House building has become something of a new interest for me lately. When we started shopping around, we honestly didn't look at much beyond floor plans and pricing. The finer points of construction are not something I'm particularly familiar with. Here in Florida, I see mostly the same thing... block construction with wood framing on top, drywall on the inside, stucco and other materials on the outside.
Certainly, all houses are not built equally, but I've done a fair amount of walking through half-finished houses, and I do see subtle differences in the way things are built. The variations aren't better or worse, for the most part, just different. One of the dudes at work is actually a registered home inspector, and shared interesting information about things to look for.
For example, there are different kinds of floor joists that have various pros and cons in terms of cost, possible span length, and squeaking. Our house will have "engineered" joists, which are a combination of 2x4's with plywood in between. Very different than the 2x8's my last house had, squeaky floors and all. It would seem like the trusses would be "best," but mostly they just seem the most expensive way to build a floor.
I was surprised when we drove up to the house site the other day and found most of the walls there, already assembled. Pre-fabricating the walls seemed like a shortcut to me, but as the dude at work pointed out, when machines cut the wood in a climate controlled space, it's a lot more precise than what you'd get with humans in the elements.
Honestly, the drywalling is the most interesting part to me. I don't know why. We got the rounded corners option, so anywhere a wall ordinarily comes to a point, we'll have a round edge. I don't think I've ever seen that before prior to the house we're renting, but it's a really nice touch.
Exteriors are so different here. In Cleveland, you could peal off a piece of siding and get to the insulation pretty easy. Here, the lower floor is concrete block, apparently because of bugs, mostly (both the destructive kind like termites and carpenter ants, as well as the annoying kind like the giant cockroaches). With stucco on the outside, there are no seams, which further helps with the bug issue. That's almost a fault in some areas, where the houses all look like boxes, but fortunately our builder (and others in the area) use a combination of materials to make for interesting front elevations that include wood siding, brick and rock.
With new construction picking up again down here, and in a lot of places around the country, apparently getting people in the skilled trades, especially electricians, is becoming difficult.
Construction is fascinating to me. I wish I knew how to do some of this stuff. The extent of my expertise will be mostly limited to using my drill to install cabinet hardware.