Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A Word About the Work and the Metric System

We’re framing the downstairs of a four-plex. It’s built on-slab (which means no basement), but unfortunately the slab, which was poured by professionals, is 10 cm off level. Water collects in the low spots when it rains, and before we got to town, the local team (the site supervisor, Peter, and the future homeowners) had to shim up the blocks that will hold the walls. Because of their work, when we place the walls, their tops will be more level than the slab is. They will fill in the gaps at floor level with insulation and more shims. It’s a messy problem, which will probably haunt them a little bit throughout the construction. For the second house, Peter oversaw the pouring of the slab himself with volunteer labor, and that slab is level.

We started with building pillars out of four two by fours. I’m not sure what two by fours are called here, since all units are metric. After we’d had some hammering practice building our pillars, Peter started laying out walls and letting us pound in the studs. The work was going well, and I was only having mild irritation with men on the job site trying to “help” me by finishing my crooked nails for me. We worked alongside the future homeowners, who spoke no English, so I couldn’t protest when they did, but I tried to show my dissatisfaction by walking away.

The Second Wall Goes Up Posted by Hello

When you first build a wall with congruent top and bottom plates, and studs that are all the same length, it could either be a perfect rectangle (unlikely) or a parallelogram. Before you put the wall up, you want it to be a perfect rectangle, so what you do is you measure the diagonals of the wall. Since the diagonals of a rectangle are congruent, and the diagonals of a nonrectangular parallelogram are not, you can tell whether your wall is a rectangle by comparing the diagonals. In fact, with the help of a persuader (sledge hammer), you can convince the corners of your wall to move, forcing the diagonals to be congruent and the angles to be 90 degrees, which is good for such things as sheetrock and wallpaper.

Well, anyway, tape measures were in short supply on the job site, but there was one lying around that had obviously been left by an American, because it was labeled in inches. It was available, because the Hungarians regarded it with distain and suspicion, so I grabbed it to check the diagonals of a wall I was working on. The wall had been built metrically, but all I cared about was congruence, so inches would work. The wall was 6 inches off of being a rectangle (quite significant for that size wall). Kate and I worked together for 20 minutes to try to pound our corners into submission. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t changing enough, so we yelled for Peter. By that time, our wall was 3 inches out of square. I told him we were three inches off, and he shrugged and gave one corner a couple of small taps. I felt mildly insulted, but measured again, to humor him. It was barely changed. I repeated myself. “Three inches,” I said only this time I held up my fingers to show him what three inches meant. He raised his eyebrows, looked at my tape measure, glared at it, and tossed it aside. “I don’t know inches,” he said, pulling out a metric tape. Then, eventually, he had us tear apart the entire wall, because something was wack about it (I think the top plate was too long), so I guess mostly it wasn’t just an inches problem.

After Day 1 of Work Posted by Hello

No comments: