Lee Lumber’s Spaces & Views
583 Elm Place
Highland Park, IL 60035

Lee Lumber’s Spaces & Views
2310 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL  60614
(Cabinetry only)

Spaces & Views in Lee Lumber
2587 North Elston Avenue
Chicago, IL  60647


Spaces & Views in Lee Lumber
633 West Pershing Road
Chicago, IL  60609



In the News

Recent articles that have appeared about Spaces and Views Chicago area showrooms, designers, Wood-Mode fine custom Cabinetry, Marvin Windows and Doors, IWP doors, Stone Ridge hardware, and other fine products.

Environmental Conservation is Nothing New for Spaces and Views and Wood-Mode


With six locations, Spaces and Views is the largest dealer of Wood-Mode fine custom cabinetry in the USA. And Wood-Mode, a famous, 65-year old company out of Pennsylvania, is and has always been “green”…long before that became fashionable. The following data comes directly from Wood-Mode.

Environmental Sustainability

Wood-Mode has been certified by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) as meeting the standards for its “Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP).” This program was created to recognize industry manufacturers that use environmentally friendly materials and production processes. To qualify, manufacturers are evaluated annually on compliance in air quality, product resource management, process resource management, environmental stewardship, and community relations, as well as energy conservation and recycling programs.

Managed Forestry Resources

The solid Appalachian Hardwood used for Wood-Mode cabinetry is harvested mainly from the northeast USA and Canada. There, hardwood forests are growing twice as fast as they are being harvested, so forests are increasing in size each year. According to the US Department of Agriculture, hardwood trees have increased by more than 98% between 1953 and 2002.

The harvesting of mature trees results in additional light, water and nutrients for smaller trees. It also encourages low-level plant growth. “And use of fossil fuels in shipping to Pennsylvania is kept to a minimum,” says Marty Aimone, Director of Kitchen Operations. “There is no overseas shipping involved. That makes us all feel very proud.

Air Pollution Control

Wood-Mode fostered the development and use of the Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO) for the destruction of emissions generated in the cabinetry finishing business. Operating at a combustion chamber temperature of 1400 degrees Fahrenheit, the RTO destroys 99.4% of Captured Volatile Organic Compounds. Wood-Mode also complies with all local and state regulations for the discharge of any waste water, as regulated by the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Steam condensate is recovered and re-circulated back into the boiler system to reduce the amount of un-treated water necessary to produce more steam.

Efficient Waste Management

Sawdust and wood scrap are ground into particles which are then used to heat the factory and provide steam to operate the dry kilns, as well as heat, air condition, and humidify the Wood-Mode office and factory. Particle collectors remove wood fly ash from any air emissions. Wood-Mode also donates excess sawdust to local dairy and poultry farmers for use as bedding material.

Scrap recycling also eliminates having to deposit wood waste into landfills and reduces Wood-Mode’s reliance on fossil fuels to operate the boilers. This self-produced fuel, recycled from scrap, is renewable and is the most environmentally responsible fuel possible.

Wood-Mode also uses recycled product packaging materials, wrapping paper, and packing foam, re-uses in-coming packaging fill for out-going shipments, monitors water usage for maximum conservation, installed energy efficient light fixtures and high-pressure humidification equipment to reduce compressed air and electrical usage. Wood-Mode recently also installed a state-of-the-art rough mill to ensure that each board processed can be utilized to its full extent.

And the cabinetry!

And if we hadn’t told you about our green features, you would never have known. Spaces and Views designer professionals create aesthetically and functionally magnificent, award-winning kitchen, baths, studies, libraries, etc. using the exquisite Wood-Mode fine custom cabinetry line. Witness the photos (shown below), which were all designed in our Highland Park studio.

Other than the Lincoln Park and Merchandise Mart locations, Spaces and Views also carries the finest windows, doors, and custom moldings and millwork.

Spaces and Views is located in Highland Park (The Shops on Elm), Oakbrook Terrace (across from Costco), Lincoln Park (across from Children’s Memorial Hospital), the Merchandise Mart (SmartRooms), in Lee Lumber North (Kedzie and Belmont) and in Lee Lumber South (633 Pershing, near White Sox Park). The shops are owned by Chicago icon Lee Lumber. For complete information, call Danielle Rivera at 312-644-4446.

