Browsing Archives for Construction Diary

There have been several occasions during the construction of our farmhouse, that various men have made drawings for me. It is always a man, and it is always a very little drawing. Usually on a tiny scrap of paper.

They use these drawings as tools to try and explain some construction method to me, so that I can then use this wee little drawing to make a decision on some element of the house.

When I was trying to pick out our windows, a man, at the local lumber yard grabbed the pencil tucked behind his ear and drew something to explain something or other about how the window sat in the framing.

On numerous occasions, our general contractor has drawn a sketch for me on the side of the house or on a spare board, to try and show me how the siding or the window trim was going to look.

Even the cabinet maker has occasionally sketched a little something to try and make me understand how a certain corner cabinet might be affected by the cabinet next to it and why I might not want to put a drawer in that particular space.

All of these men are knowledgeable, hard working, decent people. I trust them with my house and my cabinets and my windows. I know they have skills and tools and abilities. But I could never understand a single one of their drawings.

I pretended that I could. I nodded my head and said “Oh!” or “I get it!” or “Yes, I understand now…” But it was a bald faced lie.

They may as well have been drawing pictures of a rocket launcher, for all the sense it made to me.

Ridge Beam – The one at the very very top

Header – The wide board above the doors and the windows.

Purlins – The horizontal wood pieces on the trusses.

Joist – The heavy duty wood boards that support the floor

Riser – The “up” part of the stair

Tread – The “step” part of the stair

Gypsum – Also known as sheet rock – but saying gypsum makes you sound smart.

Friese Board – The trim piece that outlines the gable

Rafter – Old school roof construction. Like they made back in pioneer times. They built the roof on our house this way cause it was so dad blamed steep.

Truss – Factory made roof parts ordered and delivered to the site. The barn roof is constructed of trusses. We designed half of the trusses in a traditional manner and half we designed to house a loft, up under that there barn roof.

Sheet Rock

March 3rd, 2008

The sheet rock is going up, very slowly. But I have gotten used to the slow building pace. There are even some good things to be said about slow building. You can make changes and it is no big deal. You can move outlets from one side of the house to the other. You could even re-wire and or re-plumb the ENTIRE house. There is never really a rush. You also get to know the men working on your house.

Out here in these parts we don’t have many big sheet rock crews, roofing crews, or electric crews – and our contractor seems to prefer the single man operation when subcontracting out jobs. So these various subcontractors are around for several days to weeks, depending on the task, and you get to know them. There are certain advantages to this. They can’t get really angry with you for asking them to move that light fixture just a little more to the right – and then the next day maybe just seven more inches to the right and then the next day. I think I liked it better in the first location… if they know they have to see you the next day and the next day and the next day. You learn to get along.

The country doctor and I were visiting the work site together and the builders and the electrician were taking their morning break with a box of donuts and coffee. They were talking about sheet rockers and how difficult their job is. Lifting the 9′ X 4′ sheets overhead and holding them in place, while screwing it in – even with the proper tools this is a back breaking job.

The country doctor mentioned that he takes care of a few men who have bad backs, bad ankles, spongy knees, crackly hips, elbow no bendo, necks that have gone soggy, and fingers that hang uselessly from their hands. He asks them what they do for a living.


Then Larry the electrician piped up. He said that he knew of a small wiry fellow who amazed him with his ability to lift the heavy boards of sheet rock and install it. One day he asked the man how he did it? The man replied…

“Sometimes I fill my shorts with blood.”

And so with that bit of wisdom , the coffee break came to an end.