Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What I Learned at Habitat for Humanity

The stud framing and complete window sill plate in center of frame.

I'm not a very experienced framer, and it showed last weekend.

Of the construction skills I have tried my hand at, framing is not one of them, but I learned something recently.  My task was to construct window sill plates for the most recent Habitat for Humanity home.  It didn't help that I drafted this specific home's plan on the computer.  I knew where the window rough opening belonged, but not how best to put it there.

At least I wasn't alone.  The task was shared with one other volunteer; Alex.  He didn't know how best to make the sill either.

Alex and I did the best we could though. I knew the rough opening was 36" x 60", so I confirmed the pencil markings were accurate.  The 2x4 framing was laid out for us at least, and using the circular saw to cut to length went well enough.  With three pieces of dimensioned lumber, we used hammer and nails to fix the frame in place.  One of us would hold the horizontal plate in place, and the other would toe-nail it in place.

Wall panel diagram with 1. Cripple Stud,
2. Window Header, 3. Top Plate,
4. Window Sill, 5. Stud, 6. Bottom Plate.

This was a very inefficient way of framing.

Nevermind that we were not using nail guns.  This was a volunteer position, so nail guns are far too much liability.  Even experienced framers have been known to seriously hurt themselves or others with nail guns, so there was no chance of novices having a go.  Despite this, we could have completed our task so much quicker.  A third volunteer showed us how.

Stud framing showing the cripple studs holding the sill plate before nailing.

By simply placing the cripple studs to the end of the window sill plate, and next to the jack stud, the sill plate can be fastened with nails without me holding it.  Instead both Alex and I could whack at the nails simultaneously, and finish the window framing quickly.

It seems such a simple lesson, and one that I should have thought of sooner.  Nonetheless I will put this one in my back pocket, and use any chance I get in the future.  I'm not sure when I will be allowed to frame again, but cutting my teeth at Habitat for Humanity was a great experience.  Most everyone there has little construction experience, so it's a great opportunity to learn in an ego-free and understanding job site.  If you have an opportunity to volunteer, I would highly recommend it.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share?  Have you volunteered with Habitat? Let me know in the comments..