Speaking of Timber Framing…

While I’m no timber framer it sure is something I’ve gotten a taste of and once a builder does there’s no turning back.

A true craftsperson usually has a love for the more natural forms of creation and a timber frame is the epitome of such building,

To me…it’s a form of art that stands well on it’s own merits.

This frame I did out on the eastern end of Long Island in Watermill (East Hampton area) a couple of winters ago with two other carpenters.

While the timbers are real the application is strictly for asthetics which I find absolutely nothing wrong with….beauty is beauty.

On the other hand…to me, faux beams are simply tacky. There’s so many ways to “keep it real” that trying to mimic a work of art is almost sinful to me.With these beams weighing thousands of pounds each and there being only three of us…..lets just say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

A true craftsman that loves their work finds challenges like this inviting.

To me, the hum-drum blasé’ day to day repetitive work, while necessary leaves something to be desired in not only inspiring myself but it also inspires that get to see it after I’m long gone and this to me is “what it’s all about”!

While it isn’t always about how much something costs to create something of beauty, it ‘is’ about the love of ones work that keeps the wheels spinning…or the creative juices running into a never ending stream of possibilities.

I believe all people within all that they do…whaqtever it is that they do have the same capacity to bring into our spaces creations of beauty. To me, it’s simply about soul. It’s about attitude.

It’s a reflection of who you are.

…and what you’re all about.

This particular project took the three of us three very long days.

An Outdoor Cooking Island for BBQs

Planning ahead wasn’t part of the agenda with this home owner’s project so I was brought in to figure out how get what they wanted for the island top.

No slabs of bluestone or soapstone or and of the numerous other suggestions went over well from past remodelers until they found me.

They needed to match the colors of the new(ish) stone patio and island but no solid surface would work for them and they didn’t want concrete.

bbHere’s what I started with.

The first thing I needed to do was build a frame of pressure treated lumber inside this island structure flush with the top in order to accept pressure treated plywood.

All my 2×4 framing was fastened to the interior of the frames using my Remington nail gun. I used a long 20′ 2×4 that I bent along the front of the curved wall by wedging straight pieces of 2×4 to the straight part of the wall where I fastened yet another piece. bbq_3By slowly adding in straight pieces hammered into place with a small sledge hammer I was able to get the front piece bent as needed.

Next was cutting and fastening two layers of 3/4″ pressure treated plywood in to place. Everything was glued with a polyurethane glue (PL Premium) and screwed with coated deck screws….bbq w/ply topAfter the plywood was was secured in place I had to round the front side. I used a thin piece of lumber I cut so I could bend it to the radius the customer was happy with. I then cut it with my jig saw and then sanded it perfectly to my line with my belt sander at which point I was ready to thin-set and screw my cement boards to.

manao bbq tile work.1

After my cement boards were set and solid I added my fiberglass tape to all seams, cut the front to the same rounded edge using a carbide blade in my jig saw and painted on a product know as RedGard a sort of membrane that helps to further waterproof and keep the tiles from cracking.

manao bbq tile work

My customers ordered custom handmade tiles made for exterior use…as well as custom made border tiles.

Not an easy installation considering this BBQ/kitchen island top was right in the sun and it was the hottest part of the summer with the sun baking down on the tiles making them so hot I could hardly touch them. This is no good for the setting up of the thin-set so I needed to bring some shade to the island. My customers allowed me to use the picnic table umbrella you see in the back ground. I just moved it as I went along. Worked like a charm.

The next step would be laying out my tiles.

bbq tile counter top job

This too was quite a feat being they wanted certain tiles to line up in areas that was quite the head scratcher for me but as you’ll see it came together beautifully.

So next was setting up my wet saw and getting down to business.


The plan was to start in the early A.M when the weather was coolest. Now with my tiles laid out I was able to draw my layout lines, remove the tiles and start mixing up my thin-set. One thing I needed to do with these custom made tiles was to lay them out on the ground to make sure I didn’t keep too many dark or light tiles together.


I needed to spread out the different shades…something I’m always aware of with custom made tiles.

As you can see with the border tiles they were made very inconsistently and I had a hard time deciding which tile to put where so I had the home owner help me make the choices to where they were happy.

bbq tile counter top  sheet metal fabrication phase

In the end ”I” wasn’t happy with the way they sent those tiles to me but what can you do when you have to wait six weeks for an order to be made…and at about $50 per edge tile……

bbq tile counter top job border phase

And below was the best choice of the placement of the border tiles given the shades we were sent.



Over all the project came out absolutely gorgeous!!

