Tried and true ways served for 30 years

ONE-MAN CHIPPIE GANG: Viv Prendergast has put the final nail in his last relocatable home before retirement.
ONE-MAN CHIPPIE GANG: Viv Prendergast has put the final nail in his last relocatable home before retirement.

A Waikato man is hanging up his builder's apron and hammer for the last time as his final relocatable home is transported from his Ngaruawahia yard today.

Viv Prendergast, 74, has spent the last 28 years measuring, cutting and hammering 120 square metre homes from the floor joist to the roofing truss, refusing to buy pre-made wall frames and trusses.

A builder from a bygone era, he prefers to do all the carpentry and plumbing work himself, shunning nail guns and other modern techniques.

"I am going to miss it. I have to be perfectly honest and for many reasons. There is a lot of job satisfaction in getting a house to this stage and, in fact, I am always sad to see them go."

Mr Prendergast got started as a builder late in life after running a plumbing and drainlayer business in Ngaruawahia.

"At 45 I decided I needed a career change. You get to the stage where it becomes an effort and when it gets to that stage you should get out," he said.

It seemed like a natural progression after working on-site with "some of the best carpenters this country has ever produced", but he found the small Ngaruawahia market tough going in the early years.

He started to build transportable homes and followed the same plan for "99.9 per cent" of his more than 70 houses and was a stickler for tried and true construction methods.

Mr Prendergast prefers "wet" timber to modern kiln drying techniques and said hammering seven 15-kilogram boxes of nails by hand has never bothered him, saying it is the price of quality.

"I know the frames are going to be tight. I am still building the same way they built houses 50 years ago."

His houses have been sold to all parts of the Waikato and some as far afield as the Bay of Plenty with the last being transported to Te Kauwhata today.

"It is a really good way of life but nobody wants to do it my way," he said. "There aren't too many who would cut their own frames and there would be even fewer who would nail them."

Building has provided Mr Prendergast with a "reasonable living" and plenty of happiness and he plans to spend more time ballroom dancing with his wife and finishing 30 years of projects that have built up in the backyard.

"I've decided I have got a lot of work to do around home. And, realistically speaking, you have got to say at 75 you haven't got a lot of working life left ahead of you, so I decided perhaps I should walk away and go and work for my wife."

Waikato Times