(Almost) Finishing Norma’s House: Kootenai Valley Partners Habitat for Humanity, Part 2

I haven’t blogged in a month and have gotten a bit behind again: this post covers the first 2 weeks of July on our second build session in Libby, Montana. As I’m writing this, Norma’s house has been dedicated and she is now living there with her 3 kids!

We returned to Libby 3 weeks after our first build session ended. While we’d been gone the subcontractors had worked on the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and even hung drywall and sprayed texturing and paint. With the interior walls completed the flooring, cabinets, etc. could now be started – though there was still quite a bit of exterior work to do. In fact, in spite of my expectations of doing interior finish work over the 2 weeks, I personally spent very little time working inside the house. I did make a point of ducking inside at least once a day however and was always amazed at the transformation from the previous day– kitchen cabinets installed! Trim done! Closet shelves in! Every day that passed the house looked more and more like a home.

We all began the first couple days of the build finishing up the major exterior projects – siding, caulking, painting, and porch stairs – but as tasks were completed crews moved inside to lay flooring, install kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, as well as prepare the doorways for the pocket doors. Meanwhile Diane, Lori, and Celia began painting all the moulding/trim and doors that had been delivered to the site. By the end of the first week custom door casings were being fitted, pocket doors were in, and (regular) doors were hung. On the exterior, we moved to putting up posts, railings, panels, and trim on the two porches while touch up painting of siding, soffit, window trim, and fascia was picked back up.

Many of those projects continued into our second week but new assignments in the interior included nail setting, caulking around the trim, and the installation of closet brackets and shelves. I continued working on porch fascia and trim, railings, and panel installation outside – the last few days working with board member Susie and also Norma herself.

Despite all the hard work by local volunteers and our fellow care-a-vanners we didn’t quite finish all the tasks by the time the two week session ended. Both Tom and I wished we could have stayed to complete what was left even though we knew the house would be finished soon enough; after discussion we confessed it was mostly a factor of wanting to spend more time working with Norma and her father Walt. Norma and her family are some of the best people we’ve built with – we won’t be forgetting them.

As memorable as our jobsite antics and laughs with Norma and Walt were, the story that I think will stick with me the longest is from the thank you dinner at which Tom and I were seated with Norma’s 3 kids: As the board president was giving a speech he stated that they were on target to build another house in 2019. Norma’s youngest daughter turned to me, eyes wide, and asked, “They’re going to build another house here in Libby??” To which I replied yes, in 2 years. Without missing a beat – and with a finger pointed just as quick – she said, “You better come back.” I know I had a great big smile as I thought, “Yeah Livia, I’ll come back. We can help a new family together.”

(Other) Tom and Jerry finishing siding the back of the house

Tom and I putting up porch ceilings

Lori and Celia caulking

Norma and Dyana jigsawing out the back of the cabinet for electrical access

Tom, Walt, and I siding the front porch

Lee finishing up kitchen cabinet installation

Celia caulking the siding

Decking and installing posts on the side porch

Tom and Walt fitting the siding on the gable end over the front porch

Attempting to cut the right siding pieces to fit under the front eaves

(Other) Tom, Jerry, and Celia laying flooring

Removing candles on my birthday watermelon

Other Tom adjusting the drywall for door casings

Walt cutting stringers for the side porch stairs

Dyana shimming a door

Norma’s kids’ signatures on the concrete pad under the front porch stairs

Other Tom and Jerry putting in door casings

Tom cutting floor trim

Russell fitting trim in the kitchen

Other Tom fitting closet shelving

Diane painting the porch posts

Norma and I working on the porch panels

Norma and I measuring and nailing porch panels

Our care-a-vanner group