Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Building a House

For the past 3 weeks I've been working on Saturdays with Women Build, a division of Habitat for Humanity. A group of women only are building a house in Warrenton, the house is a duplex so we are building one side of the structure while men from Habitat for Humanity are building the other side. They broke ground while Mum was here in America so when I joined them, they had laid the foundation, flooring and were finishing the outer walls.
 To the left is the fire wall dividing the two homes. If a fire started in one home this wall would prevent the fire spreading to the second home.
On my first day I walked in to a very friendly atmosphere with everyone making me very welcome. I was asked to sweep the floor and my heart sank as I wondered if this would be the extent of my input since I was coming into the job late. But I realized we all have to start from the bottom so I whizzed around with the broom. Yet before lunchtime I had hammered in plenty of nails and cut 2 by 4's using the circular saw and the mitre saw, also learning how to measure accurately and feeling extremely chuffed that I was being allowed to do so much.
 Two of the women framing. We have a fully qualified builder, Bill, showing us the ropes but we do most of the work. I've learned a lot about this skill, now familiar with crowns and bows, king and jack studs, cripples, header and bottom plates and caps. We're also encouraged to take part in all the measuring so I've learned how to use a square and measuring tape accurately. We ensure all measurements are correct to 1/16 inch.
 Robert does a lot of the cutting for us, we write down the measurements for him and he presents us with the cut wood, all individually marked with their dimensions.
 Bill at the front was oblivious of our antics as we celebrated his birthday. He didn't know that we knew about his secret surprise birthday party after work.
 Getting the measurements right before we start framing a closet.
Robb perched on top of our hard work. Have no idea why he was up there but he was pretty insistent that we'd catch him if he fell. He works for Greystone and is leading the construction on the other house.
After my first day of work I was eager to get to Lowes and stock up with some necessary items, a better tape measure, a square and a chalk line reel. I had an interesting chat with Bill about hammers and did quite a lot of research before finally deciding on a Vaughan V5. I would have liked a Douglas but they seem to have stopped production on these and they're quite expensive. Bill has a particularly nice Stiletto but that's way out of my price range but wow, he sure knows how to swing that thing. Check him out in this video.
  We also had a framing class one evening at Lowes but I have to admit that thanks to what I'd been doing on site, I didn't really learn much at the class. But it was great to hang out with everyone.
Another surprise was that lunch is supplied each Saturday by a kind volunteer or group. I really hadn't expected that but we really are well looked after. Habitat also supplies the basic tools needed if you don't have your own, including safety glasses. And I've also been given a pretty pink t-shirt with a hammer and flowers on the front. Cute! I've realized I'm really getting into hammers...
 Kim and Amina, the house owner, giving a thumbs up as we get our first joist up. We're heading up to the next level!
 I really liked Robert's use of wood scraps.
The plan showing where the joists go. The red arrow marks a double joist. The one above Kim and Amina is the long one but the short one immediately above it on the plan is incorrect as it encroaches into the stair well area (in yellow). It should be on the other side of the long joist.
 So I'll be working with this amazing group until the house is completely, most likely in March, but obviously depending on the weather. The days are going to get colder so my next purchase will probably have to be a Carhartt jacket along with a box of hand warmers, knowing how bad my fingers get in the cold. but I'm looking forward to it and I'm sure that the hard work will keep us warm. Roll on this Saturday when I get to use my V5 for the first time. Woo Hoo!

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