The gorgeous Spaces and Views kitchen is made of all Maple, Galleria Recessed Wood–Mode cabinetry.

  • The two islands are white and pewter glazed
  • The counter top is Delicatus Granite
  • Sub-Zero refrigerators are Energy Star rated

Designer: Paul Witkowski, Highland Park


This bachelor pad was created by Spaces and Views for the owner, a chef, who likes to cook in front of his guests.

  • It is all cherry Wood-Mode Barcelona Recessed custom cabinetry
  • It includes two 30” duel fuel (gas and electric) slide-in ranges and a Sub-Zero refrigerator with energy star rating

Designer: Paul Witkowski, Highland Park


This exquisite bar is created using Barcelona Recessed cherry Wood-Mode cabinets.

  • The cabinets have olive ash burl inserts
  • At the top is an Enkeboll (architectural wood carving) onlay
  • The counter top is black absolute granite
  • Again, the Sub-Zero refrigerator is Energy Star rated

Designer: Paul Witkowski, Highland Park.

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Choosing Cabinetry
by Rick Baumgarten *

When choosing cabinetry, there is a lot more to consider than the door that provides much of the look and style of your room. You can’t tell a book by its cover and you can’t judge a cabinet by its door. There is much behind it that can vary almost as much as the color spectrum of the doors. Starting with the hinges, through the construction of the box and drawers, the drawer hardware, the finish, and to the warranty, you need to understand and evaluate the way the cabinets you are considering compare so you can make an intelligent choice and get the best value within your budget. Set that budget and also get figures on the cost of the labor to finish the project. There will be huge differences in the pricing of a custom line and that of a line that offers only limited sizes and accessories.

Cabinet boxes can be either frameless or have a face frame. The difference is more in style than one being necessarily better than the other. What you need to pay attention to is the materials used for the sides, bottom and back and how those parts are assembled and fastened. Beware of cabinetry put together with cam systems similar to inexpensive furniture you assemble yourself. The best cabinets are doweled and glued and have sides at least 5/8” in thickness. The material can be either plywood or a dense, furniture grade, wood composition board. You may want to check the spec’s for a low to zero emission rating for formaldehydes and other components of the board or adhesives. These stats should be part of the literature available from the cabinetry supplier.

Drawer construction and hardware should get more attention than typically given. We all know how irritating it is to have drawers that don’t operate well or fall off of their tracks. Wooden drawers should be of dove-tailed construction. Molded aluminum drawers are fine but standard inserts for silverware or knives may not fit well. Try the hardware. The drawer should glide easily and the last bit of closing should be done by the hardware. Try moving the drawer from side to side when both closed and open. The best construction will be solid and not move.

Another important quality is the finish. Again, check the specification literature of the cabinet company. It should explain the processes used and the number of steps and coats of finish. If the finish is really good, the manufacturer will brag about its resistance to heat, acids, and staining. A catalyzed, multi-step, machine-dried finish is generally superior. If you are retaining your existing appliances, consider the likelihood that you will need to replace some before you redo the cabinetry. Make sure the company will be around to make the same door style and finish if your new appliance won’t fit where the existing is now. To my knowledge, only Wood-Mode© will guarantee that they will make the same door style and match the finish (even allowing for change in luster and sun fading).

That brings us to the warranty itself. Warranties vary greatly in the cabinetry industry. Some guarantee the box, but not the finish. The life of the warranty can vary from one year to Lifetime.

The functionality of your cabinetry will depend on your budget for some of the recent storage accessibility features now available in mid to high-price cabinetry. Still, even on a low budget, you can add features such as roll-out shelves, lazy susans and more, either with your cabinetry order or to be added by you at a later date.

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Planning a Kitchen Remodel
by Rick Baumgarten *

Thinking seriously about remodeling your kitchen? Start now. The process is a lengthy one. Proper planning can shrink the time line considerably and save a lot of headaches as well. Here are some suggestions for not only taking that toughest first step of getting started, and tips on how to survive the entire project without having to utter any expletives.

Lay it out on paper

Your first step is to lay out the space on paper. A good start is to sketch it before measuring without making an effort to draw it to scale. Next, transfer that sketch to graph paper using the appropriate scale (typically ½” = 1’). Once you have the outline, locate windows, plumbing, gas lines, radiators, doors, and anything that must remain as is.

