2 story addition w/ 9' windows

This is a job in Center City near 9th and Bainbridge. Tear the roof off of this one! and add balloon framing, solidify masonry walls and foundation and add 2 stories worth of windows and a built in roof deck. Nice! thanks to Kevin Rasmussen architect and Redmond Construction, for whom I worked at the time, for the opportunity to stretch my wings a little bit!
Due to cost, the owners decided to have us only do the rough work, through roofing, and they've been doing their own finish painting and moldings/doors inside. We got them through to move in! -actually I can't find my pictures of the kitchen install right now... oh well, this is the fun stuff anyways....

Some finish work completed recently at the Beaumont Street house:
The owner had some flooring of various size lots left over from some of his rental units, actually about 7 different kinds, so we decided to make good use of it all! The three bedrooms and the living room all have a border of several rows of a differing type of wood. It looks pretty snazzy, I'd say, it adds alot for just perhaps about a weeks more work. This is tongue and groove material so the challenge was to keep it all locked together, as well as maintaining square and parallel. I also managed to layout so that there were no rips in the middle field of flooring, and the outside courses were symetrical in size! Thats the fun of it.
Another finish project for this house was skinning the old stairs with oak. Since the flooring was adding 3/4" to both the 1st and 2nd floor, adding oak to the top of the old treads made sense for walkability. And the cost was not as bad as one might have thought, about 500 for materials and about a week for labor. The railings and spindles would have had to be bought and installed anyway, so the extra cost was minimal: skinning the treads and risers vs. sanding them.

Could not get Peco to come out. Imagine that! We wanted them to come out and remove the hardware holding up the big ol HOT!!! supply wires, so we could replace the rotted barge board with some Azek (a plastic wood product). But no. Actually they kept on saying yes and then not showing up. "Within the week" they said week after week. OK. OK. no problem.

So I made a bracket to hold the hardware utilizing a couple of principles I have invoked previously. One is the beam on roof as cantilever. the further back onto the house it goes the more weight it holds. And the other was the creative use of tie down straps! very very strong inventions. Cloth, no less. Woven strands and the ratchet. Very strong. plus of course some custom cutting of some wood to embrace said Peco hardware (holding unknown weight of LIVE juicy juice.)

So it turns out you can't avoid touching said juicy wire but as long as there is no exposed metal inner wire you'll be allright. (Don't try this at home.) Getting the bolts in and out turned out to be the sweaty part, but, - guess what!??? I'm still here! Happy Birthday! OK....

Gut Job

classic renovation. remove all old framing because patching is more work than starting over. also there is lead in the woodwork... sorry old house. welcome, new house. burn the old studs in the woodstove. actually the wood is really nice old pine or fir, very tight grain old growth lumber, firm yet soft. Probably be good for some kind of woodwork, if you could mill it down... I have a couple of times for patching dutchmans into old doors.
and a hawk came to the street, caught a pigeon, which was still alive at the time. when i came closer for a better photo it flew away, with the pigeon.
Chris Eaton is pouring a new porch. Kevin O'Brien is demolishing the old back shed. Practically fell off, but he had his share of work there.
Some other work completed was new lintels for all the rear side windows, some brake work with Tim McCullough's home made Visegrip brake, works very well, especially at the price.
More nature, some snakes were hanging out under the warmth of the black tarp out back. They were actually quite sluggish.
Karl, a helper on the job site, tries to remember what he was looking for!
And some shots of the insulation job. When they're done they clean out the sprayer onto a peice of plastic. Some soccer ball there, eh?

