DANGER! Construction Zone


A kit home would have been the sensible choice for our first owner-builder venture. I even had a couple of nice designs picked out.

The man of the house (or in this case, “house-man”) decreed we must build something unique. We spent two years drawing up plans. The finished product is unique alright! Not one bit of it matched standard sized fittings. From roofing to front doors, everything has required just that little bit extra in cash or know-how to install.

Shopping habits change when you’re an owner-builder. While all my girlfriends have charge accounts with department stores or various hip boutiques, I have one for Dahlsens—the local branch of a hardware chain.

Planning a fast escape from the hardware shop is hopeless when timber is in aisle 27 and nails in aisle 3. And who would have guessed that our new version of a hot date is sharing a coffee at the instore cafe?

I’d heard about builders’ vocabulary.

And if you think it’s a reference to bad language, you’d be wrong. I’ve always considered myself good with words but this is foreign territory. There’s a whole new vocabulary one must learn in order to build a house.

In my attempts to learn the lingo, I’ve provided plenty of amusement for the sub-contractors. While talking to one of them about the “pad ties,” he laughed and said, “Pad Thai? That’s what you order in a Thai restaurant.” Apparently I should have called them “tie-down pads.” House-man got my attention when he said the guys were coming on site to work on the flashing. But rather than it having to do with exposing body parts, it’s actually all about covering up! Building is not one of my skill sets, so it’s a good thing that house-man is very clever at creating structures of all kinds. The building project gave him an excuse to buy all sorts of power tools and gadgets. But one thing he did not have was a nail bag. So most of the time I end up standing at the bottom of the ladder, handing nails up to him as he hammers bits of wood together.

I don’t like being “the nail bag.” It’s boring just standing there at the builder’s beck and call. I’d much rather be off doing something creative, like choosing paint colours, carpets and so on. But before any of that can be done, someone has to hammer nails into wood to form the frame and hammer more nails to attach cladding to the frame.

Being “the nail bag” is a menial task.

I think I’ve got more talent than that.

I should be off doing more important things. But every builder needs a nail bag and because house-man and I are a team, I take my turn doing the boring bits of the teamwork. Sometimes it’s the small simple things, the serving someone-else things, that are the hardest to do.

A few months into the building project some visitors arrived bearing gifts. They presented house-man with a nail bag. They couldn’t understand why I was much more excited than he was.

The same visitors then pitched in for a couple of days hard yakka on the building site. They say you can tell who your real friends are by who shows up when the chips are down. I say you can tell who your real friends are by who shows up when you’re building.

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