Role of Leavittown in development of use of pre-cut lumber for mass-produced high-speed housing in New York & Pennsylvania, 1940's, 1950's. Photographs of building framing lumber & lumber yards, Leavittown, PA 1954. Building framing eras: log homes, balloon framing, platform framing, arkansas framing, modular construction, panelized construction, straw bale construction, welded wire construction, trusses, engineered lumber construction. Leavittown and development of mass-produced pre-cut platform framed homes
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This article describes and illustrates the history of use of pre-cut wood framing lumber in the development of high-speed, mass-produced housing in the United States. We describe and define the different types of dimensioned lumber: full-sized and modern (smaller) framing lumber such as rafters, studs, and joists.
This FRAMING METHODS, Age, Types article series, lists common building framing materials used in different epochs of residential construction. Knowing when certain materials were first or last in common use can help determine the age of a building. The age of a building can be determined quite accurately by documentation, but when documents are not readily
available, visual clues such as those available during a professional home inspection can still determine when a house was built.
Original source of photographs used in this article: creative commons film: "Our Home Town: Leavittown, PA" a 1954
advertising film of Leavittown PA, one of the planned communities built by William Levitt & Sons.
Pre-Cut Homes & Home Kit Construction - Early Mass Produced Housing
Pre-cut framing describes the use of dimensioned lumber that was pre-cut to standard lengths at the lumber yard where it was produced, then shipped to a building supplier or directly to a building site in order to speed, simplify, and reduce the cost of construction of homes.
Before dimensioned, pre-cut lumber was in widespread use on construction jobsites, lumber was often dimensioned and rough-cut, or cut to order at local lumber yards and building suppliers.
On the job every rafter, stud, sill-plate was either used in random lengths flat (sills) or cut to standard lengths for stud framing.
Currently at major building suppliers such as Home Depot and Loews, it would be difficult to not to find standard dimensioned lumber sold pre-cut to standard residential construction lengths.
In a "standard" wood-framed residential home, roughly 15,000 board feet of lumber is used. Site-built stick-framed homes (see Platform Framing) are constructed almost entirely of pre-cut lumber, perhaps excepting cuts necessary to frame around building openings and features.
Leavittown New York Pre-Cut Lumber Constructed Homes
According to the Leavittown Historical Society, the default of the Strathmore development project by a Rockville Centre Long Island developer in the 1930's Great Depression forced lawyer and real estate investor Abraham Levitt to take over and complete development of the project even though he and his sons were not trained in construction.
That experience led to Levitt & Sons successful bid on a Navy contract to building homes for shipyard workers in Norfolk, VA where they perfected the techniques used for high-speed, low-cost, mass production of homes built in what became Leavittown at the end of World War II.
On Long Island, in Island Trees, a golden nematode infestation that wiped out much of the area's potato crop led to farmers' selling off land in order to survive.
The combination of a surge in demand for housing for returning GI's from WWII, low-cost land on Long Island, and Leavitt & Son's expertise in mass-produced housing formed a perfect marriage when William Leavitt proposed to his father that the Island Trees land be divided into small lots on which could be built modest, inexpensive homes.
In May 1947 the Leavitts announced the plan to mass-produce 2000 rental homes. In two days, 1000 of the proposed homes had already been rented.
Thousands of identical wood-framed homes were built on a concrete slab on grade (no basement or crawl space), and were modest in size. According to author Gail Collins,
"In the beginning, the newly constructed dream houses were, by our current standards, very small. (In the famous Leavittown development on Long Island, the basic house was a 750-square-foot, four room Cape Cod with one bath and two bedrooms."
The following description of this early and very successful use of mass production methods to construct homes is quoted from Leavittown Historical Society:
In order to build their homes cheaper and faster, Levitt and Sons decided to eliminate basements and build their new homes on concrete slabs, as they had in Norfolk, Virginia.
This practice was prohibited in the Town Of Hempstead, but, because the need for housing was so urgent, the Town modified the Building Code to allow the Leavitts to proceed with their plan.
Levitt and Sons used many of the building methods they had used over the years in previous developments, but reorganized these methods for even better efficiency and cost savings. All of the lumber was precut and shipped from a lumber yard they owned in Blue Lake, California, where they erected a nail factory as well.
