3/26/09

Why do you think this is?

One of the things I have really noticed since moving here, is how many more single storey homes you have than we do! In the UK these are known as bungalows and if I had to take a guess, I'd say that no more than 10% of UK housing is single storey.

I have assumed it's a case of you having more space here, so it's just not necessary to build up. But maybe Americans just prefer to have a home all on one level when possible. As a former Estate Agent (Realtor) back home, I can confirm Brit's don't prefer bungalows. They tend to be viewed as the realm of the elderly and certainly they like them for ease of living.

Now I am actually living in a 'bungalow', I definitely prefer it, it just makes everything much easier. Plus we are already set-up for the onset of old age!

Another thing that intrigues me, is why many homes are constructed from timber, especially in a country with termites and tornadoes?! Timber homes are very rare in the UK, both surveyors and buyers view them as riskier for problems. Our home is timber construction, but was bricked over years later, another strange thing for a Brit' to digest! In this instance, I have always thought the reason it's different here must be the cost of building materials?

If you were to visit the UK, I think you'd be surprised to see two storey brick homes everywhere, but that's just the norm' for us.

So can you enlighten me on why you think there are so many single storey and timber homes here, or are my assumptions correct?

25 comments:

Kay said...

I agree with you completely. Most of the homes here are built with timber and we are in constant TERROR of termites. Land is tight here in Hawaii so we're seeing more two story homes. We built on top of my mom's home so we've got 21 steps to negotiate to get to the 2nd floor. My 79 year old mum considers the steps her stairmaster.

SweetPeaSurry said...

I think you're right about the cost of building materials. There was a housing boom just after WWII when they were building new pre-fab homes at an alarming rate. Everyone was buying a home. The brick homes took way longer to build and were much more expensive.

I would prefer to have a bungalow style home, I am sick of trekking up and down stairs with groceries and whatnot ... fookin' pain!

blessings

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Even in Oklahoma there is are differences. In the Oklahoma City/Edmond area it seems that single story homes are the rule. Here in Tulsa two story homes are the rule.
I don't know why.

Sherri said...

Sarah, here in Charlotte and when we lived in NJ most of the homes are 2-story. 1-story homes are built faster than 2-story maybe that's it. Alot of new homes are being built with metal studs now, not so much timber. Most homes that were built long ago with timber because it was readily available here. Hope that helps a little.

Rob Inukshuk said...

Here in Toronto the norm is 2 story homes with basements, making them 3 levels! They are timber framed homes with an outer layer of brick as an alternative to siding, simply for water proofing the timber.

Homes here all have basements as the footings (foundations) must be below the level of winter freeze, or they will crack. The same goes for the walls. Wood frame can handle the extreme winter cold and the extreme summer heat. UK Brick homes would not last more than a few years.

Wood frame is also quicker and cheaper to build and can be better insulated.

These are the answers I was given to the same questions I asked when I got here.

Daryl said...

In big cities .. urban sprawl is usually up ... and air rights are hotly negotiated for .. but in the suburbs its all about ZONING and MONEY.

Some areas are zoned for ranch-style homes (that's the US term for your bungalows, here a bungalow is small almost to the point of being like a cabin)other areas have 2-3 story homes .. that's dependent on the finances of the owners ...

Sassy Britches said...

I would give my right leg for a two story brick home. I think the cheap-ass pre-fab homes that are all over the USA are tacky and cheap. Where's the SUBSTANCE?!

I think it's a matter of space availability and cocst of materials, like you said. But I don't have to like it!

And my word ver is "pregisho." Does that mean your blog is telling me I'm pregnant and it's showing? Yikes!

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Rob, very interesting about the timber frames withstanding the freeze better!

Daryl, yes your urban areas are much like our whole country, packed tight. But I did not realise that zoning was part of the reason in other areas. I figures if you had the land you could build up or out, dependant on personal preference.

sallymandy said...

Interesting post, and nice blog you have here. I just found you from A Woman of No Importance.

It might be that the history of housebuilding in the U.S. is relatively new compared to Britain, in the sense that it was only a few hundred years ago that our country was mostly covered by forest. Timber was the most prevalent natural building material. There's a book I had to read recently for my job called Americans and Their Forests (by a Brit, interestingly) about that.

Also, not to get way too bookish but if you're really interested, the Field Guide to American Houses is kind of standard on American architecture.

That's enough about that! Thanks for your interesting post!

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Sallymandy, thanks for the nice comment and interesting info.

Sassy - omg I hope word verification isn't becoming a predictor!

Stuart Peel said...

Your house is so pretty, and you even have a white picket fence !! That isn't really a bungalow, after all it's not in Frinton and you don't have purple hair.

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Stuart, that's not my actual house mate! And no I don't have a white picket fence LOL

Brandon and Julie said...

That's a very good question...one for which I have no answer, but now I'm gonna wonder, all the time.

Lynn said...

I've always wanted to live in a two story brick home. Every since I was a little girl I've thought of them as rich people's houses. Ordinary people live in two story brick houses and rich people live in one story wood houses.

Of course, as an adult I know it's not quite that simple but the cost of materials and the cost of land determines what kind of houses people build. Where land is expensive there are generally more two story homes.

My verification word is "bumsms". The "sms" must be for "super mega sized".

pamokc said...

