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January 26, 2001

“Working alone.” This sounds like heaven to some, exile to others. But it happens to be the title to a new book in the library’s collection of construction and home improvement books.

The title reminded me of an interesting book, “Solitude,” by Anthony Storr, which is not a guide to meditative pursuits but rather an analytical treatment of the roles solitude has played in human experience. A quote from Montaigne begins chapter two, “The capacity to be alone:”

“We must reserve a little back-shop, all our own, entirely free, wherein to establish our true liberty and principal retreat and solitude.”

“Working Alone” is subtitled “Tips and techniques for solo building.” The “Tips and Techniques” section of Fine Homebuilding magazine is fun to read, and this book, by the same publisher, is much the same. “Working Alone” would also help a builder with a crew, because many of the tips have to do with safety, forethought, and efficiency.

The biggest challenge for a solo builder, you might imagine, is replacing a helper’s hands, which happens to be the title of Chapter One. The author, John Carroll, makes clever use of an arsenal of clamping devices. But I’ll spare you the details.

With contractors in short supply these days, this might prove a useful book for handymen and do-it-yourselfers. Taunton Press is a fine publisher, and the library has bought quite a few of their books in recent years: “Measuring, Marking and Layout” for framers, “The Doorhanger’s Handbook,” “Safe Home Wiring Projects,” “Building with Structural Insulated Panels,” and more.

Another handy book from Taunton is “Code Check: a Field Guide to Building a Safe House.” This is essentially a spiral-bound collection of plasticized flip charts with tons of useful information crammed between the margins. We have one in reference and two for check out.

Graphics define new how-to books, and the standard is high. Photographs can be a big help if they’re well conceived and carefully reproduced. Time-Life books and their imitators typically have superior drawings that can be even more useful than photos for what they leave out of the picture. Only the most important lines are there.

But what could be better for the novice than a how-to video? We have a shelf of home improvement videos: “Drywall,” “Roofing,” “Ceilings,” and so forth. Imagine putting up a ceiling alone. See “Working Alone” for how it’s done.

Confined to the Reference Room, I’m afraid, are the following tomes: Architectural Graphic Standards, R.S. Means Construction Cost Data 2000, ASHRAE Fundamentals, and the beautiful Elements of Style.

There’s also four volumes of the National Design Specification for Wood Construction and related topics. If you want to find yourself working alone, start quoting these.

While the Means Cost Data are in the Reference Room, the 2001 National Construction Estimator and F.R. Walker’s Remodeling References Book are available for check out.

By the way, Chaffee County is currently using the 1991 Uniform Building Code but is considering the International Building Code 2000 and the International Residential Code 2000.

These new codes were produced by the combined efforts of three separate code organizations: ICBO (which wrote the UBC), BOCA (which wrote the NBC), and SBCCI.

My point is that the library has a copy of the IBC and IRC available for one-week check-out so that interested parties may review them. The county is accepting comments until March 1st. TGIF.


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