Building a house is like being in college: it’s always hanging over your head. We expected a fairly heavy homework load, but did not anticipate the near complete lack of collaboration on so many of the components that go into building a home. Here’s a recent exchange:
Rep: I’m trying to stay ahead on getting you costs. What do you want for flatwork?
I explain what we have in mind and ask for a sketch of the driveway sections so we can play with our options. I further point out that this exercise will allow the builder to more accurately estimate material quantity and price, the reason for the question to begin with.
Response: “Until the flatwork guys go out there I can’t really say where the sections will be placed.”
Now, what I am supposed to do with that?
And so it goes.
Likewise with cabinet stain. My PowerPoint to the builder in April detailing our thoughts about stain color, wood choice, finish and overall look, including photos of things we liked and didn’t like went into a black hole, garnering no feedback until I finally asked about it two weeks ago at our walkthrough. Instead of it becoming the springboard for a discussion leading to a final decision, we heard the word vague and were told it fell upon us to figure it out. That was a shock.
Initiate stain project #2.
We went to a hardwood lumber yard and chose four planks: ash, birch, red oak and white oak. Even determining which wood types to sample was an involved decision in and of itself.
Once we got the planks home, despite temps in the upper 90s, John sanded and cut them, labeling each piece by wood type and stain color in preparation for staining the following weekend.
We also weeded out some of the colors from our previous stain adventure for the front door, and purchased a few additional possibilities for round two. All up, we had 10 stain colors.
Last weekend, John stained and finished 40 pieces of wood.
When they were dry enough to handle, we laid them all out on the patio furniture to review.
In this photo, ash samples are on the top, birch on the bottom. We liked the way the colors looked on the ash samples, but disliked the prominence of the grain. We want a smooth, even, consistent look to the grain, so we eliminated ash as a wood choice.
The grain on the birch samples looked better than that on the ash, but certain areas appeared blotchy, in addition to the colors appearing sort of weak and watered down. Birch grain is so tight, the stain in some areas has difficulty absorbing. Where it was good, it was really good, but where it was blotchy, it looked really bad, so we eliminated birch.
We had better luck with tried and true oak, finding about half a dozen options to consider right away.
In the end, after pairing the samples with a plank of our flooring, we decided on a medium-dark stain color on red oak (left) with a slight reddish cast to it.
We took the two oak samples down to the house to get an idea of how the color will look in the kitchen. The samples in the photo are really close, but the one on the left won by a hair: it wasn’t as yellow as the one on the right.
We are ready to present our choice to the builder. Now that the hard work is over and done with, I wonder if he’d be interested in buying our samples?