Cedar Falls CAPS students learning construction skills as they renovate house | Education News

CEDAR FALLS — A century-old house is getting refurbished with the help of high school students learning construction skills.

The 14-member crew started doing carpentry work earlier this year inside 913 Bluff St., a 1,200-square-foot two-story house built in 1920 and owned by Habitat for Humanity.

They are enrolled in CAPS Industries, Cedar Falls High School’s newest Center for Advanced Professional Studies strand. On Thursday, the students and instructor Dave Grund showed community members their progress during an open house.







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Students in the CAPS Industries program talk to community members visiting 913 Bluff St., the house the class has been renovating.


Andrew Wind



“We’ve done a lot of framing work,” said senior Graham Fry, also noting efforts to shore-up or rebuild joists and soffits. Insulation has been installed between exterior wall studs, as well, and the students are “doing drywall next.”

Work on the house started with another group of eight students in the fall, when the program began as the sixth Cedar Falls CAPS strand. They gutted the house and did some of the framing before the semester-long course ended.

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This semester, students finished the staircases to the basement and upstairs. On the second floor, they framed doorways and added plywood layers onto some existing studs to make them flush with the surrounding studs. They installed fire blocks behind where the drywall will be located, nailing a series of two-by-four’s to the sloping roof.


Cedar Falls CAPS program helping students hone skills, career interests

“We had to do a lot of improvements bringing it up to code,” said senior Donnie Melton.

On the first floor, the house has a living room, dining room, kitchen, mud room, and half bathroom with washer/dryer hookups. On the second floor, it has three bedrooms and a bathroom.

Grund, who also works as an industrial technology teacher at Peet Junior High School, said students typically spend their class periods on Mondays and Tuesdays at Plumb Tech, a mechanical contractor in Waterloo. CAPS programs partner with businesses to have classroom space outside of the school.







CAPS Industries 1

From left, students Jacob Michael, Graham Fry and Kyle Lukensmeyer in the CAPS Industries program talk to a community member visiting 913 Bluff St., the house the class has been renovating.


Andrew Wind



He said students worked on carpentry skills in a lab setting at Plumb Tech and then put what they learned into practice at the house. During the last weeks of school, they will start the drywall but aren’t expected to finish it before spending time at other Habitat for Humanity work sites to learn more about what the organization does.

Habitat volunteers will finish up renovation work at the house. Unlike other remodeling projects and the new houses they build, this won’t be a house for a client. Instead, it will be sold and is expected to be on the market by June.

Melton noted that he had some building experiences at home working with family members, but the class has taught him a lot.







CAPS Industries 4

CAPS Industries teacher Dave Grund talks with a community member visiting 913 Bluff St., the house his class has been renovating.


Andrew Wind



“For me personally, there was a lot to learn,” he said. CAPS Industries helped him with “applying my knowledge that I had.”

Jasiah Clark, who is also a senior, learned “how to lay out a wall” with studs placed every 16 inches and then nail it all together. He was also taught how to measure and cut the insulation they installed between the studs on the exterior walls. He enjoyed learning the construction skills.

“It was new. I’d never done it before,” he said.







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Students in the CAPS Industries program have been renovating the interior of 913 Bluff St. since last fall.


Andrew Wind



“I think it was overwhelming at first,” senior Falah Alshekhahmed said of being on a construction job. But he soon got used to the workplace demands. “I picked up things pretty easily.”

Those kinds of experiences are important to what Grund is trying to accomplish in CAPS Industries. The skills they’re learning have already gotten some students to look at the construction trades, where a number are planning to start jobs or do internships this summer.

“The goal is exposure into the trades to maybe offer career paths,” he said.

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