This is my first house from start to finish, and was also my first “blitz”, which is a week in which Habitat gathers @ 20 volunteers for every day at the site, with the goal of having the house framed inside and outside, outside walls covered and the trusses up, ready for the paid roofers by Friday.  The movie is short because I didn’t have a digital camera at that time.  April 2005 was the blitz.

    All labor on Habitat houses is volunteer except for the foundation, the mudding & taping of the drywall, the roofers, and the carpet installers.  Habitat families are screened, must pass financial criteria, sign contracts about upkeep and not moving or selling the house, and must put in 500 sweat equity hours on their own and/or other Habitat houses before being given the keys. They assume the @$70,000 mortgage on the house that Habitat and other sponsoring organizations fronted; they saved @ the same amount from the free labor.

    My favorite picture is the first one, hands down.  It was April, 2006, day 3, I can tell by how much of the house is framed behind Paul and me.  On day 1, 8:30 am, (you don’t want to know the temperature), we volunteers gathered around Fred, the paid Habitat leader, who asked if anyone knew how to handle a chopsaw.  I nearly vaulted into the air; Carol and I had borrowed a friend’s the previous summer when we built the rock and flower garden and immediately fell in love with its abilities to reduce wood to smithereens.  And to think I was going to get a chance to use one again - oh, yeah!  And Fred simply took my word, gave me the spec sheet of what lengths to cut from what, etc. and assigned me a partner.

    The first trick of the trade I learned was to use scrap wood as tally sheets, since wind, rain, snow and anything else construction-oriented doesn’t get along well with paper.

    My partner and I had such a rhythm going that at one point, Fred hollered to us, “STOP!  You’re way ahead of us!”  We turned around to see virtually the entire first floor exterior walls erected!  Hey, wait a minute, I want in on THAT part too.

    So after our 30-minute lunch break, I joined the inside crew, hammering together “plates”: the frame of a wall.  I learned what kings & jacks are, as well as cripples, headers, nailers, and especially how the laws of physics work on a job site: nailing into a moving object is an exercise in futility.  And trying to teach some people that principle is also an exercise in futility, and sometimes, it’s in everyone’s best interest to just go nail another plate together by myself.  And I also learned that swinging a hammer is much more tiring than pulling down the handle of an electric chopsaw.

    But what I learned most was that I absolutely LOVED the blitzing phase of building houses.  It’s most comparable to an Amish barn-raising, a lot of people working together to one common goal, teaching each other, encouraging each other, and looking back at the end of a long tiring day at HOW MUCH they accomplished in usually less than 7 hours. 

    Typically, the 1st day sees the entire first floor exterior walls, interior walls, and sheathing installed to cover the exterior walls.  The 2nd day the house only rises 13”, as the perimeter foundation  is installed on the top of the walls erected, and then the joists span the house; this day requires people who have no fear of heights or of falling, as they are simply walking on the 2” x 8” joists turned upright, which actually only measure 1 3/4” wide.  Not for me.  Hopefully, by the end of that 2nd day, the 2nd floor/deck gets laid and nailed into the joists, and by the 3rd day, the 2nd floor exterior plates are nailed in place on the deck, stood up and nailed in, followed by the interior plates.  At the same time, the 2nd floor exterior walls are being covered with the OSB sheathing, again by people who aren’t intimidated by wobbly Habitat ladders. Day 4 is usually the catch-up day, allowing some time to frame the perimeter of the top of the 2nd floor for the trusses.

    Setting the trusses is done only when 4-6 young, strong volunteers are available, since Thomas and Fred are the only paid Habitat employees willing to do that job.  See my Installing Trusses page for a short video on this eye-opening process.

Harvard & 89th, my 1st house from start to finish

    So in 2016, our team finds out that our next house will be Harvard & 89th.  The first owners had gotten divorced and neither stayed in the house.  Luckily, it wasn’t ransacked on the inside, only minimal damage to the outlets and switches to get the copper from the wiring.  However, despite window protection, a team robbing Habitat houses broke in and took the table saw, circular saw, water heater, and even the furnace; Mary had left her tools in the house since she volunteers 3x weekly, and she lost them also.

    So we helped out elsewhere while things got ironed out, and the dedication for Denise Bell and her family was November 19, 2016. 

    And shock of all shocks, our team leader Reuben chose ME as the volunteer for that house, because of how I taught Denise how to paint in the bathroom and how we bonded up there.

    The renovations included pulling up all the carpet and the square tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms, replacing them with the snap-in vinyl wood flooring.  Our team liked the second version better than the first.

    A large deck had been added to the back one, and Reuben succeeded in getting GCHFH to cut down the mulberry tree, whose droppings cause such damage to the deck and also get purple stains tracked into the house.