Author Archive

Why Pros Cut All the Trim at Once

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

crown-pieces-ready-for-joining.JPGShort answer: Because the room (or woodwork) doesn't change dimension just because you put up the first piece of trim.

When I apprenticed with an aged cabinetmaker and trim carpenter, I learned how to do it the slow way. It made sense to me at the time. It doesn't anymore.

For starters, the old way takes a lot of walking. I like walking, but not while wearing a toolbelt.

So, instead, I make all the measurements and record them in my proprietary shorthand (which has become increasingly complex over the years). Then I'm off to the saw to do all the cutting at once.

crown-chains-ready-to-install.JPGOther benefits of this approach are:

  • Better optimization of the trim sticks: Start by cutting the longest ones and you'll probably get more useful pieces out of your stock.
  • Full concentration on cutting. This is especially important on crown, which is traditionally cut upside down and backwards.
  • Join pieces before hanging them for better joints. (See image at right.)

General Contracting — a Promising Field for Women?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

I recently heard it said that, in another 20 years, we will see a vast number of Hispanic General Contractors due to the fact that they will have a natural connection with the vast majority of subcontractors, who will increasingly be Hispanic. One weakness of this prediction is that it's unclear whether there will be many Hispanic GCs who can make a genuine connection with the typical homeowner.

Time will tell.

But here is my prediction: We will see a much greater number of female GCs in 20 years. Here's why: (more…)

Be Proactive about Prefinished Flooring Defects

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

If you're having prefinished flooring put down this summer or fall, this is for you. (more…)

Stainless Steel and Fingerprints

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

I just had an interesting conversation with an old client. He is now retired but was formerly the VP for sales at Jenn-Air.

He called to ask about me doing some custom cabinetry relative to a new wine rack/cooler or something, but he happened to mention that all of his appliances were black because…

“We (Jenn-Air) did extensive testing and research on the fingerprint problem with Stainless Steel. We never could find a workable solution.”

Yes, Call them Back

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Okay, so it's been a month since your project was complete.

They finished the checklist, and you cut them the last check. The General Contractor (GC) drove away and you breathed a big sigh of relief and exhaustion.

But about two weeks later you noticed a problem.


The Scourge of Under-sized Joists

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

Joist – the large beams that give the strength to your floor system.

Scourge – A source of widespread dreadful affliction and devastation such as that caused by pestilence or war.

Okay, okay, that's probably an overstatement, but it makes the point:

Never, never skimp on joist sizes to try to save money. In fact, I strongly urge you to go up to the next larger size from what is recommended.

My story for today is really heartbreaking.


“Workers are Smoking on the Site of my Remodel or New Home. What do I do?”

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Today I was installing a kitchen in a lovely new custom home across town.

At some point I became aware of cigarette smoke coming from the painters. Sure enough, some of them were smoking.

Now, I don't know the homeowners very well, but I feel that I know them well enough to know that they don't smoke. Yet I noticed that, when they visited the house today to check on progress, they didn't say anything about the smoking. Why not? Isn't it a well-established fact that smoke lingers in the porous materials of a house, meaning that the house will have a hint of smoke residual from the month-or-two of construction crew smoking? (more…)

Steel Beams in Remodeling

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

If you've ever used a steel beam in a remodeling project, then you may consider yourself an advanced practitioner of the trade.

Probably most homeowners aren't aware that steel can be the best choice for a support beam in a remodel project, especially in this age of impressive LVL joists.

But steel beams can make things possible which otherwise could not have been. This is because the density of steel is somewhere around 20x that of wood, and its strength per weight greatly exceeds wood.

Probably the most common situation where steel is used would be when a load-bearing wall must be removed, yet the support must be provided by a member that is very shallow. This is a very typical situation with old houses whose joists may be a true 2×6 or even 3×6, so we only have 6 inches of height to provide support to the ends of many joists. In this case, only steel provides a solution which satisfies the structural and aesthetic requirements.

Here's the view with the studs and joists exposed from the lower floor:

old-wall.JPG (more…)

My Take on “Engineered Hardwood” Flooring

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Want to have real hardwood floors, yet avoid the high cost? You may want to consider using a prefinished, plywood-core hardwood. As always, you need to reckon with the drawbacks, but in this case there is actually a benefit of going the cheap route.



(Nearly) All Woodwork Depends on Glue

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Most of us have a lot more idealism in us than we realize. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

However, at times it can be a severe liability. It can make us susceptible to sales tactics that recognize and exploit those idealisms. Generally, when you are about to make a major purchase like a car or a kitchen remodel, you want to shed any simplistic notions you may have and find out “the real deal” about whatever it is you are buying.

In this case, I'm talking about buying cabinetry. Should you insist upon your cabinets being made of bona fide solid wood or is it okay if they are made of plywood? What about particle board or MDF? Plastic? Foam? Cardboard? (Don't laugh — I've seen it all) (more…)