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Wow! You Have Amazing Woodwork!

By C. Hegler

Amazing Woodwork

"Wow, you have amazing woodwork!" I hear it every time I take someone to visit my grandparent's centennial home. Built shortly after the Civil War by a skilled trim and finish carpenter, my great-great grandpa, the home boasts its original wood paneling; trim boards and solid wood doors. There is something more to this home than just space, shelter, and light... These friends don't have any sentimental attachment when they enter and utter the now expected, "Wow! Amazing woodwork."

Trim carpenters will tell you that great woodwork is not a thing of the past. Restaurants know woodwork will set the atmosphere in their dining rooms. Hotels use woodwork to enhance the substantial feeling their interiors invoke. Homeowners can enjoy these same advantages.

You don't have to live in a mansion to enjoy the enduring beauty and atmosphere created by quality woodwork. Nor does great woodwork need to overburden your budget. You can enjoy beautiful woodwork right where you live.

Trim is Everywhere

Woodwork or trim is part of every home. Trimming doors, windows and around floors is not optional. Your option is the trim you choose.

Realizing that mouldings exist has forever changed the way I look at rooms. I was shocked to see the generic primed 2 1/4" colonial casing in a showcase home set in a beautiful and exclusive neighborhood. The home is beautiful. Almost no expense was spared. But I was left wondering how much nicer it could have looked, with little added effort, by choosing to upgrade the mouldings.

When I eat at a steak house I don't expect to be served a fast-food style sandwich, yet so many gorgeous homes of distinction are outfitted with 'fast-food' woodwork.

The landlord needs to trim a door he just repaired; he buys the cheapest trim to do the job. The Do-it-yourself-er has only this afternoon available; he buys what is offered in stock. The contractor has a bottom line; he selects an economy grade because the homeowners did not say the selection mattered to them. The natural result is that the rental, the back closet and the show house all have the same trim. Strange, but very often true.

Inside Information

Nearly everyone would enjoy distinctive woodwork, but candidly, what does it cost to have it? These tips allow me to help clients upgrade without sticker shock.

Fancy does not necessarily cost more. Millwork shops price mouldings based on the type of wood selected and on size. The profile (design) does not generally factor into the price at all.

Some woods are more economical than others. Red oak (FAS or S&B grade) is the hardwood standard for top quality moldings. But, the most economical hardwood is poplar. Have you considered poplar? It's not just for painting; is humble and economical place in the hardwood family has caused many to overlook poplar's appealing qualities. The common misconception that pine is the “cheap” wood continues because stock pine trim often comes from offshore sources. Clear moulding-grade North American pine can cost more than oak. Hickory, beech, birch, maple and walnut are roughly double red oak rates. Cherry and mahogany are another step up. Specialty hardwoods can usually be quoted upon request.

Selecting a high-end wood or a wider profile may not be as expensive as you fear. Matched patterns often come two widths. Use wide mouldings only where you want to draw attention, other area will coordinate well with the narrower profile. For a tall base buy 1x board stock for the height then use a decorative base cap. When you collect pricing information, ask for a comparison quotes for these possibilities.

Lastly, order extra. It can save money by preventing “short-run” setup charges if you need more. Tuck the extra pieces into a closet for future repairs.

All things considered

Quality woodwork is a long lasting source of complements, but economy trim is often discarded.

By putting up cheep 2 1/4” casing, the whole trim package cost, as a percentage of total building cost, is not that much less than using a distinctive trim. The initial cost is less, however, standard trim will not be an exceptional selling point because trim, of some sort, is essential. A custom home with basic trim is like a fine dinner served on paper plates. When remodeling occurs, little care is taken to preserve stock trim. Economy trim goes quickly into the dumpster and the landfill.

Contrast the above with a homeowner who looks at his higher quality trim package as an investment. Added cost for this trim is minimal when one considers the value afforded by the upgrade. The value of an exceptional trim package, as a selling point, will be far greater than its cost. Well trimmed rooms will feel more substantial and pride of ownership will be obvious to prospective buyers.

High quality trim is much less likely to be thrown out during remodeling. Subsequent owners often go to great lengths to preserve or match distinctive woodwork when they remodel. Quality mouldings are preserved to the point that matching them creates an industry of custom millwork shops.

All things considered, the relatively small initial investment will add value over and over throughout the life of the home. More than color, mouldings set the style and atmosphere of a room. There will be years of personal enjoyment because quality woodwork is a long lasting source of complements. Imagine hearing "Wow, You have amazing woodwork!"


C. Hegler helps clients select and create the right mouldings for their rooms and homes. Manufacturers of architectural millwork and decorative blocks, visit us to learn more about selecting distinctive woodwork for your home.


Copyright 2005 C. Hegler

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