Book review: Carpentry & Building Construction – A Do It Yourself Guide

carpentry & building construction - A Do It Yourself Guide
Book review

To start out, I’d like to say that Contents pages that show the title chapters don’t normally interest me, but I thought it would be a very good way to convey to you, the readers of this review, the depth of knowledge contained in this book. So, if it bores you, skip over this part and go to the meat of this review.



Book Review by Jim Barry
Book Title: carpentry & building construction – A Do It Yourself Guide
Book Aurthor: William P. Spence
ISBN 0-8069-9845-8
Book Publisher: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. 387 Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y., 10016

SECTION I SAFETY, CODES AND DRAWINGS                            6
    1. Safety on the Construction Site
    2. Ladders, Scaffolding & Runways
    3. Building Codes, Zoning Regulations, Building Permits and Inspections
    4. Architechtural Drawings & Specifications

    5. Using Leveling Measurements & Linear Measuring Tools
    6. Locating the Building on the Site
    7. Footings and Foundations
    8. Concrete

      9. Floor Framing
    10. Wall & Partition Framing
    11. Framing the Ceiling

    12. Roof Types and Design
    13. Constructing a Gable Roof
    14. Hip Roof Construction
    15. Intersecting Roofs
    16. Framing Flat, Shed, Gambrel and Mansard Roofs
    17. Dormers
    18. Trussed Roof Construction
    19. Cornice Construction

SECTION V OTHER FRAMING METHODS                                   278
    20. Post, Plank & Beam Construction
    21. Heavy Timber
    22. Pole Construction

SECTION VI DOORS & WINDOWS                                                 304
    23. Installing and Trimming Doors
    24. Installing and Trimming Windows

SECTION VII FINISHING THE EXTERIOR                                   368
    25. Finishing the Exterior Walls
    26. Finishing the Roof
    27. Decks and Porches

SECTION VIII PANELING & MOLDING                                       444
    28. Moldings
    29. Installing Base, Crown and Other Moldings
    30. Paneling and Wainscoting

SECTION IX FLOORS & STAIRS                                                    492
    31. Installing Wood Floors
    32. Other Types of Flooring
    33. Stairs

    34. Thermal Insulation, Sound and Moisture Control
    35. Installing Gypsum Drywall

SECTION XI CABINET CONSTRUCTION                                    576
    36. Cabinets and Countertops

    37. Cold-Formed Structural Steel Products
    38. Cold-Formed Structural Steel Framing

SECTION XIII TOOLS & MATERIALS                                         610
    39. Wood and Reconstituted Wood Products
    40. Fasteners
    41. The Carpenter’s Tool Box
    42. Using Power Tools

APPENDICES                                                                                     676

INDEX                                                                                                 699
This book is an overwhelming source of information for the homeowner, amature do-it-yourself person, professional contractor and even students who are taking courses or apprenticeship training. But not overwhelming in a negative context. This book is formatted in such away as to provide a steady flow of information that brings the reader to the next level in his contruction needs. You can open any section of the book in area that interest you, read it, learn from it and then proceed with your task. It isn’t necessary to have to read the first seven chapters in order to understand the information presented in the eighth chapter. I believe this will be one of those books that you’ll always find on top of the bench in your shop, with the corners of the pages well-thumbed from constant referral to the information inside. With over 2000 pictures and illustrations for referrals and examples, it far exceeds its book value of $24.95 (US$).
Section I covers all of the common sense requirements for safety on the job site, building codes and regulations, and the how to’s on reading architectural drawings and specs. A lot of emphasis is placed on falls which seems to be a major concern. Ideas like placing hand rails in wall window openings and on gangway planks is repeated. With good intentions too because I’ve been to many job sites where this practise was not followed. Also depicted are some very good diagrams on how to build scaffolding on site. Bracing is a key ingredient.

All kinds of charts listing wood dimensions versus span/weight capabilities. Building codes and zoning regulations are summarized with an outline as to what a builder/owner can expect when starting the initial planning stages of building a structure. A buildable area of a site is determined first by the setback. Setbacks are the minimum distances from the perimeter of the property to which a building’s exterior can be constructed. The architectural drawings and specifications section goes into very good detail as to how to read drawings. Charts and diagrams showing methods of measurements, architectural scales and symbols, window, door and piping symbols, electrical symbols and abbreviations can greatly help even the layperson to read plans and drawings. Detailed drawings on how to read floor, frame and elevation plans can really boost the knowledge of anybody who wants to know “what is what” and “what goes where” in a building that is being constructed.

Building Codes and Regulations are touched on giving the basics but I would recommend to check with local codes first. Architectural Drawings and Specifications goes into great detail about measurements, scales and symbols. As well as how to read foundation, floor, elevation and reading plans.

