BUILDING AND SELLING TO SUIT LIFESTYLES 70 YEARS APART
Qualico Through The Decades - The 1960's
It’s always fun to look back at how much something has changed over the course of several decades, and the evolution of homebuilding specifications doesn’t disappoint. In the 1960s, Quality Construction released a series of standard home specifications that was revolutionary for its time. Today, we might chuckle at some of the things offered as incentives to buy a new home, but it’s also notable how far we’ve come in the development of products, processes, and marketing verbiage.
LOOKING BACK AT SOME OF THE SPECIFICATION SHEETS FROM THE 1960S, WE COME ACROSS A NUMBER OF INTERESTING CHANGES
We sat down with Courtney Sims, Marketing Manager, along with Dale Verville, Production Manager with over 30 years of service with Qualico. Both Courtney and Dale work for Broadview Homes and Sterling Homes in Winnipeg.
The common theme for Quality Construction homes 60 years ago was “Height of Fashion Homes”. The message was that these homes were architecturally designed and decorated to be a step above other homebuilders. Added value became an enticing selling feature, and the specification lists left nothing out. This same added value has continued in our specifications throughout the decades, but as market needs change over time, so do the products and standards offered.
One example of the added value we see today is found in Sterling Homes Winnipeg’s recently launched standard specification: The Total Comfort Program. This new program introduces improved quality of life through energy conservation, a healthier environment within the home, and new technology to better control utilities.
“When you compare the features included in this new program to the products offered 60 years ago, it would have been unimaginable at the time,” said Courtney. “Just like the elevated standards offered in that era, the Total Comfort Program is innovative and intended to set us apart from other homebuilders.”
Qualico Spec Sheet Comparison - '60s vs. Sterling Homes today
Noted in a list of included features were tiled floors in the kitchen, bathroom, and vestibules. This wasn’t the ceramic tile we know and love today, however – this tile was linoleum-based and applied using a tar-like adhesive. Interestingly, in a 1964 outline of the Family Line specifications, asbestos tile was listed as a selling feature! Homeowners at the time preferred linoleum products for their durability against everyday use, although today we are far more enlightened about the use of asbestos in our tile.
The difference between tile options today (left) vs. the '60s (right)
In the 1960s, mahogany wood was in high demand. Mahogany doors were popular at the time, and although they were initially a higher-quality, more desirable door style, over time they needed to be replaced as declining quality led to warping.
“Over time these doors were built using third and fourth generation mahogany trees, leading to declining quality in the product, yet the price was going up," said Dale. “Today, we mostly use MDF doors, which allows more versatility in design and colours for a more affordable price.”
In the 1960s, what homeowners demanded in their countertops was the polar opposite to what we expect in our modern homes today. Back then, people absolutely loved our WilsonArt and laminate (Formica) standards, mainly due to its durability and easy maintenance. Over time, tastes changed and homeowners began looking for more elegant and luxurious finishes in their countertops. Stunning slabs of granite, quartz, and even solid surface countertops are in high demand today, offering a more sophisticated finish.
The difference between countertop options today (left) vs. the '60s (right)
Innovation: Light Years Apart
Even light switches went through innovative redesign when in 1962, silent mercury switches were introduced as an alternative to loud, clicking toggles. Now, Decora-style switches are the norm, and are also included in the Total Comfort Program.
Sixty years ago, homes included both a front and rear doorbell with alternate chimes to remove the guesswork of at which door you had a guest – but that’s as far as the technology stretched. Modern homes today are still constructed with a doorbell, and while it’s now only at the front door, it offers features that would have sounded like it was from the space-age back in 1960. Smart home technology has turned your everyday door chime into a miniature security system with motion detection, video, and audio all controlled via a convenient app on your phone. Know exactly who is at your door, and talk to them from anywhere via your smartphone.
Weiser door locks are one of the popular selling features that has remained on the list of standards from all that time ago. “It’s one of those trusted brands that homeowners know,” said Courtney.
Cosmetic finishes were not the only new home component that saw significant changes over the years. Construction processes have also made vast improvements, including insulation practices
In the 1960s, specifications included two-inch batt, R8 insulation in exterior walls and four inches of treated loose insulation within the ceilings amounted to an R20. Imagine these levels of insulation in Winnipeg’s -40-degree winters!
“Attics now have 14 to 16 inches of insulation, R50, and walls are minimum six-inch batt insulation, R20” said Dale. “We’ve made significant changes to how we insulate our homes over time, and our Total Comfort Program offers a high-performance R24 value in the basement walls. Homes are a lot more energy-efficient now due to these types of changes.”
Sixty years ago, a common selling feature for a new home was sealed living room windows, which was typically one large picture window, sealed and glazed on site.
“This is how it was presented in the specification sheets at the time,” said Courtney. “But now we’re using terminology such as ‘dual pane’, ‘triple pane’, and ‘Low-E’. The verbiage we use to present our window products has changed drastically since then.”
The materials used in the manufacture of windows has also changed over the past several decades, as well as the design for energy efficiency.
“We were using wood windows as the industry standard at the time,” said Dale, “but now with the high price of wood, and constant upkeep requirements for homeowners, we use a maintenance-free PVC. This is also why our window efficiency ratings have increased significantly.”
Found on a specification sheet from 1961/62 is a reference to a full-size, complete basement with adjustable steel posts. This meant your new home had a full-height, walkable basement rather than a small, unusable crawlspace. The basement wasn’t finished, but it was a new concept for introducing additional storage in your home or a cold space to store canned foods.
“The insulated values in those basements weren’t that good compared to today,” said Dale. “We were only required to go to grade-level with insulation, so the bottom four or five feet of the basement wall was only concrete. Basements at the time were only used for storage.”
Today, most homeowners convert their full-sized basements into finished living spaces, expanding on the existing square footage of their upper floors, and Sterling’s improved R-value in the basement walls further enhances the comfort level within that space.
Attached garages are commonplace in new homes today, but in the 1960s, homes typically didn’t have a garage at all. If they did, they’d be detached and accessible from a back alley, but they were often built after the fact by the homeowner.
“I remember the transition to garage door openers, and it wasn’t that long ago,” said Dale. “You had to tell the supplier in advance, otherwise you’d receive a garage door with a handle on it.”
Unique lifestyle amenities were offered in the ’60s to improve the perceived value of a new home
Built-in features like decorative make-up vanities, full-view mirrors, revolving Lazy Susans, and even a China cabinet in the dining room gave homeowners added functionality they may not have known they needed. Sixty years later, homeowners are drawn to much more modern lifestyle add-ons such as SmartKeys that prevent break-ins, Wi-Fi controlled thermostats, and a robust foundation membrane wrap that keeps moisture on the outside of your home. Coincidentally, these modern features are included in the Total Comfort Program.
Further to the in-home features that have both continued and evolved over time is the marketing materials used to sell these homes. The marketing language used in a variety of promotional sheets from the era leaned in on “architect designed”, “beautifully designed kitchen cabinets”, and “decorator vanities”, all falling within the theme of heightened expectations.
When you bought a Quality Construction home, you were buying into affordable luxury – not much has changed in that regard!
Today, a home built by any Qualico builder promises to achieve better value for your money. As a company, this means staying one step ahead of market changes, building codes, and modern lifestyles.
At Sterling Homes Winnipeg, a better value home means improved energy efficiency and conservation, better air quality, and an improved lifestyle. The technology to achieve this may have changed, but the grounding principles have remained true for over 60 years.
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