House Project Provides Invaluable Experience for Students Learning Construction Trades

December 20, 2023

At Lancaster County Career and Technology Center, we pride ourselves on preparing students for careers in trades by providing them with real-world, hands-on experience before they even graduate high school. Our House Project at Mount Joy is a shining example of theory and practice coming together; students can put their newly acquired and refined skills to use at a full-scale residential construction site just steps from the LCCTC Mount Joy Campus.

Starting in 1989, the first house projects completed by the CTC (Then Lancaster County Vo-Tech) took place all around the county, on lots that the school procured. Students from the Construction Technologies programs were bussed back and forth to complete work at these locations. In 2005, the school decided to streamline this process and began subdividing sections of the expansive plot of land where the Mount Joy Campus sits into lots for future house projects. Since that time, 7 houses have been built in Mount Joy by our Construction Technologies programs, and select outside vendors. Two more are currently in process.

The house construction timeline takes about three years, with the first year dedicated to permits, planning, and lot preparation. The house plans are picked from submissions by our Architectural CAD/Design, and then permits are handled by Rick Martin, the Construction Manager for the house projects. In his role, Mr. Martin oversees the house projects from start to finish and ensures that students and instructors have all the materials they need and appropriate permits to hit the ground running when they are on-site.

By year two, everything is in place for work to begin at the start of the school year. Because our Carpentry Technology students are just starting in August and have limited experience, the LCCTC hires outside contractors via an open bid on our website to excavate, set the foundation, and pour a concrete basement floor. This year, those projects went to Haldeman’s Excavating, Weaver Superior Walls, and E&G Concrete. Our carpentry students are present while the contractors work to get a first-hand view of how everything is done. This year, E&G Concrete also poured a small slab for our students to practice concrete finishing techniques and instructed students on how to operate a walk-behind finishing machine.

At the start of the school year, each Construction Technology Program student works to get their OSHA Certification. Following certification our Carpentry Technology students then practice the fundamentals they will  use on the house project. Once the foundation walls are set by mid-October, students can get to work framing the house. By this time, they have enough classroom experience and the proper certifications to be on the job site. Construction Manager Rick Martin notes that at this point, they also have all the wood, tools, and screws they need to complete the job.

Shortly after Holiday break, the framing will be complete, and a crane is brought in to set the roof trusses. The Carpentry Technology students then finish out the school year by finishing the roof and windows, installing insulation,  and house-wrap. While this is happening, our other programs are also working on the house. HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical Construction Technology students travel to the House project from our Brownstown campus to set up the home’s inner workings – ductwork, plumbing infrastructure, and electricity. Cabinetmaking & Wood Technology students are working at the LCCTC Brownstown campus on the cabinetry that next year’s students will install during year three. By the end of the school year, the house will be ready for another outside contractor to come in and finish the drywall, as this is an advanced skill our Carpentry Technology students have within their grasp but may not be able to master at a professional level during their time in the program.

By year three house is on the fast track for finishing! Ideally, the CTC has a house in each yearly progression so students can work on both the year two and three projects in tandem. Because our full-time programs consist primarily of seniors, this allows them to work on every aspect of their program’s part of the house construction during their year of instruction. As the house project enters its third year, Rick Martin is also working with our realtor/decorator to ensure that the house meets the aesthetic of current market trends. Rick and our Realtor work together to pick the finishing touches for the home, including paint color, fixtures, tile, and appliances.

At the start of school year for the third year of the project, the drywall is ready to be primed by our Painting & Interior Finishes students. By late fall, our HVAC students return to connect the furnace and air conditioner, and ensure all are working properly. Following the Holiday break, the construction students install laminate flooring, light fixtures, and molding and assist with other programs during installation projects. Plumbing students return to set up the bathrooms and kitchen, and Cabinetmaking students install the cabinetry completed by students the previous year. Painting & Interior Finishes students put the finishing touches on walls, ceilings, and doors and install tile generously donated by Conestoga Tile. Our Carpentry Technology students install outdoor steps and sidewalks, and an outside contractor comes in to pave the driveway.

By the time students reach the end of the school year, the year three house project should be nearly complete and ready for market, with only a few punch list items to complete. The most recent LCCTC home completed was a three-bedroom, two and a half bath that sold in July of 2022, for $415,900. The money from the home sales goes back to fund our programs and ensure the future of the house projects for years to come.

This year, Mr. Martin reports that things are moving ahead of schedule, and we are looking forward to the year three house on Fairview Road hitting the market in the Summer of 2024. Each house project represents the hard work of hundreds of our LCCTC students and instructors and the outstanding community partnerships the CTC has forged with local companies. By allowing our students to work and gain experience on a residential site, we are training a new generation of skilled workers needed in our local community and for our economy.


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