Make Lists and take notes

Pore through publications to find kitchens you love and features you want to include. Clip the pictures, or at least bookmark the pages. Hopefully, this will help you envision how you want the new kitchen to look. Next, make two lists. The first will contain your musts and wants – and they should be noted as just that. The second list will be for your kitchen designer so that he/she will learn a lot about your needs and lifestyle. A great list to use can be found at LeeLumber.com under Services - Kitchen Planning. You should list things like whether you are left or right handed; if you do a lot of entertaining or baking; how many children you have and their ages and whether you want an eating area in the kitchen.

The Designer is the Key

Now armed with your existing layout and your two lists, it’s time to go shopping. If you already have a recommended contractor lined up, it makes sense to ask him what designers he has worked with smoothly in the past and whose designs have impressed him. If you have no idea as yet as to who will do the work, refer to all those publications you have read and see if you keep returning to cabinetry by one particular manufacturer. If so, let your fingers do the walking and find a dealer of that brand. Then you can ask the cabinetry designer for a competent installer. I certainly recommend independent retailers or boutiques rather than Home Centers due to the latter’s very inconsistent installation quality. Be sure that your designer goes to your home to verify all measurements before ordering the cabinetry. It is almost a sure thing that your drawing is missing some vital information such as the location of a heat duct or electrical outlet. The designer you choose is the individual responsible for bringing your kitchen dreams to reality. You must feel comfortable with them as well as confidant that they can create a design that is both attractive and functional. A design that includes all of your “musts” and as many of your “wants” that your budget can handle. Oh yes, budget. That number should be on your list and come up early in conversation with designers you speak with. Remember that a kitchen is far more than cabinetry. It requires appliances, plumbing, counters, electrical, and likely a new floor, plus painting.

Understand what you’re getting into

Once you have made all your selections, approved the design, and decided on a contractor, don’t allow work to begin until all materials for your job are either on hand, in warehouse or scheduled with certainty. Remember, the first part of the job is to remove your existing cabinetry. With that goes the functionality of your kitchen until you have cabinets, countertops, and plumbing installed and usable. Typically, the countertops are not even ordered until the cabinetry is installed, so accurate measurements can be taken.

When preparing for the work, be sure to mark any boxes that you use to move the contents of your cabinets. You should also try to keep your fridge usable even if it means relocating the old one. Also, find a spot for items you will want to use like a toaster or coffee maker.

Relax, You’ll Enjoy it

We’re sure you are aware that a kitchen remodel is a major undertaking and disruptive to your household. Understand that it is a rare job, indeed, that goes perfectly without a hitch. Remember that tens of thousands of people go through the experience every year, and to our knowledge, all have survived. The temporary inconvenience will be more than compensated by the pleasure of your new kitchen.

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How to find a contractor
by Rick Baumgarten *

You may need to hire a contractor in the not too distant future. Should you try to get the best deal on the materials yourself and just pay for labor, or should you leave material purchases to that unknown contractor? As to finding a contractor/installer, there are at least four ways to go:

  1. Through a personal referra
  2. One of the many Internet referral sites
  3. Use whoever the Big Box Home Center sends out
  4. Get a name from the Independent supplier that contractors buy from

A personal referral is a great way to go, but not always available – especially if you just moved to the area. But, if you have a friend or neighbor who just had the same type of work done that you require, indeed talk to them. Ask if they would use their contractor again, then check the work yourself – what satisfies your neighbor may not be up to your standards.

I wouldn’t recommend an Internet referral service that doesn’t have a physical presence in your area under any circumstance. There are loads of spiffy looking web-sites that make grandiose promises. Sure, they offer free referrals, but how do you suppose they make their money? They sell your name as a lead to whomever they can sign up. Most have no qualification criteria whatsoever. Further, they are likely to resell your name to any number of services that will fill your e-mail in-box with spam offers till the end of time.

