Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fear not the nail gun


I did some volunteer work with my local Habitat for Humanity yesterday. As you probably know, this international organization focuses on providing affordable housing for people who need it. The houses aren't free; the homeowner has to be able to make mortgage payments and they also contribute a significant number of hours to the construction. Our supervisor told us that 20% of the cost of a home is in the labor, so by using volunteers, that reduces the price of the home. Of course, there are other variables, such as interest-free loans and donated materials; that makes the home even more affordable.

About a dozen people showed up to lend a hand yesterday. At first, we thought we were going to be painting at a house on the north side (because that's what it said on the web site), but there was a logistical mix-up and we ended up doing trim work at another house, shown above. Being new to construction, I wasn't really sure what "trim work" meant, but I was willing to learn.  I was assigned to work with a team of two other people to measure the base of the walls for three bedrooms. We gave the measurements to a professional, who cut baseboards to our specifications. Then we installed them with a nail gun. At first, I didn't want to use the nail gun. I'd never used one previously. I considered it to be loud and scary. But the supervisor demonstrated how to use it and how to load it, and then encouraged me to give it a try. So I did. It was kind of cool and empowering. I'm not afraid of the nail gun anymore! :-)

After we nailed the baseboards to the studs (which were marked on the drywall), we caulked everything. My caulking gun was defective, so I ended up getting as much of the caulking material on my hands and apron as I did on the walls. Or so it seemed. Oh, well. You can't do construction and NOT get dirty, right?!!

By the time we shut down around 1PM, I was tired and hungry. I walked into the Qdoba on Woodlawn in my dirty construction clothes, not really caring what anyone thought about it. In fact, I kind of liked walking in there looking like that. As heads turned, the feeling of empowerment continued: I AM THE MASTER OF THE NAIL GUN!!! AND I HAVE BURNED ENOUGH CALORIES TODAY TO EAT WHATEVER I WANT!!! Bwhahahahahaha!!!

I enjoyed my experience so much that I can hardly wait to do it again. I just need the right tools and equipment. I already have a hard hat and an apron. After lunch, I visited my local hardware store and bought a hammer, safety goggles, a pair of work gloves, some carpenter pencils, and a bar of Lava soap. Now I just need a pair of steel-toed work boots and I'll be good to go. If I can master the nail gun, can a sander or router or jigsaw be far behind?