History: The Craftsman was the dominant style for smaller houses built throughout the country during the period from about 1905 until the 1920s. It originated in southern California and most landmark examples of Craftsman houses are concentrated there. The style quickly spread throughout the country via pattern books and popular magazines, but rapidly faded from favor after the mid-1920s. These residences were given extensive publicity in such magazines as the Western Architect, The Architect, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, Architectural Record, Country Life in America, and Ladies’ Home Journal, thus familiarizing the rest of the nation with the style. As a result, a flood of pattern books appeared, offering plans for Craftsman bungalows; some even offered completely pre-cut packages of lumber and detailing to be assembled by local labor (referred to as “kit” houses). Through these kit houses, the one-story Craftsman house quickly became the most popular and fashionable smaller house in the country.
Character Defining Features: Although these are considered the most typical character defining features of a Craftsman, not all of these will apply to each Craftsman-style building.
Types of Craftsman:
Cottage Style Craftsman – Typically a one-story building with a compact rectangular plan; a centralized main entrance consisting of a partial-width porch and flanked by windows; a symmetrical facade; a side-gabled low-pitched roof; horizontal wood siding; and Craftsman stylistic details.
The Bungalow – The typical bungalow is a one-story house with low pitched broad gables. A lower gable usually covers an open or screened porch and a larger gable covers the main portion of the house. In larger bungalows the gable is steeper, with interesting cross gable or dormers.
Clipped-Gabled (Hip Roof) Craftsman – A Craftsman building covered by a gabled roof which has had its gable point “clipped off.” The roof can be front, side or cross-gabled. Typically this type of Craftsman is a one-story building. Sometimes the clipped-gabled roof will have gabled, hipped or eyebrow dormers.
Colonial Craftsman – A Craftsman building which displays Colonial Revival features. Typically, this type of Craftsman has a trellised front and/or side porches, symmetrical façade and columns.
Aero-plane Craftsman – A Craftsman building with a set-back second-story and wide overhanging eaves which gives the impression of an airplane wings. This style can have a front, side or cross-gabled roof.
Transitional – A building which appears to be “transitioning” from the Victorian-era into the Craftsman-era. Typically, this type of house retains a vertical emphasis on the facade and Victorian-era design elements, but is differentiated by its Craftsman features.
Jeff Williams is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes. Jeff is also a former board member of Historic Tacoma, and currently serves on the City of Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation Commission. Click here to email Jeff or give him a call at 253-303-1135.
As a commissioner for the City of Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation Commission and a former board member of Historic Tacoma, I've had a lot of experience with historic properties. I've also been buying, renovating and selling historic homes myself for more than twenty years (45 houses and counting). Not surprisingly, clients often seek my advice when they're thinking about buying an older house. With the busy spring home buying season upon us, I thought it might be a good time to share some thoughts about what to consider when buying a historic home. Below, I describe some of the “big ticket” replacement and repair costs that you may incur during the restoration of an older home. It's important to note that there are loan programs and tax credits available to help defray some of these costs if you are buying a historic home in Tacoma.
2. Old houses aren’t usually insulated. Builders didn't really begin insulating homes until the late teens and early twenties, and even then they generally just added cellulose (paper pulp) to the exterior walls and attics at very low insulating levels. If you’ve ever demolished the ceiling in an older home, you'll know what I’m talking about. You’re probably still discovering bits of the pulverized paper in your hair, ears and clothes. If you’re doing a major remodel to a home, it makes sense to strip off the old interior plaster down to the studs so that the wiring and plumbing can be updated and insulation can be added. If you’re not doing a major renovation, my advice would be to simply add insulation to the attic and underneath the first floor to increase the insulation value as much as possible. Learn more about insulation at energy.gov.
3. Are the mechanical systems up to date? When buying an old house, people often encounter things like knob and tube wiring, galvanized and lead pipes, oil burning furnaces the size of a Winnebago and broken sewer lines. Older systems aren't necessarily a problem, but a thorough pre-purchase home inspection can identify failing systems in need of immediate attention. Be sure to factor the cost of plumbing, electrical and heating system upgrades into the purchase price of a home before you make an offer, and make sure you can afford to repair or replace these systems as it becomes necessary during your ownership.
4. Original windows and doors are great. Leave them alone! Nothing frustrates me more than buyers who immediately think they have to replace all of the original doors and windows in a house. It is significantly more cost effective to repair original windows and doors and install storm windows. They’ll be just as energy efficient and will last exponentially longer than their cheap vinyl counterparts. For more details regarding wood windows versus vinyl, check out my blog post regarding that subject here.
5. How many layers are on the roof? Many older homes in Tacoma originally had wood shingle roofs with no underlayment to support a modern roof. Over time, home owners have simply shingled over the original roof. If a roof has three layers or more, it's no longer a candidate for re-shingling. The roof will have to be completely torn off, and an underlayment of plywood or particle board will need to be installed before the new roofing material can be added. Tear offs are three times as expensive as simple re-shingling so it's helpful to know how many layers a roof has before writing an offer to purchase an older home.