Size Matters

I live in a small house. Well, it isn’t that small, at 1600 sf. But within the 2 stories that make up our home, we have plenty of space, with a full attic that hasn’t been finished off yet, ( Yes, dear, it is on the list of projects to be completed during the next decade ) and a somewhat water-tight basement. I like, no I love, our home. One room at a time, for the past 8 years of living there, we’ve painted, put in floors ( of reclaimed wood of course ) added trim to complement the original Chestnut, knocked out walls, put in new windows, siding…the list is long and my hands are more lovingly worn because of it. The footprint has stayed the same, but through good design decisions and some adjustments with the help of a sawzall, we have plenty of room for our family of 4, one cat, and a recent addition of a Cairn Terrier. The yard? .07 acres, and no, I didn’t mis-place the decimal. Many homes occupy a footprint at least that big, and in fact, the city of Geneva wouldn’t allow new construction on a lot like ours at 47′ wide because of setback restrictions never even thought of in 1922 when it was built. Yet we’ve managed to fit in a small patio, a grilling “deck”, and a backyard swingset for the boys. And it has a front porch offering a warm sunset in the evening and relaxing chats with neighbors over Finger Lakes Reisling and local craft beers.

Our home is indeed comfortable in size, so I was intrigued when reading a recent article in the New York Times about a home that most people would consider a shed. In fact, it was a garage! With a simple addition for a bathroom, plenty of recycled & re-purposed materials, the woman acted as her own general contractor and created a beautiful, functional, and cozy space of 250 sf for her to call home. IN A GARAGE, and for a very respectable $32,000. Look at the photos and floor plan in the article, and you’ll see very intelligent design, great attention to detail while maintaining simplicity, and the true fruits of doing things yourself. Sure, this is a single person residence – you’re not going to comfortably raise a family of 4 here. But it really makes one think – how much space do you need?

By not having huge spaces to fill with “stuff”, you’re freed to focus on the details a little more. Maybe this means spending a little more on the floor to create a great canvas for the rest of the room. Narrower floors have made a real comeback in the past couple of years, and they’re perfect for smaller rooms. Narrow planks give you more of a mosaic than a wide board when working in these smaller areas, and in turn, having more planks across the floor makes the space seem a bit larger. The best part is, they’re less expensive than a wide-plank of the same species.

In the kitchen above, the narrow boards and color variation of our Malacca Straits combine to add a great amount of interest in a relatively small space. Shrink this down to even the smallest galley-style kitchen, and it will still keep you noticing something new every day. This idea works with other species too – especially those with even more character like our Settlers’ Plank Autumn Woods.

See? Size might matter, but not necessarily in the way people usually think. bigger isn’t always better, in terms of room sizes, overall footprint, and flooring widths. Besides, with tons of space, you have to spend more time cleaning, than relaxing and joying what you’ve created.

Enjoy the nice weather – and keep in touch.


The Outdoors

Did I mention yet this winter that I miss my camper?

I was walking my property the other day (you know, around the .07 acres in Geneva that I own ) which takes about 30 seconds for a full loop, and I stared at the camper, wondering when the first outing would be. The boys have been asking about when we can go for the first time, and it really got me wondering as well, with temps running 50 – 60 here lately. I’m not sure when that will be. New York is a state where is can snow in May, so it is never safe to bet that it will be much before June.

Then today, walking by our boiler house ( we have 2 huge Garn boilers which take our waste wood and generate heat for our shop and kilns ) I could smell the Fir that was burning away in there. No smoke, just the pleasant sweet aroma, which is the same that I catch by the fire in the summer.

All this warm weather, thoughts of the camper, and general spring fever is making many of us think about the outdoors. Time to gear up at any one of the many outdoor retailers we work with, like Bass Pro Shops, and while you’re there check out the huge array of materials supplied by Pioneer Millworks. Flooring, barn siding, ceilings, timber trusses, and even wood for some of the fixtures, all came from our shop. If you’re out west, check out Columbia Sportswear and see all the Settlers’ Plank Oak on the walls & floors.

We love to get outdoors, thats for sure. We sponsor a big event every year, the Wild Water Derby, which runs on the rapids of the Canandaigua Outlet every spring. This has grown to become quite a gathering of water-loving folks, and our employees often enter rafts, or brave the rapids in canoes or kayaks. If you’re in the are, you should come by for sure!

So maybe if the weather cooperates this weekend, I’ll pop up the camper and air it out. Then again, maybe thats tempting fate a little too early. Maybe I’ll stick to some pre-season dreaming and shopping for now.

