News

Blaze destroys Eichler home on Edgewood Drive

Fire apparently caused by 'static shock'

A fire that began when a worker rubbed an interior wall with his hand, creating static, destroyed a three-bedroom home on Edgewood Drive in Palo Alto and sent the worker to the hospital with a burned arm Tuesday afternoon.

The fire began at 2:06 p.m., at 1930 Edgewood Drive, near Greer Road. It took about an hour for firefighters from Palo Alto and Menlo Park to douse the flames, while smoke billowed out to the surrounding blocks.

The fire appeared to have started when a cabinet worker rubbed the wall with his hand, creating a static spark, said Mark Thomas, who was also working inside the Eichler-style house when the fire erupted. Within minutes, the flames spread throughout the whole house, Thomas said.

"I heard 'fire' and I reached for the water hose, but 30-40 seconds later, I saw the smoke build-up and I just had to run," Thomas said.

The wall had solvent on it, which accelerated the flames, Bloom said. The house was completely engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

"The fire appeared to have started by solvent vapors flashing," Fire Deputy Chief Roger Bloom said. "These Eichlers — when they burn, they burn fast, especially when an accelerant is used."

The worker, whose name wasn't available Tuesday, was taken to Stanford Hospital with a burned right arm, Bloom said.

Because the structure was in danger of collapsing, firefighters attacked the flames from the outside, Bloom said.

The house had been undergoing renovations since March and workers were expecting to complete the remodeling process within a month, said house owner Anna Messner. She was staying at an apartment building in Palo Alto while the house was undergoing renovations. She said she wasn't sure whether her insurance company would cover the fire damage.

"We have to investigate this," Messner said. "I really don't know what we're going to do."

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2008 at 6:47 pm

Eichlers, as originally built, are tinder boxes. Other than the Sheetrock/gypsum wall between the living space and garage, and the heating unit, all the interior walls consist of 1/4 inch wood. I saw one on Greer in the circles neighborhood burn down to the slab in twelve minutes.

If you own one, gut the interior and put up Sheetrock. It's VERY cheap insurance. The wood interior may look cool but it'll try to kill you one day.


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2008 at 8:10 pm

Eichlers. The cheapest post war suburban sprawl housing ever built. Not to mention the energy inefficiency and fire hazards in the construction materials.

Hulkamania has got it right on this.

Eichlers in the 50's = K.B. Homes in the 2000's..... Cheapest construction possible.... Reminds me of:

Web Link


What I don't understand is how so many think these have some historic importance and should be preserved?

Is it to get variances when applying for remodels? Can someone with an Eichler give me a clue?


Like this comment
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Why did they soak the walls in solvent?
Looks like the contractor will be doing a rebuild for free.
Just the touch of a hand sets off a wall fire?? I would like to see the Mythbusters recreate this one...


Like this comment
Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 17, 2008 at 2:25 am

Eichlers were mass produced and were probably the lowest cost (cheapest)houses built at that time with 2 bathrooms. Low cost construction was the goal in every way.

No insulation anywhere, walls and roof. At some point there may have been installed 2x4'x 1" insulation on the roof. Maybe a R 2 or 3.
30 lb tarpaper as outside barrier. Highly flammable.
Cheap 1/4 in Phillipine Mahogany with flammable glue. And an oiled surface or equivalent.
The hot water tank in the garage in the front and the two bathrooms in the rear. It takes about 2 gallons of water, cold into the water heater, to get any hot or warm water in the rear bathrooms. This means to get hot or warm water to wash your face and hands you have to heat up at least two gallons of cold water.

Actually its the land that costs 1,000,000 $$ that the houses sit on that makes them sell for this million $$. Where allowed they are torn down and regular houses are built.

The actual 2x4 framing is of high quality. The beams are attached to the 4x4's with rebar holding them together, which is ok I guess.

The concrete slab and foundation are marginal in many ways.

The 2x8 T&G roofing was "Green" lumber and shrunk when it dried and there are cracks in the grooves so that "dirt" and bugs on the top of these can come down into the rooms. Need Caulking to prevent this.
Also plants come thru the top of the walls where the roof grooves are open for them to come thru.

The large floor to ceiling glass walls are extremely dangerous as it is not safety glass and will shatter into sharp shards.

Realators "Hype" and owners "Hype" have made them popular.

