So you wanna build something?

Part 2

By Ted Bowers
Reader Columnist

Editor’s note: In Ted’s last column, he discussed the importance of making a plan before you build. In this Part II, he talks about scale drawings of your project and preparation work for the work area and your tools.

Okay, you have a plan and you and your partner(s) are in agreement on the specifics. Does this mean you have a scale drawing of the project? If not, give consideration to doing that or even hiring to have it done.

Ted Bowers takes a break on the job site. Photo by Ben Olson.

Ted Bowers takes a break on the job site. Photo by Ben Olson.

In our business, we are always happy to see something, anything on paper or a computer screen to guide us on a project. It saves a multitude of headaches and missteps and helps others who get involved understand your plan, such as electricians and plumbers.

Something as simple as which way a door swings will determine where a light switch goes or whether it will bump into a bathroom vanity. By creating a drawing you may discover needed changes or pleasant surprises.

Anyway, if you live in a town that requires a building permit for your project, a drawing is a necessity. If you are building a new structure or making structural changes in an existing building, your drawing might need an engineer’s or licensed architect’s stamp (e.g. Sandpoint, Dover).

The better the drawing, the smoother the process, from plan to permit to execution. For many years, I have done drawings for customers’ projects and still do occasionally, but increasingly, as regulations become stricter, we turn to professionals for this aspect. In most cases, the expense of hiring a pro winds up saving money and headaches in the long run, especially for jobs of even modest size.

You now have a plan, a drawing, a permit, materials, tools and time. Now let’s talk about process and safety. If you are digging a foundation, call for a dig. 811 is the number that will get the utility companies to your place to check for pipes and wires in the ground to be marked and avoided.

Your safety is of course essential. Eyewear, hearing protection, gloves and back support are just a few basics. Caution tape or some sort of barrier to holes and other hazards is a good idea. Good ladders properly placed and used, climbing harnesses for working on roofs and most importantly, constant awareness of the need for your and others’ safety are essential. This means staying sober and alert while handling tools and materials and being aware of other people’s needs for safety as well. It helps to talk about possible hazards arising on the day’s upcoming tasks, especially when moving on to another phase of construction requiring different processes, tools, materials, etc. Read labels and learn about dealing with hazardous materials. Take the time to set up tools, ladders and scaffolding properly.

Oh, and here’s a good one: Keep tools well maintained. Sharp blades are less likely to injure than dull ones. Grounded extension cords, blade guards on saws, sharp drill bits—all these contribute toward a safe and successful day of work. These safety tips I’m sharing are from experience of improper practice. I’ve spent time in doctor’s offices getting stitches and having chunks of wood and metal removed from my eyes. I’ve fallen off roofs and watched friends fall and sustain serious injuries, all of which could have been avoided, had we taken the time and thought to be safe.

Now, start building! And good luck!

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