REMODELERS ARE FACED with a bewildering choice of materials, most of them fairly bland. Why not opt for a natural substance with deep, rare colors and patterns? Why not try wood?
Wood, always a basic element of house building and furniture making, is all too often relegated to a supporting role. Yet hardwoods of all types are easily found in Southern California--hardwoods that can be the crowning touch to a new fireplace mantle, a strip of molding to highlight an entryway, a special table you've always wanted to try your hand at building.
Choosing the right hardwood can make or break a project, not to mention a pocketbook. A lumberyard carrying hardwood might have a mix of as many as 60 different domestics (ash, walnut, the many varieties of oak) and exotics, including such intriguing types as ziricote, Pernambuco, bubinga and koa. Prices range from less than $5 a board foot (12 inch square by 1 inch thick) for birch, maple and red oak--most popular with remodelers--to $28 for true exotics such as macassar ebony. Some are even sold by weight: Pink ivory from Zimbabwe sells for about $25 a pound.
"Buy the best quality you can buy," says Richard Mandroian, owner of Arroyo Hardwoods in Pasadena. "On a remodeling project that is going to take significant time and effort--as well as cost several thousand dollars--it doesn't pay to save $50 or $75. You're only cheating yourself."