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What is a Sears Catalog Home?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett

A Sears catalog home is a kind of housing that was once sold by Sears Roebuck and Company, beginning in 1908 and ending in 1940. These buildings were sold through the company's catalog, which usually included pictures and floor plans of the house. When a person ordered a Sears catalog home through the mail, all the parts required to assemble a home were sent by rail and truck to the person's land. Then, often with friends and family, the house would be assembled according to the provided instructions. There were hundreds of Sears catalog home designs created while these homes were sold, and many are still standing, although they are not always obvious to the casual observer.

Most home building kits included an extremely large number of parts, sometimes upward of 30,000. Some items provided in the kit included nails, paint, and a lengthy instruction booklet. The kits always included the lumber required as well as roofing materials.

The Sears catalog offered extensive home building kits.
The Sears catalog offered extensive home building kits.

In addition to these parts, many homes also required additional plumbing, electrical, and gas fixtures. While it was possible to build a Sears catalog home without professional help, many people still required the assistance of more experienced construction workers and carpenters. In some areas, it was legally required to consult with a professional on certain aspects of home building.

Even at their least expensive, these homes were still quality constructions. Prefab housing often has a bad reputation as being of poor quality, but the Sears catalog homes were not shipped assembled. The kits included everything required to make the house, but not the house itself, and the materials were often of a high level of quality.

The actual catalog from which these homes were purchased was not the normal Sears catalog, but rather a specialty edition that sold only homes. The actual designs of the houses were quite varied and complex, many including two floors. As technology and available materials changed over time, the contents of the catalog changed to represent the thriftiest possible kit homes Sears could produce.

These structures were exceptionally popular because they were both sturdy and inexpensive. The average family could usually afford an attractive Sears catalog home, and that home would be perfectly livable. For many people, these homes remain something of a curiosity, and there are several historical groups interested in the locations and designs of these homes. All documentation regarding sales of these homes was lost in a fire, so hunting for these houses is also a hobby for some people. Looking for identifying features, such as special door hinges, can reveal a hidden Sears catalog home with some certainty.

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    • The Sears catalog offered extensive home building kits.
      By: twixx
      The Sears catalog offered extensive home building kits.