"Building a House" Review

July 31st, 2023
house, kids
I was recently reading Byron Barton's 1981 book, Building a House. While it claims to be an end-to-end overview of the process of modern (for the time) home construction, there are enough errors in the illustrations that I wouldn't recommend it as a basic text.

For example, here's how they show installing a subfloor:

There are several issues with the depicted method. The biggest one is that the seams do not fall on joists. This leaves the ends unsupported. The diagram shows nails at the joints, but those nails are doing nothing: they go through the panels into empty space. If your joist spacing doesn't match your panels you need to trim them.

Or, here's how they show framing the exterior walls:

That window is not framed correctly. Not only is the header a single horizontal 2x when it should be a pair of vertical ones, but they've left off the jack studs entirely.

They also show the electrician installing ungrounded ("two prong") outlets:

Grounded outlets have been required since the 1975 NEC, and had been best practice in new construction for about a decade.

Later they show installing pre-hung windows, which is fine, except that they say to do this after the drywall has already been installed and the hardwood floors have been laid:

There are a bunch of reasons why you'd want to install the windows earlier, but a big one is that until your windows are installed any interior finishings are exposed to the elements.

The book is also seriously incomplete, with no discussion of insulation, drywall, heating, siding, and other core issues.

While the book continues to be a popular introduction to the topic, with 20 copies available in my local library network, I can't recommend it as a reference.

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