Thanks for checking in, keep in touch.

– Jered


They quoted you how much?!

I had a great conversation today with a friendly competitor of ours. No, I didn’t call to let him know that we’re better than them ( we are ), or that we have a way cooler office & showroom ( we do ) or that our office manager plays a mean fiddle ( she does ) and theirs doesn’t. I called to touch base, say hello, and let them know that they might receive a call from a potential client of mine, and that I wanted to make sure she was steered clear of some potentially bad flooring. See, she contacted us at Pioneer Millworks looking for a somewhat substantial quantity of Heart Pine flooring, in a fairly clean grade, expecting pricing about 1/2 of what ours would be. Sure – I am used to the occasional “deathly silence” once folks find out that reclaimed wood is more expensive than new, and with the economy the way it has been, certainly some companies are more hungry than others for work. When I heard she was being given a price 50% of ours though, I began to question the quality of the materials she was seeing from these other companies.

“But the samples look great – almost clear, with very few knots! And it is really tight grain, with a beautiful color!” Just sounds too good to be true if you ask me, so as I outlined some basic checklist items to confirm about a reclaimed wood floor and the company making it, I thought it might be of use to share them with the rest of the world too:

As a rule, your floor should be:

– 100% Reclaimed materials. Ask what building the wood is coming from, and where it was located. If they don’t know, think twice.

– Kiln-dried. Flooring should to be shipped at a 6% – 8% moisture content. Air-drying, drying rooms, etc don’t count, unless you like the idea of twisting & shrinking floorboards & potential insect infestation.

– Milled with a precise T&G, and square-cut, if not, end matched, on the ends. Look at the samples they provide – How does the milling fit together? Do your samples glide together easily, and do the top faces line up to form a smooth floor? How much sanding will therefore be required to get the floor they way you want it?

– Made to written grade specifications for your order. Does the company have specific written criteria they use in identifying the proper materials for your order? Do your samples look that way as well? Can they show you photos of installations of a larger area of the same flooring?

– Free of contaminants. Was the wood exposed to any nasty chemicals due to the use of the original structure? ( we have turned down otherwise BEAUTIFUL wood because of this in the past )

– A nice mix of lengths. Ours range from 2’ – 12’, with longer boards as well, depending on the shipping method. You don’t want a floor that’s all 2’ – 4’ shorts, which is entirely possible when chopping out defects to make a higher grade floor from sub –standard materials.

– Made by a company that has been working with Heart Pine for a long time. There’s a plethora of companies that tout their reclaimed wood, but lack the facilities, inventory, knowledge, and passion to create a beautiful floor the RIGHT way. Only a handful have been around for as long as we have ( 20+ years, and I’ve been here for 13 of those! ) making custom reclaimed wood floors.

At the end of the conversation, I encouraged her to continue to call around, and see what other prices she found. We might not be the least expensive, but we also won’t be the highest-priced. Plain & simple, we’re passionate about what we make, every one of us. Because of that, she is assured that her floor will be the best Heart Pine floor on the market, crafted in our own shop, from true reclaimed wood of the highest quality ( FSC Certified to boot! ) and in a manner thats respectful to the environment. If nothing else, she’s more educated now, and can make a more informed decision. Do I think she’ll be back to us to purchase her floors in a few months? You bet. But she’ll have to catch me when I’m not out seeing Valerie play her mean fiddle with “The Bob Squad” around Rochester.

Stay in touch – thanks for reading.


Spring Redwood Decking

Spring is just around the corner, right? With recent snowfalls reaching record amounts in the southern and eastern US it is hard to believe. But we are only 34 days away from the Spring Equinox. When I think spring, I think outdoor cooking! Wheeling the grill out from the depths of winter storage or pulling the cover from the one sitting on the deck. Picnics and regular outdoor family meals – simply being outside and enjoying the sunshine again.


I’m amazed at how much our deck makes our home seem larger. The kids enjoy playing on it, the dog lounges there and it is a great nap spot. If you’re thinking about adding on some exterior space we can help with materials. We have reclaimed redwood from wine vats that is excellent for decking and railings. Redwood is naturally rot, mold and rodent resistant, weathering well outdoors. (We’ve also had feedback that it is a good wood for bare feet with limited cracking or splinters and no infused chemicals to worry about). And if the wind is just right, you may even be able to smell the original wine tannins locked deep in the wood. 

There is still time to have your deck ready for Spring. Send us a note to learn more.  – Pioneer Millworks