Previously on H3
Insulation, Drywall, Paint, Siding
First off my apologies for the delay in getting this part out, but I’ve been busy what with building homes and whatnot1. Assuming we passed the rough-in/framing inspection we now get to cover everything up and get to finishing. First comes the insulation. We have always subbed out the insulation, in the early days we did so because installing insulation is a nasty, scratchy job and more importantly the big companies could do the job for little more than what the cost of the insulation alone would be to us, economies of scale, FTW. I hear the insulation isn’t as itchy these days and sometimes they use the sprayed in fibrous and/or foamy stuff. Today it’s still cheaper to let the pros do it, plus we now have stricter standards on just how much insulation we need and we have to “prove” that we meet those standards. One “proves” this by submitting forms filled with calculations that I’d wager no one even checks2, but it’s in the file, so it’s all good. The insulation companies have people who fill out these forms, so we let them, it costs more but at least the homeowners know that their homes are nice and tight.
Speaking of which, with the house wrapping, caulking every crack, and the better insulation, some areas started seeing “Sick Home Syndrome,” a situation where people would get sick simply from being in certain buildings too long. Turns out all these energy efficiency regulations were making homes too tight. The answer – require a pressure test and add air exchangers so the houses can breathe3. Government – breaking your legs so it can supply you with crutches.
After the pink stuff comes the grey stuff.4 Drywall is another trade that we have always subbed out, apart from very small jobs it’s just not worth the hassle. In ’88 we used a couple of brothers who hung and finished the jobs themselves, they used hammers and nails but the screw guns were only a few years away. Most drywallers today seem to specialize in either finishing or hanging, the guy we use today doesn’t even employ hangers; he hires a crew that works for two or three other finishers. There are not many codes concerning drywall, we have to hang fire-rated boards on any walls between living spaces and garages but that’s about it.
After the grey stuff comes the stuff that’s whatever color you want it to be5. In the early days I spread a lot of paint6 but as my skill/value in other areas increased it became wiser to sub out the painting and staining. Which isn’t to say that painting is easy and that any hillbilly can do it. In fact, one of the most conscientious tradesmen I have worked alongside of was our long-time painter and wood finisher. Outside of the exemption in footnote #57 there aren’t any codes regarding paint…yet, you can still paint your farmhouse kitchen some shade that’s almost blue or your imperial bedroom an off yellow. I don’t know much about the technological advances in paints; what I do know is that over thirty years the cost has skyrocketed. It could be market driven, but since most things seem to come down in price over time-unless artificially manipulated- my money is on government intervention. Admittedly, this is a personal bias; I’ll gladly defer to anyone with actual knowledge of the ins and outs of the paint game.
Outside it’s time for siding, these days that means vinyl siding and cultured stone. For the first few houses, we used T-111 sheathing and later cedar. T-111 is cheap8 and the cedar expensive, both require maintenance, so vinyl and stone it is. Other than styles, not much has changed in siding; vertical is popular right now and they have some halfway decent looking fake shakes and stone products. The tools might have improved but the application is still the same, likewise with the stone; we’ve used the same masons for 25 years and they’ve always done things the same way.9
The Big Finish
From here on out it’s mostly cosmetics; technically all you need for the final/occupancy permit is a WC, hot water, and a kitchen sink. This is also about the time the owners start to get happy feet, the exterior is done and all the ‘big’ steps have been taken, but there is still plenty to do. I imagine if you had a big enough crew-or separate crews-installing cabinets, hanging doors, and trim, putting in the various floor coverings and such you could finish up quickly but we10 do all that stuff ourselves, so it’s going to take some time. Back when I did our electric, I would start with the lights and outlets, as it makes finishing easier when you don’t have to drag lights and extension cords everywhere.
Other than carpeting, which one likes to install dead last, I like to get the hardwoods, laminates, and ceramic down next; saves having to undercut doors and work around cabinets. Styles and products have changed over the years, laminates are the most popular now, and they have improved a lot. People still like hardwood and ceramics, but the cost difference is substantial. After flooring I like to set the cabinets; they, too, have improved mostly in the hardware, soft close hinges, full extension drawers and such. Countertops are mostly granite or quartz, and those farmhouse apron sinks are all the rage. I use a laser to level the cabinets, and the countertops are digitized and cut on CNC machines.
After the countertops are installed, the plumber can return and finish up, while I move on to hanging doors and trim. All these little things seem to go on forever, installing latch sets, door stops, towel bars, closet shelving, and the inevitable “favors” we do for the homeowners- hanging the wall mount TV brackets they bought or that big mirror and heavy pictures or the swinging porch chair… But then one day it’s done, the inspector can come by and stick his tester in a few outlets11, flush all the toilets and make sure the water at the sink is hot, but not too hot. We gather up any tools and materials still around and move on to the next job.
I know this section comes across as sparse, but other than styles and aforementioned improvements in tools and products finishing, a house hasn’t changed all that much during my 30-year career. To make up for that here’s some argument-starting clickbait type opinion stated as fact.
Every Tom Waits Album12 Ranked Worst to First.
The Black Riders
The Heart of Saturday Night
Franks Wild Years
Bad As Me
Nighthawks at the Diner
Heartattack and Vine
That’s it for the penultimate part. Next time will be the last time. I’m going to attempt to wrap all this up with some observations about what all this has to do with libertarianism, or perhaps better said, how it has influenced my particular take on libertarianism. If you have any questions or would like more details about some particular area hit me up in the comments and I’ll endeavor to address those issues as well.
1. Mainly trying to drink all the beer Riven sent me.
2. Not one time have I seen an inspector refer to any of the various forms we must submit while he’s doing the inspecting
3. Just like they used to.
4. That might be a euphemism…I’m just not sure for what
5. Except for outside, but I’ll get to that next time
6. [waggles eyebrows]
7. see footnote 5
8. But not inexpensive.
9. Recently retired, maybe the new masons will have new tricks.
10. With Dad pushing 80 that really should be “I”
11. Now, there’s a euphemism!
12. Yes, Nighthawks is technically a live album, but since it’s all original songs (aside from the Red Sovine cover) that aren’t on any other studio albums I include it here.