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Is That A Sears Kit Home? 9 Easy Ways to Tell

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!

The nine easy signs follow:

1) 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.

2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).

3) 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.”

4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.

5) 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.

6) 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.

7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.

8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).

9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.

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Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Numbers

The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.

The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Homes

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.

"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.

Ephemera

Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.

Haa

Plumbing fixtures - such as this bathtub - can provide clues, as well. I've found this "SR" (Sears Roebuck) stamp on bathtubs, sinks and toilets. On the sink, it's found on the underside, and on toilets, it's found in the tank, near the casting date.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

Close-up of the columns.

Close-up of the columns.

And in the flesh...

And in the flesh...

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.

Sears Mitchell in Elgin, Illinois.

Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.

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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Auburn in Halifax, NC

Sears Auburn

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Send Rose an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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  1. October 23rd, 2010 at 10:52 | #1

    That was a great period for America. Super opportunity for all willing to invest ’sweat equity’ in a dream home or other enterprise. Too bad that era is gone. Will Americans ever enjoy the equivalent of the ‘good old days’ again? Probably not! Way to much government and way too many lawyers!

  2. Richard Tuttle
    April 3rd, 2011 at 06:08 | #2

    I live in what iI think is a 1930 Winona in Glendale, Ohio (near Cincinnati) but it is different than the 1921 Winona.

  3. Donna Bakke
    April 3rd, 2011 at 20:23 | #3

    @Richard Tuttle
    Hey Richard-

    I’m Donna and I’am a Cincinnatian who is hooked on Sears homes. I looked at your house on the Auditors website and it doesn’t really resemble a Winona. What makes you think it is?

    Rose’s reply: Richard, Donna is *always* right about this stuff! :) I’ll look at the house later today, but Donna’s question is a good one. How did you come to think it’s a Sears House?

  4. Bett
    October 25th, 2011 at 15:41 | #4

    I had been left some literature years back about my home possibly being a catalog home. I had hoped but a neighbor said that my home was built long after the qualified time.

    In recent research I discovered not only was he wrong, I have what I believe is the Randolph. My home was built according to tax records in 1930 and is identical. I can only view the floor plans for the main floor and would love to hear from anyone who has more information on this. I have the hallmark staircase blocks and the markings on the lumber and it appears to be the original outside lighting. Further than that is difficult as I’m not doing any remodeling. There is the chimney door in the basement with the word “sykes” on it.

    Again, would love to know more.

  5. Brenda Matt
    October 26th, 2011 at 09:25 | #5

    @Richard Tuttle
    I am seeking more information on identifying my home which was built in the 30’s and I believe is The Winona. I have a book Houses By Mail with a picture of it and the floor plan which is identical. The porch has been closed in and the original sink, toilet and bath tub replace. Also all of the exposed lumber in the basement has been painted over. Could someone help me with this? Thanks!

  6. Kristin
    March 27th, 2012 at 10:48 | #6

    @Donna Bakke
    Hi Donna,

    Hearing how great you are at identifying these is encouraging! Is there a way I could contact you directly? I live in a home built in 1930 in IL that someone suggested seems like a “kit home”.

  7. Tom
    September 12th, 2014 at 07:42 | #7

    I found a box of HOMART Insulating Siding in the attic of my garage.

    I am curious if there is asbestos in this product. Anyone know? Thanks

  1. August 18th, 2010 at 08:59 | #1
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  3. September 22nd, 2010 at 09:07 | #3
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