At least it’s warm inside the current project house being built by the Lakeland Building Trades class. Outside, it’s barely above 10degrees and the wind makes it feel worse.
The afternoon crew for the Lakeland Building Trades home moves around the interior, drilling, cutting, and measuring. Instructor Steve Sherck moves from one area to the next, pointing out something that needs to be changed or answering a question.
This year’s home being built northeast of Shipshewana is for homeowners Kurt and Wendy Stump and their two children. The 1½-story home has a full basement and a vaulted ceiling towering above the living room which looks out over the winter scene.
The vaulted ceiling has the drywall installed, a real job as it is two stories up. “As long as they’re not afraid of heights and it’s done with the right equipment, there’s no problem doing it,” Sherck points out.
First year building trades student Wyatt Petty, a junior at Lakeland, said he thought the drywall has been the easiest part of the build so far, but it really comes down to the little things to make sure it’s done right.
Petty said he’s taking the class so he can have that experience to be able to work on his own house later in life. “Some things, like the siding, looked complicated,” Petty said. “But with what Mr. Sherck taught us, I can do it myself now.”
The key, Petty added, is “trying to do things right the first time and have to do the fewest corrections possible.”
Petty said he plans to take the course again next year, and encourages others to consider it. “It’s easier hands-on rather than just trying to visualize it in a book,” he stated.
Senior Hernan Duran has returned for a second year with the building trades and noted that this year’s house seems bigger than last year’s. He is one of five seniors to return for a second year in the class. The second year has brought some new areas for the seniors to work on. “I’ve been working with the electricity,” Duran said. “It’s challenging, but you just have to be careful.”
Although Duran said he doesn’t have plans to go into construction after school, the class has still been a real benefit as he looks forward to someday being able to work on his own place and help others. “Students should try it out,” Duran said.
Duran is looking forward to the spring, when the class will hold its open house and let others see what they have built.
The house this year sits in the Westview School District, and has six Westview students working in the morning class, along with another 13 Lakeland students split between morning and afternoon. With the distance from the high school to the house taking just over 20 minutes to cover each way, Sherck noted that the students are short about 40 minutes each day in construction time. “But I have students that work hard and are making up for that,” he noted. That has included volunteering for additional work on Saturdays to finish up certain areas, with a drywall work day coming up. “They understand the importance of what they are doing and take a lot of pride in it,” Sherck added.
The class has changed over the years, Sherck noted. Earlier in the program’s history, Sherck points out, a lot of the students already had some experience with tools at home as older family members were likely to fix their own homes. “Now, we are more willing to hire repairs out rather than do it ourselves,” Sherck said. That means fewer students come into the class with that basic knowledge.
But seniors like Devin Giles will be able to work on his own home. Giles plans to go to school for heating and cooling after high school, but likes the overall homebuilding experience he has learned over the last two years.
“I’m ready for the finished product,” Giles said. “It’s going to be a nice house.” Giles said he enjoys seeing the family’s reaction when they come to check on the progress. “They’ve been very appreciative,” he stated.
The work continues as more drywall goes up and wire is run through the rooms. Soon it will be installing cabinets, painting, and all the detail work that will make the home shine. By the end of the school year, the Lakeland Buildings Trades will have one more home built and the students can’t wait to invite everyone to the open house to see the finished product.