Dammit, UK, because of you, we want a wet room.
October 15, 2014 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Aside from size/space, what are the main interior differences/features between a British home and a North American one?

The ones I can think of off the top of my head in terms of British residences are: it seems everyone has a dual flush toilet, the washer/dryer combo in the kitchen, and the half door of glass in the shower, the occasional but not unusual wet room for a bathroom, smaller fridges.

What are some others you can think of?


(Oh, we really do want to renovate a bathroom into a wet room.)
posted by Kitteh to Home & Garden (101 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
The separate hot and cold taps.
posted by vacapinta at 12:22 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


The toilets in America have more water in them.
posted by iamsuper at 12:24 PM on October 15, 2014


Your sample size might be small; I always look for a shower stall when renting, and the only wet room I've personally seen in the UK was in a hotel. We have a separate tumble-dryer, but we don't use it much... maybe line-drying is more common in the UK?

Um... smaller TV? Terraced and semi-detached more common? Slate roofs? Victorian plumbing, including the occasional butler's sink? US toilets always seemed to have a higher water level, to me (Oh, what iamsuper said), en-suite bathrooms are rare here... 240v wiring and chunky plugs...
posted by Leon at 12:25 PM on October 15, 2014


60cm width by depth kitchen units.
posted by ambrosen at 12:25 PM on October 15, 2014


Drying cabinet: a closet typically for a hot water heater where clothes are warmed/dried. Now sometimes sold as stand-alone warming appliances.
posted by bonehead at 12:26 PM on October 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not as many houses have central heating/cooling. They do tend to have gas fireplaces for heat instead and a nice focal point in the room. I like the racks that some have above the fireplace that come down from the ceiling for drying clothes too.

Also immersion hot water heaters.

And kettles, they all pretty much have an electric hot water kettle.

I miss having a proper wet room for a bathroom since moving to the US. They are pretty common in Australia too , pretty much every bathroom I know of there has a drain in the bathroom floor as well as the shower stall. So handy if things over flow or you drip on the floor. Way easier to clean properly too IMO.
posted by wwax at 12:33 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Separate hot and cold taps (in older houses at least). Obligatory plug.
posted by devnull at 12:38 PM on October 15, 2014


Heat and having to put obsolete shillings into some crazy appliance outside the bathroom if you wanted a hot shower.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 12:40 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


No electrical outlets in the bathrooms and often a pull cord to turn on the lights...
posted by misspony at 12:41 PM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh! And the little switches to turn off the power to uk electrical outlets
posted by misspony at 12:43 PM on October 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


Inner/outer front doors.
Switchable electrical outlets arranged on a ring main around a room, a little above the skirting boards.
Airing cupboards, as previously mentioned.
Bloody awful electric storage heaters: on when you don't need them, off when you do.
Electric meters inside the house, sometimes in The Cupboard Under The Stairs.
No AC, but then you'd seldom need it.
Electrical switches the right way up.
posted by scruss at 12:43 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eh, we nearly all have central heating now. But it's run from a gas boiler that heats water for radiators (or an oil boiler if you're out in the sticks). Nobody has AC in their house or air based heating systems (although those are common in offices).

Nobody here has a front porch or a screen door. We do nearly all have a letter box in our front door (sometimes back door, in the case of some row houses).

We sell houses priced by number of bedrooms, so nearly every house has one tiny poky useless bedroom

Usable basement space is unusual (although people often have cold spidery cellars that they use for storing boxes)

I believe that having a pull cord for the lights in the bathroom is a legal requirement...
posted by emilyw at 12:43 PM on October 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


Leon, slate roofs are pretty common in the US Northeast.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:45 PM on October 15, 2014


Things I notice when I go back to Britain:

  • Lack of central heating
  • That wavy or patterned glass in front doors
  • Brick construction (even if it's just a facade)
  • Every room has a door (even living rooms/kitchens)
  • Door handles are levers, not knobs.

  • posted by madajb at 12:46 PM on October 15, 2014


    I think it may depend greatly on where you are in North America. For example "no AC" is standard where I am in the Northeast. I'd say not as many row houses here in the new world, but I was just in Toronto where they're friggin' everywhere. Central heat (be it radiators or baseboard) is obviously essential in New England, but I've known friends in the Bay Area who has apartments with no heat at all (or a landlord provided portable heater).
    posted by maryr at 12:47 PM on October 15, 2014


    Our houses tend to be brick-built rather than wood and some kind of siding, as in the States. Roofs are slate or tile, not shingle.
    posted by essexjan at 12:47 PM on October 15, 2014


    (when I say we don't have a "front porch" I mean we don't have a deck round the front of the house with a roof; we DO often have a thing that we call a front porch, which is just a teeny tiny room built onto the front of the house where the door is, to avoid the front door giving straight on to the living space).
    posted by emilyw at 12:47 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


    Oh and even on new houses, except for high-end ones, the garages are tiny, barely big enough for a compact car and definitely not big enough for even the smallest SUV.
    posted by essexjan at 12:48 PM on October 15, 2014


    To settle this, as of 2011 we practically all have central heating in the UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48195/3224-great-britains-housing-energy-fact-file-2011.pdf
    posted by ElliotH at 12:49 PM on October 15, 2014 [9 favorites]


    UK: antiquated heating systems, cheap washing machines and too tiny ovens. Also the English obsession with plumbing seems to have little effect on everyday reliability of said plumbing.
    posted by Namlit at 12:50 PM on October 15, 2014


    the garages are tiny

    This is because almost nobody in the UK uses a garage for storing a car; we use them for dumping all our junk, and for sawing things and making a mess. Lots of people have their washing machine in there, or a freezer. Or just put a window in instead of a garage door and call it a playroom.
    posted by emilyw at 12:51 PM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


    90% of UK homes have central heating, most have gas central heating, the rest oil (See DECC housing fact file). Electrical heating accounts for about 7% of domestic space heating needs with a bit of bottled gas, oil and coal. Wood burners have gone up in recent years but aren't that significant. Renewable energy sources of heat, including wood may be about to start making some ground.

