FVCC Students Build Home, Life Skills

By Beacon Staff

After seven months of working in whatever Mother Nature threw at them – rain, snow, hail or wind – Tuesday’s blue skies and mild temperatures were a treat for those in Greg Waldrop’s building trades class. But even if students like Austin Stevens would have liked to relax in the sun, there was a job to complete.

Stevens has been working on the construction of a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,400-square-foot home since September as part of Flathead Valley Community College’s building trades program. Now, as students put the finishing touches on the structure, it is up for sale. The asking price is $65,000.

“This is really a good deal for the Flathead Valley because it’s really affordable,” Waldrop said. “All you have to do is move it and hook it up to the utilities.”

FVCC students have built 16 houses in 16 years and Waldrop has been there for everyone. He got his start as a general contractor and he runs his class just like any other worksite, which is why they don’t shy away from the cold.

“We work it like a construction job and we’re not going to stop if it gets a little chilly,” he said.

The house is constructed almost entirely by building trades students, with the exception of plumbing and electricity. Materials for the building are paid for by the FVCC Foundation, but any profit made on the sale goes back to the scholarship and support group.

In past years, the class has built houses on permanent lots, but in 2010 Waldrop decided to build a transportable home because it would better meet the needs of the area housing market. It is also cheaper, because the school doesn’t have to buy land. Waldrop said building the home on a lot nearly doubles the cost. Regardless of price, Waldrop said the lessons students learn on site are invaluable.

“This is a class about life skills and they just happen to build a house,” he said. “They learn about team work, about working in the weather and whatever else is thrown at them.”

Stevens said although he wants to specialize in interior finish and carpentry, knowing what goes into building an entire house is important and this class has provided that experience. Stevens will be able to get a certificate in building trades at the end of the semester, but he said he plans on staying in school another year to earn an associate of applied science. Beyond certification, Stevens said there is a deeper satisfaction in his work.

“The big thing is getting to provide a home to someone and getting the experience and know-how of building a home,” he said.

Waldrop has no problem forcing his students to redo a section of the home that doesn’t meet his standards. In the end, quality is most important.

“I take a lot of pride in this house because it goes out with my name on it, the student’s names on it and the college’s name on it,” he said.

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