26 Amazing Facts About Your House You Never Knew
Everything has a story—even your thermostat.
The average person spends the better part of their life at home, but many people still know remarkably little about the space that occupies so much of their precious money and time. Whether you live in a sprawling Victorian or a classic mid-century ranch, there are countless amazing facts about your home you probably don’t know—and we’ve rounded up the most fascinating ones right here. So read on, and be astonished by your surroundings!
Your house has nearly a third of a million items in it
Sorry, Marie Kondo. According to one report, the average American home contains about 300,000 individual items, from furniture to office supplies.
That space under your lower cabinets serves a very specific purpose
There’s a reason your lower cabinets are lifted and protrude slightly—and it’s not just aesthetic. “It’s called a ‘toe kick’ and it’s there so you can stand closer to the countertop while working,” says Jason Pickens, designer and host of HGTV.com’s The Work Around. “Two inches may not seem like much, but it’s just enough when combined with your countertop overhang to keep you from having to lean your upper body forward while working. At the same time, it also raises the doors of the cabinets off the ground so they can swing over your toes.”
The cabinet under your sink isn’t really for storage
While you’ll likely find assorted cleaning products under the kitchen and bathroom sinks in most homes, that’s not what the cabinet is for. “It’s actually designed to be able to access the plumbing in case of leaks,” explains Robert Taylor of The Real Estate Solutions Guy.
And you might want to keep it that way—or risk damage in the future. “When used for storage, the plumbing gets bumped around and leaks occur,” he says. “Keeping a minimal amount of items under your sink reduces the opportunity for leaks and expensive kitchen and bathroom repairs.”
Your brass doorknobs may keep you healthy
The copper in brass has an antibacterial effect, meaning these types of knobs are less likely to harbor harmful bacteria than your average glass or wood ones. The only problem? Sweat can impair some of its antibacterial properties, so you should make sure you’re still cleaning those brass knobs and faceplates frequently.
Your toilet seat is probably cleaner than parts of your kitchen
Your toilet seat isn’t the dirtiest part of your home by a long shot. In fact, on University of Arizona study found that the average cutting board has two hundred times more fecal bacteria than the average toilet seat. That’s because when you use your knife to chop, you create tiny cuts in the board that are difficult to get clean. And when you slap a piece of raw meat onto the thing, the bacteria tend to get cozy and stick around.
Your staircase balusters are named after a popular fruit
Balusters—also known as spindles or stair sticks—are named after “balustra,” the Italian word for pomegranate flowers. While the spindles are typically less ornate today, balusters once had a more curvaceous and ornate shape at the top where they connected with the banister and were said to resemble the pomegranate plant’s red blossom.
Your garage is probably so cluttered your car doesn’t fit
Having a garage and having adequate space to park your vehicle aren’t necessarily one and the same. In one 2015 study conducted by Gladiator Garageworks, a quarter of Americans polled said their garages were so packed with stuff that there wasn’t room for their car.
The bricks on your home’s exterior have a very adorable name
“Most Tudor homes are primarily brick below and stucco and timbers above. Influenced by the arts and crafts movement, the brick is heavily textured, to give that handmade quality to the wall,” says Leslie Saul, founder of architecture and design firm Leslie Saul & Associates. “But did you know that the little pieces of brick that stick out in almost a random pattern, contributing so much to the textural quality of the exterior, are called ‘chiclets,’ like the chewing gum?”
Your home’s double faucets were intended to prevent illness
There’s a specific reason why your sink has two faucets. The cold water faucet was traditionally linked to the local water supply, which had been treated and was safe to drink, while the hot water faucet was typically connected to a tank stored in the homeowner’s attic, which would often be contaminated by bugs, rats, and random detritus, and, as such, was considered non-potable—and potentially hazardous.
Your roof-type depends on where you live
Ever wonder why your house in Syracuse has a different style roof than your friend’s in New Orleans? It’s because of where you live, as different types of roofing are suited for different climates. For instance, gabled, or peaked, roofs tend to work best in areas where there’s snow accumulation so that it doesn’t weigh down the roof, while in warmer, drier climates, you’re more likely to see flat roofs.
Your balcony has a Shakespearean nickname
Shallow balconies, or balconettes, are often referred to as Juliet balconies after the famous balcony scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Your thermostat’s placement makes a huge difference in its readings
Though many people assume that thermostats measure the temperature being released from your heating system, it actually measures the temperature where the dial is installed—and as such, it needs to be positioned carefully. “The thermostat is designed to read the temperature from where it is located,” says Marla Mock, VP of Operations at Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning.