I understand that Eichler was a chicken farmer and would guess that the chicken coops were built in a similiar manner. He lived in a Frank Lloyd Right house for a time and probably thought he could put in big windows in a chicken house and make a modern type ,cheap, house.


Like this comment
Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 17, 2008 at 7:09 am

Another thread touches off a series of rants against Eichlers. If you don't like them, don't live in one.

LTR, you must know Eichler didn't design the houses himself, he had very well respected architects design them because he liked the Wright house he was living in. That they have flaws is a given. The layout and design are what people like. Fascinating how intensely some people hate them.

I am just glad that the residents of the one on Edgewood were not living in the house at the time. Please note that the owner was actually attempting to renovate the place. An Eichler, redone in solid materials, could be pretty great to live in.


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Posted by MIDTOWN MAINTENANCE OF PALO ALTO
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2008 at 8:51 am

MIDTOWN MAINTENANCE OF PALO ALTO [midtownmaint@yahoo.com]HAS WORKED ON MANY EICHLER HOMES AND THE ORIGINAL CONCEPTS ARE EXCELLENT, MAYBE OUT OF CODE TODAY..BUT WITH A LITTLE UPGRADING...THEY ARE STILL PERFECTLY LIVABLE


1 person likes this
Posted by steve san jule
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:21 am

my father was one of the founders of eichler homes....a great buy for post world war 2 homeowners. i grew up in an eichler....3730 redwood circle. the best home ever!!!! yes, they had some flaws.... especially the radiant heat in the floors. but, what a comfortable place to live. had the three bedrooms and one of the first to have two bathrooms. that was one of my fathers marketing ideas. the design was family friendly...everything open with no imposing walls. our house did burn to the ground...in 7 minutes. but, we just rebuilt....according to the writer that lives in charleston meadows the land is worth millions. of course, in the 1950s that was not the case. eichler homes afforded everyone an opportunity to live in a small university town....where no one locked their doors and ,as a kid, you could walk to school. i feel very fortunate to have had that experience.


Like this comment
Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:24 am

Yikes! Hand rubbing? Is this possible? How dry WAS the cold snap yesterday? There was still quite a bit of moisture in the air. Hope the home owner checked that the contractor carried insurance in case it turns out he carries some liability and workmans comp. For the injured employee.

Eichlers ARE cold in the winter, hot in the summer, but are cool houses regardless. Especially if you lighten up the God awful paneling in the 50's version. When we bought one in the 70's the fire dept. told US 7 minutes from fab to slab!


Like this comment
Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:38 am

Boy Steve, I wish I could talk to you...we live in an Eichler not too far from where you grew up and the radient heat has degraded to hot spots only. Very inefficient and expensive to run. We caved yesterday and put the heat on to 58, but the minute it warms back up to 40 at nite off it will go again! We look like Eskimo's who live in wooden igloo's! I owe my feet to Uggs!

My parents bought one of the 'new' Eichlers back in the 70's when it was brand spanking new, not even finished yet. They were in their 40's. They love it to this day, and one thing that was not thought about when they were younger but has proven to be a Godsend now is that now they are older as are their friends, the flat, open design of the house makes navigation by foot, walker or wheelchair a breeze! Very friendly comfortable home to grow up (11 teenage escape exits including the garage and front door) and totally an easy home in which to get around and take care of as we age!


1 person likes this
Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:43 am

I just re-read your comment. So YOU guys are the 7 minute house in the fire dept.and burning Eichler legend...


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:46 am

I agree, Eichlers are of incredibly cheap quality and I can't stand it. I dislike the lack of insulation, the hollow doors, the breeze coming through the closed windows at night. And the reason they have the huge glass walls is so the house feels bigger because they are mostly less than 2000sf. I think most people do not willingly choose to live in Eichlers. However, I wanted to live in North Palo Alto and could only afford this house. The community is more important than the house. Basically anything here is "liveable" if you compare it to living in other countries.


Like this comment
Posted by Architect
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 17, 2008 at 11:19 am

Eichler did a few high end houses and in these he used copper piping for the in-floor heat. These are still in working order and very comfortable to this day. And things have come full circle and in-floor heat is the heating method of choice for high end residential projects today. Many of his less expensive houses were build after WW2 when there was a copper shortage. Steel pipe was used, which corroded shut after a few decades (giving in-floor heat a bad name for many people).

As for Eichlers being fire prone, I recommend removing the wood paneling and using gypsum wall board (Sheetrock is one brand) instead. If you like the look of the paneling you can still buy the exact same stuff quite cheaply and add it on top of the gyp board, which is a very good fire retarder.