    AC is present in about 1% of domestic premises but about >95% of commercial premises.

    Three pin plugs.
    posted by biffa at 12:58 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


    There are massive differences regionally in the US such that a lot of these comparisons don't really obtain. For example, where I lived for most of my adult life, brick construction was cheap and and was therefore the standard. I would say that one could make a similar caveat about housing in the UK. I currently live in a grade 2 listed building in a very rural area, and there's going to be a hell of a lot more difference between my home now and a new-build suburban home in Salford someplace than between that and a suburban house in the states.

    That said: thatched roofs, stone construction, lathe-and-plaster interiors, hedgerows!, wardrobes vs. closets.
    posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:00 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


    Conservatories... And wardrobes instead of built in closets.
    posted by misspony at 1:01 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


    - Wall-to-wall carpeted bathrooms (including around the toilet)

    - Bathroom plumbing that is just a pipe coming through the outside house wall of the bathroom that dumps outside into a sewer grate next to the house (sink and shower water only of course)

    - Toilets (just a toilet room) off the kitchen with two doors (literally two doors, right up next to each other, one opening into the other) between rooms - apparently this is a leftover from when they first had indoor plumbing, the toilet was added off the kitchen but then building code specified you needed at least two doors between kitchen and toilet areas?
    posted by aiglet at 1:03 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


    the Open Plan concept is not a thing in the UK
    posted by JenThePro at 1:04 PM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


    This is because almost nobody in the UK uses a garage for storing a car; we use them for dumping all our junk...

    Hey, that's something we have in common, then. It's just that in the US we have about 2.5 times as much junk per household.
    posted by General Tonic at 1:05 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


    I've never seen a wet room in any house in UK.

    I've never heard of a drying cabinet, only an airing cupboard and it's not a thing just where the boiler is stored.

    An electric kettle: of course. Once you have one you'll never go back.

    There are plenty of open plan living spaces and knob handles. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.

    The separate taps is an artifact of the plumbing systems.

    The ring mains due to post-war cutting back and the bulky, three-pin plugs due to vaguely sensible design.

    The washing machines is due to orders of magnitude less living space and I suspect the smaller overs/fridges is influenced by this to an extent too.
    posted by turkeyphant at 1:08 PM on October 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


    My sample size is small but switches on the outlets so that you can turn them on and off was a feature I liked. Fridges are a lot smaller and some of them are SILENT, I have no idea how they do it.
    posted by jessamyn at 1:11 PM on October 15, 2014


    This is not everywhere in the UK, but very useful: a sink in the bedroom.
    posted by eyeofthetiger at 1:14 PM on October 15, 2014


    One thing that may be unique to UK homes, and certainly not very visible: a complete and utter mash of metric and Imperial fittings. Pipes are particularly interesting.

    - Wall-to-wall carpeted bathrooms (including around the toilet)

    I think they were in fashion for a very short period of time. I certainly haven't seen one in over 15 years, and plenty of bathrooms were linoed in the 50s and 60s.
    posted by Thing at 1:18 PM on October 15, 2014


    Central air doesn't seem to be as standard a thing in the UK although maybe in new (past 10 yrs) builds? Also those space saver washer/dryer combo stacks; most people seem to only have the washers, or the combo machines that are a washer and a non-heat spin-only dryer.
    posted by poffin boffin at 1:22 PM on October 15, 2014


    Power showers! Particularly the mad ones with the electrical part in the shower with you.

    Small refrigerator, bread boxes, biscuit and tea tins, hanging baskets for fruit and other food storage differences. It's true- Americans do not use biscuit tins and leave half eaten packets of biscuits to go stale or soggy like heathens.

    Window screens are rare outside the US.
    posted by fshgrl at 1:25 PM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


    eyeofthetiger - I've seen sinks in bedrooms (or a spot where a sink obviously was) in older buildings in the US.
    posted by radioamy at 1:25 PM on October 15, 2014


    Argh, every flat I've ever rented for vacation has that washer/non-heat dryer combo and god, I hate it with a fiery passion.

    Also, it has been the very same vacation flats where wet rooms seem common.

    Can't believe I forgot about the plug thing, though. D'oh!
    posted by Kitteh at 1:27 PM on October 15, 2014


    Window screens are rare outside the US.

    The permanently installed ones? Yes. But the temporary 2-part ones that slide to horizontally fill a section of opened window? I've seen those in every country I've ever visited.
    posted by poffin boffin at 1:28 PM on October 15, 2014


    I live in the UK and I have never seen a window screen. Like literally never in my entire life.
    posted by emilyw at 1:32 PM on October 15, 2014 [13 favorites]


    Wet rooms in a couple of hotels in South Korea were interesting. No separate shower, just a showerhead/flexhose with a diverter on the sink tap. A bit like the spray hoses in NA kitchen sinks for washing up, just with shower heads instead.
    posted by bonehead at 1:33 PM on October 15, 2014


    Oh lord, how do y'all keep the bees out? THE BEES
    posted by Kitteh at 1:34 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


    What I remember from England was the heating pipes in the bathroom that were also drying racks for towels. That was awesome. Nice hot dry towels all winter long.
    posted by musofire at 1:38 PM on October 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


    When I got my husband to visit the UK, he fell in love with those heated towel racks in the bathroom. We bought one at home, but it's nowhere near as good as the ones we saw all over the UK.

