How many jobs does it take to build a house?

By on June 29, 2010

Third in a series
When we left off last time, we were closing in on 100 jobs at 40 percent of our project budget. We now move to Phase 3 as our series examines the human impact of the construction downturn.

Phase 3 moves along pretty fast, and the number of new jobs climbs dramatically. But we also begin to see jobs previously counted return to the project to complete other work.

A warehouse worker at a building supply company, for example, may be called upon three times to help make this house a reality — once to deliver lumber, another time for siding,and yet again for drywall. The truck driver also makes all three of those trips.

They won’t be counted again for this project, but it takes more than one house to keep these folks employed and contributing to the local economy and tax base.

Waste down under

Unless they are in one of the few communities served by sewer, most homes in Dare County require a sand-filtration septic system. Now is the time to install the concrete septic tank, which then leaches waste through a series of pipes called a drain field. The sand does the rest of the work, naturally filtering the waste. Unlike inland septic systems, our tanks are made of concrete and seldom need to be pumped out.

Our builder: Carl Worsley. (Photo by Russ Lay)

Several companies locally stock the tanks. In the case of our builder Carl “Pogie” Worsley’s vendor, the tanks are manufactured on the Outer Banks.

Once the order is placed, concrete forms are used to size the tank, which is determined by the size and number of bedrooms in the project house, and the tank is cast. It’s then loaded and delivered. In the mix we also have a dispatcher, office help and the owner or the company. At minimum, this is a six-person project. TNT is the local company that got the call on this order.

A different company handles the installation of the tank. Don Humphries, a long-time local vendor, is called upon for this service. A crew of three digs the septic hole and drain field area, and attaches the system to the house’s outflow pipes. Running total for Phase 3 is now nine.

A house is just a large Thermos bottle

Chuck and Debbie Hymes
In what has become a recurring theme in our story, the housing downturn’s affect on the Hymeses is reflected in the loss of jobs among their employee family.
full story »

Since our plumbing, wiring and HVAC were “roughed-in”during the last phase, it’s time for the building inspector, who was counted earlier, to revisit the site and sign off on all of this work. This is a logical step, since the inspector needs to make his decision before the work is covered by insulation and drywall.

Assuming the inspection results in a passing grade, the insulation is now placed throughout the house. Another locally based company, this one in Kill Devil Hills, brings another five jobs to the table; a salesperson, two installers, one clerical person and the owner.

Our phase three total advances to 14.

A short trip outside

We leave the interior work for just a short time. Our siding, which is often Hardie plank or other material, often arrives in a neutral color. Exterior painting is required, and this is the time Worsley usually brings painters into the cycle.

A subcontractor with three employees completes the exterior painting. That brings the Phase 3 total to 18.

Dryin’ and trimmin’

Another call to our building supply company, Kellogg’s in Manteo. We aren’t counting more jobs here, but Worlsey now needs to put the walls in place. For people like me, with no architectural imagination, it takes the installation of drywall to occur before I can really begin to visualize the interior floor plan and the size of the rooms.

The drywall process, from ordering to delivery, takes five Kellog’s jobs, about the same amount as our lumber order. Our job count is in a holding pattern.

Installing the drywall is a different matter. And, if you’ve never witnessed the process, it takes a lot of skill. Think about it. Drywall covers everything, not just the normal walls, but the ceilings and those super high vaulted ceilings.

It’s not unusual to visit a house and see workers moving about, quite easily, on stilts attached to their lower limbs to reach those high places. On our subject house, three workers “hung” the drywall, and three did the “finish” work, which includes taping and smoothing the seams and other finishing work. Six total jobs.

Once the wallboard is in, trim carpenters arrive. Their job is to install all the interior woodwork — floor board trim, windows and door trim, stairway rails and knee wall trim. These same workers also hang the interior doors. Kellogg’s once again takes the order, loads the trucks and delivers the materials. And, once again, we won’t count these jobs again.

The trim crew is surprisingly small, yet efficient. Add three new jobs.

Phase 3 is over

Twenty-seven new jobs, and several previously counted jobs have brought us to the end of our latest phase.

Our total job count is now about 127. Phase three consumed another 29 percent of our construction budget. We have now used 69 percent of our homeowner’s projected expenses.

Next week: Carpets, painting, fixtures begin to arrive.

Previous stories:
Part I, the foundation
Part II, the framing

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