An abandoned rail line was re-opened to bring construction materials to Island Trees. To keep costs down, non-union contractors were used, a move met with heavy opposition. The production line technique used to build this new development was so successful that, by July of 1948, the Levitts were turning out thirty houses a day.
... This success continued throughout 1950 and 1951, by which time the Levitts had constructed 17,447 homes in Levittown and the immediate surrounding areas.
In 1949 the Leavitts changed from constructing rental homes to building slightly larger 800 sq.ft. ranch houses that were sold for $7,990.
These homes also were constructed on concrete slabs, but incorporated radiant slab heating. (See RADIANT HEAT).
The last of the 17,447 Leavittown homes was built in 1951.
Leavittown PA, a similar housing development was completed in the mid 1950's in Bucks County PA - the source of photos used in this article.
For a description of the role that this mass-produced housing project played in the American civil rights movement, also see Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon... by Kushner. Quoting from part of an Amazon.com review of this text:
As shocking as the story of Levittown is, I couldn't help but ponder a message that defines the generations and races of even today: (nearly) everyone has a dream they hope to attain. Bill Levitt, in the eyes of the (white) nation and Levittown residents was living the American dream: huge house, gorgeous wives, big boat and he was (viewed as) generous.
Bill Myers and his family sought the American dream as they saw it: to own property and live freely. Levitt reflected the times of that period in America.
Yet, consider how individual groups think of their American dream today - think of it in terms of black and white - it almost makes you wonder how far we have not come. That's the one thing I really loved about this book: it made me think.
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Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
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Thanks to Eben Oldmixon for discussing half timbered framing and German fachwerk and suggesting additional website content - January 2010.
Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, have provided us with (and we recommend)
Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates' Technical Reference Guide to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment ($69.00 U.S.). Technical Reference Guide, Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates, Ltd., 120 Carlton St. Suite 407, Toronto, Ontario, M5A 4K2 Canada, ISBN 1-895585-90-2 165pp.
American Plywood Association, APA, "Portland Manufacturing Company, No. 1, a series of monographs on the history of plywood manufacturing",Plywood Pioneers Association, 31 March, 1967, www.apawood.org
Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print).
"Background on Lumber." U.S. Department of Commerce, 31 May 2004. Discusses U.S.-Canada trade disputes regarding softwood lumber. Web search 07/22/2010, original source: http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/het/softwood/abcpf%20softwood%20dispute%20section%202004%20rev.pdf
Building Research Council, BRC, nee Small Homes Council, SHC, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brc.arch.uiuc.edu. "The Small Homes Council (our original name) was organized in 1944 during the war at the request of the President of the University of Illinois to consider the role of the university in meeting the demand for housing in the United States. Soldiers would be coming home after the war and would be needing good low-cost housing. ... In 1993, the Council became part of the School of Architecture, and since then has been known as the School of Architecture-Building Research Council. ... The Council's researchers answered many critical questions that would affect the quality of the nation's housing stock.
How could homes be designed and built more efficiently?
What kinds of construction and production techniques worked well and which did not?
How did people use different kinds of spaces in their homes?
What roles did community planning, zoning, and interior design play in how neighborhoods worked?
"Hurricane Damage to Residential Structures: Risk and Mitigation", Jon K. Ayscue,
The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, published by the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, November 1996. Abstract: "Property damage and loss from hurricanes have increased with population growth in coastal areas, and climatic factors point to more frequent and intense hurricanes in the future. This paper describes potential hurricane hazards from wind and water. Damage to residential structures from three recent intense hurricanes - Hugo, Andrew, and Iniki - shows that wind is responsible for greater property loss than water. The current state-of-the-art building technology is sufficient to reduce damage from hurricanes when properly applied, and this paper discusses those building techniques that can mitigate hurricane damage and recommends measures for mitigating future hurricane damage to homes." - online at www.colorado.edu/hazards/publications/wp/wp94/wp94.html
"Evaluating OSB for Coastal Roofs," Paul Fisette, Coastal Contractor, Winter 2005, online at coastalcontractor.net/pdf/2005/0501/0501eval.pdf . Fisette cites: "Jose Mitrani, a civil engineer and professor at Florida. International University in Miami, was ... Florida’s official damage assessment team. ... After Hurricane Andrew, Florida code advisers ruled OSB sheathing inferior to plywood
Gail Collins, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, Little, Brown, 2010, and Book review: "Growing Up Female", Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books, 17 December 2009, p. 8.
Isham: "An Example of Colonial Paneling", Norman Morrison Isham, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 6, No. 5 (May, 1911), pp. 112-116, available by JSTOR.
Leavittown Historical Society, PO Box 57, Leavittown, LI, NY 11756 Tel: 516-735-9060, web search 07/22/2010. Original source:
Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America's Legendary Suburb, David Kushner, Walker & Company, ISBN-10: 0802716199, ISBN-13: 978-0802716194
Quoting from part of an Amazon.com review As shocking as the story of Levittown is, I couldn't help but ponder a message that defines the generations and races of even today: (nearly) everyone has a dream they hope to attain. Bill Levitt, in the eyes of the (white) nation and Levittown residents was living the American dream: huge house, gorgeous wives, big boat and he was (viewed as) generous. Bill Myers and his family sought the American dream as they saw it: to own property and live freely. Levitt reflected the times of that period in America. Yet, consider how individual groups think of their American dream today - think of it in terms of black and white - it almost makes you wonder how far we have not come. That's the one thing I really loved about this book: it made me think.
The History of Leavittown, NY, Lynne Matarrese & the Leavittown Historical Society, available from the Leavittown Historical Society website at: http://www.levittownhistoricalsociety.org/museum_shop.htm
Quoting: The official Levittown story, as presented by Lynne Matarrese and the Levittown Historical Society on the occasion of Levittown's 50th Anniversary. This comprehensive, illustrated volume provides general readers and serious researchers alike with a fascinating overview of Levittown's birth and development, from the earliest days of the Hempstead Plains to its modern day status as a suburban icon.
"Our Home Town: Leavittown, PA (1954), web search 07/22/2010, free download archive film, original source: http://www.archive.org/details/OurHomeT1954_2
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives, Producer: Unknown, Sponsor: Towne Theatre, Audio/Visual: Sd, B&W, Keywords: Levittown, Pa.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Suburbia,
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
Advertising film presenting landmarks, businesses and people of a well-known Philadelphia suburb in Bucks County PA, one of the planned communities built by William Levitt & Sons.
OSB: "Evaluating OSB for Coastal Roofs," Paul Fisette, Coastal Contractor, Winter 2005, online at coastalcontractor.net/pdf/2005/0501/0501eval.pdf . Fisette cites: "Jose Mitrani, a civil engineer and professor at Florida. International University in Miami, was ... Florida’s official damage assessment team. ... After Hurricane Andrew, Florida code advisers ruled OSB sheathing inferior to plywood."
Manufactured & Modular Homes: Modular Building Systems Association, MBSA, modularhousing.com, is a trade association promoting and providing links to contact modular builders in North America. Also see the Manufactured Home Owners Association, MHOAA, at www.mhoaa.us. The Manufactured Home Owners Association of America is a National Organization dedicated to the protection of the rights of all people living in Manufactured Housing in the United States.
Pergo AB, division of Perstorp AB, is a Swedish manufacturer or modern laminate flooring products. Information about the U.S. company can be found at http://www.pergo.com where we obtained historical data used in our discussion of the age of flooring materials in buildings.
Plank House Construction: Yuroak Plankhouse - plank houses were built by native Americans, see
Large 1:6 Scale Plank House Construction / P8094228,
Photographer: Mike Meuser ,
06/12/2007 documented at yurokplankhouse.com where scale model Museum quality Yurok Plank Houses are being sold to raise money for the Blue Creek - Ah Pah Traditional Yurok Village project
Radiographic Inspection of Plank-House Construction, Mary Joan Kevlin, Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology, Vol. 18, No. 3 (1986), pp. 40-47
Indian houses of Puget Sound, Waterman, T. T. (Thomas Talbot) and Greiner, Ruth, Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, 1921
Scott C. LeMarr has provided his file of keys to decode Furnace and Water Heater Age from the data provided on the manufacturer's equipment labels. Mr. LeMarr is
a professional home inspector, Certified Professional Inspector/President,
MASTER Indoor Environmental Specialist (MIES).
