Canadian Woodworking

One Lazy Son-in-Law

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
One Lazy Son-in-Law
One Lazy Son-in-Law

Don’s son-in-law helps him build an addition.


Last summer my son-in-law came out to help me reroof my home and build a porch addition on the front of my house, although to say he helped me may be a bit of an understate­ment. Truth be told, he did nearly all the work while I watched. I feel this is as it should be, since he took away my Number One daughter and marooned her and my three adorable grandchildren in the wilds of deepest Manitoba. And yes, I do know that I have four grandchildren but I’m not all that fussy about one of them.

Before he came out he suggested that I get the foundation pit excavated and the footings poured prior to his arrival, since he wasn’t about to sit around and wait for the concrete to dry. I couldn’t under­stand his logic; I thought sitting around in the Okanagan sun watching cement dry was a marvelous idea. It sure beat digging the darn hole, I tell you. Luckily, my son was home at the time and was informed he would be more than happy to assist with the digging.

The addition was going to be quite small, about eight feet by twelve feet, and constructed with 2×6 walls covered in stucco to match the original house. After many precise and extremely careful cal­culations, I estimated that the footings would need to be exactly a bit larger than the room dimensions. And with those cal­culations firmly in someone’s mind, we commenced digging.

Now, my next-door neighbour, Carl, has a creek flowing through his property. Well, technically the creek runs through his house. His basement, to be precise. Weirdly enough, the creek was actually a benefit when it over­flowed its banks and drowned his termite and carpenter ant infestation, but that’s another story and one that didn’t really concern me. What I was concerned about was the possibility that his water feature might have taken a left turn at the prop­erty line and I would spring a leak when digging my foundation.

My solution to the potential problem was to excavate the pit as shallowly as possible. We spent nearly a full quar­ter hour scraping the grass off the entire area before declaring ourselves more than satisfied with a job well done and went inside to relax. It was while we were enjoying our well-deserved rest that The Boy began reading the instruction sug­gestions the building inspector had left. I burst out laughing when he got to the part that said we needed to dig down three whole feet, and I was rolling on the floor begging him to stop when he stated the footings needed to be a full twelve inches wide. And then I was crying when I real­ized he was serious.

It took a few days, but eventually we managed to recover enough energy to go outside and pick up our shovels. A few days later we managed to move them out of the way and even pounded some wooden sticks in the ground at what appeared to be logical locations. We then wove some string back and forth between them, somewhat like we had seen once on an episode of “Tool Time.” In retrospect, it may not have been a good idea to learn house construction from Tim Taylor. How was I to know that “Home Improvement” wasn’t an actual home improvement show?

We were pleasantly surprised to learn, once we started the actual digging, that the ground consisted primarily of sand, and we were able to dig the entire foun­dations in roughly the right location and in slightly less time than a government contractor would have managed it. And we came in under budget.

Shortly thereafter we had the batter boards nailed into place, and within days they had been moved, not just once, but several times before ending up about where they should have been.  Not only that, but they had also been filled with cement by using the able assistance of the cement truck driver after he managed to stop laughing and helped move the batter boards to where they should have been in the first place.

Once the cement had dried, Geoff arrived. He was duly impressed with all my fine work and within days we/he had the room completely framed up, the outside sheathing on, rough wiring in place, windows and doors installed, closet roughed in and the roof on.

Then he went home and left me with the drywalling to finish.

I tell you, that boy is so lazy.

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