“This Old House Has Good Bones” – Please DON’T.

If you want to have a meaningful conversation with an architectural historian, never ever never let this phrase pass your lips: “This house has good bones.”

It’s nonsensical, and frankly, I’m not sure what it’s even intended to express.

Sometimes, when I’m trapped in a doctor’s office, and I’m forced to watch a whole lot of HGTV (Houses Getting Totally Vandalized), I hear this dreaded phrase.

If we’re going forward with the “houses as living creatures” analogy, houses are probably more exoskeletal. In other words, they wear their skeletons on the outside, like roaches and ants and bedbugs, and I really don’t like comparing houses to roaches and ants and bedbugs.

Houses might be “structurally sound” and they might be “exceptionally well built” and they might have “dimensional framing lumber” or perhaps they’re “solid and strong” and maybe the framing members are of exceptionally good quality, but houses do not have good bones.

Next time you feel compelled to tell someone, “That house has good bones,” please bite your tongue, take a deep breath and instead say, “This house has an astonishingly sturdy exoskeletal structure.”

Or maybe, best of all, just say, “This is a fine old solid house.”

All of us old house lovers will thank you.

Read about the “open floor plan” and the downfall of society here.

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Good bones

If we're going to drag this analogy on down the road, it would have to be said that houses are exoskeletal, which means that they can not possibly have "good bones."



Here is a student with "good bones" but will he excel in class? Probably not.



This house probably has "a good exoskeletal structure" but I would highly recommend against its purchase, because it's got a bit of a tilt.



Although a classic example of balloon framing, this house does not have "good bones." It has vertical framing members that appear to be sturdy and strong. And it's going to need some stainless steel appliances. And ceiling fans. And other stuff.


Read about the “open floor plan” and the downfall of society here.



  1. Jen

    “Houses Getting Totally Vandalized”. YES! That network is unbearable to us. *shudder*

  2. Jenny

    “Exoskeleton” will have me chuckling for days!

    Stainless steel appliances will really complement the many “unobstructed views” in the house pictured at the bottom. 🙂

  3. Willie

    I think I have what’s left of a Magnolia or it’s closest cousin.

    I do know that it is a Sears House, or so I was told by the grandchild of the original owner.

    I will send pictures if you email me.


    Love your website!