Torlando Hakes and I dig into the recent renovation at the Dimension Mill in downtown Bloomington, Indiana. We speak to some of the tradespeople who were involved in making this building beautiful again.
All right, we’re super excited. We’re here at the Dimension Mill in Bloomington, Indiana today. Torlando and I are going to go in and see this job in progress, and talk to some of the amazing tradespeople that are behind the action.
Torlando Hakes: Oh yeah, come on.
Larry Neidigh: We we started here, this area right here was open, and had a stairway coming down right here. And all of this had a floor in it, and everywhere we took a column out, we took one out there, and we took out over there, and one over here, and we took those out, and took all the floor joists out. Those stairs, and a lot of this wood you see in here was made out of those floor joists.
Andrea Lutz: It certainly has got to be easier to start from scratch and start with new materials, rather than reuse materials. So, tell me a little bit about that process, of having to harvest materials out of the building, and reuse them.
Larry Neidigh: That was not difficult. Actually, we had somebody that specializes in doing it, and actually take the material, and plane it, and make the stairs.
Andrea Holmes: Yeah, we did the stairs, the stringer, the treads, and the posts. They all came from the floor joists that were removed whenever this area here was opened. We started from the very beginning, came down here with a flatbed trailer, loaded them up. It took probably three, maybe four guys to carry one. They were four inches thick, 14, 14 and a half inches wide, 18 foot long. The first thing we did was, have to go through and get all of the nails out.
Andrea Lutz: Yeah, I really appreciate all the nail holds, and all the-
Andrea Holmes: Yes.
Andrea Lutz: … all the character that the wood has. Did your crew enjoy working with a product that has been old, or did they … kind of grouchy about the extra work that would have to go in?
Andrea Holmes: I think they enjoyed it. It was more the weight that they were probably the most grouchy about. These two stringers, you’d pick one up, and two guys pick it up no problem, set it in place, and they’re like, “Oh, this is great. This is no big deal at all.” The same two guys went to pick up the other one, and there was at least a 20, 30 pound weight difference between the two.
Andrea Lutz: Yeah.
Andrea Holmes: So there’s a lot more steps involved when you’re working with the older wood, and of course, the big thing is making sure all your nails, rocks, dirt, anything has been removed from that, because you don’t want to hit any of that with a saw blade, or …
Andrea Lutz: No, I’m really good at that. That’s my specialty.
Andrea Holmes: And we’re lucky in that we only had to replace one set of planer knives in the whole thing.
Andrea Lutz: Nice.
Andrea Holmes: There was a pool going in the shop, amongst everyone, how many nails were going to be hit, and all of that. And it was only three, maybe four nails. So, we worked out.
Torlando Hakes: What do you think is the advantage in this case of using the reclaimed wood, rather than bringing in new stuff?
Larry Neidigh: They just were historically trying to use … everything was existing. I mean, they could have gotten new stuff a lot cheaper.
Andrea Lutz: How long did it take, start to finish, to get all this flooring out of the building, and then dry it out, and plane it?
Larry Neidigh: Probably six months to get the whole process, because you couldn’t start putting them back in until after a lot of other things were completed.
Andrea Lutz: Are you happy with how it turned out?
Larry Neidigh: Oh, I think it turned out great, better than I expected to be truthful.
Andrea Lutz: So, I understand you also sourced some local products to finish out this bar area. Can you tell us a little bit about this limestone countertop?
Andrea Holmes: The limestone came from a local company, 3D Stone, and it was the first time we had really done a limestone countertop at this scale. The worst part, I would say, of limestone is its weight. Other than that, once we got working with it, it was pretty easy to work with, easier to set in place, kind of get lined up, similar to setting any other countertop. There were a few chips and dings, and that sort of thing in the limestone, but that was a pretty easy fix, mixing up some Duco cement with some ground up limestone, just kind of patching it in, similar to what you do with like Bondo. Look at it on paper, it seemed very daunting, but once you started working with it, it was pretty easy material to work with.
Andrea Lutz: You had said that you actually have a background in working in countertops, and doing laminated tops, and other type countertops. So, what was the difference working with a natural limestone as opposed to these other products you were more used to working with?