    (He also fell in love with toast racks, and was absurdly happy when I got him one for Christmas that year. He uses it for his waffles.)
    posted by telophase at 1:40 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


    stone construction, lathe-and-plaster interiors, hedgerows!, wardrobes vs. closets.

    You could still find those things in much of New England and upstate New York -- colonial houses. Closets probably have been built in them by now, though.
    posted by jgirl at 1:41 PM on October 15, 2014


    the bees are legion, they are unstoppable

    the queen is actually 10 million bees inside a people suit
    posted by poffin boffin at 1:43 PM on October 15, 2014 [25 favorites]


    As a UK resident it took me till well into my 30s to be sure what screen doors were when mentioned in American books.
    posted by biffa at 1:45 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Bees have never been very interested in coming in my house. When they do come in they are pretty easy to get rid of. Maybe US bees are more obnoxious? I did once have a live blackbird in my house that the cat brought in, but I don't think a window screen would have helped with that.

    On that subject, I guess you guys don't have cat flaps? Lots of us have cat flaps in our back doors. I once met someone who had a rabbit flap.

    heating pipes in the bathroom that were also drying racks for towels

    These are radiators (special bathroom ones designed for towels to go on). People also buy little racks that fit over the kind of radiators you see in the rest of the house, the better to dry all our towels and socks and whatever.

    This is a UK gas boiler installed in a kitchen
    A radiator
    A towel radiator
    A thing for hanging towels and socks on a normal radiator.
    posted by emilyw at 1:50 PM on October 15, 2014 [9 favorites]


    the Open Plan concept is not a thing in the UK

    Yes, it is. It didn't used to be because of the lack of central heating, which meant you wanted to efficiently heat small, enclosed rooms with your fireplace. Now that as mentioned several times, 90% of UK homes have central heating, that's not an issue any more and open plan is by far the preferred option and has been for the last, oh, 15 years.
    posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 PM on October 15, 2014 [10 favorites]


    The screwy electrical system in the UK is goes far deeper than the chunky plugs with switches and fuses.
    posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:02 PM on October 15, 2014


    I want an Aga cooker SO BAD but I know that if I had it I would hate it. Also my apartment kitchen is too small even for the teeniest one. I'd like to think that San Francisco is cool enough to warrant an Aga but that's not true any more.
    posted by janey47 at 2:06 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


    In Ireland, I'd say there were more electric blankets to fight the damp.

    Bees aren't a bother, it's the giant evil mosquitos you need screens for in the US.

    This is obviously more of an exterior than an interior thing, but in addition to porches I'd say even city homes in the U.S. are far more likely to have decks and patios and other dedicated outdoors entertaining/relaxing space.
    posted by Diablevert at 2:12 PM on October 15, 2014


    From reading US home magazines:

    - Often no basement - Victorian houses may have a cellar
    - No air conditioning
    - the kitchen will contain a kettle as standard, less often a dishwasher
    - almost all furnished rental flats/houses are expected to come with a washing machine here
    - dryers are less common here so people generally dry clothing on a line or a clotheshorse
    - the 'den' as a male sanctuary is probably equivalent to the garden shed or attic here
    - walk-in closets (for clothing) are less common, most people have freestanding wardrobes
    - fewer people have landlines now, which makes me wonder if sockets will be less likely to be fitted in newer hoises
    - plugs in the bathroom are rare, even though my UK electric toothbrush charger is twin pin plug.

    No central heating would be only likely in extremely rural areas (as in, without mains water) and possibly those of the elderly who have not modernised in decades.

    Are shower/bathtub combinations common in the US? I remember a friend of mine saying he'd never live somewhere 'where the shower is a pipe connected to taps', but every house I've lived in had one of these.
    posted by mippy at 2:13 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


    That "screwy electrical system" uses 1/4 as much copper for the same load as the U.S. system. It also allows 3kW appliances.

    I miss it every time I wait 5+ minutes for a USAian electric kettle to boil a single cup of water.
    posted by monotreme at 2:13 PM on October 15, 2014 [12 favorites]


    Bees have never been very interested in coming in my house. When they do come in they are pretty easy to get rid of. Maybe US bees are more obnoxious?

    I find it's only wasps that bother coming indoors, the tiny bastards. Bees stay outside where the flowers are. That said, I think I read on MeFi just last week that in the US some people use "bee" as a blanket term for all black and yellow stinging insects, whereas in the UK we differentiate between bees (make honey, are awesome, only sting as a last ditch suicidal attack) and wasps (make nothing, are dicks, sting you whenever because they are dicks).

    posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:19 PM on October 15, 2014 [10 favorites]


    Having a garbage disposal in your sink is rare in the UK, as is having a fridge that makes its own ice cubes.
    posted by bimbam at 2:20 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


    Plumbing on the outsides of buildings.

    Ovens that magically make better bread.
    posted by you must supply a verb at 2:22 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Oh, nobody in this country has heard of a "den" other than in American sitcoms. I still don't even know what one is or what might be in one.

