They don’t build ’em like they used to

Believe it or not, modern houses are constructed better than their predecessors

When I hear people say, "They sure don't build houses like they used to," I think to myself, "Yeah, and it's a good thing, too." Granted, the quality of many items in new homes -- doors, paint, hardware, and so on -- can't measure up to that of their vintage counterparts. But when it comes to actual structure and infrastructure, there's no comparison. Starting at the bottom of things (the foundation), modern houses are already way ahead. Prewar foundations had little or no reinforcing steel in them, which is why sticking doors and crooked floors are so common in vintage houses. Thanks to increasingly stringent codes for earthquake safety, modern foundations contain plenty of reinforcement, which has the added benefit of them being level and in one piece. Building codes also require today's houses to be much more robustly framed than their predecessors, many of which had shockingly weak structures. Victorian houses, for instance, typically sat atop totter...