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The Old Tenant House

Michael Hillman

Read Part 10 - Refinishing the Floors

Part 11:  Trimming out the Tenant House

One of the first things I noted about my house when we were thinking about buying it, was the wide variety and quality of trim within it. Over the years, each owner had added to it, or modified it in some way. In each case a different window, door and baseboard trim style was used. In addition some trim was stained while other was painted, resulting in the house having an overall hodgepodge look.

The renovation provided me the perfect opportunity to provide a uniform look and feel throughout the house, and in doing so, pull the whole house together - giving it an overall appearance of a home built from the start to look the way it was as apposed to one pieced together.

One of my earliest recollections of my grandparent's house was the wide trim that adorned it. Wanted the Old Tenant House to have that same look, I set off in search of a trim supplier.

The first obvious stop of course was Lowe's and Home Depot. I spent more time getting out of my car and walking to and from their front doors then I did standing in front of their trim selection. It only took me a few second to realize that all they had was the same cheap & boring trim that one finds in most modern houses today. To make matters worse, they had little in the way of stain grade trim. Most of their stock was of such inferior quality that you could only use it if you intended to paint it, and by doing so, cover the many imperfections.

After all the work I had done on the house, I had no intention of ruining the appearance of the house with trashy trim. So one again, I sought out the advice of those I had come to trust during the renovation of the house, Mark Zurgable & Joe Wivell.

One of the nice things about Mark Zurgable is that if he doesn't have something, he's more then happy to point you to where to get it. Both he and Joe Wivell both pointed me toward N. Z. Cramer in Woodsboro.

"Cramer's has got the widest and best selection of trim anywhere." Said Joe Wivell. "And if they don't have it in stock, they probably can order you exactly what you want."

I grabbed a piece the original four-inch wide trim original trim from the old part of the house and headed to Cramer's. Unlike Home Depot and Lowes, where you can wonder around for hours without getting help. I was greeted as I walked in the door by the manager Craig Clark.

Craig quickly sized up the trim I handed him. "Now that's nice trim. You must be working on an old house. You don't see this type of time in new houses. "

"Yes I am." I replied. "Do you have any?" I asked a bit worriedly.

"'Yep, as a matter of fact we do."

As Craig escorted me out to the trim shop, I found myself worry that while Cramer's might have the trim in stock that day, that I would get halfway through the project and they would run out and not be able to replace it.

In the trim shop, Craig introduced me to Jim Baker, who was a home re-modeler in his former life. Jim looked at the time and smiled. "You don't get much call for this trim type much these days. Too bad. It's really nice looking trim."

Without blinking an eye, Jim reached into a lower bin and pulled out a 16-foot section of the time I was looking for. The trim was blemish free and straight as an arrow. It was dusty from having sat in the bin for months, if not years, but there was no question it was stain grade quality.

"How much is it?" I asked, holding my breath at what I was sure was going to be an astronomical figure.

"Excuse me?" I asked when told the cost per foot? "Is that per inch of foot?"

"Foot" replied a smiling Jim. "How much do you need?"

I was floored. The price of Cramer's stain grade quality trim less a third less then the cost of the inferior paint grade trim at Lowes & Home Depot. So not only was I going to get the trim I wanted, but get it as substantial cost savings.

I did a quick mental calculation of how much I would need. "I think I'll need 900 feet." I said.

"Ok,' replied Jim, "I'll pull them out and you pick out the ones you want." Now I was really impressed, not only was I getting the time and a great price, but Cramer's was going to allow me to pick the pieces I wanted. It was at that moment I made up my mind that I was going no where else other then Cramer's for the rest of the trim I would need in my house.

I ended that day buying all that particulars trim Cramer's had in stock, but left with Craig on the phone to his plaining mill ordering me more.

The story of the trim work would not be complete without a discussion of my wife's efforts to pick the stain that would adorn all the wood work in the house. The color she had set sights on was the color of the wild flower honey sold at Catoctin Mt. Orchards.

Now you would think given all the colors of stains available, that a honey-colored stain would be an option. No. Try as she might, my wife was unable to find a color even close to the jar of honey she had. Failing to find a stock color, she set about mixing various colors of stains in hoping to find a match.

For what seemed like weeks, my wife mixed and matched stains. As time went out, her mixing area took on the appearance of a chemist laboratory. The stains and quantity used in each mixture were careful noted, as well as the number of times the stain was applied.

The first application would sometimes be close, but the second application resulted in too dark a stain. In other cases, the result mixture was clearly out of the question even before its application.

While I was eager to settle on a mixture, Mark Zurgable was not. Mark was doing a booming business with my wife as she worked through his entire inventory of stains and was well on his way to paying that boat of his off!

My wife's persistence paid off. Three different stains mixed in equal quantities: Olympic's Aged Maple and Colonial Maple, and Minwax's Colonial Maple, produced the desired stain color with two applications.

The final formula was rushed off to Brian and Vince Reaver of Reaver's Woodworking for use on the kitchen cabinets.

With the formula now established, a staining station was set up in the new addition. As the cold winter had set in and the floors had yet to be sanded and stained, staining inside allowed the stain to dry correctly. Once stained, each piece of trim received two coats of polyurethane.

Putting up the trim proved easer then anticipated. Once again I turned to Joe Wivell. Many years back he impressed me when he said most carpenters just try to get joint close, and rely upon caulking to fill in the gaps. But Joe would have nothing of that. For Joe, joints were supposed to be tight, and stay tight.

With his super secret joint clamp - 'The Clam Clamp' in hand, we set about trimming out the house. Joe would call out the measurement and I would cut and hand the trim. Joe would hand it back to me and repeat the measurement and I would cut it again and hand it a second time. The process was repeated till I finally got it right or Joe ran out of beer.

Outside of me making a lot of kindling out of the long boards of trim, the trim work wet like clockwork, thanks to the detail put in during the renovation to 'square' up all the walls and the opening for the doors and windows.

As it would turn out, my initial estimate of how much trim I would need was grossly short, so short, that I thought about asking Cramer's if they had a 'frequent buyers card.'

Like Zurgable Brother's & Joe Wivell, Cramer's never disappointed me. They always had my trim in stock. And while I always dread going to Home Depot or Lowes, I always look forward to trips to N. Z. Camer's, where I know I'll be greeted by friends and treated as one.

Read other humor stories by Michael Hillman