    A standard British house just has living room, dining room, kitchen. Someone with slightly more money might have a utility room (similar to what I think you might call a laundry room) and a downstairs toilet. After that we're looking at a conservatory which is usually a crappy UPVC affair. You'd have to be pretty wealthy to own a house bigger than that.

    Lots and lots of people have a loft conversion, often the master bedroom is up there.

    Wasps don't come in my house either.
    posted by emilyw at 2:30 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


    Having a garbage disposal in your sink is rare in the UK

    I believe I have the only garbage disposal in Ireland. I know a couple of people who have them in the UK.
    posted by DarlingBri at 2:30 PM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


    > I guess you guys don't have cat flaps

    We (Americans) do. I have one that goes through the wall to the garage, so the indoor cats can have their privacy.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 2:42 PM on October 15, 2014


    UK things:
    - Plumbing/pipes outside of the house
    - Front parlour/sitting room more common
    - Water heater inside shower
    - Separate hot and cold taps in older buildings
    - Less water in the toilets, adopted the dual flush thing earlier than I remember in North America
    - No basements
    - Smaller fridges and appliances
    - Washer/dryer in kitchen
    posted by betafilter at 3:02 PM on October 15, 2014


    UK toilets are shaped differently from US ones; the bowl is taller and narrower.
    posted by brujita at 3:05 PM on October 15, 2014


    No electrical outlets in the bathrooms and often a pull cord to turn on the lights...

    Power sockets in the bathroom would be the UK equivalent of "not up to code". Light switches either have to be outside the bathroom, or pull switches in the bathroom.

    Power showers! Particularly the mad ones with the electrical part in the shower with you.

    You know, it's just occurred to me we may be a touch schizophrenic on this subject...

    No real tradition of workshops in the UK. Garden sheds are the nearest equivalent I guess.
    posted by Leon at 3:25 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Brick, not wooden, houses are the norm.

    Detached houses are a rarity, semi-detached or terraced houses are the most common.

    A terraced house will have a two-up, two-down structure with kitchen and bathroom added on as extensions later in the 20th century (this kind of house is usually Victorian). Next to the bathroom, and over the kitchen, there might be a small bedroom. Often there will be an outside toilet behind the kitchen, which by now has often been converted and knocked-through into an indoor one. (I wish the tel3mum would do this, because i'm grossed out by the continued existence of the rusty outside loo, and there is an adjacent shed which, if turned inward, would mean we had a UTILITY ROOM for our washer and dryer, which nobody in the UK has got.)

    It is rare for a middle-class family to be able to afford to occupy a whole house. Usually they'll have just one floor of a house. Also, I read in a US relationship book "and you have to be prepared to move out and into a one-bedroom if he doesn't treat you right" and I guffawed, because the average UK woman's income would never stretch to paying for a one-bedroom apartment. you could get a room in a shared house, but you'd be lucky to get a studio. You could also get a bedsit, which is a bedroom in a nonshared house but with a shared bathroom and kitchen.

    No basements, for the most part, except those which have already been converted into flats.

    Often no functional attic (the tel3mum says we can't use ours because it has no floor, and I keep trying to suggest putting in a floor, and she doesn't get it).

    Walls between dwellings seem to be very thin and leak a lot of sound, I'm also pretty sure the structural walls have nooks and crannies that let stuff through. I can hear my neighbours on both sides talking, and I know when they're smoking or cooking. neighbours to my left are easily drowned out by a white noise machine most of the time, and my window is double-glazed to keep sound out and warmth in, and can be locked in an ajar position if they start talking with their kitchen window open. neighbours to my right I don't know how the fuck they keep sooo quiet nearly all the time, there are seven of them and most of the time you wouldn't know they were there.

    It used to be the norm that houses didn't have central heating, and let me tell you gas fire notwithstanding, it was fucking FREEZING indoors. It was often just as cold indoors as it was outdoors, especially if the house was damp, as they usually were, and seeing your breath indoors was totally normal. When my family bought this house they were explicitly looking for central heating because we were tired of having to run ten laps round the bedroom each morning before our fingers thawed enough to undo our pyjama buttons. and of course, absolutely, NO DAMP. this alone greatly improved our quality of life.

    there still is no air conditioning, and the humidity makes summer heat potentially uncomfortable, but an open window and a desk fan is usually enough; it did get to be a hundred degrees in my room one summer, plus swimmy humidity, but mostly it's OK. There are no screen doors or bug screens, but this summer I'm just going to rig something up with Velcro tape, paintwork be damned. that will really let me keep the house cool while keeping out the daddy longlegs that pester us relentlessly during August and September. (I once had five of the elusive little fuckers hiding in my room at once. Five.)

    the central heating is provided by a boiler which needs to be ventilated correctly. much use of gas appliances over electricity. most people amazingly imperturbable about gas leaks; personally observed responses have included sitting down to have a smoke while they thought about whether to call the gas board. occasionally a house blows up and makes the national news, but hardly ever, like not more than two or three times a year. Central heating makes gas fires, which usually are plumbed in where the fireplace used to be, unnecessary; there were two in our house, both disconnected. they used to be a frequent source of large and pungent leaks, and I would call the gas board and they would say "two large leaks in this house, one under the front bedroom one under the back bedroom, and those loud bangs you were hearing in the chimney were small explosions" and my family would tell me I had OCD and needed professional help, because I thought the gas was leaking, and people with OCD think the gas is leaking, therefore my mind was the problem and the fact that the gas was in reality leaking was not the problem, and i am glad the gas heaters are decommissioned and we now just use radiators.

    minuscule freezers that you can't store anything in. all that "cook ahead for a month" business... no. you can just about fit some peas in there and that's it.

