The current trend toward designs featuring natural wood instead of engineered and composite materials is leading to more and more millwork jobs. While this is sounds like great news, there is a downside: Decades of a tendency toward manufactured building materials has led to a lack of understanding about the nature of wood.
As a truly green building material, wood is a masterpiece of natural design, yet that kind of beauty comes with limitations. Since wood is naturally grown, rather than made-to-order, it requires knowledge.
Why Knowledge Matters for Mouldings
As your knowledge about lumber grows, you’ll not only establish realistic expectations about issues like color-matching and species-specific limitations, but you’ll also grow to appreciate the need for value engineering in your designs. The need for value engineering is of particular interest when it comes to long moulding runs. Not only will lumber knowledge and value engineering help you create designs that make sense with real lumber, but they’ll also save money for your customers.
Let’s look at a few examples of how knowledge translates into power, when it comes to designing mouldings.
How Species & Size Become Significant
First, let’s consider species and size limitations. Perhaps a room is designed with 10-inch Mahogany baseboard mouldings. Someone with knowledge about the species who has value engineering in mind would realize that 8-inch-wide moulding would be far easier — and less expensive — to source, since Mahogany typically comes in packs averaging 6 to 8 inches in width.
The question of whether the 2 inches would be significant enough in the overall design to justify the added expense would be carefully considered. Re-engineering the specification would likely be considered of greater value to the customer than those expensive 2 additional inches.
How Color-Matching Comes Into Play
While size limitations can be an issue, more often we have trouble meeting specifications regarding color matching. Particularly with the large runs they require, applications such as paneling and flooring inevitably come with a significant amount of color variation. In addition, requirements for a single 20-foot span of crown moulding may be possible to meet, but that will come with a hefty price tag because of the amount of lumber we need to sort through in order to fulfill such an order.
Even once the prescribed boards have been assembled, they will contain a significant amount of color variation. The reason is that the boards will probably come from several different logs, leading to greater color variation than most people prefer. (If you’re looking for an exotic species, U.S. suppliers have little control over color variation, since regulations prohibit importing logs.)
The knowledgeable designer will take these issues into account, either by calling for shorter moulding runs, specifying a species more likely to display uniform grain and coloring, or planning to use stain in order to unify the color.
As we continue on our journey toward a better understanding of millwork, we’ll look at why quality control is so important.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
For more information on J. Gibson McIlvain’s lumber products and services, call Monday-Friday toll free (800) 638-9100 to speak with one of their representatives.
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