To build a house involves converting materials into new forms and fastening them together. The basic operations include measuring, cutting and fastening. Some of the tools used to build a house have not changed for many years, while others have undergone major transformations from being largely human-powered to being powered by other energy sources like electricity.
Use a steel tape measure for the most accurate measurements since steel does not stretch as much as plastic and other kinds of tape measure materials. Tape measures of 50 feet or more are best for foundations. Earthwork is a major part of building foundations and there are a number of hand tools that come in handy for this work. Use round-pointed shovels for spot digging where equipment cannot reach. Sometimes picks make the digging go easier if there is exceptionally hard soil or stone. Use a sledge hammer to drive batter boards and form stakes. Most foundations require some kind of concrete or masonry work. Use bull floats and trowels for placing and finishing slabs, and trowels for stacking concrete block. A rebar cutter/bender speeds up the process of placing rebar.
Do the necessary framing measurements and calculations using a 25-foot tape measure, speed square and framing square. Squares also help with marking cut lines, aligning components of the frame and checking that corners are within tolerances. Use a four-foot level to make sure walls and roof members are plumb and level. A circular saw with a worm-gear drive works best for cutting lumber for framing. Use a chop saw with metal blade when cutting steel framing. Chop saws also come in very handy for framing with wood. Use them for cutting exact angles and for repetitive cuts when staging lumber. Gas, or air framing nailers make quick work of fastening. They also save your arms and wrists from the damage hammers do to them. An air-powered palm nailer gets into those tight space where framing nailers cannot reach like driving nails in hangers. Use a screw gun when building steel frames.
Use a drywall T-square for measuring and laying out cuts on drywall. A sharp utility knife or a high speed rotary saw finish the cutting jobs. Tin snips work well for cutting vinyl siding while a circular saw fitted with a carbide blade cuts cement board and compressed fiber siding. Use a table saw for highly accurate cuts when building cabinets and mill work. A wet saw with a diamond blade speeds up cutting large amounts of porcelain, ceramic and stone tile. Use a screw gun to fasten drywall. A hammer, or nailer that drives roofing nails works well for hanging vinyl siding. Just be sure you can set the depth of the driven nail with the nailer so you do not drive the nail too tightly and restrict the necessary horizontal movement of the siding. A siding nailer speeds up installation of other siding types. Finish nailers make quick work of installing trim, molding and window casements. Use notched trowels to lay down tile mastic and sponge trowels for grouting.
- "Habitat for Humanity, How to Build a House"; Larry Haun, Millard Fuller, Vincent Laurence, Tim Snyder; 2002
- "Housebuilding: A Do-It-Yourself Guide"; R.J. DeCristoforo; 2007
- Photo Credit construction tools image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com
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