Do you think the best way to go is by purchasing doors, windows or cabinets at the Home Center and having them install it? You might get lucky. You might find a knowledgeable employee to assist you. Your measurements could be accurate and your installation uncomplicated. You might even get a really competent tradesman. Odds are, any one of those things could be not quite right and you could be in for trouble. Remember, the Big Box recruits most anyone who will take jobs at the price they are willing to pay. Not many real pros will take jobs sight unseen at flat rates per opening or per lineal foot – unless, of course, those prices are really high. A blog site on the Net recently accumulated over ten thousand threads of agreement to a couples’ tale of installation woe. The resulting uproar in the press caused the new head of that Big Box to respond with an acknowledgement that he had a whole lot to fix. I entered the name of two leading Home Centers followed by installation complaints on Google©, and one brought 729,000 pages and the other 143,000.

If you can’t get a direct referral or you want a competitive bid, why not approach a firm that supplies materials to the type of contractor you need. A roofing supply house surely will know a good roofer in your area. The same goes for a plumbing or electrical supplier. The local lumber yard where the professional carpenters buy is more than glad to refer you to a qualified tradesman or contracting firm. Each of these companies will be able to provide you with a name or names appropriate to the scope of your needs. At our company, we maintain a list of what we call Certified Installers. Because we are often asked for referrals, we qualify, screen, and even provide additional training for any of our contractor customers who wish to be on our referral list. We do what you need to do no matter how you select; we check their liability and Workmen’s’ Comp. Insurance. We examine their license and check at least three job references. It’s important to us that our referral is successful, because it is a reflection on us as a company. All we ask from our contractor customers is for their continued loyalty. You deal with them, not us.

When you have selected your contractor/installer, consider letting him purchase the materials. You provide him with the specifications, but let him be responsible for making sure the windows fit or that the doors are hinged properly and have the key on the outside. Home Improvement projects can be nightmares, but if you have an experienced professional to work with, what may have seemed like a bit more money up front likely spared you from time, expense and aggravation and got you a better finished project as well.

Lastly, remember why they are called contractors. Always sign a contract that has the specifications, terms and amounts in writing. Be sure that any changes during the work are priced and agreed upon in writing as well. Nobody likes construction nightmares. The right choice of a contractor/installer will have you feeling quite proud and sleeping well.

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Steam Shower
by Rick Baumgarten *

For many, there is no better way to relax and unwind at the end of a tough day than to soak in a steam room. The ability to do that in your own home may be easier than you thought. With the right layout in your existing bathroom, you may be able get the job done for less than $2,000.00. First, you need to know that unless you are extraordinarily handy, you will need a pro to assist in installation. There is serious plumbing and electrical work involved. If you already have a tile or stone shower stall that happens to have an adjacent closet or vanity for the steam generator, you are way ahead.

Here is a quick check list of what you will need.

  • You will need a 208 or 240 volt line and a water supply. If you don’t have access to that voltage, join a health club.
  • Locate the most convenient place for the steam generator, they are about the size of a full-sized computer. A vanity is a great spot because it has easy water access and you can hide any holes in the wall behind the vanity door.
  • If you don’t have a shower stall, a tub area will work, you will just have to use a portable seat rather than a built-in bench.
  • With either a tub area or shower stall, you will need a new glass door that will retain the steam.
  • It is recommended that your ceiling height be no more than eight feet, else you will have to get a larger steam generator.
  • For calculating the capacity of the steam generator you will need and for a wealth of detail and drawings beyond the space restrictions here, see www.steamist.com.
  • If you are in an area with hard water, invest in a unit that empties fully after each use.

Things to keep in mind include:

  • Using stone or tile all the way up and even on the ceiling, unless you use a commercial waterproof paint.
  • Try to slope both the ceiling and built-in bench so that water and condensation run off and don’t fall on you.
  • Mount the nozzle of the steam generator opposite the bench or seat at about 6” above the floor of the shower stall or top edge of the tub.

Regarding the glass door, check with your local suppliers and find out if the savings of going with your own measurements and installation are worth more than the cost of the supplier measuring and installing for you. If the unit you choose does not have controls handy to the bather, consider using an air-control switch such as those used with kitchen sink disposers. If it gets too hot, you don’t want to have to exit and let out all the steam to adjust.

If your existing conditions are such that your expenditures can be kept under 5 figures, you will surely get enough pleasure and relaxation to make the investment worthwhile. I use mine every day in the winter. I turn it on a few minutes before I get into the shower and all the chill is gone from the stone surfaces when I enter. Your steam shower can help start your day as well as end it.