The large over hang in the front curved section of the island top had me very concerned so we had 3/4″ steel L-brackets made up. I chiseled away the to pf the stone wall enough to keep the top of the brackets flush with the top of the stone wall and flush to the bottom of the counters bottom. All brackets I bolted deep into the back underside of the stone island. Every part of this project was quite the challenge..


After the top was grouted I used a “grout bag” to carefully fill between the edge tiles taking care not to get any of the grout into the intricate pattern of the edging.

After all the grout was cured I came back and gave all my work several coats of a premium sealer…and this was the project I left some very nice customers with.




A Timber Frame Garden Room

The start to the timber frame garden room project made of eastern white pine milled with a planed finish.

Timber Frame start

All the roof panels I had fabricated from a heavy gauge yet light weight steel with a solid 6″ foam core. All panels were screwed together through the fabricated flanges and then screwed straight into the roof rafter timbers.


The foam/steel panels acted as a webbing to keep the structure from twisting from side to side. Heavy steel brackets were fabricated and bolted into strategic points of the timber frame for the additional support.

foam/steel panels


P1010003 stone on shower wall corner

Each step will illustrate the thought process in bringing a very natural and beautiful structure into completion as we move along in this illustrated process.

And a very happy home owner watches each process unfold


Looking out after most of the completion.

finished looking out

Fireplace and stone walls are about half finished.


and yet further along..

fireplace stone work partially done

For the ceilings we used primed bead board.


And the final photos of the completed project.






SLIDE SHOW BELOW http://picasaweb.google.com/andybuildz/GardenRoom09#slideshow/5365871698594548514

An Impractical Carpenter?

Impractical means ‘not advisable to put into practice’ while impracticable means ‘not capable of being put into practice’; impractical or unpractical is something that can be done but “may not” be worth doing while impracticable means it can’t be done at all which means there’s hope for me after all.

What I’ve learned through-out my years in this current lifetime is that I can choose what’s unrealistic…or what “truly” can’t be done.

pool overgrown

Some call this reaching for the stars, while some call it…..

To me this means taking a sows ear and turning it into a silk purse….as ‘impractical or impracticable’ as that may sound.

There have been projects set before me that to most……… in my position, would have walked away from…and this for me, is very hard to do.

[A+pool+picture.JPG]I too often feel more of the love than the pain………. when I get the vision. I feel the dream deep inside…I envision it…inhale deeply, exhale, and step off the edge of the ledge as I so delicately put it. This is the point where I see the vision more clearly as I start weeding things out (so to speak).

One picks their tools wisely for the vision at hand. Weeding requires much patience, as any good farmer will tell you. It takes dedication to the farm, to the land and to the air we breath. The soil can be worked when the rain clouds clear and then…the vision becomes more clear. We see the tools we need to make the vision a reality. We soon see if practicality is what embodies the mother of invention….or not. You can feel it, you can taste it and then you can see it. It transcends life. It then becomes a part of you.

I think this is what separates a job from the craft. The word “just” is never a part of your vocabulary anymore. The vision becomes a part of your life style. It becomes a project that is a part of your life. It becomes your work. Your dharma if you will. It brings you strength. It empowers you. It feeds you. You’re fertilizing the soils. You’re growing the vision.There really is no project I find beneath me. Whatever it is I do, large project or small I do with an awareness..and the awareness is that it all adds up to the bigger picture. It’s the foundation the eyes don’t see that supports the monument within~





The economics in today's renovations

With gas and food prices high on the rise one most certainly asks the questions, "Do I really need…." -and- "Why do I"?

It’s more important now to understand the difference between necessity and luxury and it can be confusing for several reasons.

There are those times that form can come before function dependent on what makes and keeps you happy. Sometimes the visual is as…. or even more important then the function of an item.The Feng Shui or placement of items can be more important than the item itself. The empty spaces as well should be seriously considered when designing an area.I’ve witnessed quite a few people that are very dissatisfied with their choices once their project is complete. I think the problem arises from a preconceived notion people have in their minds prior to their project. What people need to do is compartmentalize more before haphazardly choosing items to place into their project.

Have all your ponies lined up before you parade them around for exhibit. Have a dress rehearsal if you will.

While an item may look inviting on it’s own merit it may not work well in the grand scheme of your plan. I see this happening far too often. Little things such as the placement of a window for example may look great from inside the room but walk outside and you start wondering…."why did I do that"?

The Goose Hill Road Project Story

I hold the Goose Hill Road project near and dear to my heart. This 326 years old Circa 1680 farm house sat vacant for over a year. Potential buyers came & went, loving the charm but Goose Hill Front Yardthen backing out after completing their engineer’s reports which uncovered major structural flaws. Not your typical fixer upper, no one seemed willing to undertake or have the skill to tackle such an enormous project until yours truly happened by.

