Sometimes it’s the little things that bug you.

In reading an article this morning on the sad fate of thousands of once habitable homes in Detroit falling to the wrecking ball, the author made a game attempt at painting a picture in the minds eye of the construction process of one particular home built in the first quarter of the 20th century, and failed miserably in my opinion.

“Crews of men dug a hole, poured a foundation, assembled floor bridging and ceiling joists and a truss for the roof. Shingles were laid down, one at a time. Wooden siding was hung. Mortar was spread and bricks were stacked.”

I don’t mean to nit-pick here, but when telling a story it is important to get the small things right if for no other reason than to establish a bit of credibility with the reader for what is to follow. Let me explain.

When digging a foundation, “crews” of men generally would get in each others way and would soon be swinging shovels at each other in the confined space of a foundation excavation. One crew would suffice in this instance. Or use a mechanical excavator. Certainly not as romantic from a story telling perspective as “crews” of swarthy shirtless construction workers elbow to elbow in an earthen hole, but probably more realistic. Attempting to then merely pour a foundation into the hole once dug will produce only a hole full of concrete. You could theoretically refer to this as a foundation but it might limit your options regarding a basement. It would be best to form the foundation before pouring it. If during my time in the trades a foreman had requested that I “assemble floor bridging”, he would have received a blank stare in return.  If on the other hand he had asked me to roll the floor joists, he would have had in short order a solid surface on which to begin framing. Roof trusses, while in common use today, had not been invented in 1926. You built a roof then by raising a ridge and hanging the rafters. The author is factually correct in that shingles are indeed placed, but “one at a time” seems to state the obvious to me. Wooden siding of the type used in a home built in this era wouldn’t have been “hung” as much as simply measured, cut, and fastened in place. Hanging is for plywood and drywall, again not yet invented in 1926. Mortar is never ever “spread”, it is placed, and the only time you see brick stacked on a building site is while they are still on the pallet boards from the supplier. Laborers stack brick. Masons lay brick.

I noticed that the piece is published in GQ so I suppose I shouldn’t be too critical. If I was to write an article explaining why the proper amount of exposure on a silk pocket square will likely get you 57% more tail than the male not privy to such sartorial secrets, I would probably come across as equally clueless.


2 responses to “Details

  1. All I can tell you is that your correction of “Certainly not as romantic from a story telling perspective as “crews” of swarthy shirtless construction workers elbow to elbow in an earthen hole, but probably more realistic.” just ruined a whole image for me of those “swarthy shirtless construction workers”. Geez, way to ruin for a gal.

  2. Sorry Rita. For me, swarthy shirtless workers in a hole conjure unwelcome thoughts of gay porn rather than romance novel imagery.
    I’ll be more careful next time. 🙂

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