Eichlers are historic because they represent a period in architecture where houses were being opened up to incorporate the outdoors into the interior living experience. Architects were designing expensive houses like this for private clients. Eichler had the vision of producing this kind of living experience, quintessentially Californian, to every one. Traditional houses at the time were closed in boxes. To get to the back yard, you typically had to go through the kitchen door. We live quite differently today and Eichler is one of the reasons why.


Like this comment
Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2008 at 11:27 am

Cool informative comment! My parents heat DOES still work fine. To New Yorkers moving West Eichlers epitomized California living!


Like this comment
Posted by Trukadero
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 17, 2008 at 11:32 am

Thanks to Architect for elevating the dialogue on here.

My family lives in an Eichler that we bought and renovated over the last year. We've never been happier in a house though I understand it may not be for everyone.

The article about them burning so quickly gives me pause and has motivated me to re-check the batteries in the smoke alarms tonight.

Happy holidays PAO readers.


Like this comment
Posted by Lori
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2008 at 11:54 am

Quite right, Architect! Thank you for the input.


Like this comment
Posted by Ellie Gioumousis
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 17, 2008 at 12:46 pm

When we moved to Palo Alto in the mid sixties we ended up buying an Eichler because it was practically the only house available at the time.
I soon found out about the problems when summer came and the house heated up to unbearable high temperatures in the summer and was cold in the winter even with the heat on.
Luckily we hear about a course being given at San Jose State on energy efficiency and and how to measure it and improve it. I carefully calculated all the surfaces of the house and what the heat loss was for each surface.
My husband was convinced that it was the windows but my calculations revealed that by far the greatest loss (and gain in the summer) was the roof with the windows quite a bit less ins second place and the huge uninsulated wall separating the house from the garage a distinct third.

When our tar and gravel roof need we replacing we put 2 1/2 inches of Styrofoam on the roof and protected it by nailing plywood over all of it. It was almost unbelievable what a difference that made. The house was cool and comfortable in the summer and much warmer in the winter. This has gotten to be quite common now with spray on foam and other insulation and Eichlers are now much more comfortable and energy efficient than they were back then. WE were told by the contractor that 2 1/2 inches was overkill and now necessary but with in a few years 3 and 4 inches became the norm.

Someone made a comment last week that the older apartment houses in town have little or no insulation and there is no incentive for either the owner or the tenants to improve them. ?The writer called for the city to offer incentives to add insulation to them. There are many ways to do this now and some are relatively cheap to do and the energy benefits are very significant. If the city is really serious about global warming giving incentives for this improvement would be very cost effective.


Like this comment
Posted by live here
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 17, 2008 at 1:19 pm

We used to live in a ranch home also in Palo Alto and we hated it. The lot was long and narrow and it felt like living in a trailer. Only one room could see the backyard and that was the kitchen. We hated it.

After 2 years in that house, we decided to move and due to budget constraints, we weren't picky... It was very competitive to buy a house at that time and we just wanted a good location and it turned out to be an Eichler house.

What we've observed is after the move, our quality of life significantly got better. We honestly love our Eichler house and plan to stay here for the rest of our lives God willing. The "bringing the outside in" concept really works for us as we are nature-lovers and we also have young kids whom we enjoy seeing playing in the backyard. The open floor plan is also more accommodating to family get-togethers. Lastly on a personal level, I also appreciate the very woody feel of the house as it brings back fond memories of the houses I stayed in in Southeast Asia.


Like this comment
Posted by gordon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2008 at 1:38 pm

I've always thought that the people who so adamantly diss Eichlers

are just jealous

of what they can't understand

so they make fun

but secretly suspect

they're missing out

on something amazing


Like this comment
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2008 at 1:40 pm

I lived in an Eichler in Walnut Creek and absolutely loved it! If I were still in it, I would add insulation and sheetrock and replace the windows. But, you know I had to do a lot of that in the Brown & Kaufman house the followed it. If you live in a place long enough and want to "green" it up, you have to do these things. The open and airy design of the Eichlers is unbeatable, and when that kind of heating works, it is the best.


Like this comment
Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Eichlers are historic because of their design not their construction. Please do not confuse these two aspects. In fact Eichler's designs are being reincarnated because they suit so well modern life . It's a sustainable eminently practical design (open plan and no ceremonial rooms ).
For those who are a little short on knowledge think of this: only a few years ago Windsor castle was destroyed fast by fire despite being extraordinarily built.

It's not the materials (mahagony) that are culprits here. Eichlers burn very fast because the walls are "chimney" walls, that is 2 adjacent walls will have a gap between which acts as a chimney pulling fire and spreading it.
The poster who mentioned replacing the wood (which is meant to act as paneling as well as divider) with stucco errors twice. Doing so would not delay fires for more than a few (very few perhaps 2) minutes and would leave the Eichler as vulnerable as before because the chimeny walls would not have been eliminated.
All other complains about eichlers can be solved sometimes easily. A friend of mine lives in one and I find the elements of design to be superb and ecologically sound. If only the fake style mcmansions could emulate them.

You may not like Eichlers. Very few of us have the aesthetic refinement to make style observations of any value anyhow. But one has to be honest even about what we don't like.
Eichlers were and are a great study in design and sustainability.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Oh no. Windsor Castle was not destroyed by fire. Windsor Castle is built of stone and brick and the integrity of the Castle was not destroyed. Much of the art treasures, furniture and other moveables were salvaged before the fire took hold. The Castle was seriously damaged, but it was repairable damage and the work is being or has been done to restore the Castle.

Brick and stone buildings which are common in Europe do not get destroyed by fire. They may get gutted, but they are not destroyed. Wooden buildings of any type or design can be destroyed by fire. I remember many times seeing pictures of homes destroyed by fire storms in California and all that remains are the brick fireplaces standing strong amidst a pile of debris. I myself have relatives in Britain whose home was seriously damaged by fire. Most of their furniture and belongings were destroyed, but the house still stood and was repairable fairly easily with the insurance money.

Remember the story of the 3 little pigs. The houses made of sticks and straw were blown down, but the house made of bricks stood firm.
It would be a wise thing to remember when building a home as to which material is the most fire retardant.

Now, which would survive better in an earthquake is a completely different kettle of fish!!


Like this comment
Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Parts of Windsor castle were indeed destroyed by the 1992 fire. The fire destroyed nine of the main state rooms and raged for over 14 hours despite the castle stone walls (and some cavity walls- they don't burn, they "explode").
My argument conveyed that even incredible fire proof (or so it was thought) buildings (for example the Bellevue hotel Philadelphia) can and do burn, not to the ground but it makes not much difference as to the final bill and to the danger to people. Residential construction is always weaker on the fire proofing than institutional buildings but Eichlers with cavity walls or ANY building with cavity walls is at special danger. It can be successfully fixed at a modest cost. This has nothing to do with the Eichler design. It's just construction, but not even poor construction. Eichlers are "unfinished" in many ways. Let's "finish" them and preserve them. They have awfully good bones.

Btw, resident it may surprise you than many houses in Europe are indeed wooden framed and many totally built of wood as they are in the US (brick in the midwest and parts of New England and the Mid atlantic and stone in the parts of the Mid-atlantic, etc). I don't know where Resident got the idea that brick houses do not get destroyed by fire, but they do. That is because of their framing. So do some stone houses by the way. It all depends on their framing skeleton.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2008 at 5:15 pm


During the latter half of the 20th century Windsor Castle became one of Britain's major tourist attractions.On 20 November 1992, a fire which began in the Queen's private chapel (between "C" and "D" on plan) quickly spread. The fire raged for 15 hours until it had destroyed nine of the principal state rooms, and severely damaged over 100 more—in all the larger part of the upper ward. One-fifth of the floor space of the castle was damaged—an area of 9,000 square metres. The restoration programme was not complete until 1997, 70% of it funded by the decision to open to the public for the first time the state rooms of Buckingham Palace. The total cost of repairing the damage was £37 million The restoration was undertaken at no additional cost to the British taxpayer. So successful was the restoration and faithfulness to the original plans and decorations that the distinction between old and new is hard to detect. Although some of the rooms that had been gutted by the fire were completely redesigned in a modern interpretation, the new design is very organic and of the Gothic style, called "Downesian Gothic" after the rooms’ architect Giles Downes, of Sidell Gibson Partnership. These rooms include the new Private Chapel, the new Lantern Lobby and the new ceiling of St George's Hall. The last is made of green-oak, a technique used in mediæval times. However, what is less obvious to the eye is that the restoration work resulted in significant improvements, particularly to the arrangements of the public rooms and the service quarters.
from Wikipedia


Narnia

A fire which raged for over 15 hours and destroyed 9 rooms and damaged 100 more, sounds like the brick and stone does a lot better than eichlers which burn to the slab in 7 minutes. 15 hours enables a lot of time for removal of interior furnishings and allows plenty of time for firefighters to arrive. You are trying to compare oranges to apples.

