Houses Built In The Sixties

What’s to like about houses built in the Sixties? 

  • Big yards! Big front yards and bigger back yards. Privacy fences didn’t became fashionable until much later so many lots were separated merely by chain-link fencing.
  • Real “dimensional” lumber was used; heavier and very dense woods such as yellow pine or even oak. If the house was built for a composition shingle, the roof deck was made from siding planks of pine or fir called “ship-lap”.
  • The bathrooms in these houses were almost indestructible. Most likely the original pink, blue or yellow tiles are still intact; even the original floor tiles may still be in place.

What’s NOT to like about houses built in the Sixties?

  • Many of the unimproved characteristics that were found in the decade before apply to houses built in the 60’s.
  • It was once common to find that the HVAC ducts were embedded in the concrete slab. A few homes still are equipped that way. It is more common to find that the HVAC ducts are in the crawl space area of a pier and beam foundation. Both of these conditions can produce extremely poor air quality and in extreme cases create what is commonly called a “sick house” resulting in serious health problems.
  • It is common to find that the gas water heater or a gas heating system (or both) is located in a bathroom or bedroom closet. This was customary in the 50’s and 60’s but is prohibited now.
  • Bathroom tiles were set in concrete and reinforced with an expanded wire mesh. You don’t scrape off these tiles. It takes crowbars and sledge hammers and a knowledgeable contractor to renovate these bathrooms.
  • Air conditioning didn’t become customary until the late 1960’s and early 70’s.
  • Gas Air Conditioners became very common. The technology was clumsy by today’s modern high-tech standards. It would not be long before the science of these systems would be overtaken by the advancements in Freon technology.
  • Gas air conditioning systems were prevalent in the 1960’s but today you would be hard pressed to find a house equipped with one.
  • During this era of construction, two-wire non-grounding type electrical conductors were still widely used by builders.
  • Overuse of building materials containing high levels of Formaldehyde in wall paneling, carpeting and others existed in the 1960’s and into the next decade until the toxicity of the chemical was realized and addressed.
  • If the house was built between 1965 and 1974 it may be equipped with Aluminum wiring. Aluminum electrical wiring is almost always an issue when acquiring homeowners insurance and has become very unfavorable among home inspectors because of safety.
  • Unless it has been replaced it will likely be equipped with the original FEDERAL PACIFIC, GENERAL ELECTRIC OR ZINSCO electric service panels. Other brands were used back then but these were widely used by builders of that era in North Texas.
  • The Federal Pacific and the Zinsco panels have fallen from favor by Texas home inspectors and most electricians because of issues of safety and will likely be flagged during a home inspection.
  • Two-wire non-grounding type electrical circuits are likely present in this house. During this era of construction, two-wire non-grounding type electrical conductors were widely used by builders. It was easy to accidentally reverse the polarity of an electrical outlet and never realize it because everything still worked.
  • Since transistorized circuitry was just beginning to change the world, polarity didn’t matter as much in house wiring. Now, because houses built in the 50’s are still so prevalent, computers and other devices and appliances make polarity and grounding extremely important.
  • Electrical wires stretched from the house to detached building and draped across the yard were common.
  • Outdoor low hanging electrical service wires are common especially if the electrical service has not been updated since the house was built. Also ordinary house wiring can often be exposed, unprotected and stretched from the house to the detached garage or other outbuildings; either draped across the driveway or the back yard or worse, buried underground without a conduit.
  • Many homeowners who wanted to light up the back yard for security or for recreation attached electrical wires to trees. It wasn’t until the electrical code was revised and prohibited that practice in 1992.
  • Many roofs were framed for use with a lightweight wood shingle roof. Some sagging of the roof framing can often be detected in places because the frame was not intended to carry the extra weight of heavy plywood sheathing and the heavy load of the composition shingles.
  • Because of wood shingles and wood shake roofs squirrels and rodents were able to gain easy access to the attic and many of them spent a lot of time there before being discovered. Rodents and squirrels could always find water in the attic in the form of condensation at the air conditioning equipment.
  • Dryer vents were allowed to exit into the garage or into the attic in the 1960’s. That practice is no longer permitted for all the obvious reasons.
  • During the 60’s, roof skylights became popular and at that time they were not designed well. Not only that, few installers were qualified to flash them properly so most of them leaked.
  • Houses built with a pier and beam foundation often came with a crawl space opening located on the outside of the building. That design made it difficult to keep out general pests such as rodents, squirrels and other critters.

Written and distributed by

David Padgett

817-269-4419

Professional Inspector

License No. 58

APS phone label copy