An amusing piece of satirical writing which Brian Read discovered in The Illustrated Carpenter & Builder for 1891. It explains many things about my present house!
The following item comes from THE ILLUSTRATED CARPENTER AND BUILDER issue 720, May 22 1891
The lack that at present exists of any treatise giving the jerry-builder proper information with regard to the successful pursuit of his calling will serve as sufficient apology for intruding this work upon public notice. Without some guide of this kind the jerry-builder is apt to be led into much unnecessary expense, and to' adopt perfectly unscientific methods of construction.
The importance of care in every detail cannot be overrated. Each house or row of houses must be completed with as little delay as possible, and then a ready market obtained, or the operator will find himself out of pocket by his proceedings.
First, then, as to site. The cheapest is invariably the best. I always for my own part select a nice clay soil, near the banks of a river, partly because the ground is nearly always level, and partly because, as the site will be damp, however much is expended in drainage, I can dispense with drainage altogether. Of course it is as well to hire a few drain pipes and stack them in a conspicuous situation, so as not to offend those weaker brethren who do not understand modern methods of house-building.
Foundations are of course of the first importance, and must never be forgotten — unless you are in a very great hurry. I may as well describe my own system of putting in foundations. There are some others, but mine is greatly to be preferred. First I get someone to take the district surveyor out for a drive. Then I place two planks on end about 9in. apart, and fill the intervening. space with a mixture of old bricks, sand, and ashes If the soil is very dry a small quantity of lime—say about a peck to the ton—greatly improves the effect. The planks may now be removed, and the foundations of the other walls constructed in the same manner.
Some district surveyors scrape the soil with a stick to see if there are any footings. As it is well not to contest their prejudices, even if it does entail a slight extra cost, in this case dig out soil to the depth of 3in. and a width of 4in all round your foundations, and put a row of bricks in. Then the surveyor will see that the footings are all right, and will go his way rejoicing.
It would be as well to have a few loads of first class stock bricks, and some bags of lime near the site, so that you can call the attention of visitors to the excellence of the materials you are using The outlay required for this is, after all, not large ; and when you have finished the job in hand, you can have them carted to the next. They will do over and over again, especially if take care they are protected from weather.
As to the walls, you can buy second-hand bricks very cheaply, and, after all, they are the best to use. Having stood the test of wear in one building, they have proved their worth. Moreover large proportion of them will be broken in which will save your workmen a lot of trouble in bonding.
Never let workmen or anybody else lean against any of the walls. It is a most pernicious habit, and frequently produces settlement.
If the soil is clay, you will not need to use lime in the mortar, road-sweepings mixed with clay being quite sufficient.
The best way of constructing window and arches is to omit them altogether. I have I taken to wood beams over the windows in of arches. You have no trouble at all, and if you glue a piece of second-hand beading at the upper outside edge of the beam, and paint the whole a rich blue, a very taking effect is produced that helps to sell the houses. I use beams 3in. Thick so that I can carry the courses of bricks over it without disturbance.
In about three days from the date of commencing operations you ought to be engaged on your roof. Get this finished as soon as possible or the district surveyor may come round, and be an especial nuisance at this juncture. By the bye, if that functionary ever complains of thing, always blame the foreman ; he will not mind, as it does him no great harm, and saves you from much unnecessary worry.
If you are required to put in rain-water pipes let them run down into the ground. If the soil is dry, the water will soon run away; if damp a few gallons of moisture make no great difference.
There are many other items I might dwell on here, but I have for the present indicated general lines on which the jerrybuilder should work. Having completed the shell, his best proceeding is to arrange a mortgage, or sell the property in this form, and make his customer settle up before any settlement occurs in the building, which might impair its value. Accidents are bound to happen, even when the construction has been as careful as it should be.
By attending to these rules, and by diligence and application to business, any man ought succeed. Our calling has one serious enemy — the surveyor—who is becoming more active and suspicious every day. Fortunately district surveyors have a very wide area allotted to each of them, and have plenty of work to do, so that if the building is conducted quickly and presents a fairly good appearance when the roof is reached, you may experience very little trouble from this source.