Vice President of Wisconsin NACHI. He and his company, Honest Home Inspections, LLC. can be reached at
262-424-5587 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Design of Wood Structures - ASD, Donald E. Breyer, Kenneth Fridley, Kelly Cobeen, David Pollock, McGraw Hill, 2003, ISBN-10: 0071379320, ISBN-13: 978-0071379328
This book is an update of a long-established text dating from at least 1988 (DJF); Quoting: This book is gives a good grasp of seismic design for wood structures. Many of the examples especially near the end are good practice for the California PE Special Seismic Exam design questions. It gives a good grasp of how seismic forces move through a building and how to calculate those forces at various locations.THE CLASSIC TEXT ON WOOD DESIGN UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE LATEST CODES AND DATA. Reflects the most recent provisions of the 2003 International Building Code and 2001 National Design Specification for Wood Construction. Continuing the sterling standard set by earlier editions, this indispensable reference clearly explains the best wood design techniques for the safe handling of gravity and lateral loads. Carefully revised and updated to include the new 2003 International Building Code, ASCE 7-02 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, the 2001 National Design Specification for Wood Construction, and the most recent Allowable Stress Design.
Diagnosing & Repairing House Structure Problems, Edgar O. Seaquist, McGraw Hill, 1980 ISBN 0-07-056013-7 (obsolete, incomplete, missing most diagnosis steps, but very good reading; out of print but used copies are available at Amazon.com, and reprints are available from some inspection tool suppliers). Ed Seaquist was among the first speakers invited to a series of educational conferences organized by D Friedman for ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, where the topic of inspecting the in-service condition of building structures was first addressed.
Defects and Deterioration in Buildings: A Practical Guide to the Science and Technology of Material Failure, Barry Richardson, Spon Press; 2d Ed (2001), ISBN-10: 041925210X, ISBN-13: 978-0419252108. Quoting: A professional reference designed to assist surveyors, engineers, architects and contractors in diagnosing existing problems and avoiding them in new buildings. Fully revised and updated, this edition, in new clearer format, covers developments in building defects, and problems such as sick building syndrome. Well liked for its mixture of theory and practice the new edition will complement Hinks and Cook's student textbook on defects at the practitioner level.
Masonry structures: The Masonry House, Home Inspection of a Masonry Building & Systems, Stephen Showalter (director, actor), DVD, Quoting: Movie Guide Experienced home inspectors and new home inspectors alike are sure to learn invaluable tips in this release designed to take viewers step-by-step through the home inspection process. In addition to being the former president of the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), a longstanding member of the NAHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and the Environmental Standard Organization (IESO), host Stephen Showalter has performed over 8000 building inspections - including environmental assessments. Now, the founder of a national home inspection school and inspection training curriculum shares his extensive experience in the inspection industry with everyday viewers looking to learn more about the process of evaluating homes. Topics covered in this release include: evaluation of masonry walls; detection of spalling from rebar failure; inspection of air conditioning systems; grounds and landscaping; electric systems and panel; plumbing supply and distribution; plumbing fixtures; electric furnaces; appliances; evaluation of electric water heaters; and safety techniques. Jason Buchanan --Jason Buchanan, All Movie Review
Straw Bale Home Design, U.S. Department of Energy provides information on strawbale home construction - original source at http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/designing_remodeling/index.cfm/mytopic=10350
More Straw Bale Building: A Complete Guide to Designing and Building with Straw (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series), Chris Magwood, Peter Mack, New Society Publishers (February 1, 2005), ISBN-10: 0865715181 ISBN-13: 978-0865715189 - Quoting: Straw bale houses are easy to build, affordable, super energy efficient, environmentally friendly, attractive, and can be designed to match the builder’s personal space needs, esthetics and budget. Despite mushrooming interest in the technique, however, most straw bale books focus on “selling” the dream of straw bale building, but don’t adequately address the most critical issues faced by bale house builders. Moreover, since many developments in this field are recent, few books are completely up to date with the latest techniques. More Straw Bale Building is designed to fill this gap. A completely rewritten edition of the 20,000-copy best--selling original, it leads the potential builder through the entire process of building a bale structure, tackling all the practical issues: finding and choosing bales; developing sound building plans; roofing; electrical, plumbing, and heating systems; building code compliance; and special concerns for builders in northern climates.