When my wife, Joleen, and I had a house built in 2004, Lake Havasu City resident John Ballard was hired to oversee the construction of it. We were in Alaska at that time. John was an expert in all phases of home development. Sometime during our hassle-free working relationship, we became very good friends.
Because of John’s vast expertise, several times he caught sub-contractors trying to cut corners and not follow building code. A few didn’t like it when he made them correct their mistakes. One burly framing contractor in particular challenged John’s suggestion to use hurricane straps on our garage.
Hurricane straps are metal strips used to connect roof trusses to wall top-plates. They help the roof stay in place during high winds. When John pulled out a copy of the local building code showing they needed to be there, the guy grumbled having no choice but to add them.
Another time he discovered the builder was not planning on installing LP Tech Shield® in our walls and roof. Tech Shield is a condensed-foam temperature barrier that’s quite costly to add. When John pulled out a copy of our contract showing it was part of the package, the man quickly changed his tune.
Something that John Ballard told me regarding workmanship stuck in my mind. He mentioned that he could tell the quality of a retaining wall before it was ever built. His comment made me curious enough to ask.
“I drive by a work site where a block wall’s about to be built and look at the amount of steel rebar that’s been dropped off. Pallets of concrete blocks sitting around without bundles of steel rebar is a sure sign of cost-cutting. There’s a wall in your neighborhood constructed that way.”
He pointed to a vacant lot just up the street with a gray concrete block wall. Several years after he said this, a large gust of wind blew the ill-designed structure over. John was right on the money in his analysis.
Over a 12-month period, John compiled a book of photos of our project from start to finish. It’s nearly four-inches thick with at least 1000 photographs. Joleen calls it “John’s Book”. I candidly refer to it as, “The Book of John”.
My friend once told me as we thumbed through the album,
“Hang on to this as the pictures will prove invaluable down the road!”
He was correct. They’ve done so time and time again when we needed to see what lay behind sheet rock, or under the ground, before updated home modifications were made. Little did I know the album would come in handy on a new house project.
The first thing needed on our latest endeavor is construction of a retaining wall. I instantly turned to John’s book for information. Color photos taken by him in 2004, show plain as day, that our old wall has plenty of steel in the footings. The images specifically identify how the rebar was to be bent and tied together with wire. Showing our masonry contractor these photographs, I informed him it needed to look like this. The man nodded his head in approval.
Unfortunately, John is no longer with us. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 79 from mesothelioma. Having this book at my side makes me feel as if he’s still around overseeing yet another job.
John told me that should we ever sell our Lake Havasu City home, we should leave the book behind to help new owners. John Ballard was always looking out for other people whether he knew them or not.
I’ll follow through on his suggestion, yet won’t give the original away. That one goes with Joleen and me to our new place. I’ll have a duplicate made instead.
John was very meticulous and organized in everything he did. As I mentioned throughout this story, he did so with the construction of our home. I plan on emulating him as close as I possibly can with this latest dwelling. Through John’s teachings, I know more on what to look for in the construction of a house than I ever did.
Pity the poor framing contractor that decides to forego hurricane straps. I have the building code printed and ready to go. John Ballard would be proud!