I passed the old red house many times on my way back and forth to other projects wondering if anyone would ever restore it to the condition it deserved to be in. I was finishing up my Fox Hunt Lane project and had it on the market hoping to sell quickly and secure this beauty. I felt my name was written all over it & even recall driving into the dirt driveway several times just to sit & ponder it’s potential.

Goose Hill Front Yard
Circa: 1680 - Goose Hill Road, Cold Spring Harbor, New York 
(Click Image To View Full Size)

My wife Katrina works as a Realtor but coordinating a sale and a buy sometimes doesn’t work out the way you hope.. One day as I was driving up Goose Hill Road, to my dismay I saw a “SOLD” sign in front of “OUR” next house!!!.

Months passed and life went on but no one ever moved into the old red house. One day a wonderful young family made a promising offer on our Fox Hunt home but we had no where to go. As luck or fate would have it, that was the week that the old red farm house came back on the market. And as they say, “the rest is……”.

The thing I love about old homes, knowing all that I do about construction is the workmanship that came before me. I have so much admiration for the efforts of the carpenters and craftspeople who had no power tools, no lumber yards, no Home Depots. Everything they used they made themselves. This particular house had been sitting here proudly for hundreds of years but really started deteriorating in the last 50. There were many renovations that perhaps well meaning people did over the years that only escalated that process. Maybe it’s a sign of our times as craftsmanship and working with our hands fades from our daily lives.

With this project I took on a job that no one else would and have transformed one of Long Island’s oldest houses to a beautiful comfortable home with all of today’s amenities, yet one that I think Andrus Titus, (one of the original owners) would be proud of.

Andy Clifford
The Goose Hill Whaling Pot
(Click Images To View Full Size)

There were many unique elements in the house that we felt needed a special stage. The Whaling Pot, hundreds of years old & deteriorated beyond repair now has a special place in the Garden. The tilted pot pours out flowers next to the soft belly curve of a low farmer’s stone wall with a back drop of a white cedar fence I fabricated.

The Kitchen epitomized the challenges I faced orchestrating new construction with old. I first installed a huge header consisting of 4 massive TGIs attaching the new addition to the old timber beams making this large open expansive kitchen possible. I resolved the differences of ceiling & floor

Andy Clifford
The Goose Hill Road Kitchen Remodeled  
(Click Image To View Full Size)

heights by a clever kitchen design & enhanced it by building custom crown moldings & installing distressed cabinetry at different heights. I installed a new wide pine floor that closely matches the original floors. I custom fabricated the soapstone countertops and relocated an original multipaned picture window over the farmsink .


More Goose Hill Road Project Photos

The Floors

The original pine floorboards in the center hall were loose, uneven and not stable. They were also covered with layers and layers of peeling paint.

Second Floor Floor Before
The Goose Hill Stairs Before
(Click Images To View Full Size)

To ensure a solid floor, yet retain the original pine floor planks I individually removed each plank and mediculously beefed up and braced the existing floor joists until they were solid and secure. I reused all of the original handmade nails and used screws as well that I hid with filler. I hand painted correlating grain onto the filler and sanded it smooth with a fine artist brush and dark artist oil paints so that all the filled screw holes are now virtually undetectable. The floors are as solid as they were hundreds of years ago…. once again.

I used this process to restore all the original floors through out the house. I then took on the tedious task of removing dozens of coats of paint using liquid strippers and heat guns because the paint would immediately clog up the

Second Floor Floor Restored
The 2nd Floor Stairs After
(Click Images To View Full Size)

grit in the sandpaper of a sanding machine.

Sanding all the wide plank floors down to their original beauty was an incredibly long & tedious process that I do not recommend to any DIY’er! Even professional floor refinishers did not want this job. Once this process was completed I sealed the floors with several coats of sealer.

In many older homes there is no such thing as a sub floor. The finished wooden floor planks were nailed directly to the floor joists below. In the case here the floor joists were basically trees, some with the bark still present.

To ensure stability and a safe solid feeling under my feet I installed what is known as “cribbing”. Basically, this process entails adding new floor joists against the old ones (which were really just rough hewn logs) to narrow the spacing of twenty four inches on center, to a now more conventional solid sixteen inches on center.

The Goose Hill Road Fireplace Stripped
The Goose Hill Living Room Compleed
The Goose Hill
Fireplace Stripped
The Great Room & Fireplace Finished
The Great Room & Fireplace Finished
(Click Image To View Full Size)

Two Views of the Completed Master Bathroom
(Click Image To View Full Size)

The Mudroom and Two Views of the Stair Foyer Floor Restored  
(Click Images To View Full Size)

Two Views of theFront Walkway from the Driveway  
(Click Images To View Full Size)

Interested in purchasing the Goose Hill Road residence for your own?