I read this early in the morning and just now getting a chance to put my two cents in. We built a two-story house once. Or had it built rather. Living with it is a bit more difficult than visiting one ... my main complaint was hauling heavy laundry baskets up and down the stairs. Now, if the laundry room was upstairs -- maybe diff. story. And we saw a really cute 2-story when we were shopping around but it would have had the same issue. I think mostly here in OK, though, there is room to spread out so why not? Also, agree with the post-WWII building boom and the birth of the American dream ... homeownership for everyone if they want it. I can remember being amazed as a friend in the UK sent photos of their house being built from the ground-up -- literally -- with cinderblocks. Here we would only do that on a commercial grade building. Mind you, he received a ton of $$$ for that house when he sold it! I wonder how they are doing now that the bottom has fallen out of the UK market. They were doing up houses and selling them on.

Lover of Life said...

When land is cheap then the house spread out, when land is expensive the homes go up. As for timber, it is less expensive than brick. I can't wait to see the homes in UK. I envision little cottages with lots of ivy, and flowers everywhere.

Iota said...

Isn't it to do with tornadoes? Single storey houses are less vulnerable to tornadoes?

When we were buying a house here, our realtor kept telling us how much we'd dislike having to go up a flight of stairs to bed. Such a nuisance, she kept saying. It made us laugh.

THE COOTS CLAN BLOG MODERATOR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lance said...

Hey Brit Gal,
In my neck of the woods (Eastern Kentucky) we have stick built homes (wooden frame), brick homes and brick veneer homes (built of wood then one layer of brick as a siding treatment). Each building method carries pros and cons. Depending on local codes, the material and methods used will vary from fire resistant masonry homes such as those found in Chicago to earthquake resistant homes in California.
The least expensive per square foot is wood construction of two straight stories covered in a siding of vinyl or wood. The next is a ranch or 'bungalow' style also built of wood. The difference in price of a single story verses a two story isn't the amount of floor space, it is the amount of insulated roof area. A 2,000 square foot ranch house has 2,000 sq ft of roof, whereas a 1,000 + 1,000 two story has only 1,000 sq ft of roof. Less material, insulation and labor. Modern building techniques and materials have made these wooden homes less prone to insect infestation, rot and even more wind resistant with the application of 'hurricane straps' and ties during construction.

A home built of brick does not allow for insulation or a vapor barrier to be easily installed. In many of the homes here, a parge coat of plaster can act as a vapor barrier and insulation can be applied in sheet form over the interior side of the brick wall (then sheetrock over). The most common brick home in modern America is brick veneer. This is a wood framed house that is sided in brick. I guess this gives a little of both benefits. The cost of brick and the labor to lay a home or apply a veneer to a frame is quite expensive when compared to more traditional (American) siding over wood frame options.
One other responder did make mention of North America's vast timber industry, this allows very competitive pricing to other building materials.
As for which is better, a rambling ranch or a stately two story, it is surely a topic of great debate. Everyone has a favorite. My pick is the Early American and Georgian two stories style with an optional master suite on the ground floor!
I hope this helps and didn't bore.

Mmm said...

I know exactly why there are so many timber homes here--something I used to wonder about too--is that its a lot cheaper than brick, wood has been in abundance and most importantly timber would not work in a place like UK where it rains so much. Can you say rising damp? Plus, it's simply easier to warm a brick house.

Secondly, I'm of the same left over persuasion. I want to live in a house with stairs if indeed a house! I grew up in so many "flats" that to me what separates the two are that one if flat--an apartment and one is not flat-- a house! Thus a house has floors!

Mmm said...

Ok reading your comments above on timber and insulation, scrap my bit on brick homes being easier to heat! i suppose not!

Lance said...

Mmm,
The thermal mass of a brick home is very hard to bring up to and maintain temperature. Two of my good friends own uninsulated brick homes of similar size to my stick built (all of our homes are 2400 + - sq ft and two story). Their combined utilities, gas and electric, are about $500/mo. while mine is around $350 in the dead of winter. Also, they both keep the thermostat set 2-4 degrees lower than me, because of the cost to heat.
I love the idea of a SOLID home. If money was no object, I would build with ICF's, Insulated Concrete Forms. They are hollow styrofoam blocks that stack like LEGO blocks and then are filled with concrete. They are superior to any other residential building method, however a bit more expensive. It can be difficult to find a contractor to build with this method and a concrete delivery system with a pump (to get the concrete to the top of the walls).
The interior is finished out with drywall and exterior can have any finish or material desired. I wish This would become the 'norm'.

Lance said...

Here is a link to an article about ICF construction, http://www.bobvila.com/HowTo_Library/EnergyWise_House_Building_with_Insulated_Concrete_Forms-New_Walls-A1627.html.
With energy prices on the rise, and anyone wanting to go green and reduce their carbon footprint, this building method warrants serious consideration.

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Lance, thank you for such a detailed explanantion and the link. I didn't know anything about this ICF construction.

Melissa said...

Dunno. I live in a two story myself and like you I would prefer brick but most homes in my area are made of the cheap stuff. My neighbourhood looks like we all live in boxes, no character at all. Americans love ranchers for some reason. I think they like one level living because it means they can stay in their homes their whole lives, even once their elderly.
Enjoy your posts comparing the two countries Sarah.