Building a house without power tools

25 Jan

For most of us, starting a house project means spending hours at the hardware store and purchasing tools and gadgets to make the project easier and more time efficient. When we arrived at the Cambiando Vidas building site, it surprised many of the volunteers that we would be building an entire house in just four days, but what was even more surprising was that we would do it all without the use of power tools.

During the the build we used powerless hand saws, hammers, buckets and assembly lines, in addition to shovels and trowels. We quickly learned important construction terms in Spanish, and our ability to communicate with local residents significantly improved. By the end of the build we all knew that “mezcla” meant “concrete mixture,” “pare” meant “stop,” and “rapido” meant “move faster!” All were invaluable terms for building a house.

One of the things we learned from this build is how resourceful you can be with a handful of basic tools. Hurricanes and earthquakes are quite common in the Dominican Republic, so the houses need to be strong and sturdy.  The builders use rebar (short for “reinforcing bar”) throughout the house to create stability and resist the elements.  A few volunteers got the opportunity to join sections of rebar for the corners of the house. The job was fun, but the process itself was so unique and interesting.  The community members working on the build taught us to use a small piece of wire to connect the pieces.  We used a nail to secure the two pieces together, and within minutes we had a strong, corner piece of rebar!

Avoiding the use of power tools not only made the build quieter, but also allowed the builders and volunteers to talk, learn things from each other, and practice more sustainable building.

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