    Narrow stairways, there's almost no such thing as a wheelchair accessible house here, not without widening doorways and/or knocking through a few walls.

    alleyway down between two houses leading to the garden, with a lockable gate at each end. square of concrete at the front of the house, known as the "front garden". brick walls instead of fences.

    three-pin plug outlets that switch off at the wall.

    no garages and often no driveways. parking spaces are marked out in the road and restricted to resident permit holders. on a street with terraced houses, there often isn't room for cars to park AND have two lanes of traffic, so many of these were converted into one-way streets a couple decades ago. my street is one-lane, one-way with parking spaces on each side, so cars can't pass each other, and if an ambulance attends, unless there's plenty of empty parking space, the road is de facto blocked to traffic until the ambulance leaves.

    because houses are connected, you have to apply for planning permission before you can make certain kinds of conversion to your house. a change to the structure of one house affects the neighbours.

    closet space is not structural, for the most part it comes from furniture. we do have a very small coat closet over the stairs, and there's the cupboard-under-the-stairs, but otherwise it's Narnia wardrobes.

    as grizzly as i might sound, this is a good solid house, I trust it, and what I have with the tel3mum constitutes a LOT more space than most people are able to enjoy. it has been standing since 1901 and will probably remain long after i have gone on to my Father's house which has many rooms. North American houses it seems are just not built to last.
    posted by tel3path at 3:55 PM on October 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


    yes, we do have a cat flap. this is a boon for a variety of reasons, but ask yourself where the litter box might go? so glad we have a cat flap, is what I'm saying.
    posted by tel3path at 3:58 PM on October 15, 2014


    that will really let me keep the house cool while keeping out the daddy longlegs that pester us relentlessly during August and September

    another fascinatingly bizarre US/UK difference is what people mean when they say daddy longlegs (ours is a silly looking spider, theirs is an immense dangly fly)
    posted by poffin boffin at 4:02 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


    Being able to afford a house/apartment is geographic. In London,especially now, perhaps not. Those I know who have Actual Houses bought them some time ago. Outside of London, prices are much more commensurate with the cost of living. Probably the same as Manhattan living vs Muncie living. A friend of mine is moving from London to Sheffield, and her new two bed modern flat is less than the price of her current London studio.
    posted by mippy at 4:29 PM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


    as is having a fridge that makes its own ice cubes.

    I wondered about that! When I was staying with some friends in High Wycombe, they used these. Whether they were a household staple or bought for the (presumably) ice-demanding American houseguest, I have no idea. But the notion of buying a prefilled bag of water to make ice boggled my mind.
    posted by caryatid at 5:10 PM on October 15, 2014


    An odd US thing, really a New England thing I think, is having the light switch for a bathroom light outside the bathroom door. I think it may have been a code requirement at one time. In my 1960 era house in Connecticut, the main bath has the switch inside, but the switch for the master bath is outside.
    posted by SemiSalt at 5:19 PM on October 15, 2014


    it seems everyone has a dual flush toilet

    The flushing and plumbing is different: there's a siphon flush unit in the tank, as opposed to the flapper valve common in the US, and the outflow pipe is usually plumbed out sideways instead of down.

    nthing wardrobes instead of closets, apart from the Cupboard Under The Stairs which may do double-duty as somewhere to hang your coats and store your shoes.

    From experience, entrance halls are more common than in American houses of similar vintage, even if the modernish (70s/80s) hallway is just a small square between the front door and the stairs.
    posted by holgate at 5:37 PM on October 15, 2014


    We currently live in a renovated brick row house that probably dates back a 100 years or so. The light switch for the bathroom is on the outside too. It drives me nuts.
    posted by Kitteh at 5:39 PM on October 15, 2014


    - Wall-to-wall carpeted bathrooms (including around the toilet)

    I think they were in fashion for a very short period of time. I certainly haven't seen one in over 15 years, and plenty of bathrooms were linoed in the 50s and 60s.
    I saw a carpeted bathtub in London a couple years ago, for what it's worth.
    An odd US thing, really a New England thing I think, is having the light switch for a bathroom light outside the bathroom door.
    I have seen this in the UK but I'm pretty sure it's unusual.
    posted by BungaDunga at 5:41 PM on October 15, 2014


    Oh, nobody in this country has heard of a "den" other than in American sitcoms. I still don't even know what one is or what might be in one.

    A den is a bedroom without a closet, so being in the UK, a bedroom. (That's one for the list, closets.) A den is sort of a library/office/guest room. It may or may not have a door and is often off the living room. It's not really all that useful, except when you have guests. Then it is.

    A box room might be an equivalent, if there was a futon in there, a desk and a bookcase. Me, I'd turn a box room into a dressing room. But I have a thing for storage.

    The light switch for the bathroom is on the outside too. It drives me nuts.

    An electrician can wire that for you on the other side of the wall, in your bathroom. An electrician can also make it GFCI and throw a plug on there for you.
    posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 PM on October 15, 2014


    where the shower is a pipe connected to taps',

    What does that mean? Aren't they all? Except that some have the pipe behind the tile and some have it showing (usually the converted clawfoots).
    posted by small_ruminant at 5:50 PM on October 15, 2014


    An electrician can wire that for you on the other side of the wall, in your bathroom. An electrician can also make it GFCI and throw a plug on there for you.

    Not if you don't own the property, you can't!
    posted by Kitteh at 5:52 PM on October 15, 2014


    Not if you don't own the property, you can't!

