I’ve been helping my dad since I learned to walk (when I was nine months old, to be exact). I began work as his assistant when I was three months old: after daycare, I’d accompany him to look at jobs, sign contracts, and even pick up materials for the next day. As I got a little older (around age two), I started to actually help out on projects—I’d hold one end of the tape measure and carry his notepad on estimates.
In an effort to keep abreast of the impact that young carpenters are having in the industry, we’re publishing this article by Carter Silva. Manny Silva, Carter’s father, will be moderating all comments and discussion that follow this article.
Whenever my dad was working on our house, I would be there helping him as much as I could. I’d help clean up, do minor demo, hold things for him, and even help measure for him (that’s right—my dad taught me how to read a tape measure; I still have trouble with the sixteenths and some of the eighths, but I’m getting better as I go.).
You could say that I already have a good amount of experience under my small tool belt. That’s why I asked my dad if I could start explaining how I do my jobs to others so they can learn, too.
On this project, we decided to remove an old section of a fence in order to install new posts. The existing fence section was about 5 ft. in length with no entrance. We wanted to add an entrance to it, to have another way of getting in and out of the yard. To add an entrance, we would have to move one post inward about 12 in., which would give us a 30-in. opening.
So we began by removing the existing fence section from the posts: we unbolted the nuts and installed a temporary fence section. I dug around the square 2 x 2 steel posts that ran into the ground about two or three feet deep and pulled them out. I unscrewed the temporary fence from the house and my dad disposed of it in the dumpster.
After locating where to dig, I got started.
I needed to be 24-in. deep for my footings. I told my dad this would be a lot easier than helping him dig for the front porch footings—those required 4-ft. deep holes, and he’d have to pull out large boulders!
|I started by making a circular shape and continued digging down from there. The first foot went smoothly, and then I came across a couple of small rocks, and then some bigger ones. I dug around each rock and pulled them out.
I started to get frustrated loosening and removing the dirt. My dad always tells me to walk away for a few minutes when you feel frustrated or mad. Then you can come back with a better attitude, which will help you get the job done.
|I decided to toss all the rocks that were laying around the hole into a wheelbarrow and dump them at another location. This gave me something to do while I was frustrated, and ongoing cleanup is always a good idea.
By the time I was done dumping the rocks, I could go back to digging with a better mood.
|When I returned to the hole, I laid my shovel flat across, taking the measurement from the bottom of the handle.
|“24 inches!,” I yelled. Boy, was I glad to see that.
Mixing and Pouring Footing
Next, I had to mix concrete—one of my favorite things to do. I like to use a wheelbarrow to mix concrete. My dad dumped the bag of concrete into the wheelbarrow and I added the water.
|I moved the concrete in both directions with a hoe, adding water when needed until it was ready to be poured.
|I wanted to push the wheelbarrow, but my dad said it was too heavy for me, so he hauled it to the hole. I used a shovel to dump the concrete into the hole.
|I put two full shovels of concrete in and then used my shovel to get the air pockets out.
My dad told me where to put the post in the fresh concrete, so I dropped in the post, using a level to make sure it was plumb. Once I had it in its location, I added a bunch of rocks to help it stiffen.
I then added dirt to fill the hole and used a tamper to pack it down tight.
|First I used a 2×4 to tamp close to the post, and I held a level to keep the post plumb.
|Then I used a steel hand tamper, which was heavy, but fun to use. By adding more dirt, and packing it down tight around the post, this post would be very solid.
|When I was done, I gave my dad the thumbs up.
I said, “Let’s get the other one done. But this time, you dig it. I’ll set the post.” My dad said, “Sure, but you have to clean up the tools when we’re finished!”
I guess a helper’s job is never done.
Until the next job…
• • •
Carter Silva is eight years old and is in the third grade. He has two brothers (Zachary—16, and Corey—5) who he loves playing with. When he’s not helping his dad fix the house on the weekends, he is busy playing hockey, doing tricks on his bike, throwing footballs with his friends, and playing with construction trucks.
He was bitten by the carpentry bug when he started to walk, at about nine-months old. Carter is very ambitious. When his father noticed that Carter liked playing with hand tools (plastic toy tools), he began to teach Carter how they were used.
Carter started by going around his home with a small level, checking any molding detail he could reach to see if it was level or plumb. He even checked his dad’s work just to make sure it was right. Carter would also accompany his dad on estimates, after daycare, and he’d help pick up stock for the next day and do contract signings. He really enjoys the trade that his father has welcomed him into, and he’s appreciated the educational opportunities he’s attended with his father, like the JLC LIVE show and Katz Roadshows.
Carter is like an old soul that has been here before. He continues to amaze his mother and father in the passion he has for this trade.