Thursday, January 29, 2015

My First Day Volunteering at Habitat For Humanity

So today I worked on a construction job site for the first time ever.   In fact, I had a lot of "firsts" today, but most importantly, it was my first time volunteering for Habitat For Humanity.   Can I just say, I loved it!!!!

I was worried about how it would go.  I knew before I went that I would be working on framing a house.  What?!? Me???  I've watched enough HGTV to kind of know what's involved, but I've never built anything, never really even swung a hammer very often.  I was worried I'd be the most inexperienced person, the only woman, the weakest person, and the slowest worker on the job site.  And my biggest fear was that I would slow down progress and make the guys frustrated.  Well, I was mostly right.  I was the most inexperienced person, I was the the only woman, and I was the weakest person, and I probably was the slowest.   But, while I may have slowed things down, the guys were incredibly patient and supportive and I never once felt like they were frustrated.  Yay!

Habitat organizers tell you that you need no prior construction experience to be useful, and they're right.  They have awesome folks on the job site to teach you everything you need to know, and they're excellent teachers.  Everyone I encountered, from the 60+ year old job foreman, to the 20-something full time framers, to the retired regular volunteer, were happy to show me how to do things, let me try, and help me fix any mistakes I might have made.   I felt like I could ask questions, I could ask for help, or I could try things on my own (with instruction), and everyone was very supportive.   After an hour or so, I began to comfortable with what I was doing, and I really did feel useful and like I wasn't in the way.

So what did I learn today?
  • I learned how to hammer effectively without tiring out your arm muscles.
  • I learned a few different ways to pull nails out of a 2x4.   (I pulled out a lot of nails. Don't ask.)
  • I learned how to nail wall studs into the header and footer following the correct markings.
  • I learned that pressure-treated wood and galvanized nails are used on the footer, to prevent decay and rust in case of a water problem.
  • I learned how to use a miter saw.
  • I learned how to use a pneumatic nail gun.
  • I learned how to use a ramset nail gun (which uses a small gunpowder cartridge to power the nail into concrete)
  • I learned how to fasten walls onto the concrete slab.
  • I learned how to make one wall butt up against another, and a couple of different ways to properly frame them so they can be nailed together.
  • I learned how to fasten exterior walls to the concrete slab differently from interior walls.
Using all of these new skills, I helped build all of the interior walls of a 3-bedroom house.  I had a really great time, and I walked back to my car feeling like I definitely got the better end of the deal today.  I mean, yes, I gave some work hours and helped out, but also I was given a free hands-on education that made me feel empowered and pretty awesome, actually.  I kind of really loved it.

I will definitely be signing up again to do some more work for Habitat For Humanity.   And if you think you might like to learn how to do some of these construction jobs, I would be the first to recommend that you sign up too!  

Have you ever volunteered for Habitat For Humanity?  How was your experience?  I'd love to hear about it!

Linking to:
Chatting At The Sky -  What We Learned in January

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