Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Allure of Indoor Work

As long as I can remember, my dad worked in construction.  His were not small-time projects. They were big deals which included hospitals, high schools, university housing and office towers. I’m guessing he began as a laborer, but he eventually became a well-respected superintendent who always completed his jobs on time and under budget. I think one of the hardest things he had to deal with though was inclement weather. Dad always worried about a winter concrete pour, or cranes operating safely in the cold, or the possibility of ice falling on employees.

Now, whenever I see construction workers, bulky in their multi-layer garb, welding the framework of a three-story office building or moving pre-fab walls into place, and doing all of this in the grasp of winter’s icy hand, I remember watching my dad do the very same thing. I’m sure they, like my dad, are happy when the walls of a project are finally up and the grip of snow and wind clutches air and brick instead of cloth and skin.

When we asked our neighbor and mason friend, Wade Hansen, if he might be interested in creating the facade for our masonry heater, I completely understood the smile that appeared on his face as he contemplated the possibly of indoor work (complete with heat, light and plumbing) in December. His bid was one we decided we had to afford because Wade’s work is so beautiful. Here are photos of his progress thus far. We are lucky to have such a fine craftsman working with us.

Three Year's Progress

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. You can decide for yourself.

November 2011
November 2010
November 2009

Interior Walls

Now that the weather keeps us indoors, we devote our time to interior work. Some of the projects require two full-time workers - plastering or window trim for example. Other projects require one full-time person (usually Scott) and occasionally a second person (usually me) to hold a piece of wood in place while the other wields the nail gun for a moment or to hold one end of the tape measure while the other reads the smart end. During the off-duty moments, the second person (me) needs to make herself useful, so I’ve been nailing lath to the framing of our interior walls.

Anyone familiar with conventional construction might wonder why in the world we’re using lath. That same person would know that the logical next step to a lath wall is plaster...hence the term “lath and plaster walls.” In today’s construction world, lath and plaster has been mostly replaced with solid drywall which is faster and less expensive to install. But, as we have seen with the change in our construction time line, we apparently are not worried about faster (even though being finished with this house before we’re 60 would be nice). Traditional lath and plaster walls require skilled plasterers to apply three coats of plaster over a framework of lath strips. By the time we are actually finished, we’ll probably be able to hire out as skilled plasters. And, since solid dry wall is, well, solid, it’s not the best material for making curved walls with the handmade look we so admire. Hence the process begins.

During our Thanksgiving stay I was able to put up the lath on one side of the walls separating the main living space of our house from the bedroom and from Scott’s office. We can more easily see the space we will soon be living in.

Looking from the living room into the bedroom
The other side of the same wall
Looking from the bedroom into the living room