    You could ask for permission, but it's a cost/benefit thing at that point. I'd say about $100 if you're interested.
    posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:56 PM on October 15, 2014


    Before I moved to the UK, I had never heard of an electric shower. But then I had one for years.

    I also never had a clothes dryer and though large tumble dryers are available, most people I knew seemed to have the small drum dryers (if they had one at all). I also always had a small under-the-counter fridge and a separate chest freezer.

    And while I adjusted pretty well to almost everything else, the separate hot/cold taps in the bathroom and lack of closets always drove me nuts.
    posted by triggerfinger at 7:10 PM on October 15, 2014


    tel3path, except for the house-sharing thing, pretty much your entire description applies to the standard housing stock here in Philadelphia.
    posted by desuetude at 10:43 PM on October 15, 2014


    Toilets (just a toilet room) off the kitchen with two doors (literally two doors, right up next to each other, one opening into the other) between rooms - apparently this is a leftover from when they first had indoor plumbing, the toilet was added off the kitchen but then building code specified you needed at least two doors between kitchen and toilet areas?

    I don't know the origins, but it used to be a requirement of building regulations. A house I bought had the bathroom off the kitchen on the ground floor and the toilet was enclosed in a wooden partition, complete with sliding door, whose sole purpose was to enclose the toilet. While renovating the house, I was informed that the requirement no longer existed and I was able to remodel the bathroom and make better use of the space.

    We also have arcane and very strict regulations for dealing with toilet waste water so that in the event of backing up the only place it can come out is the toilet itself. For this reason, relocating a toilet within the same room can be a nightmare. When selling a house, a good surveyor can spot dodgy DIY plumbing and this can knock thousands off the price of the property.
    posted by epo at 10:54 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


    The house sharing thing sounds bizarre to this English person who's never lived in London/the South-East.
    posted by dvrmmr at 11:01 PM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


    Oh - if you rent here, generally you can't do anything to your place. No painting walls, no nails to hang pictures, and most places won't allow you to have pets. No way in hell would you be allowed to do any kind of rewiring etc.

    We have a private landlady so are able to negotiate, but if you rent though an agency it's very restrictive.

    His and hers bathrooms are unheard of here unless you have a. huge place where everything is en suite. One US blogger I wash has a daughter with her own bathroom. . If only. Ot's commonbhere for siblings to share bedrooms, never mind bathrooms. I've never seen those bathrooms with two basins next to each other_ either.

    If you want an idea of how UK houses look, the magazine Style At Home features reader makeovers/remodels, and many are very typical interiors, rather than the unusual/huge houses you see_in many other publications. I like it because some of the featured homes are rented, so subjext to the same restrictions we have. You can get it digitally on Zinio.
    posted by mippy at 11:19 PM on October 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


    I was told that the code for light switches in bathrooms and kitchens required them to be 3 feet (or a metre or some other magic number) away from running water, hence cord-pull ones and having them outside the door. My current kitchen is small enough that the light switch is outside the door.
    posted by you must supply a verb at 2:00 AM on October 16, 2014


    I live in the North and here most families have a whole house. If you're not well off, it might well be a two up two down terrace with a kitchen stuck on the back, and sometimes a right of way through the back yard for the other occupants of the terrace to get to the alley. Or it might be a 1930's style semi detached house (we have tons of those), or a poky newer build.

    Up here it's mostly only young single people who live in one floor of a bigger house.
    posted by emilyw at 2:28 AM on October 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


    What does that mean? Aren't they all? Except that some have the pipe behind the tile and some have it showing (usually the converted clawfoots).

    An electric shower will be plumbed in separately. You don't need to turn the bath taps on to turn on the electric shower - you press a button or turn a dial and it starts pumping water itself.
    A lot of houses in the UK have both - an electric shower and one connected to the bath taps via a hose. The electric shower being for normal showering, and the other one for rinsing in the bath, squirting small children at bathtime, and as a back-up if the electric shower's not working for some reason.
    posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:34 AM on October 16, 2014


    Not mentioned yet is something called an air brick. There are a couple of them in the exterior wall of our bedroom facing the garden. On the inside there is a vent cover or metal grate, placed at seemingly arbitrary locations on the bedroom wall. On the outside it looks like a brick that has hollowed-out sections to allow air to flow through. There don't appear to be any of these in the living room at the front of the house (which is the only other exterior wall we have). I've read they are necessary for ventilating dampness, though they don't seem to do much good. The London flat we moved into earlier this year is in a terraced house built c. 1880s. Our previous apartment in an 1870 Brooklyn brownstone didn't have anything like this.

    Nthing the lack of screens on windows, and no screen door for the doorway that opens out to the garden, which has to be open if we want to get a decent airflow through the flat. This is a mystery to me, as there are plenty of insects and spiders that come in. Mostly big fat houseflies by day and non-biting mosquitoes and crane flies (those giant mosquito-looking things) by night. Thankfully, biting mosquitoes seem less prevalent here and the bees and wasps mostly stay outside. Surprisingly, garden snails and slugs have also ventured inside on damp nights. Also a couple of neighborhood cats and a bird have almost wandered in.

    Most rental flats in the UK (or at least in London) come furnished. Convection fans in ovens seem to be more common in the UK. A lot of places have electric showers. Our bathroom sink still has separate hot & cold taps, even though it appears to have been renovated within the past 20 years or so. There is a door for every room, including the kitchen. And wow, 230 V current is great! Phones and laptops charge much faster and the electric tea kettle boils scary-fast.
    posted by theory at 6:25 AM on October 16, 2014


    Just popping in to say that you guys are awesome. I love reading about the difference between homes here and homes in the UK.

