Identifying Sears Homes
The number one question I’m asked again and again – How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?
First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!
- Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic. Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.
- Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).
- Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”
- Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.
- Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.
- Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.
- Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.
- Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).
- Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.