THE NAME PROJECT
FINDING FAMILY IN THE REMNANTS OF WAR
Carpenter, general contractor, and owner of Completely Hammered, Dougal McGhee shows Fiona Bramble around his latest renovation project in the Gorge area of Victoria B.C.
SKILL MENTOR MEAGHAN SMITH SHARES HER EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE IN A LANGUAGE AND CULTURE LESSON. CLICK IMAGE ABOVE TO VIEW, DOWNLOAD, OR PRINT MEAGHAN'S INTRODUCTION TO SEWING AND PATTERNS.
MORE LEARN HERE
SKILL MENTOR RYAN LEBLANC SHARES HIS EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE IN A LANGUAGE AND CULTURE LESSON. CLICK IMAGE ABOVE TO VIEW, DOWNLOAD, OR PRINT RYAN'S INTRODUCTION TO HIKING .
SKILL MENTOR TRACEY COOK SHARES HER EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE IN A LANGUAGE AND CULTURE LESSON. CLICK TO VIEW, DOWNLOAD, OR PRINT TRACEY'S INTRODUCTION TO URBAN FARMING.
Published January 20, 2017
Thanks for letting me have an inside
look at your new project. This looks
like a whole house renovation! Yes, it is! We gutted the place. It's going to be all-new everything. We also developed a suite in the basement for a rental unit. Some people suggested tearing it down, but we saved the main structure. It's got good bones. And it's waterfront—a pretty sweet spot!
How did you sign on to the project? The owner is my friend's mother-in-law.
Do you find a lot of work through your personal network? Absolutely, so much of the work I get is by word of mouth.
With such a big project, I assume an architect is involved? Yes, an architect was involved, but we changed many of his ideas.
Why is that? Is there a disconnect between the practical and the theoretical? Yes, there is that. There is definitely that. For instance, I'll show you on the architect's drawings for this project—here, you can see—he drew the front of this house with the grade coming up to just below the door, but that is not where the concrete foundation comes up to, it comes up a fair amount below there. So we have to come up with another way of doing this because the owner wants to be able to walk in from grade level—no steps—and she wants it to be wheelchair accessible and all that. So we've had to come up with other ideas for solving that.
And? So we're going to pour a little [concrete] wall in front of the framed wall and keep an air space between the wood frame and the concrete wall, otherwise moisture gets in there and it doesn't last more than a couple of years. We also changed the architect's roof lines to fit better with the house and the neighbourhood. The owner actually came up with the better roof line. The architect should have noticed both of these things.
So if the architect is supposed to be the artist, what are you? Sometimes I am the artist too, obviously. You just saw that. But I'm not the hired professional artist, the architect is.
This disconnect doesn't seem uncommon. No, it's actually common that architects and the trades clash. It happens all the time. Architects don't learn the trade in school and I didn't learn architecture, but I have learned a lot on the job.
The rental suite you've built here is amazing. Do you feel good about creating this space for another family or others, especially in this rental market? Yes, it does feel good. It's great. And they get waterfront!
What led you to carpentry? Something in your background? My family is not a trades family. I come from a family of professionals. Both my parents are doctors; my sister is a doctor; my cousin is a doctor; my uncle was a doctor; my grandfather was a professor. Although my grandfather on my dad's side was a coalminer, a Scot who came over from Scotland and eventually settled in Trail. I studied geology at the University of Victoria—Earth and Ocean Science, as it was known back then. I didn't finish, I went out into the field and did some training but didn't go back. The market collapsed in geology when the Bre-X scandal happened and then there were no jobs left. And also, geology is in the field; it's not a family job. It's not good for families and I was with my wife then and thinking about the future. I knew some people who did renovations in Prince George and I got a job. I had zero experience when I started my first job. I was given a break.
So did you eventually apprentice? I did apprentice. To have credibility it's important to do your apprenticeship, just like in anything.
You talk about the romance of carpentry. What do you mean? People think carpenters are this romantic breed. What we do is an act of creation. To build a shelter properly and safely, people love that. It's one of the things essential to life. The farmer and the builder. That's all you need.
Beyond putting food on the table, what does being a craftsman and carpenter give you? There is no typical day in my life as a carpenter. My job is constantly changing depending on the project at hand. Sometimes this is great—I end up on a roof on a sunny day in November, an unexpected surprise. Other times it can be more challenging: dealing with supplies delayed; minds changing partway through a job. I enjoy the ever-changing nature of this work. It keeps me interested and motivated.
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