Andrea Holmes: I would say the biggest thing was probably the weight, and then you’ve kind of got the unknown of, “Okay, if I do this, what’s it going to do? What’s going to happen? How forgiving is the material?” I mean, with solid surface, it is pretty forgiving, laminate, not so much. So, just kind of of the unknowns of the material was probably the hardest.
Andrea Lutz: So, tell me a little bit about this veneer product that you have on the wall here. Where was that sourced? And just like, what kind of material is it? It’s kind of new to me.
Andrea Holmes: So, that is white oak veneer. It came from Heitink Veneers here in Bloomington, and typically when we get panels in, it’s a nice smooth surface. This was a little different in that, when it first came in, it actually had a texture to it. So, the lines here … everything was rough. So, you had a texture here of where that line was, and then you had the rough veneer. So, in order to get the look, we had to spray a white lacquer over the panel, and once that was dry, we ran them through our belt sander to get the smooth surface.
Andrea Lutz: That’s super cool.
Andrea Holmes: It’s very cool. That’s the first time we’ve really done anything with a texture like that. Our installer, I think, did a fantastic job of putting all of these panels up, I mean, because he had to cut around all of the pipes. And then, if you look on the front edge, there’s all the rafters that all the panels had to be cut around. I mean, it just … the install of these really what it was like.
Larry Neidigh: This is part of the old material, here [inaudible 00:06:20]. That’s the office, and then, there’s old wall. And there’s the old ceiling up there.
Torlando Hakes: Well, this can be right here, I think, but if we move the chairs.
Andrea Lutz: Ew, that’s how you win.
Torlando Hakes: I’m really excited to be working on this Dimension Mill project. They contacted us about doing a chalkboard wall. Let’s see how much stuff I can pack in here. I’m going to do this in one trip. Call me One Trip T, yeah. One Trip T is the name.
Torlando Hakes: The Dimension Mill is a really cool space, because it’s new to our community, it involves startups, and the tech community. And so, with this chalkboard wall in this area, they’re going to have muralists that come in and do announcements and designs, and all kinds of stuff like that. And so, I’m really excited to be a part of that. Either way, I can do it, you can do it, or what do you want?
Andrea Lutz: All right, go ahead.
Torlando Hakes: Me? Okay.
Andrea Lutz: Get after it.
Torlando Hakes: All right.
Andrea Lutz: Brand new wall patch.
Torlando Hakes: Oh yeah.
Andrea Lutz: And you keep your tools so clean.
Torlando Hakes: You know, I subscribe to the Five S Methodology.
Andrea Lutz: What’s that?
Torlando Hakes: It’s … You get … Well, there’s a lot of Ss. There’s five of them, but one of them is shine. One of the Ss is Shiny Tools.
Andrea Lutz: [inaudible 00:08:03]. I’m waiting.
Torlando Hakes: Waiting for what?
Andrea Lutz: The second S.
Torlando Hakes: Oh well, all right, so it’s … I only expecting one S, to explain one S.
Andrea Lutz: Oh. Do you want it along the-
Torlando Hakes: The wood trim.
Andrea Lutz: … wood trim?
Torlando Hakes: Yeah.
Andrea Lutz: I thought you were the master cut in.
Torlando Hakes: The secret to master cutting in is putting down tape.
Andrea Lutz: I never put down tape, isn’t that horrible?
Torlando Hakes: You get these guys that’ll be like, “I never have to use tape. And then, when they’re explaining it to you, they’ve got their hands out, and their hand is shaking like this. I do a straight line. It’s like, “Okay, buddy.” Yeah, because-
Andrea Lutz: Yeah, like a two in angle?
Torlando Hakes: Yeah.
Andrea Lutz: This is the ticket, right here. Have you given these a good shake?
Torlando Hakes: Yeah, we got a shaker.
Andrea Lutz: Okay.
Torlando Hakes: We’ve smoothed out all the walls. We’ve filled in the nail holes, and we’re getting that paint up. The first step is to do all the brushwork, and then I’m going to come behind with a roller and fill it in.
Andrea Lutz: It feels kind of weird painting in front of a painter. I’ve never done that before.
Torlando Hakes: You’re doing okay.
Andrea Lutz: Come on, man.
