Recently, one of our inspectors had the opportunity to inspect a ‘House of Tomorrow’ from the late 40’s and early 50’s called a Lustron Home. The first time I walked into a Lustron home it felt like taking a step back in time. Many are intentionally filled with period decorations that definitely add to their uniqueness.
But what really makes a Lustron house so unique is its all-steel construction. Yes, it is completely made of metal – walls, ceiling, rafters, shingles, kitchen cabinets and bedroom closets. All Metal.
They really are fascinating buildings.
The immense housing shortage for soldiers returning from WWII spawned the idea of a prefabricated all-metal house. A house that could be delivered on a trailer at an economical cost. Construction usually lasted a couple of weeks and the house was ready to move in.
Des Moines was actually one of the first cities to receive these newfangled houses. There are a dozen or so Lustron Homes still in the area.
As fun as they are to walk through, inspecting an all-metal house certainly has its challenges and differences.
Like finding the main water shut-off valve. Because the units are built on a slab, the main line would typically be found in the utility room with the furnace and water heater. In this instance, the shut-off valve was actually located in the wall behind one of the 2 foot by 2 foot metal wall panels that make up the house.
Heating and cooling in a Lustron home is also unique. While there is a traditional furnace, there are no heating or cooling ducts. Instead, a space between the ceiling and the attic serves as a plenum or cavity for which the hot or cold air travels and radiates into each room below.
One of the many benefits of these enamel-painted steel houses is they tend to have minimal maintenance costs and upkeep. After 70 plus years, many of the homes have stood the test of time and look very similar to when they were built.
A few downfalls of this all-metal approach include limited renovation options. Moving walls is simply not an option. Additionally, a task as simple as hanging items on the wall becomes a little more difficult because you can’t simply put a nail in the wall. They also have a small footprint of about 1,000 square feet.
If you ever get a chance to see a Lustron home, I would highly recommend it.