In recent years, snickering comments about the increased size of the average new United States house have come up in the news as well as in casual conversation. ‘McMansions’ and ‘Starter castle’ are now cliches. Approximately 1500 square feet was the norm in the 1950’s. The average now is about 2600 square feet. An overlooked explanation for the trend toward large houses is that houses in general are considerably easier to build than in decades past.
The technology for all aspects of home building has advanced dramatically since the 1950’s: compressed air nailers, drywall screws and the adapters to drill them, sheetrock lifts, sophisticated stilts for hanging and finishing sheetrock are only a few.
Small heavy-equipment like mini-bulldozers with remarkable attachments such for drilling foundation piers are now commonplace. Equipment such as this make superior foundation building within the reach of the most technically un-sophisticated company.
There has been remarkable improvements in materials as well such as Hardiplank and PVC pipe. The old steel pipe methods of plumbing required considerable tools, skill, and effort to install. Solid metal connectors to fixtures such as sinks and toilets required skill and labor to achieve a fit. Contrast this with flexible vinyl plumbing connectors which require considerably less effort and time to install. Practically anyone, even my 84 year old father can easily work PVC pipe. Now the trend towards even easier plumbing with PEX is underway.
These are just a few of the improvements that have occurred over the years. The list goes on and on and on for the myriad of small improvements that now make houses far easier and faster to build than in the bad old days. If you want an explanation for the increase in average size of homes, the ease and speed of building is a major reason.