Friday 28 April 2006, 7:15 pm
I never knew you could put drywall on a ceiling. Yow! Ouch! I also
never knew that there are at least three kinds of drywall: the
regular kind for walls, a thicker "fire resistant" kind for ceilings,
and a "water resistant" kind for bathrooms.
There were only two of us working on this job, and Nick told me it
was really a three-person job. I found out why. To put up drywall
on the ceiling, someone has to hold up the piece while the other
quickly puts screws into it before the first person collapses. The
smaller pieces were not difficult, but the pieces that approached
4x8 feet in size were miserable. Nick held up all of those, and he
said my screwing speed was pretty fast, but he did turn a greenish
color a couple of times.
If there had been three of us, who could have held up the drywall
easily, one at each end, while the third put in the screws. We didn't
have that luxury.
What most consider the difficult part is the measurement. Not only do
you have to cut the pieces to exactly the right size, but you have to
cut out holes for things like light fixtures and heater vents. With
only the two of us on the job, we found the measurement part to be
easy compared to the (literal) grunt work. It turns out Nick was a
system administrator at his last job, and he has a Math degree from
Portland State University.
So I guess you'd expect a couple of math/computer geeks to have no
trouble putting the holes in the right places, but difficulty
holding the drywall over their heads.
It also turns out there is nothing square in this particular house
we were working on. When putting in a sheet, we could take measurements
of all four sides, but we didn't have the appropriate tools to
measure all the angles. Unfortunately, for any set of four
lengths, there are an infinite number of quadrilaterals that might
have those dimensions. In most cases we could be sure that there was
at least one angle of 90 degrees, but without the good tools, we
could not tell which angle it was. Sometimes we could put a
piece of scrap "factory angle" (corner not yet cut) to see if an
angle was close to 90, but if not, we could not always tell how
Blech. Enough of this. It was a really fun day. Nick is a fun guy
and we had a lot of laughs, especially when a piece of drywall not
quite securely fastened yet fell on our heads.
Tomorrow, Nick, Roger and I are supposed to finish the carpet at the
house where we were working yesterday. Mary is supposed to stay at
camp and run the distribution center with a skeleton crew. We are
supposed to get a crew of six contractors here tomorrow, so the next
week promises to involve a lot more house building.
CityTeam's goal is to completely rebuild the insides of 50 homes.
This means the foundations, frames, and outside walls are intact,
but the crews will replace the drywall and carpet, add inside
paint and trim, usually replace the electical system, but not
usually the plumbing, which generally needs new fixtures at most.
Anyway, I hear they have worked on about eleven or twelve houses,
but only finished one or two. There are two problems: the labor
might be very slow, because volunteer contractors generally stay
here for only a week or two, not long enough to finish a job, so
another contractor has to finish the work later. A more pressing
problem is that it can cost $15,000 in supplies (mostly drywall
and carpet, I guess) to finish a house. You can do the
multiplcation yourself. That's a lot of money, and CityTeam
can't really afford to buy all those supplies and pay for the
plane flights too.
The real heroes here are not the "short-timers" like Mary and me,
but the long-timers like Roger, John, and Nick. Roger has been
here since January, and before that he was in New Orleans. Nick
has been here on and off for twelve weeks since Katrina hit.
Ralph and Pete have been running the CityTeam camp here pretty
much since it opened, with only a week here and there to go back
home to Philadelphia.