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The Ins and Outs of Custom Millwork: An Interview with Ray Angell of L. Sweet Lumber Company

By Ray Angell

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

L. Sweet Lumber is a retail lumber and building materials dealer. We specialize in custom millwork, hardwoods, softwoods and other hard-to-find products, especially for historical restoration projects. Our customers are mostly professional builders, contractors, remodelers and architects, as well as homeowners and do-it-yourselfers. Established in 1885, we will be celebrating 130 years of serving the building industry next year.

Can you give a brief explanation of what millwork is?

Millwork is sort of a catch-all term for doors, windows, cabinets, casing, base, trim molding, mantels, railings, staircases, columns, etc. Millwork serves the purpose of increasing the utility of a home or building, as well as for decoration and appeal.

What are some of the most common millwork items that people want for their homes?

The most common millwork items people want for their homes are entrance and interior doors, windows, and moldings that serve as casing, base and other trim.

How much flexibility does custom millwork give people when they're remodeling their home?

There is an abundance of flexibility when it comes to millwork. Entrance doors, for example, can be made from wood, fiberglass or metal. They can be painted, stained or finished in all kinds of colors. Entrance systems can include glass panes on the side, called "side lights" and can include more glass in the door itself, which can be made in different sizes and styles. Hardware options (knobs, hinges, etc.) are countless.

Windows are available in a vast array of designs and sizes, and have a multitude of options regarding exterior and interior finishes, as well as glass layout and style.

Moldings for casing, base and other trim are available in virtually an infinite number of profiles. Moldings can be shaped out of a variety of species of softwoods such as pine, cedar and fir, as well as hardwoods like oak, maple and mahogany.

Perhaps what makes millwork selection so expansive and customizable is the fact that older, historical styles are still relevant and highly desired even today, in addition to the newer and more contemporary themes. They say trends come and go, but millwork seems to come and stay.

What is the basic process of getting custom millwork done?

Depending on the type of millwork, consulting a trusted carpenter is a good place to start. If you're comfortable however, feel free to go about it on your own. Measurements need to then be taken to determine size, quantity, etc. Then you can visit our lumber yard and showroom, where our experienced staff will help you with what is available for your project/application, and what the options are. One's budget is important and should be set at some point of the process, which may help in the decision-making process. Time is a substantial consideration as well, due to extended lead times on particularly custom or extraordinary millwork choices.

Do you have any tips for cabinetry and woodwork that will match the look and style of someone's home?

A great way to match the existing look and style of someone's home is to take pictures, which will help guide you when looking through catalogues or samples. When possible, a physical sample (i.e., a casing/base molding) is the best route. For windows and doors, it is extremely helpful to determine the manufacturer and material it is made of.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

We are located in Providence, which is easily accessible and central to the state. We also have a website ) and can be reached via email (lsweetlumber@aol.com) as well. If social media is your thing, check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, as well as Google+!

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