Section II shows you all the how-to’s for using the different types of leveling instruments found on the job site which include tapes and surveying equipment, leveling rods, laser levels and the Vernier scale. It also gives particular information necessary on how to setup and operate this equipment. The book then digs into the building location on site and foundation frame-ups. A lot of emphasis is put into explaining form work and proper procedures. With a whole chapter on concrete, it gives the details on different types and why its so important to get this step of the work done right … the first time.

Section III talks about floor, wall and ceiling framing. It points out the types of support structures used and the importance of each. The diagrams in this section are very detailed and should leave no question unanswered.

Section IV delves into framing the roof and dormers. Again, attention to diagram detail is impressive. Information includes everything, and I mean, everything needed to but either a simple roof or a multi pitched roof with dormers. Explaination on the rise of a roof, reading the rafters square, marking the bird’s mouth, plancher lines, collar beams, sway braces, purlins and cornices. Hip roofs and intersecting roofs are spelled out in laymen’s terms. A complicated process made easy with the help of detailed diagrams. It seems that pages have no less than 3-4 images with every turn of the page. I guess they realized that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Section V deals with other framing methods, like Post, Plank and Beam construction, Heavy Timbers and Pole contruction.. With its advantages and limitations, this section shows how to build beams on site and how to case them in to look like one solid beam. Information abounds with charts like Table 20-1 “Examples of Column Slenderness Ratios” or Table 20-2 “Total allowable uniformly distributed roof loads for 3 inch nominal laminated wood decking.”  The diagrams included truely are incredible. Everything is detailed.

Section VI is an “open and shut case” on how to install Doors and Windows. And not a “pane” to read either (sorry, couldn’t resist that one). It talks and shows how all types of doors are make, their construction, installation standards and weatherstripping and installing locksets. Window installation is a technique all its own and deserves fuul treatment with regards to explaining proper installation procedures. This book covers it.

Section VII covers in the issues of finishing the exterior. You won’t be left out in the cold after reading this section. Everything from nail selection for wood siding, installing horizontal and vertical wood siding (no corners cut here), installing fiber cement siding and vinyl/aluminium siding, wood shingles and shakes, stucco and others.  The “Finishing the Roof” chapter covers it all, you simply have to get the book to see it all. Naturally, what’s a constuction book without talking about decks and porches. The pictures of examples by themselves will inspire you to build or re-do one.

Section VIII draws you into the lost art of paneling and moldings. Stock, custom and polymer moldings; choosing the right wood to paint or stain and the how to’s on making your own. It details once again on how to “cope” with defects in the floors and walls. Nailing and splicing the shoes, caps and bases. It even shows how to install the more difficult installations of arches and other large radius’. And who would of thought there was so much involved in the installation of paneling and wainscotting. To do it right “the first time” this book is ~the~ primary source of information.

Section IX will sweep you off your feet! If your “significant other” is around watch out! If she catches a glipse of the hardwood floors in this book you can add another task to your “Honey Do” list! This chapter has it all. Types of flooring; laminate, planks, parquet blocks, end grain, inlaid and plastic. Then onto the installation of each type. Then there’s the topics of other types, like cushion, carpet, resilient and ceramic. Of  course, then there’s issue of stair construction. All the bases are covered and leads you “step by step” with, once again, pictures and excellent diagrams.

Section X offers 30 pages of important information about insulation and interior wall finish. Issues of heat transfer and resistance values, R-values of construction materials, thermal insulation, vapour barriers, moisture control, when and where to insulate, how mauch and the how to’s. Then there is the task of drywall and plaster. Compounds, finishes, preparations, installation (like installing on curved walls and arches), corners and taping techniques.

Section XI is probably the most popular topic, cabinet construction. From how to read design drawings, views of many designs, kinds of cabinets, construction, to have or have not a face frame, installation the basics to installing peninsulas, island bases and of course, countertops.

Section XII is dedicated to the construction techniques of light frame steel products used in the basic construction of buildings. Tools to use, assembly methods of tying in the floor, walls and trusses to form one solid unit.

Section XIII jumps into the very wide topic of tools and materials. This chapter is assembles so it does not create an information overload to the reader. Some of the covered topics include: species and properties of different woods, log yield and how different types of board are obtained from one log, moisture content, dealing with defects, how to read classifications and stamp codes, span size values, fire-retardant-treated wood an dplywood and wood preservatives. Fastners (you name it, its explained here) is the next chapter and they “hit the nail on the head” offering all the information you need. The last two chapters deal with the carpenter’s tool box, the basic tools, power tools and how to use them.

Lastly is the Appendices. Solid information about the following as well as other information.

  • Structural Framing & Wood Floor Nailing Requirements
  • Floor, Ceiling  and Rafter Joist Spans in feet/inches and metric
  • Built Up Floor Beam Spans in Metric and Feet/Inches
  • Board Feet for Selected Sizes of Lumber

So, after all that I can only make one recommendation. If there is one book to have in your possession, this is it.

Jim Barry

A Newfoundland born Canadian with a life long interest in woodworking, baking and anything else that peaks my curiosity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *