for homeowner's use. Alexa Erickson writing for familyhandyman.com says, "Homes had an area in the pantry or kitchen dedicated to the icebox. Access was created for this door on the exterior, allowing for the delivery of fresh ice to the house without coming inside." A small sign would be set into the window if the homeowner needed ice. If the sign wasn't in the window the driver would know not to stop.
If you've toured any of the Newport Mansions or watched the PBS show or movie, "Downton Abbey" you may have noticed the butler's pantry. Jess McBride writing for Houzz.com says, "Butler's pantries were a common feature of estates during the Victorian and Edwardian ages, and housed the family's fine china and silver." However, butler's pantries can be found just off the kitchen in much smaller middle-class houses of the era as well.
While there may not be a butler employed in the house, the space can still be used for silver and dinnerware. Alternatively, the butler's pantry can be remodeled and modernized, repurposed or removed completely. Anita Costa and Alexa Erickson writing for familyhandyman.com say, "While many homeowners today ask their architect and remodeling contractor to remove an existing butler's pantry in favor of a larger eating area, some people have revived the pantry with new, more modern purposes." The space can be used as additional cabinet space for kitchen storage, counter space for food prep, a built-in wine cooler or other homeowner needs.
No closet space
Although there's a common story that closets were intentionally excluded in the design and building of old houses because they would be taxed as rooms, the Real Estate Buyers Agent's Council of the National Association of Realtors (REBAC) claims there is no evidence, at least during colonial times, to prove this to be true. REBAC instead suggests, "Many older homes are long on architectural details, but short on closet space. At the time historical homes were built, most individuals didn't own more than a few articles of clothing, greatly reducing the need for closet storage." An old house homeowner can create needed storage space to compensate for the lack of closets. Closets can be built into corners of rooms and armoires and shelving units can be installed along walls.
Hallways that serve as a way to reach each individual bedroom don't exist in many old houses. Each room will instead have two or three doors to enter and exit from different adjoining rooms. Elizabeth Finkelstein writing for CountryLiving.com explains, "Historically, each room tended to have a very particular use, so it was advantageous to keep them separate. There was a practical element to this, too: The ability to close doors between rooms also helped heat and cool the home—no sense wasting energy in rooms weren't being used." Before central heating was common one room could be heated with a stove or fireplace for the entire family to share. This floorplan may be fine for the lower level of the house where the rooms are generally shared for meals and socializing. However, privacy is forfeited in the upper levels that consist of bedrooms with no private entrances.
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