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Building Up Its Business

Lee Lumber & Building Material Corp. says it has stayed successfully independent by taking risks, staying innovative and keeping close to its customers.

By Alan Dorich

Lee Lumber & Building Material Corp.
2006 Sales: Approximately $45 million
Headquarters: Chicago
: 140
Products: Lumber, windows, doors and custom cabinetry

In a market flooded with competitors that offer similar products, President and Partner Rick Baumgarten says Lee Lumber & Building Material Corp. sets itself apart by forming lasting bonds with its clients. “[We need to] reinforce relationships that cause the customers to come back and buy from us,” he says.

Based in Chicago, Lee Lumber operates two lumberyards and four showrooms that sell windows, doors, and custom cabinetry and millwork. Baumgarten’s father, Lee Baumgarten, founded the company with a single location on Chicago’s South Side in 1952. Nathan Linn & Son was one of their first customers. They continue to do business with Lee Lumber as Linn-Mathes, building some of the biggest projects in the city.

Initially, Lee Lumber focused on serving remodeling contractors. The company since has expanded its customer base to include nearly all of Crain’s Chicago Business’ top-25 contractors, custom homebuilders and architects, which comprise more than 75 percent of its business. Easily 90-95% is repeat.

"Lee Lumber also serves consumers", Rick Baumgarten says. “But the consumer purchases are often for large projects that are then installed by professionals, such as entry systems, windows [and] kitchen cabinets,” he notes.

Forming Relationships

As an independent, family owned company, Lee Lumber’s relationships with its clients have long been essential. In its early years, Baumgarten says, "Lee Lumber gave many contractors their first line of credit. This was particularly true of minorities who found it difficult to secure credit elsewhere.was the only materials supplier in Chicago that gave minority subcontractors lines of credit."

"This policy has resonated with those companies and kept them loyal as they have entered their second or third generations of leadership.", he says. “Quite frankly, it was not anything that Lee [Baumgarten] reached out for or did just because others weren’t doing it,” Baumgarten says. “It just never occurred to him to do anything different for different groups of people.”

A recent initiative to strengthen its customer relationships is its Certified Installers program. Through the program, the company provides clients with training in the areas of window, door and cabinetry installation, as well as informational and fun speakers, including former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson.

To avoid competing with its customers, Lee Lumber does not offer installation services. But with Certified Installers, Baumgarten says, "The company can refer homeowners to its members. Over 80 contractors are participating."

"Lee Lumber keeps close tabs on Certified Installers’ companies", Baumgarten notes. "For example, when we get one of our Certified Installers a lead, they need to respond in one business day,” he says. “We also follow-up and make sure the job was done to the customers’ satisfaction.”

In exchange for training and references, all Lee Lumber asks for is the loyalty of its members. By teaching its clients better business practices, he explains, they earn referral business, which benefits Lee Lumber.

So far, the program has proven successful in creating loyalty and strengthening Lee Lumber’s relationships with its customers. A recent survey suggests that its members strongly appreciate the program.

At the end of each training session, Lee Lumber usually asks its members to complete a questionnaire. “One of the questions recently was, ‘Which meeting did you find most informative?’” Baumgarten remembers. “Almost 40 percent of the respondents said, ‘All of them. There are at least three training sessions at our premises, plus a trip to a manufacturer for a tour and further training. We also have at least one evening meeting per quarter that is informational to our customers’ businesses. That’s huge,” he continues. “That says these guys are really locked into this program and consider it an important part of their business.”

Lee Lumber also recently started Installation Masters, a program that teaches members the American Architectural Manufacturers Association’s specifications for window installations. “These specs for window installation are starting to be used in some municipalities,” he says. “Right now, we have the only trainers and the only trained people in the Chicago area on these techniques. We have completed the first class for 6 companies and we have two more (2 full day) classes scheduled to train 12 at each."

Taking Chances

The Chicago marketplace contains many competitors, but Baumgarten says Lee Lumber competes by taking risks. "For instance, 18 tears ago we were probably the first yard in the Chicago area to stock engineered wood products,” he says.

