The Poor Quality of American Houses
One striking aspect of houses in America is the flimsy quality of even the most expensive ones. Houses are built literally like a house of cards. Weak beams, plywood, flimsy insulation, flimsy siding and roofing that either blows off in high winds or just rots away after a few years. Its really no wonder that come tornado or hurricane and houses are literally ripped off of their foundations and tossed into the air.
In contrast, houses and most buildings in Europe are much sturdier, being built with stone or cinder blocks or brick for the whole wall and inside walls. This is true for new houses and apartment blocks as well as old buildings. This is the reason we see buildings hundreds of years old still standing in good shape. In the US a 50 year old house is considered old and is torn down to make room for another flimsy yet expensive structure.
American houses sometimes do have the appearance of having brick walls, however these are just stuck onto the outside of the plywood walls giving a false sense of quality and strength. It is understandable that using flimsy wood is cheaper than using stone or concrete, but this is not really evidenced by the prices of houses. I have seen multi-million dollar new houses in the States that are building using the same plywood, insulation, shabby roofing material as cheaper houses. The fact that walls are paper thin and conversations can be heard 2 rooms away is nothing strange in American houses.
We also see quality problems in areas like rotting walls, water getting into insulation, termites and leaking roofs. Houses built of plywood and low quality beams will not last all that long. Using staple guns to hold plywood to beams is usually going to end up shabby. Contractors tend to use the cheapest materials and thrown up buildings as soon as they can in order to maximize profits. For some reason this shabby building tradition has become the norm in the US.
The origins of this building style can be drawn to the 1950s with the post war boom period when Americans could suddenly afford to buy homes in sprawling new suburbs where almost pre-fabricated style identical looking houses mushroomed virtually overnight.This is understandable given the economic boom coupled with the baby boom and rising incomes. However, US suburbs still tend to have a monotonous look to them, even in the nicer ones. Of course this is mostly due to the fact that many suburbs are developed by one builder who only has so many styles of houses to build. But the fact remains that the building quality has not gone up since the 1950s, and in fact may have went down in many cases due to the economy and the fact that Americans have come to expect that their houses look in a certain style.
Unfortunately it is unlikely that many US houses or other buildings will still be around say 500 years from now. The American mindset of bulldozing the old and building something new instead every few decades keeps us from having a sense of history, at least where architecture and physical structures are concerned. All great civilizations have left structures for us to admire: Rome, Egypt, Greece, Byzantium, Incas, Aztecs etc. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely that American civilization will leave any impressive physical structures behind for posterity, as even skyscrapers are often leveled after a few decades to make way for new ones. This is also a part of being a totally consumer society which throws away the old to make way for the supposedly goodness of the new and at the same time discarding vestiges of our past.