Interested in purchasing the Goose Hill Road residence for your own? Click the image below to take a vitual tour…

Virtual Tour: The Goose Hill Road Residence

… and feel free to get more infomation by visiting this link to the real estate listing–> Read more | Comments (0) | September 26th, 2007

Schluter Kerdi Tile Installations

I thought I’d talk about one of the new innovative products that I’ve been researching and using of late called The Kerdi System for tile installation.

Exactly what is Kerdi?

Kerdi is a polyethylene, waterproofing membrane, which is covered on both sides with an anchoring fleece. It is suitable for waterproofing in conjunction with tiled surfaces on walls and floors.

And why do I use it? And why do I think you should as well?

The biggest complaint about tile jobs in a wet area such as a shower is leaks…OK…lets assume we have no leaks…There is another issue we all have to deal with no mater how well the tile job was performed…and that’s mold and mildew. Something that’s almost unavoidable…until now!

The Schluter company has come out with the Kerdi product not all that long ago.
I asked numerous people about it and the response I kept getting was that it’s to water proof your wet areas to avoid leaks. Well, that answer wasn’t really good enough for me. My tile jobs have never leaked because I pay close attention to my work. What I couldn’t avoid however was mold and mildew eventually poking its dirty little head through the grout joints. Mold is ugly and nasty and even smells bad but worse than that it harbors disease.

In the past a good tile installation would consist of your stud walls and attached to that Iwould install a poly vapor barrier. Over the vapor barrier (sheets of plastic) I would attach my CBU (cement board units). I would then thinset (cement adhesive) all seams and then begin my tile installation.

The thing about cement boards is that while they won’t decompose like drywall but they will absorb water/moisture and hold it there for extended periods of time….hence our ugly friends mold and mildew eventually and inevitably visit us.

So how do we help avoid this?

We install the Kerdi fabric to the walls to be tiled. No moisture can get behind this fabric/membrane so any moisture that gets behind our tile will dry out quickly.
Kerdi fabric is installed similarly to wallpaper except the glue is our thinset/cement.
Kerdi is waterproof therefore we can attach this membrane directly to sheetrock if we so desire or….continue to use a CBU (our cement board units) and cover that with the Kerdi membrane.

So what do we have then…Cement boards, cement thinset, kerdi fabric and finally cement thinset to our tiles to the fabric. Think about that. Its pretty much bullet…I mean

How long does it take to install?

Typically you can figure in a shower stall it takes a good part of the day after everything is said and done…..

And the cost?

The cost of labor is typically a little more than the kerdi materials themselves. It all depends how big your wet area are.

The Fox Hunt Lane Project Story

Fox Hunt Lane BeforeThe Fox Hunt Lane Project undertaking was the transformation of a 1940s cape cod in original condition into a 4000 square foot custom Hampton’s style white cedar colonial. I kept much of the original footprint and foundation of the house but decided to add a small bump to the front left side of the house to help balance the projecting "L" on the left side.

I demolished the entire second story of the original home & replaced it with a full size second story. The new design consisted of double Dutch type gambrel roof lines, two small dormers & portico adding volume, grace & character without being too overwhelming for the lot size. Simple details such as the rounded curves I framed into the new roof lines and the arched entry soften the look. Complimenting those curves is the curve of the stepping stone walkway that winds down the gentle hill in the front yard.

FoxHuntLaneCompletedAs you walk into the new entry way with the vaulted ceiling you are amazed at it’s size and proportion. What I looked to accomplish with simple clean lines was a sense of drama as you entered the home. The barrel vaulted ceiling I fabricated just beyond the foyer welcomes you further and a comfortable warmth transcends through the rest of the house.

My ultimate goal when I am in your home is to create a similar harmonious environment where there is "good feng shui" .

I try and accomplish an even yet interesting feel without taking one overboard.

For the floors in the front entry I installed large white limestone pavers with black granite diamond shaped dots that work with the provincial stained hardwood oak floors that run through the rest of the house.

As with all my projects, I personally constructed every detail of this home from soup to nuts… from framing & roofing to tiling & finishing trim.

The Fox Hunt Lane Residence; Cold Spring Harbor, New York 
(Click Image To View Full Size)

Goose Hill Rd. Project: Pool Restoration

Click on the thumbnails to view the full sized photos of the work that was done to restore the pool for The Goose Hill Road Project.


Andy Clifford - Clifford Renovations & Restorations

Huntington, New York
E-Mail abuilds@optonline.net | Phone 631 659-3007