Making a House into a Home

May 12, 2020
Posted in: Uncategorized

What did you make when you were a teenager? Some of our skills back then, not saying who, may have topped out at recording a mixtape and writing really, REALLY bad fiction. Other teens, from yesterday and today, have an entirely different skillset and mindset. While some of us might have struggled to put together a bookshelf, students at the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center (LCCTC) have built a new, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, Craftsman-style house from the ground up over the past two years. A young family purchased the house this spring and officially made the house a home.

“We walked through the door and we stopped and said, “Wow!’” Scott Niehaus said. Niehaus, the house’s new owner, explained that the realtor had told them before the visit that the house had been constructed by the LCCTC students. “We weren’t sure what to expect but we walked in and were absolutely amazed by the quality and the craftsmanship,” he said.

Part of the curricula of several LCCTC Construction Center programs, include hands-on, on-site planning, preparation, installation, construction, and evaluation of work on houses that will eventually be put on the market. There are several of these houses surrounding the Mount Joy campus. Each one is an impressive and enduring testament to the scope of career and technology education.

LCCTC Heavy Equipment Operation students started the work about two excavating the site and digging the out the area for the basement. Third-party companies constructed the basement and CTC Residential Carpentry students continued the work framing the walls, window and door openings. Plumbing students roughed in the supply and sewer pipes while Electrical Construction students ran conduit for electricity. HVAC students installed ductwork and heating and air conditioning equipment. CTC Cabinetmaking students built and installed custom cabinetry in the kitchen and bathrooms. Painting and Interior Finishes students painted, installed tile, and more. From the excavated basement to the molding on the highest window, there is not a square inch of these houses that LCCTC students were not involved in constructing.

It might take a construction company several months to complete a home, start to finish. The LCCTC takes an average of two years to build a custom, modern house and, all the while, our students learn to be contributing members of the workforce and economy.

“If I had to put a number on it, I’d say that about 85 percent of the house was built by students. The framing, the electrical work, the plumbing, the wallboard, the cabinetry, the trim, the painting, all of it was performed by the construction and manufacturing students at the CTC,” said Richard Martin, LCCTC Construction Coordinator. “Pretty much the only thing that isn’t handled by the students is the masonry and that’s only because we don’t have a masonry program at the LCCTC.

LCCTC students have been building houses for sale for decades. Generally, the houses take about two to two and a half years to complete. Many of the LCCTC’s Construction and Manufacturing programs contribute to and work on the house directly.

“Working on these houses is a valuable part of learning. These students have experience working on a job site long before they go into the work force,” said Richard Burley, the LCCTC Residential Carpentry Program Instructor.

Homeowner Janine Niehaus said that it was clear that the students and instructors had paid a lot of attention to detail in the house. “They obviously put a lot of hard work into this house,” she said. “In addition, knowing that the house was built by students as part of their education was really cool to me.”

Program instructors like Burley oversee the students’ work and are as exacting and as thorough as any job boss on any construction site. Martin said that the instructors have no problem having the students rip out work and do it again, if they find any fault. He continued saying that just adds to the real job experience.

“If you learn to do shoddy work, then you’re not going to be employed for very long.” Martin said.

The practical experience that students get from working on a real-world job site is invaluable.

“I like seeing the students succeed.” Martin explained. “They get a vast amount of training in the classes and labs, but to come out here on site and apply that knowledge and those skills to a real, going-on-the-market house…that really makes an impression.

“We love the house!” Scott Niehaus said. “The kids love the house. We are proud to have supported education…given back to the schools in some way by buying this house. We look forward to raising our kids here. We hope that the LCCTC students who come along in the future and work on the house in the neighboring lot will see us, a real family, living in and enjoying a house just like the one they are working on.”

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