Torlando Hakes: You’re doing good. You’re doing good. No, it’s good. You’re all right. You’re not on the brick, which is good.
Andrea Lutz: Okay, yeah, I mean, I knew that was kind of part of the goal.
Torlando Hakes: And you’re on the wall, so-
Andrea Lutz: Low bar, low bar. It’s good. Keep your expectations low. I’ll [crosstalk 00:10:37].
Torlando Hakes: Yeah.
Andrea Lutz: Hello.
Torlando Hakes: Yeah. (silence). What was the first craft you ever learned?
Larry Neidigh: Probably long ago, it was the concrete aspect of it from putting foot or sand, pouring concrete and constructing the walls. And that’s basically what we’ve done here. We did all the concrete work, and …
Torlando Hakes: You said you had done … you built some houses, you did a lot of residential work, and eventually you switched to commercial work. What made you want to switch from residential to commercial?
Larry Neidigh: It’s a lot easier to do commercial work than it is residential, because normally, on residential, you’re in control of the whole job. Most cases, when you are building a house, you have to be the architect, and the mediator, and everything under control, where with most of the commercial, you have an architect that designs a set of plans, and made the specifications, and then you try to interpret what the architect had in mind.
Torlando Hakes: What’s the most rewarding part about being in the trades for you?
Larry Neidigh: You pretty much can set your own level of activity, and it’s something that you get one job done, and you normally have another one going, and there’s just always something every day that interesting, and to do, yeah.
Andrea Holmes: I work for Interior Fixtures, we’re based out of Knightsville, Indiana, which is over by Terre Haute. The company has been in business 30+ years. It’s family owned. My dad is the owner.
Torlando Hakes: What was the thing that said, “You know what, Dad? I think I want to do this.”
Andrea Holmes: It was kind of looking for something that was something different, a change, something more challenging, a lot of office work. You just kind of … you’re sitting there all day. There’s not … It is challenging, in the people and everything that you’re dealing with, but just looking for something a little bit more. I have children. My children were young. It was like, “Now is the time. Let’s give this a try.” When you’re doing that type of working, building things, there’s so many details. There’s so much that goes into what you’re doing, and there’s such a knowledge that all the people that we’ve got, that work for us, each one has been doing this for at least 20 years.
Torlando Hakes: Yeah, what was it like for you learning a trade, not having the experience?
Andrea Holmes: I struggled with it at first, because to me, I thought there has to be a class for this. I should go to school. There’s a class I should take, and there’s not. And my dad, his main thing has always been, “The only way you learn how to do everything is to do it,” and then you screw it up, and that’s really how you figure it out, because then you know you’re never going to do that again. Usually in the middle of a project, I have a few moments of like, “Why did we decide to do this?” And I’m like, “This is never going to happen,” and then in the end, once it’s all finished, and you see everything, and you’re like, “Okay, this is good. Let’s go do it again.”
Torlando Hakes: Let’s go ahead and talk about the reclaimed wood that is used in these cubicle areas.
Andrea Holmes: So the wood, we purchased from a Bloomington company called Hoosier Reclaimed Timber. They got it from a barn in Wheelersburg, Ohio. They kiln dry the wood to remove all the bugs, ran it through a brush sander to kind of clean everything up, give it a nice rustic looking surface.
Andrea Lutz: One of the things that I just love about this space is all of the mix of all of the different natural elements. I mean, you’ve got the brick, and you’ve got the reclaimed wood, and then you’ve got metal, and all of it plays so well together.
Andrea Holmes: Yes.
Andrea Lutz: I mean, that must have been fun working with all of these different materials, and see it all come together at the end.
Andrea Holmes: Yeah, and that’s always the thing with our line of work. You just see certain parts of it, you know? You’ve got your laminate colors, or your countertops colors, and then everything actually gets … You’ve got the final install of everything, and it’s like, “Oh, that makes sense now.” You really see it all come together.
Andrea Lutz: You’ve got to be so proud of this project. Everything just turned out extremely well.
Larry Neidigh: It … We really like it.
Andrea Lutz: Well, thanks so much Andrea for taking time.
Andrea Holmes: You’re welcome. Absolutely.
Andrea Lutz: This has been a fabulous tour of the space, and congratulations on a great job well done.
Andrea Holmes: Thank you.