I had a good friend who graduated near the top of his class in high school but never bothered with college. All he ever wanted to do was build houses. As soon as he was old enough to swing a hammer for a living, he joined a framing crew. He quickly worked his way through the ranks, absorbing everything he could until he was the foreman. Then he quit. He joined another crew, started at the bottom and again worked his way up to foreman, soaking up all the knowledge of that crew. He quit again and repeated the cycle a half dozen times before finally forming his own company. At that point, he’d seen the methods and mistakes of dozens of craftsmen and had learned the fastest and most effective way to build a house. If you’re aspiring to become a professional builder, I’d highly recommend that path.

For me, working as an editor at Fine Homebuilding magazine was akin to that process. I tried to tackle every article as if it were my first day on the job. My mission was to soak up the knowledge of the incredibly talented authors it was my pleasure to work with.

Sure, I’d done my share of framing in my hammer-swinging days, but I probably learned more behind a camera and in front of a keyboard than I ever did on all the job sites I worked as a carpenter. What I’ve tried to present in this book is the culmination of that knowledge. I focused on a particular house and a particular crew, and these guys still taught me new things, just as with every other crew.

If you’re reading this book, you probably have agnawing curiosity about how houses are built, with an equally strong desire to gain the knowledge and develop the skills to build your own house at some point. I’ve lived in half a dozen houses, and in every one I found myself daydreaming about how the house went together and what the job site was like when each house was being built. So I hope this book fuels your curiosity and fires your courage to build your own house. If you do, I can promise that you’ll never have a
greater sense of pride than knowing that you built the roof over your head. And if working with your hands and building things makes your heart pound with excitement, then building your own house will be an amazingly fun and enjoyable time.

That said, I offer these words of caution.
• Always think through a process before jumping in.
• If there’s something you don’t understand, find a craftsman who will take the time to explain a process or a procedure. There are many skilled builders who are willing to share their knowledge with people willing to learn.
• If a process doesn’t seem safe to you, then it probably isn’t. Find a way to do every task safely.
• Always do your prep work before performing a task. That may mean building safe scaffolding or setting up a work table or rerouting hoses and extension cords. Whatever the task, proper
preparation will make the job go more smoothly and more safely.
• Wear safety equipment! Professionals are notorious for not using proper protection, sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes from a false sense of pride. Don’t fall prey to the same weaknesses.

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