Also please note that the renovations are now completed and visitors are unable to distinguish between the old and the new.

Btw, I never said that wooden framed houses didn't exist in Europe, only that brick and stone buildings were common. These type of houses are not built without wood. The wood is used for the upper floors and roofing apexes, and these do get destroyed. My point is that the integrity of the building can withstand a fire.

Your initial post gave the impression that Windsor Castle was destroyed by fire and is no more. That erroneous impression was what prompted me to post. Windsor Castle is still home to the Royal Family and is still a working castle and tourist attraction.


Like this comment
Posted by suspicious
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2008 at 5:35 pm



The Rags the contractor used started the fire, happens a lot when not stored correctly.
Im sorry, but hand rubbing the wall creating static. someones lying.


Like this comment
Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Resident, you mean WC walls (not al of them ) were left standing, all else was consumed. (by the way I don't get my information from wikipedia) The point is that, no building is fire proof though certainly institutional buildings are a lot more fire proof than residential ones by and large. Bt even stone , brick and concrete will collapse when the underlying supports melt (just think of 19/11).

With a flammable substance soaking the rags the contractor used any flicker of light will ignite a quick spreading fire. Even somebody switching a light will do that. So says my brother who is the fire commissioner to 250,000 people. Then the Eichler chimney walls,
and dry wood skeleton will do the rest fast.




Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Narnia

I checked the official Royal residences and other similar websites and found no mention of the fire. Google put me on the wikipedia website, but otherwise I would have had to go back to newspaper articles to find out more details. Which websites gave you your information?



I am not disagreeing with you. The damage was extensive, but mainly to upper floors and since the floors are made of wood, that is obviously what contributed to the damage.

I just wanted to point out to all that read Town Square that Windsor Castle still exists. The damage has been repaired and it is still open for business. When you stated that it had been destroyed by fire you may have inadvertently given the impression that it was completely destroyed which is not the case.

I agree that all buildings can suffer damage or complete destruction from fire. Some will take longer to burn and some will burn at hotter temperatures, but fire, once it takes hold and unless there is knowledgeable firefighting techniques used, fire will destroy all buildings one it gets a foothold. The underlying message must be to take all of this into account when choosing building materials and architectural styles.


Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2008 at 1:41 am

Architect,

Thank you for your comments. I'd always wondered why the radiant heat was such a problem.

I don't live in an Eichler, but I do like their flow and their emphatic style--you just don't see that in most mass-produced houses. I think it's the very strength of that style that creates such a love/hate relationship with them. I mean, if you like a traditional or Victorian look, you're not going to be happy in an Eichler--Eichlers don't accommodate non-modern aesthetics well. Older furniture styles generally look *terrible* in them.

But if you like the clean lines of modern, then an Eichler is a well-designed exemplar of that mid-century aesthetic. And the use of space is so efficient. There's a lot of thought put into that--the big windows in the back give an open feeling, yet at the same time, the clerestory windows in the bedrooms maximize wall space of the relatively small bedrooms.

You really notice the effective design when you see other homes of the same size--the Sterling Garden slabs with their long, narrow hallways down the center; or odd little houses built in the 40s and 50s with galley kitchens so small that you can't actually open the kitchen door if you have a washer.

I think part of reason people hate Eichlers though is that they are a large part of Palo Alto's more affordable housing stock. So a lot of people live in them without liking the style and, thanks to the lunacy of housing prices, not being able to afford a home that *is* more in keeping with their style.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2008 at 8:23 am

Eichlers are not the only relatively cheap homes in Palo Alto. I live in a Williams & Burroughs; there are also Brown & Kaufman and Sterns & Forster Homes (which look like Eichlers). All these houses built in the 1950s are wood framed and burn easily.