    I just always remark on them when we visit England (every two years in the autumn like clockwork) and rent self-catering flats.
    posted by Kitteh at 6:41 AM on October 16, 2014


    A den is sort of a library/office/guest room. It may or may not have a door and is often off the living room. It's not really all that useful, except when you have guests. Then it is.

    Where I grew up (Texas), a den is also known as a family room, and is a less-formal gathering/hang-out space. The living room (or parlor, if you have delusions of grandeur) is the formal gathering/hang-out place. At my grandparents' house, the TV was in the den, while the living room had the uncomfortable furniture that kids weren't allowed to splay out on, and which was used for adults to have dull, boring conversations when my grandparents had dinner parties. At my parents' house, the den had the TV and my mom's loom, and the living room had the fireplace and the stereo. Again, when my parents' friends or coworkers came over for activities other than watching TV, they were entertained in the living room, while I stayed out of their hair in the den and watched TV.

    Mr Telophase and I have a vaguely similar setup in our house, but it's now split between the living room (fireplace, bookcases) and the media room (TV, video games). I insisted on that when we were house-hunting, because I wanted to be able to sit in one room and read without being distracted by his gaming.
    posted by telophase at 7:34 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Shepherd and I are half-heartedly house-hunting where we are and given that I grew up in houses that seemed to have too many rooms for the number of people who resided in them, it's damned hard to find a house in our price range that has less than four bedrooms. I could weakly make a case for the use of three (master, guest, office/study), but considering there will be no kids in our future or that many visitors, I hate that there always seems to be an extra bedroom (plus a couple of houses had, like, sunken dens in addition to that fourth bedroom).

    I guess what I'm saying is: I like small cozy every-room-has-a-purpose homes and these are really hard to find.
    posted by Kitteh at 7:52 AM on October 16, 2014


    In the UK there tend to be a lot of fireplaces in older Victorian homes - a more common house type than in the US. Generally the ones in the bedrooms are ornamental nowadays as they won't be lined. Lining keeps carbon monoxide from seeping in through the walls.

    Houses have central heating but generally not a US HVAC system. Instead there are radiators that have to be "bled" from time to time. They are great for drying clothes on, but this can contribute to damp problems. And damp is a common problem.

    Back yards (back gardens) are separated from neighbours by either a brick or stone wall if you're luck or a wooden fence. Not a chain link fence.

    I don't know any families that only have one floor of a house but I'm up north. Even down south a small terraced house would be more common. Some terraced houses don't have back gardens but have something we call a "yard". This is just a small concrete area and not as nice as a garden (but easier to maintain).

    Water pressure is generally not as good but power showers help with that.

    Airing cupboards are where the boiler is kept, true, but there is often shelving in there for storing towels, drying clothes, etc. I love airing cupboards.

    Noise is a big issue as some others have said. There have been studies saying that over half of people living in houses in the UK are bothered by neighbour noise.

    A lot of new build estates in the UK have street after street of houses that are exactly the same. We sometimes joke about people coming home drunk and getting in bed with the neighbour due to not recognising their own house. Not sure this has ever really happened, though.
    posted by hazyjane at 11:07 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


    In the UK there tend to be a lot of fireplaces in older Victorian homes - a more common house type than in the US.

    In early 20th-c housing stock, especially urban terraces: narrow coal hearths, coal bunkers, coal holes.

    if you rent here, generally you can't do anything to your place.

    Unless you have a council house rental on a secured tenancy (a declining thing, I know) where you can do all sorts of things to improve your place.

    A lot of houses in the UK have both - an electric shower and one connected to the bath taps via a hose.

    Showers are often retrofits, installed when houses go from immersion heaters to on-demand water heating. Those houses will still often have airing cupboards in/near the bathroom where you can put your towels. Airing cupboards are great.
    posted by holgate at 11:27 AM on October 16, 2014


    I've lived in London for the past 15 years and have never seen a wet room in a private home, and have only seen dual-flush toilets in new builds (EU regulations, I think).

    Features of British homes that, in my experience, are seldom seen in American ones:

    - Separate hot and cold faucets in the bathroom sink
    - Power showers
    - Door handles rather than doorknobs
    - Stairs immediately inside the front door
    - Mail slot in the front door, rather than an external postbox
    - Net curtains
    - Gas or electric fires
    - A price that increasing numbers of people will never be able to afford
    posted by Perodicticus potto at 12:09 PM on October 16, 2014


    Also, bat roosts are more common in British houses than American ones (in the roof/loft space, not the living areas). Bats are strictly protected by law in the UK and cannot be excluded from a house except under government licence.

    Edit: Just realised you're in Canada, not the U.S. - apologies. I'm not familiar with Canadian homes, sadly.

    Also, my previous post applies to English (particularly London) homes, but things may be different in other parts of the UK, especially Scotland.
    posted by Perodicticus potto at 12:13 PM on October 16, 2014


    We sometimes joke about people coming home drunk and getting in bed with the neighbour due to not recognising their own house. Not sure this has ever really happened, though.

    An acquaintance came home drunk in the morning, having lost his keys, and broke into the wrong house (and started cooking breakfast).

