Arts Crafts to do at home

Tips for Identifying Sears Catalog Houses
June 4, 2015 – 08:20 am
Arts And Crafts For Kids To Do

Sears Kit House - The HalifaxAuburn-Halifax Model Kit Home. (2007 Rosemary Thornton)

Is that good-looking bungalow of yours a Sears Kit Home? How can you find out? What should you look for? And what does it mean to have a Sears Kit Home?

Each month, I receive dozens of emails from people asking these very questions. Here's the short version of things you can look for to decide if your home is a Sears kit home.

  • Look for stamped lumber on the exposed beams/joists/rafters in the basement, crawl space or attic.
  • Inspect the back of millwork (moldings and trim) for shipping labels.
  • Check the home's floor plan, footprint (exterior dimensions) and room size, using a field guide to Sears Homes, such as "Finding The Houses That Sears Built" (2004, Gentle Beam Publications).
  • Visit the courthouse and inspect old building permits and grantor records.
  • Inspect plumbing fixtures for marks, such as "R" or "SR".
  • Look for markings on back of sheet rock.
  • Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets.
  • Square block on moldings at staircase landings, where moldings meet at odd angles.
  • Verify your home's construction date. If your home was not built between 1908 - 1940, it can not be a Sears Home.

Is your home stamped or labeled?

Sears Lumber Identifying Marks. (2007 R.T.)

Sears homes were shipped via boxcar and came with a 75-page instruction book. Each kit contained 10, 000–30, 000 pieces of house and the framing members were marked to facilitate construction. These many decades later, those same markings can help identify a home as a Sears kit home. The lumber was marked on the tall side of the lumber and can be found 2–10 inches from the end of the framing member. If you can't access attics or basements, you might be able to see marked lumber by opening up the bathtub's plumbing access door. However, not all Sears Homes had marked lumber!

Sears Millwork Label in a Kit HouseLook for shipping labels. Shipping labels can be found on the back of millwork and mouldings. I've also found these labels in various places in the basement, such as under a staircase. On the shipping label, you might see an address, such as "925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois." This was Sears headquarters in the early 1900s. Or, it might read, "Sears Roebuck, Chicago, Illinois." Also look for stamps or marks showing that the millwork was shipped from Norwood Sash and Door (in Ohio), which was a supplier of Sears millwork.

Unique Columns on Sears HousesSears Mill Work labels. (2007 Rosemary Thornton)

Use a field guide and city records

Compare the house in question to the photos and floor plan in a field guide to Sears Homes. Pay special attention to the placement of windows and doors, chimneys, bathroom and kitchen vents, etc. The home's footprint should be a perfect match to the Sears Home. Even a few inches off is a deal killer. Individual rooms should also be a spot-on match to the floor plan shown in the field guide. This is a very important point. However, "reversed floor plans" were an option that Sears offered their home buyers, so the home may be a mirror image of the floor plan shown in the field guide.

Plinth Block ExampleVisit the courthouse to learn more. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Check grantor records from 1915–1940. Sears stopped offering mortgages in 1933, but when a mortgage was paid in full, the mortgage was released, so you're going to look for that document, too. Another thing to look for is original building permits. Some locales retain these aged documents. On the building permit, one line should state "architect's name." This is where the name "Sears Roebuck" may appear.

Evaluating building materials

Sears Porch Column Design. (2007 R.T.)

Plumbing, electrical and heating equipment was not included in the basic kit home but could be purchased separately. This enabled customers to choose "good, better or best" quality. From the late 1920s to 1940, Sears plumbing fixtures sometimes were stamped with an "R" or "SR." On pedestal sinks (bathroom) and kitchen sinks, the mark is on the underside, near the front. On bathtubs, it can be find in the lower corner, on the side furthest from the tub spout.

Another clue suggesting that you may have a Sears Home is the presence of Goodwall Sheet Plaster (sheet rock). Each 4' by 4' sheet bore the stamp "Goodwall" on the backside.

About two dozen of Sears most popular house designs had a unique column arrangement on the front porch (see photo). Five-piece eave brackets (the diagonal support brace between the roof line and the exterior wall) might also be a sign that you have a Sears Home.

Marked Lumber in a Sears Kit Home Sears Kit Home - The Osborn
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Popular Q&A
What are some arts and crafts for girls to do at home.

Origami, because its easy, you only need a piece of paper to do it, it doesn't make much mess, and there is such a big range of things you can make by just folding a piece of paper!
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