In April, a group of families tackled a totally unfamiliar task: framing and roofing a home.
Nick Veenstra, construction supervisor for the Hands on Housing program in Hayden, remembers demonstrating each step as the participants looked over his shoulder.
It took about five weeks to frame and roof the first home on Honeysuckle Drive, but the families went on to frame and roof two more homes in the next five weeks.
"We're a little behind schedule," Veenstra said. "As families become more familiar with tasks they're given, we're picking up the pace."
Eight families -- singles, couples and families with children -- are working together to build new, affordable homes for themselves in Sagewood. The Yampa Valley Housing Authority coordinates the Hands on Housing program.
On Sunday, the first cool day in many weeks, several homeowners built and secured trusses on the fourth home. Securing the trusses is one of the most physically demanding aspects of the process, homeowner Ron Henderson said.
With Veenstra's help, families also are installing windows, doors and siding, and they later will install cabinets and complete other interior finishes.
Subcontractors take care of excavation, foundations, plumbing, insulation and drywall. Normally, an electrician also is hired for the job, but the Hayden families were lucky to have a journeyman electrician among them.
Some participants had framing and construction experience, but the building process was new to most families. The wet spring didn't help the project stay on schedule, either, said Veenstra, adding that families repeatedly were rained out and even shoveled snow from the sites in May.
"The mud, I think, was the hardest to deal with," Henderson said.
The group gained momentum with the warming weather, completing frames and roofs on three homes. Two of the homes are "dried in" with doors and windows.
The goal is to dry in all eight homes before the snow falls, Veenstra said.
"I think it's going to be tough," he said. "We'll just have to see."
There is a good dynamic between families, and that has helped push the pace of the project, Henderson said.
"I think we're pretty lucky with the group we have," he said.
The families' strengths and weaknesses fit together well. Some participants don't like ladders, while others, like Damian Schmidt, aren't afraid of anything, Henderson said.
"The girls, I don't know what it is, seem to be really good at cutting," Veenstra said.
One of the biggest challenges of the project isn't necessarily the tasks, but keeping up on hours. Each family must dedicate 30 hours a week to the project.
Some hire temporary help or recruit family and friends to help catch up.
And hammering the first nail wasn't the beginning of the work for families involved in the Hands on Housing program.
Each family had to qualify financially for the program and then undergo credit checks and submit applications for 100 percent loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, which also provided a grant for administrative costs in the program.
The families' loans cover costs of the lots and also subcontractors. Families make up the rest in sweat equity.
The first Hands on Housing program in Routt County involved 24 homes in West End Village in Steamboat Springs. Families there moved into their homes about a year ago.
In addition to Hayden, six homes are under way in Oak Creek.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.