“If it is placed near a heat source or window that allows a lot of light in, the reading can be incorrect, making the thermostat turn the system on and making the house uncomfortable.” Her recommendation? Keep it in a hallway and away from direct sunlight, windows, or doors.
Your door’s color may increase the value of your home
If your house is going on the market, you might want to freshen up your front door with some black paint first. According to a report from Zillow, homes with black or gray front doors fetched $6,271 more than anticipated.
Your mismatched kitchen may earn you more money
That matchy-matchy kitchen might not yield as many high offers as you’d expect. According to Zillow’s data, kitchens with upper and lower cabinets in different colors, or with an island in a different shade from the rest of the cabinetry, earned sellers an additional $1,547 on average.
Your bookshelves have a serious impact on your kid’s performance in school
If your home is filled wall-to-wall with books, your child is much more likely to be a more proficient reader than if there’s nary a bookshelf in site. According to one 2014 study, the number of books in a person’s home predicted their kid’s grade-level reading performance better than other predictors such as parents’ income or education levels. Students whose homes at least 100 books read one and a half grade levels above those whose homes had fewer books.
Your home’s top balcony has a sad backstory
Often known as “widow’s walks,” these Italianate-inspired rooftop platforms are thought to have been given their mournful name because they where were the wives of sailors would wait for their husbands’ ships to return, though many never did.
Your home may have come close to having plastic wallpaper
Prior to marketing their product as packaging material, Bubble Wrap founders Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding attempted to sell it as textured wallpaper. However, this use didn’t prove particularly popular, and they repositioned their approach before bringing the product to market.
Your new home is 30 percent larger than it would have been if it was built 40 years ago
You might feel cramped in your home, but odds are you’re living larger than your parents or grandparents did. The average square footage of an American home was a spacious 2,344 square feet in 2018. Back in 1973, the average home was only 1,660 square feet.
Your hardwood floors may change color over time
Depending on what type of hardwood is installed in your home, you may see some color variation over the years. Walnut, Brazilian cherry, and mahogany flooring tend to darken over time, while oak and maple floors are susceptible to lightening, especially if they’re exposed to sunlight on a regular basis.
Your home’s yellow exterior could cost you big when you sell
Before you put your yellow house on the market, it might be worth calling a painter. Yellow exteriors mean an average of $3,408 less in a seller’s pocket.
Your textured plaster walls were made using real flowers
The textured interior plaster in many older homes might have been created using a surprising technique: pressing flowers into it. “The interior plaster was textured, very often in what was called a rose pattern…the plasterer actually pressed a rose into the plaster to create the effect,” says Saul.
Your pastel bathroom is thanks to a former first lady
If you have a light pink bathroom in your house, Mamie Eisenhower may be to blame. The former First Lady was so passionate about pink that she redecorated her bathroom in her Gettysburg home almost entirely in the color—and, following in the trendsetter’s footsteps, many other builders and decorators did the same. The pale pink Mrs. Eisenhower preferred even came to be known as “Mamie pink.”
Your vinyl floors could be the biggest fire hazard in your house
If you’re trying to save money or create a retro look by using vintage vinyl sheet flooring, you might want to reconsider. According to the remodelers at Aquarius, “Older sheet vinyl flooring is great on price but can actually be harmful. It poses big fire risks and releases toxic gases, as well as being hard to extinguish.”
You’ll likely stay in your home for quite some time
While, before 2007, most people only stayed in their homes for six years on average, that number has increased significantly since then. According to the National Association of Realtors, by 2016, the average homeowner was sticking with their house for a decade.
Your radiator doesn’t actually radiate heat
The term “radiator” is a misnomer. Despite its name, radiators don’t actually radiate much heat. Instead, they use convection to keep your home warm.
Your stately Victorian home may have been built from a box
That stunning Victorian you live in might’ve been assembled like your average dollhouse. “Many Victorian homes are actually ‘kit homes,’” says Jon Beer, a contractor specializing in historic restorations and owner of Jon Beer Contracting in Newburgh, New York. “[Between 1908 and 1940], Sears & Roebuck listed homes that could be bought and assembled for as little as $6,700.”
“Many styles and models were available at the time. Most people find that surprising, but when you visit similar (and often identical) homes in a historic neighborhood or district, you’ll find that the mantles, banisters, molding, doors, and windows are all the same. It’s because everything was bought from a kit and built right on site.” And for more fascinating insight into the world around you, check out these 100 Awesome Facts About Everything.