Like this comment
Posted by Eichler owner
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 18, 2008 at 10:46 am

An Eichler is the most comfortable, warm in winter, cool in summer, house we've ever lived in. Our copper-piped radiant heating has heated it evenly and comfortably for over 50 years. Increased roof insulation and outside trees keep it cool in summer, fortunately. The excellent overall design (Anshen and Allen, architects) adapts for young children, teenagers, elders in walkers and wheelchairs, and makes sitting inside watching the birds and squirrels a delight. I wouldn't want to live in a box with punched holes for windows ever again. The original cork floor still looks pretty good after all this time, permitting children's dropped dishes to bounce, and are comfortable under foot. Insulating the tar and gravel roof has improved the indoor climate, and I'm sure insulation in the walls would help, as would double-paned windows, but they're expensive. Living in an architect-designed house totally changed our quality of life... truly indoor, outdoor as one. A happy, long-time Eichler home-owner.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2008 at 11:10 am

I also live in an Eichler which we bought, not because we really wanted an Eichler, but because our particular house fitted many of the other criteria we had on our list, namely location and living space within our price range. The biggest thing we had against Eichler's is their curb appeal and the fact that there is no way to see out the front of the house, which would give me a claustophobic feeling of being cut off from the world. So our Eichler actually has windows which look out onto the front so I can watch for my children coming home from school, see if the roadsweeper has been yet or the recyling collected or look out and see what the noise is, all without going outside.

The biggest problem we have is the odd shaped windows which are impossible to get shades or curtains for because of the sloping roof. This means that our blinds and curtains start at the top of the sliding doors and there are windows over the top which let in the sun and blind us while preparing and eating dinner in the kitchen.

Our heating is working fine, except that it takes too long to warm the house when initially switched on and on the days when it gets really warm outside and we don't need the heat, it then takes too long to cool down without having to open windows, which in turn makes the house too cool by the time you want to have the heat back. Consequently, we use electric fan heaters almost as much as our heating as that is much more immediate.

The other disadvantage is the way noise carries from living room to family room to kitchen due to the fact that the walls are only 7 feet high and the ceilings are 9 - 11 feet approx. If someone in one room is watching tv or playing a video game, it can be heard all over the living rooms and it makes conversation difficult in the adjoining rooms and all phone calls have to be taken in a bedroom.

What we really do like is the fact that our home has no odd corners or funny shapes. Our rooms are all rectangular and there is very little non usable space, although we do have a corridor by our bedrooms which is minimal lost space as it also houses our laundry area.

The design is functional and well thought out, and provided we can see out the front of the house, our ugly Eichler is not too bad.


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Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 18, 2008 at 4:22 pm

About the flimsy protection from heat and cold. My family moved to California in 1957 and I moved to Palo Alto in 1977. During our sojourn in California I have come upon the info, I don't know where, that in the '50's California's cheap energy was a great selling point. I remember my mom gassing up the car at $.29/gallon. But there was also an assertion by Pacific Gas & Electric or the Chamber of Commerce that natural gas was abundant in California, and they forsaw giving it away as the energy of the poor. No one in California would ever need to worry about being cold; and the fine climate precluded anyone's being too warm for very long. This probably sounded great to the refugees from northeastern winters who have come crowding into California.


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Posted by Andy Anderson
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2008 at 5:39 pm







Do you have a cheap kind of fire insurance - the kind that puts out a small fire before it gets out of control, or at least slows it down till the fire department arrives? A medium-sized five pound dry chemical stored-pressure extinguisher costing less than $50 - in the front door closet where you can grab it on your way out - may often times put out a fire before it becomes an inferno. I keep one in the
front hall and another upstairs, plus one in the garage and one in the trunk of each car. I pick each one up occasionally and roll it roughly on its side to keep the powder stirred up; Commercial places are required to have them emptied, the powder screened and repressurized, but I consider that overkill. On my job, I rescued a 2.5 pounder from the trunk of a sedan where it had been left undisturbed for ten years. I used it for a demo and it emptied flawlessly, putting out a fuel-oil fire in a large tray with extinguishment powder left over. Just make sure before you try to use it that you have a clear escape path - and shout FIRE! !.







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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2008 at 10:09 pm

I have owned two Eichlers (not in Palo Alto). I think each one has its individual quirks, benefits, and problems because I have "followed" Eichlers, Eichler real estate, etc for some years. You cannot generalize about all Eichlers. I would neither hate nor love all Eichlers.