We knew it was a product of the future,” he remembers. “We felt, early on, that manufacturers were looking for people to buy and stock the product. We set up a distribution agreement with Mitek, whose Engineered Wood Products Division was purchased by Louisiana Pacific, that still holds today.”

Lee Lumber also has remained technologically innovative. Baumgarten, who joined the company in 1967, introduced computerization to the business in 1975. Four years later, “We wrote our own point-of-sale program and went live with [it],” he remembers. “That was before all the airline and rent-a-car companies had terminals at their desks.”

During the late 1970s, the company also developed a system where its factory pre-finished doors were shipped in polyethylene bags, so that the finish on the doors was protected as spaces were developed. “They keep the polybag on the doors until they’re ready to turn over the space,” Baumgarten explains. “[Then] you have a nice, bright, clean door that doesn’t have any drywall mud on it, or paint spatters.”

Staying ‘Lucky’

Baumgarten says Lee Lumber plans to keep an eye on its expenses. “We’ve been very, very lucky,” he says. “It’s really only in the last few years that we’ve only had to do a substantial amount of advertising and have an outside sales staff.

As the company has grown, it has also seen the Chicago market grow to include virtually “every major player in the country. It’s a very big and competitive market,” he says. “We’ve got to try to stay on top of it.

He plans for the company to be careful and maintain its margins. “We’re in an industry of dinosaurs and we don’t want to become extinct, either,” he says. “[Our] broad vision has to be maintaining profitability, while growing our strength areas of Windows, Doors, and Cabinetry.”

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Under Pressure - Your guide to treated lumber
by Rick Baumgarten *

Over two billion dollars is spent annually to replace wood damaged by fungal decay and termites. To avoid these extreme costs, there are many types of pressure-treated wood that you can buy for fire retardance, mold resistance, termite damage resistance and other specific uses. These pressure-treated woods use renewable resources, and are commonly available at lumberyards and home centers.

The green view

According to the US Forest Service, over 1.7 billion trees are planted per year in the U.S.— enough to cover over 2.4 million acres of land. Most treated wood in our area is Southern Yellow Pine from managed, sustained-yield forestlands; not old-growth timber or from third-world rainforests. In contrast, steel, concrete, and plastic building materials are not renewable and take large amounts of energy to produce. Composites and plastics, though claiming recycled content, are more expensive and require far more energy to produce. Their advantage over pressure-treated lumber is that they are maintenance-free.

Making the grade

Not all treated lumber is Southern Yellow Pine and certainly, not all Southern Yellow Pine is the same. Different suppliers carry different grades. Complicating matters, grade rules for Southern Yellow Pine are different from the grade rules for Ponderosa Pine, the other species of wood found at Chicago-area outlets. As a general rule, Southern Yellow Pine is preferred, and the higher the grade (usually the lower number), the less knots in the wood. Decking is available in premium grade (close to free of knots) and standard grade (allowing small, tight knots).

Strong and straight

When buying posts and beams, try to request pieces that are Free of Heart Center. Try not to buy pieces that show full circles of grain when you view the piece from the end. Splits in the wood, known as checks, tend to radiate from the center so that heart centers can have splits on all four faces. Beware particularly of 4-by-4 8-foot pieces, as they are often “peeler cores,” (what’s left from the lathe at the plywood mill). These pieces tend to become as straight as snakes. They are often the advertised, low price item at home centers.


The amount of chemical retained in the wood is as important as the grade. The retentions, in pounds of chemical per cubic foot of wood, are 0.25 for above-ground use, 0.40 for most in-ground use (the most commonly available), and 0.60 for unusually difficult exposure, such as docks and salt water.

All treatment chemicals for use involving ground contact, continue to be copper-based. Each piece of pressure-treated lumber should be both grade stamped and stamped by the treater showing the type and amount of chemical used. Further, there is a tag stapled to the end of the piece with the printed warranty of the treater.

Not your average lumber

Working with pressure-treated wood calls for the same common sense one should use when working with any wood, with the exception of waste disposal. Never burn treated lumber, and don’t use it for mulch.

Another area where care needs to be taken is the use of fasteners, connectors and hangers. Because you are buying pressure-treated wood for outdoor use, be sure to select nails and screws that are designed for that purpose as well. Hot-dipped galvanized nails and lag bolts, stainless steel or coated screws are the fasteners to choose. Hangers and connectors should be heavily galvanized as well – and always used with the appropriate nails. Remember, the wood may last forever, but if the nails and screws rust away, there is nothing to hold your structure together.