    Showers are often retrofits, installed when houses go from immersion heaters to on-demand water heating

    We renovated our bathroom and have both types of shower on purpose for the reasons I posted above.
    posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:32 PM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


    The airing cupboard is where the hot water tank goes, not the boiler! Many older boilers are not allowed to be installed in enclosed spaces due to ventilation requirements.

    The reason for the low water pressure is not low mains pressure. In older houses, hot water is provided by passing cold water from a storage tank in the loft, via a heating coil in the hot water tank in the airing cupboard, to the tap. The hot water in this setup isn't at a very high pressure (or flow rate) and so it's not great for showering. It's also not strictly speaking safe to drink. If you run the hot water for long enough you eventually run out of hot and it starts coming through cold, much to the distress of whoever got up late.

    SO back when we started getting showers installed, people would buy a "power shower" which had its own built-in electric heater that could heat a decent volume of water, and everybody thought this was great, especially people who liked getting up late.

    Nowadays nearly all newly installed boilers heat water on demand and direct from the mains, at full mains pressure/flow rate. So it's better and more economical to have a shower that just mixes the existing household hot and cold water. But lots of us still have the old electric Power Showers, or their sad non-powerful aspirational equivalent, as well as a sad unloved airing cupboard that's no longer required for a hot water tank.
    posted by emilyw at 1:16 PM on October 16, 2014


    A common feature in Scottish rooms is a press or cupboard built into the wall, originally these would have a door (giving the appearance of maybe another room beyond) but often this has been removed to leave the open shelves.
    A lot of people have mentioned separate hot and cold taps, there is also a 'correct' orientation for these (Hot on Left, Cold on Right.)

    The ceiling height of old British houses can vary considerably from house to house, the skirting boards and cornicing will be sized proportionally to the ceiling height of the room.
    posted by Lanark at 1:34 PM on October 16, 2014


    it's damned hard to find a house in our price range that has less than four bedrooms.

    Kitteh, please know I don't mean to snark when I say this - you can't find a cheaper, smaller house?
    posted by maryr at 2:19 PM on October 16, 2014


    Kitteh, please know I don't mean to snark when I say this - you can't find a cheaper, smaller house?

    Believe me, we're trying! Most of the smaller older houses we've found require a lot more renovation than we have money for. Our old house in Quebec went from being a fixer-upper to "oh shit this is never going to get done or fixed is it." So one of our desires is to have an affordable big enough place that doesn't require a lifetime of ongoing projects. Minor cosmetic work or small doable things are fine; replacing a wall that should be there or demolishing walls that shouldn't be there (and such like).

    We live in one of the older areas of Kingston and we want to stay here. We sold our car because we live so close to everything. This is the area in which we are house-hunting, for good or ill.
    posted by Kitteh at 3:49 PM on October 16, 2014


    there's almost no such thing as a wheelchair accessible house here, not without widening doorways and/or knocking through a few walls

    What do people who use wheelchairs, and their households, do?
    posted by yohko at 4:32 PM on October 16, 2014


    What do people who use wheelchairs, and their households, do?

    Quite often they are literally housebound. Some of them are housebound in council-supplied housing despite the fact that they literally could not escape the house in the case of a fire. Waiting lists for accessible housing are horrendous.
    posted by DarlingBri at 5:32 PM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Modern building regs require a house to be reasonably wheelchair accessible, but this is a pretty new thing.

    We have a TV program "DIY SOS" which completely remodels the houses of families with compelling sob stories, using free labour provided by local trades. The program is fascinating, but one of the interesting things is just how often they are remodelling to support a suddenly disabled person (or a growing disabled child) in accessing their own house, with the premise that accessible housing is not otherwise possible for the family.

    IIRC in one episode there was a teenager who had had to live in hospital for a year since his accident, and in another, a lady who lived in her kitchen in her hospital bed with a commode.
    posted by emilyw at 1:47 AM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Quite often they are literally housebound.

    :-( So is one of these things that one might find in a British residence a doctor making housecalls on the housebound? We sure don't have that in the US. Physical therapists and nurses occasionally, but not doctors.
    posted by yohko at 8:55 PM on October 17, 2014


    House calls still happen: less so than in the past, and less in big cities than smaller towns or rural areas but it's still considered part of the GP job. (People drive less, and many older people can't drive.)

    Some of them are housebound in council-supplied housing despite the fact that they literally could not escape the house in the case of a fire. Waiting lists for accessible housing are horrendous.

    Secured tenancies can mean that people have spent decades in council houses, and in spite of the practicalities of greater accessibility, would rather cope with being somewhat housebound than move to more appropriate housing (if offered) and give up the four walls they're familiar with or the little garden they've tended.
    posted by holgate at 9:29 PM on October 17, 2014


    So is one of these things that one might find in a British residence a doctor making housecalls on the housebound? We sure don't have that in the US. Physical therapists and nurses occasionally, but not doctors.

    In my experience not so much. By 'housebound' I mean in a wheelchair at home and unable to negotiate the outside steps or perhaps the exterior door. That doesn't mean the wheelchair user cannot be assisted with a wheelchair transfer, and there are disabled transport services for this, plus friends and family if you're lucky enough for that.

    Examples: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 (my favourite)

    The poor and the diabled are currently under siege from a conservative government so while it's never been great, it's become particularly appalling in recent years.
    posted by DarlingBri at 8:25 AM on October 18, 2014


    Good lord, the elevator in that #4. It wouldn't hold a stroller, or a parent and two young children, or a person carrying a lamp... why not just save the money and install paternosters? Or fireman's poles?
    posted by The corpse in the library at 4:18 PM on October 19, 2014


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