Transform your den into an elegant library with a mahogany ceiling and walls, lined with matching bookshelves. Add a touch of warmth to your loft apartment with a gleaming spiral staircase, or renew your dining room with oak wainscoting and French doors with glorious beveled glass. From kitchen and bathroom cabinets to custom moldings and wall coverings, millwork enhances interiors with the beauty of finely crafted wood.
  • Choosing a Millwork Firm
  • Three Levels of Quality
  • Major Renovations
  • On Cost
  • What to Expect from Your Millwork Company
  • Millwork Mastery Tips

The best way to find the woodwork specialist who is right for you is to visit millwork shops. Surrounded by works-in-progress, you can get a first-hand look at the firm's workmanship, look at photographs of finished projects and speak to some of the craftsmen. You should feel comfortable with the woodworker's style and confident that your ideas will be listened to and valued throughout the process. During this visit, ask for references from customers who ordered work similar to yours.

Once you’ve decided the scope of your project, it is wise to determine the caliber of workmanship and quality of wood that is most appropriate for your needs. There are essentially three grades of woodwork to choose from, each with its own standards for materials and craftsmanship.
Economy is the lowest grade of woodwork, and may be chosen for projects that won’t put a lot of demand on the structure or materials. For example, a built-in desk and shelving in a guest room that gets very little use could be constructed at the economy level. Although the work must be attractive, it need not be made from exotic wood or constructed with intricate joinery. The next grade is custom woodwork, the level of craftsmanship most frequently requested. Custom woodwork ensures good quality wood and workmanship and is suitable for such popular projects as household cabinetry and moldings. A beautiful kitchen makeover with glass-paneled cabinet doors and a new butcher block island could all be constructed using custom woodwork.
The highest grade is premium woodwork, top-of-the-line millwork that delivers the highest quality of craftsmanship, wood and finishing. Premium jobs include outfitting an entire room with elaborately carved wall and ceiling panels made of top-grade wood, or building a grand staircase using imported wood and marble.

Millwork jobs that involve complex structural elements or that will affect your home’s electrical or plumbing systems will require a contractor and, in some cases, an architect. The contractor will assure that the job gets done properly and on time, taking into consideration any electrical, plumbing or heating issues that arise, and an architect will assist with the design and structural elements. A contractor or architect can also recommend millworkers with whom they’ve worked in the past, and you can explore those firms.

Due to the specialized, diverse nature of the millwork business, there is no standard pricing structure. Most firms determine their fees based on the materials that are being used and the complexity and scope of the project, which is why it is important to collect several bids for your job. When requesting bids, it is also important to note whether or not the cost of installation is included. Some firms subcontract the installation process. Before you sign a contract, be sure that you know exactly who will install the work you ordered in its intended place in your home.

If the structure of your home will not be altered by your millwork project (as with replacement kitchen cabinets, for example), the job will not require a permit and can probably be done without a contractor or architect. There are no license or permit requirements for millwork firms, nor are there any trade associations through which a millworker must be certified. Before you sign a work agreement, request proof of the company’s insurance and warranty policies, which vary from firm to firm. If craftsmen will be working in your home, you’ll want to be sure that they are covered by the company’s worker’s compensation policy. You don’t want to be held responsible for a misguided nail or toppled ladder.
Like all artisans, millworkers take pride in their work. You’ll enjoy working with a wood craftsman from this section who shares your enthusiasm for bringing a rustic, cozy or luxurious new look to your home.

  • It’s your millworker’s duty to measure! If you do it yourself and give him the dimensions, you’re only asking for trouble.
  • Plan the electrical and plumbing layout meticulously or you may have to rip up fine work, send it to the scrap heap and pay to have it redone.
  • Don’t install millwork too early in a renovation project. Your millworker should be the last person in so that other workers won’t scratch up your beautiful new wood finish.
  • Hire excellent professionals for the entire renovation. Millworkers must have a level surface, and shoddy workmanship from carpenters, drywall or plastic contractors will haunt the millwork.
  • Remember to design backing structures where necessary. You don’t want a cabinet that will store heavy cookware fastened to a mere one-half inch of drywall.
  • Don’t be afraid to reject a panel or piece of molding that doesn’t match the quality of its brothers and sisters.
  • Allow at least six weeks for fabrication and delivery of the materials—and more for installation.
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