Pressure-treated wood for decks, porches, fences and other outdoor structures is more economical than cedar, redwood, tropical hardwoods, composites and plastics. Only the composites and plastics can claim that they don’t split or check over time. Pressure-treated wood will act like any other wood when left exposed to the elements; It may cup, develop checks (splits), have raised grain and may show some shrinkage over time while developing a warm, gray, naturally weathered appearance. To control these defects as much as possible, use a recommended sealer on your deck boards before nailing them down.

The treating companies and chemical manufacturers have great literature readily available at your lumber dealer or downloadable on the Internet. Additional information is available at the Web sites of The American Wood Preservers Association and the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau.

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Moldings and Trim
by Rick Baumgarten *

Do you feel like an important room in your house lacks character? Think your furniture just doesn’t go with the space? Love the layout of the house, but it just doesn’t feel quite right? Changing moldings and trim can create a whole new atmosphere and pull your décor together. Today there are more choices than ever and it’s easier and less expensive than you may think.

You can get some great ideas from numbers of home related magazines. You’ll notice how the moldings are always appropriate for the fabulous homes shown. Clip some of the pictures that show the look you want to create, and take them with you to a contractor-oriented supplier. A Pro Dealer is likely to not only have a much bigger range to choose from, but also likely to have more knowledgeable staff than a big-box home center. You’re more likely to find patterns you like in stock, so it will be the most economical. Special order patterns are likely to be a bit more expensive than stock because of the special handling of your order and the order quantity that is likely to be smaller than for a stock order. If your ideal patterns don’t exist, remember that they can be custom made to order. Our company keeps one high speed molder doing nothing but custom patterns six days a week.

After you get past the very basic choice of whether you want to paint or stain, you get down to the business of product selection. If you decide to stay with a natural look and stain, remember there are many species of wood to choose from and nothing says that you can’t put oak in one room and cherry in another. If you go with a paint finish, there are choices as well. Moldings are available in solid pine, poplar, and often in African obeche. Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), finger-jointed pine or poplar and numbers of composite materials are all used to make serviceable moldings for a paint finish. Fortunately, you can find great literature and ideas from manufacturers like Fypon, a company that makes a huge range of products from composites that be used both inside and outside. WindsorONE, a manufacturer of pre-primed, finger-jointed wood, even shows groupings of products designed to be true to historic styles. Even curves and arches can be dealt with thanks to companies like FlexTrim that has both stock patterns and will match yours, to create crown moldings to go around curves or arched casings for Palladian windows. Be sure to consider more than just lineal trims. Think about plinth blocks at the base of door casings or rosettes between the side and head casings. Applying a “keystone” wedge or using a crown over the head casing makes a great look too.

Probably the best time to replace moldings is when you’re ready to repaint. You don’t have to be nearly as careful removing the existing because you will be doing surface preps before you start to paint anyway. Here are some helpful hints to make your new moldings stand out.

  • Use an egg-shell or semi-gloss paint on moldings. They’ll stand out next to the flat finish on your walls and will be easier to dust and keep clean.
  • When using crown moldings, add a tiny bit of the wall color to the ceiling paint, to make the (typically white) crown molding not get lost in the ceiling.

Moldings can cost anywhere between twenty cents per foot to two or three dollars for linear patterns and way beyond that for carved or molded specialties. Installation is not beyond someone of minimal carpentry skills, but an electric miter saw (be sure you get one big enough for your crown moldings) and a nailset are required equipment.

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* Rick Baumgarten is President of Lee Lumber and Building Material Corp. He is a Past Chairman of the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association and holds and MBA from the University of Chicago. Lee Lumber is an independent supplier of Home Improvement materials extablished in 1952. Lee operates two full service lumber yards . located within Chicago (inside both are Spaces and Views showrooms), three Spaces and Views showrooms in Lincoln Park, Highland Park, and Oakbrook Terrace, and SmartRooms, a Spaces and Views showroom in the Merchandise Mart.

This series of articles appeared in Chicago Home Improvement magazine in 2006-2008.

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