, ,

I have a new and undying respect for those in the building trade. I have never seen so much math as it takes to build one house.

I am a working partner on rebuilding our house. It is my job to take the scores and more hours it takes so hunt down the cool things with even cooler prices. We want a cool house (we had a cool house) but our likes could very quickly price us right out of the house at all.

One of the things that we want is an elevator. It sounds strange but as we age it gets harder to get up the stairs with two bags of groceries when your bifocals slipped when you bumped your head when you were getting the groceries our of the car. Since you had hold of the bags you think, I will just go on upstairs and get all this sorted. Then, by Jiminy, those stars are wandering around and you cannot quite tell where the top edge is and over like Humpty Dumpty you go, end over tea kettle until you hit the wall.

Our stairs are designed so that you can only fall down part of them at a time. There are three sets of stair sections with landings between each. If you start to roll, only 8 steps to a wall. And, they are wide enough for you and the groceries but not so wide you cannot get hold of the railings well when you are not trying to be heroic and carry up 5 bags of groceries at once.

The way our little piece of land is we have to build up. The entry level is half set back into the hill. We will have an unfinished area with a future bathroom, bedroom and bonus room between the entry and the garage. The entry is entirely new for us. We have always had kind of place where you open the door and you are either in or out but never in transition. No place to dump muddy boots or keep the cold at bay for clothing embarkation and disembarkation. In our new entry we will even have room to sit down to take off our shoes. Imagine that!

The entry hall is a great benefit of having to build up. When you get upstairs you can choose between the formal and informal areas of the house. By design, the informal will always be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer so probably everyone will end up there. Or maybe not. The formal area has views that can make a dog drool they are so tantalizing.

And upstairs. Upstairs. We have our offices hanging off the edge of the house, two stories up from the garage so that we can be eyeball-to-eyeball with the hawks and eagles that fly up and down the valley. They got so used to us before the house burned that they would fly their elliptical circles taking in the turn at the top of the pattern over our parking pad in the driveway. In some ways the whole house got rearranged so we could have our desks there. I is so powerful that we changed an entire house to see if they have come back.

But I digress. My new-found awe of contractors and carpenters and roofers and flooring guys. The math is relentless. The precision needed is ridiculous and then there is having to live with all the time that it takes to do the fit or the dealing with the fit if it does not fit.

Take siding. Simple enough. Four walls, 9 feet tall, some windows a door and you are good to go. Well, now in order to have walls around that entry hall and all that it leads too you have to have enough siding that is organized correctly. Most siding comes in planks or sheets of some sort. Siding comes in many varieties but for the purposes of simplicity I will speak hypothetically. First you have siding that does not overlap (tongue and grove) then you have siding that does. The siding that does has a host of ways to overlap. Depending on the way they overlap determines in part the amount of siding you need. For example, the square foot multiplier for linear feet is 2.47, 1.81 and 1.39 for Dutch lap depending on the width of the boards. For Channel lap, which has a straight edge rather than a bevel where the wood joins, the factors are 2.4, 1.77 and 1.37. That does not seem like much but when you are buying 3000 linear feet of wood the difference between 1.77 and 1.81 can be a mistake that costs you hundreds of dollars that could be used to pay for the bathtub.

I am certain you will understand what I mean when I point out that if we mere mortals were left in charge of measuring linear feet and converting that to square feet and checking the cubic volume of a room to verify the heating system we would live in cold, wobbly, and pretty tacky houses.

Our house has the best of everything in it. It has the energy and commitment of an architect, a contractor and a family. When we move in, the hours of math conduced for the house us will linger. As the house stands strong and true we will be grateful for conversion calculators to check the equations for converting square to linear feet.

computer generated model of a 2 story room with stairs that do not make it to the 2 nd floor.

Stair can be tricky. They can fool you, and the computer program. The set of stairs in this rendering did not get the proverbial whistle blown on them. As I examined the thing I had drawn I figured what’s a few feet when you forgot to put a floor on the room you are trying to reach.