Why I Build My Own Designs
My designs are like my children: I love them and want to raise them myself.
I work with you to create your design and build your design by combining an innate sense of balance for proportioning area, volume and aesthetic qualities, all backed by a practical work history. Being a tradesman and contractor of both new and of remodeling homes has its advantages; I listen and hear what you want; I know what the tradesmen, suppliers and building department expect, and this has produced satisfied customers.
But it’s the time spent remodeling all those homes where we gain the knowledge of how we can perfect our work. It reveals how well designs work; what is structurally feasible, and what are the inherent strengths and weaknesses of materials and methods of assembly.
Sitting for hours at a job site with only the client’s desire in mind, images begin to form…none that I’ve built before—your needs and location are one of a kind.
Intuition is the invaluable equation, just as much as my building experience determines the quality.
My Early Foundation in Davis
Many of my early employers instilled ethics and work traits that I honor and will pass on.
On Saturday mornings when I was about 13 years old, I’d get a wakeup call around 6 a.m. from my first boss, Leo Ross, a custodian at Birch Lane Elementary School. I helped him maintain the grounds of residences where I was raised and businesses around town, like Hibbert Lumber Co., the Davis Library, and Safeway (now the Co-Op). It would be years before I’d fully recognize and appreciate one particularly defining standard he instilled in me—to notice every detail on a job. Before we’d go on to the next place, he’d always do a final check over, pointing out cigarette butts and the tiniest little weeds in places I thought would go unnoticed; he would then let me know why it would be better for everybody if I were to use his definition of finished.
Funny, it wouldn’t be until many years later that my shop partner, Bryan Norton of Norton HVAC and sheet metal fabrication, whose work is impeccable and another born and raised Davisite, and I would discover that we had both worked for Leo.
An old school phrase once used by masons was “wet the bricks.” This was a reminder to moisten the dry surface of tiles, stones, or bricks, an important step which prevented flash drying and yielded a stronger and longer bond. I learned this at my grandparents’ home on D Street when I walked into their only bathroom one day to see their neighbor (Charlie Metz from New York who had been a master mason on those tall stone buildings) retiling the shower walls while philosophizing about life and work ethics. Years later, on my own landscape projects, he would show me how the ground moves and how to prevent many of the cracks from settling, problems associated with paving and building.
After I spent many years in landscaping, Lowell Alger became my first employer in the construction of buildings. This was where I learned the important first steps as a laborer and apprentice once again, but on large commercial buildings around town. I recall asking Lowell for a job at some buildings that were beginning to be torn down at 4th & E Streets and he asked me what my experience had been. He hired me and others regardless of what a person had to say for themselves. Some people stayed and some were let go. He let me know it was up to me to stay employed and handed me a sledgehammer. Lowell was fair and his standards were reflected in his very large and capable crew. It’s not surprising that his son Steve, another Davisite that I had worked with on his dad’s projects, would become my electrician of choice.
Piece work is completing the construction on a portion of a building for a set price, regardless of how long it takes. My first piece rate job was sheathing a roof with plywood after it had been framed, which took me two 12-hour days to complete. By my third house, I was capable of completing the same job in less than eight hours, as well as framing and siding by myself (before nail guns were used). John Olivera, owner of Olympic Construction, a production framing company, hired me and taught me effective techniques for increasing productivity while maintaining quality standards on housing and apartment developments around the valley. The organizational skills that I learned from him are invaluable now for keeping my labor costs to a minimum and my projects on schedule.
Remnants survive; ingenuity to be discovered again.