I was recently reading Byron Barton's 1981 book, Building a House. While it claims to be an end-to-end overview of the process of modern (for the time) home construction, there are enough errors in the illustrations that I wouldn't recommend it as a basic text.

For example, here's how they show installing a subfloor:

There are several issues with the depicted method. The biggest one is that the seams do not fall on joists. This leaves the ends unsupported. The diagram shows nails at the joints, but those nails are doing nothing: they go through the panels into empty space. If your joist spacing doesn't match your panels you need to trim them.

Or, here's how they show framing the exterior walls:

That window is not framed correctly. Not only is the header a single horizontal 2x when it should be a pair of vertical ones, but they've left off the jack studs entirely.

They also show the electrician installing ungrounded ("two prong") outlets:

Grounded outlets have been required since the 1975 NEC, and had been best practice in new construction for about a decade.

Later they show installing pre-hung windows, which is fine, except that they say to do this after the drywall has already been installed and the hardwood floors have been laid:

There are a bunch of reasons why you'd want to install the windows earlier, but a big one is that until your windows are installed any interior finishings are exposed to the elements.

The book is also seriously incomplete, with no discussion of insulation, drywall, heating, siding, and other core issues.

While the book continues to be a popular introduction to the topic, with 20 copies available in my local library network, I can't recommend it as a reference.

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I love this post, you're one of my favorite bloggers

[-]Max H60

Haha, would love to see more book reviews in this genre. Reading this reminded me of a passage about children's books in one of Eliezer's recent stories about dath ilan:

If something that strange was written in dath ilan, it would be inside a children's-book; and you would realize that the real answer was meant to be sought out by young adults, when you were old enough to notice Problems with what had been claimed by the children's-book in your bedroom.

(The children's-books of dath ilan are not visibly author-signed, and never attested-to by any specific grownup, nor gifted to you by specific adults; they're just there in your bedroom, when you grow up. And if you ask your parents they'll truthfully tell you that they didn't put the books there. And your parents never speak to you of anything that you read in a children's-book; for those are children's books, and only children speak of them to each other.

As the saying goes in dath ilan, trying to raise a child on only true books is like trying to train a statistical classifier on only positive examples!

And furthermore - as is so obvious as to hardly need stating after the original proverb - having all the true books be written in a nonfiction voice, while all the untrue books are written in a fiction voice, would be introducing an oversimplified hyperplanar separator that would prevent a simple statistical algorithm from learning subtler features.)

Maybe your children will be the ones writing these reviews in the future?


Totally beside the point, but am I misreading the thread you link to for the grounded outlets code? It looks like it's saying that was the 1975 NEC, not 1971.

The thread and my post both have 1975, though?


What a mess - I meant to say "the 1971 NEC, not 1975".

But reading it more carefully it looks like the thread did conclude it was 1975. Had some trouble following it!

And making things more confusing, Wikipedia says 1971, but the source they cite doesn't actually back up that claim. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheater_plug