The Story of Historic Sears Houses

historic sears home

Is It Time for These Unique Houses to Undergo Historic Home Renovation?

In the modern world, you can find anything you’d ever want or need on Amazon. But more than a century ago, people turned to the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog, where they found items as small as jewelry to as large as houses.

With nearly 450 architectural styles, including Folk Victorian and Craftsman homes, Sears had a house for everyone. And if they didn’t love everything about these Modern Homes catalog kits, customers could submit their own ideas, and Sears would send them what they needed to assemble their dream home.

Sears dove headfirst into the home construction market, eventually offering mortgage financing and even purchasing wood mills to get better, more affordable access to supplies for their Modern Homes kits.

This allowed them to diversify their offerings, resulting in about 75,000 home kits sold through the program, topping out at just over $6,000 for one of the most expensive kits, but with most ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.

Many still stand today as treasured artifacts of a time long past, but ready to make memories with a new family, perhaps after a historic home renovation project to bring it into the modern era.

How to Tell If You Live in a Sears Home

The Modern Homes catalog offered three lines of homes, with Honor Built being top-of-the-line. Standard Built homes were the mid-range line, and Simplex Sectional were simple designs meant for use as summer cottages. The Simplex Sectional line often did not accommodate modern plumbing or electricity.

There are a number of ways you can tell if your home came from the Sears catalog:

  • Floor plans.
    For homes that weren’t custom designed or tweaked, you can tell a Sears home from others based on documented floor plans.
  • Documentation.
    Sears sent receipts and construction documents with their kit. These are sometimes kept for posterity and passed among homeowners. You may also be able to find information in your county’s property records.
  • Framing style.
    Sears kits employed “balloon-style” framing, which made construction easier and only required one carpenter. This framing style used long, vertical 2x4s for the exterior walls. These studs extended uninterrupted from the sill on the foundation up to the roof. You may not know whether your home has this framing style until you’ve explored historic home renovation options.
  • Marks on lumber pieces.
    Sears pre-cut materials like joists, rafters, and wall studs. Each piece was stamped with a number to make identifying pre-cut pieces easy during construction.
  • Original drywall and asphalt shingles.
    If your older home was initially built using drywall instead of plaster and asphalt shingles instead of wood shake or tin, then your home could be from a Sears catalog. These materials were easier to install than their predecessors.

Take a look at these resources to help you determine whether you own a kit home, see floor plans, and to learn more:

Despite Modern Conveniences, It May Be Time to Hire a Historic Home Renovation Company for Your Sears Home

One reason Sears catalog houses rose in popularity was that they gave homebuyers access to the latest technology, rather than having to retrofit an older home. These modern conveniences at the time included indoor plumbing, electricity, and central heating.

But in 2024, there are far more modern conveniences you may expect in your home. To get these will require kicking off a historic home renovation project, either to address repairs or to completely remodel the home, while preserving its historical significance.

For example, you may want to:

  • Add an addition to expand existing square footage to better accommodate your family.
  • Rearrange rooms, such as relocating the kitchen to a different area of the home.
  • Use a spare bedroom to expand closet space.

To avoid construction confusion due to the unique way your home was built and to preserve its story as you start its next chapter, working with a Kansas City historic home renovation company rather than a general contractor is key.

Most general contractors only have a vague familiarity with these unique homes. A specialized team of craftsmen, however, understands the importance of preserving the integrity of your Sears home. Even if your home isn’t on a historic register or is noted as significant in the county where you reside, you’ll still want a careful, knowledgeable touch during your historic home renovation project.

Click here to get help starting your historic home renovation in Kansas City.