My small Eichler w/foam roof: no temperature problems. Didn't even occur to us! Did have a leak in the radiant, had to dig to fix. That was not fun. Small house 1,100 sq ft, truly seemed larger owing to sloping roof and floor plan. Did fine in '89 quake when other properties/businesses in Cupertino had broken glass/other damage (we did have everything thrown out of kitchen cupboards and broken jelly jars and the like)

Medium-sized atrium model: just under 2,000 sq ft, seemed larger than that, major temperature problems owing to orientation and all that single-pane glass; put max insulation under the t&g roof when re-roofing (unpleasant hassle to do this type of roof); no discernible difference. Note: relatives from out of area still reflect upon how much they admired this house - for its artistry

BTW 'Best of British' to Resident


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Posted by jack
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 24, 2008 at 12:56 pm

All homes will burn down 7 min if it is constucted out of wood because most homes have a subfloor that is wood. An eichler is dangerous cos the ceiling is all wood but the floor is cement.


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Posted by Kevin
a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2008 at 1:00 pm

I lived in an Eichler and had a kitchen fire and the fire was not as bad as one would think because i had tile floor and the wall were sheetrock. The only damgae I had was the ceiling.


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Posted by Happy_Eichler_Owner
a resident of another community
on Dec 25, 2008 at 2:11 am

I live in an Eichler, and cannot understand how anyone would NOT love them. Like another poster above, I am both baffled and fascinated by the odd obsession some people have with talking trash about Eichlers It's a house; an inanimate object. Why it would evoke such strong aversion in anyone I cannot begin to understand, but to each their own.

Growing up in Boston, there wasn't a single piece of architecture to be found that resembled an Eichler, which to me looked futuristic, cool, and amazing. The walls of glass and atriums were so astounding... I used to pour over architecture books as a kid and say "When I grow up, I want to move to California and live in one of those houses."

Fast forward a couple of decades, and sure enough, my first home purchase was the Eichler of my dreams. Despite someone in this thread's claim that people only buy them because that's "all they can afford" I could not disagree more. Not only are these houses not cheap, most of the Bay Area towns where the Eichler neighborhoods are aren't cheap either. While I had a nice price range to work with, I insisted on having an Eichler above any other type of home, even though I could have purchased "something else".

They do have their quirks, and like anything else, that is what makes them special. I do intend to do some upgrading on the walls, windows, etc. to make the home more fire-resistant and energy efficient, (as would be required in any home built in the 1950's) but the unique, symmetrical, clean, and minimalist lines of this home are something I wouldn't change for anything in the world.


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Posted by Eichler-Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Technical details on the fire:
--An unlicensed subcontractor was rubbing down the walls with highly volatile lacquer thinner, and a spark set the fire off.


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Posted by Living-in-an-Eichler
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2009 at 8:08 am

Eichler house is famous for its design, not its building quality. It changed the idea to make a regular house feels open, not like a cave; made bedrooms small but living space big comparing to its size, which are great ideas from a living point of view. It is a great house to live-in. I have been living in an Eichler since 1999 in San Mateo highlands. While we are lucky, have had very few and minor problems with the house over the ten years. The original radiant heating still works 24X7X365, we have barely even touches it except have it serviced twice ($120 each time).

I do agree with the resident of Palo Alto above about the irregular shaped big glass wall for remodeling difficulty and noise level around the living space (which is justified since the connection makes a small house feels big). But I disagree on the point about window to the front street. I think that as a plus to bring privacy to a house. Personally I have no interest to know who is walking or driving by on the street when I am inside the house.

I think the atrium idea is cool, but too small to be practical and definitely not energy efficient. I plan to transform it into a living space, use sky windows and remove the glass walls around the atrium.


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Posted by Jerome Reed
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 16, 2009 at 10:53 am

Our house burned down in 1970. A small fire in one area spread quickly and gutted about 1/4 of the house. Unfortunately heat damage was so great in the rest of the house that the plywood on the walls "melted" and had to be replaced.

In rebuilding, in most of the living room and den areas we had drywall installed and then covered with original looking plywood paneling. The final result was that we had rooms that looked original but were now highly fire resistant. One wall of the living room was an extension of the exterior wall, and, like the exterior, was stained a dark brown. It was replaced with redwood that matched the original. It was given a clear coat so that the beauty of the redwood could be seen.

The architect for Greenmeadow was the firm of Jones and Emmons in Southern California. They were still in existance in 1970.

Relative to the original method of constrution - it was very flammable (as we proved). Who was responsible? I dont' know. But given our experience the problem is easily corrected and not overly expensive. So if you own an Eichler in its original state I strongly recommend that changes be made.


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