Not a Kit House

Boise has a surprising number of kit homes within the city borders, but this big fancy house at the end of Capitol Blvd is not one of them. When you look at kit homes, you need to think about what a kit home is. These were mail-order kits, that arrived by boxcar in 12,000 pieces. The wanna-be homeowner had 24 hours to get that boxcar unloaded and get its contents moved to the building site. Once there, the homeowner had four months to build the house, or the Sears mortgage he’d obtained would be null and void.

Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could built a kit home. That’s a pretty low threshold when you think about. These homes were designed for the novice, who’d built nothing fancier than a chicken coop in his life. On the 75-page instruction books that came with the house, even the proper spacing of those 750 pounds of nails was included. Sears knew who their market was: Men (and sometimes women) who were scrambling and striving to catch a piece of the American Dream.

Often people ask me if a big fancy house is a Sears kit home. This is a surprise. These were novice homebuilders and Sears made everything as easy as possible at every point and turn. Staircases were all very simple, with no complex twists or turns. Newel posts were straightforward and boxy. Doors came pre-mortised, ready to receive hinges and hardware. Plinth blocks (flat, square blocks) were used at complex corners to make joinery simpler.

When looking at a potential kit home, ask yourself, is this house simple enough to be a kit home? And if it looks too fancy to be a kit home, it probably is.

This is not a kit house

This is not a kit house. It is actually the state capitol in Boise, Idaho.