A Space storefront

A really fun job, lots of people going by, saying hello. Trying not to distract me (and James) too much, but carpentry is pretty non social most of the time. Just work with your hands and talk to each other day in and day out. So a change of pace is acceptable, don't you think?
Anyway, also a challenging job, with lots of changes and extras thrown in the mix. Its a "while we're here we might as well..." type of job. We've added in a wheelchair ramp, removed soffits, rerouted electric, uncovered and trimmed for the original leaded glass windows. Also added is a plastered wall, theres no room on the party wall for an added layer of drywall so it had to be skimmed. Very finely accomplished by Richard Odibashian, by the way. Also we moved the radio transmitter for the mural on the parking lot wall to the basement. What else...
Much appreciated all the help and patience from Morgan Andrews and Clarissa and Tim Dunn, Books Through Bars, and everyone else who wondered what the heck gentrification was going on. What a positive vibe surrounds that address, I can attest to that. Everybody checking out the free books is open to a pleasant word or two for carpenters cutting wood and nailing it up.
Also of note is the fact that we can't paint until the weather warms up, so here's hoping the woodwork holds up until then. But what must be, will be...

Hello and Welcome to HW House Carpentry!

I've been working in Philly for 30 years, since before the first cordless screw gun, and I've seen a few construction situations in my day. I wanted to put up a blog because the process itself is just that enjoyable and interesting, and I hope I can share it with you on an ongoing basis, rather than in the typical glossy magazine style of many contractor's web sites.

I have accomplished some very high end carpentry and also completed uncountable minor repairs. I've installed 5 piece crown mouldings in condos in the Barclay on Rittenhouse Square and I've climbed down into a septic system at a summer camp when I was 16, for some forgettable reason. I've been in charge of jobs worth 300 big G's and I've bought an abandoned house for 2,500 bucks that is now worth 100 times that amount because of my work. I've helped out a few times with squats. I've traded work with people who were low on funds, and I've volunteered with Habitat For Humanity (highly recommended experience for anyone). I've worked for poor people in the heart of so called bad neighborhoods and I've worked on a log cabin in W. Virginia. But also I've worked on many whole house renovations, a few of which lost money to someone who will gain tens of thousands of dollars of value because of my work! This is because the estimating part of the process can be way more difficult than the actual work. And yet, its a necessary part, the customer needs to know what they are getting into before hand. Carpentry can be a high cost expenditure, its not a can of soup you're buying. On that note of seriousness, I can also admit to having been a part of the changing landscape of Philadelphia's housing, i.e. the ill named "gentrification". However I will adamantly say that this topic is not a simple one, not easily broken down into right/wrong/rich/poor/white/black. And so, while asserting that decent housing should be a right for all people, I think we'll have to leave that particular discussion for another day (hope you don't mind).

So with some of these contradictions and varieties of experiences in mind I thought I'd create a little atmosphere relating to how I like to approach construction. It can seem daunting, there are often so many decisions to work through: design, price, cost vs quality, scheduling, site protection... etc etc. The main thing I've found is to create a process that works for both parties and to do that it takes communication. So, after all this, carpentry is really about communication, talking. Imagine that. The craftsperson works with her or his hands but what's important is to have relatively good communication with them. More talking is usually (but not always) better than less talking. And clear talking is even better than that. If possible.

I try to tell people that getting work done on your house is like learning a new skill set. Not necessarily easy but ultimately very rewarding. No one is going to become an interior decorator after one sitting with Fine Homebuilding. But those are good places to get ideas sometimes, I've enjoyed Better Homes and Gardens at the dentist's office more than once... But since most of us live in houses, its an area we would do well to learn about, we can develop our own style of getting it done. I advocate empowering you to learn what you need to learn to have the house you want to have.

So the main idea is to learn as you go and enjoy the process. Talk to as many people about your situation as you can. Trades people tend to be philosophical and full of advice, you can't be in this business without developing some attitudes about how to get the work done, - as well as stories about projects you've completed in the past. Meanwhile feel free to contact me about your project and I'll put my two cents in on it as well. Talk is cheap, its the work that counts.

In short, I could tell you that my goal is to get for you a great product for a decent price, and I think most of my past customers would agree that I accomplish this. In light of that, I've posted some photos of past projects so that you can see the variety of work I've completed. And I hope you will check back in to witness updates of current situations, as well as various commentaries. Hopefully a little carpenteerish philosophizing won't be too distracting from the main goal: happy houses for everyone (who cares to live in a house)!