Today Joe DeMarco of Perry Brothers Construction sits down with veteran carpenter Kenny Alexander who’s been with Perry Brothers Construction for over twenty-five years. We sit down and talk about details surrounding his job, his personal life, tricks of the trade, and more.

Joe DeMarco: All right. So today, I’m Joe DeMarco from Perry Brothers Construction. I’m here with a good friend, Kenny Alexander, one of our carpenters and job foreman. And I just wanted to discuss with him about the job he does, framing, his years of experience working with Perry Brothers and everything. So anyway, introduce yourself real quick.

Kenny Alexander: Hey, I’m Kenny Alexander

Joe DeMarco: How long have you been working?

Kenny Alexander: I’ve been doing carpentry for 40 years. I’ve been with Perry Brothers for 25, 26 years. Somewhere in there, I think 25.

Joe DeMarco: Were you working carpentry before you worked with Perry Brothers?

Kenny Alexander: Oh yeah. I had my own company before I worked for Perry Brothers.

Joe DeMarco: Okay. Where were you based out of?

Kenny Alexander: Lynn.

Joe DeMarco: Lynn?

Kenny Alexander: Lynn, Mass.

Joe DeMarco: Have you been in Lynn your whole life?

Kenny Alexander: Pretty much, except for four years. I lived down in Virginia.

Joe DeMarco: Were you doing carpentry in Virginia?

Kenny Alexander: Nah, I was in school from 14 to 18.

Joe DeMarco: What kind of schooling?

Kenny Alexander: Regular school and also I went to Tech.

Joe DeMarco: Okay.

Kenny Alexander: I went to Tech for machine shop.

Joe DeMarco: What made you decide carpentry was your calling?

Kenny Alexander: Well, I was working at a machine shop and making chump change and I worked second shift and I was still only making like $5.50 an hour and I got kind of bored with the night shift being 18 years old. And so I jumped into carpentry because I did it in school. I liked the woodworking and stuff and the opportunity was there because people in the neighborhood were looking for help.

Joe DeMarco: So that’s a good, actually, that’s a good question to go off of. When you were first starting your carpentry business, what was your way of getting jobs? Would you go door to door? What was that like?

Kenny Alexander: No, mostly I worked for contractors.

Joe DeMarco: So you’d have someone like Perry Brothers send you a job?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, he was actually one of them.

Joe DeMarco: He was one of them?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, he was one of the guys I worked for.

Joe DeMarco: So tell us how you met Bill, I guess. What was meeting Bill like?

Kenny Alexander: I liked Bill right off the bat. He was easy to talk to. Good guy. He’s funny.

Joe DeMarco: Of course.

Kenny Alexander: And then, yeah, he was a good guy right off the bat. The company I worked for at the time was a company called Olympic and I quit them and he was subbing work to Olympics. So I got in contact with him through the Olympics.

Joe DeMarco: So what did they do?

Kenny Alexander: Painting and roofing company, but I didn’t like them.

Joe DeMarco: So you were mostly doing painting and roofing with them or?

Kenny Alexander: No, I did their carpentry work.

Joe DeMarco: Okay. So Bill just, you just knew Bill just talking to him through there and he eventually offered you a job?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. Well I asked him.

Joe DeMarco: Oh, okay.

Kenny Alexander: I was like, I’m done with this guy. I asked him if he needed a guy because also I was getting tired of working for myself because I was by myself with just one helper. So I was putting in all kinds of hours and then when it came all down to it, I was making less than 10 bucks an hour for all the work and killing myself. And I liked Bill. He was easy to work with and his money was always there.

Joe DeMarco: I was going to say a little more money.

Kenny Alexander: His money was good though. It was always there. A lot of companies, “Here’s some and we’ll give you the rest on Monday” and that kind of thing. And that wasn’t fun. So I started working for your uncle. The first job I did for him was his cousin Ronnie’s girlfriend on Walnut Street in Saugus.

Joe DeMarco: What kind of job? What was the job?

Kenny Alexander: Siding.

Joe DeMarco: Siding?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. When I started for him, I mostly did all the siding for Bill.

Joe DeMarco: What kind of siding was it back in the-

Kenny Alexander: Vinyl.

Joe DeMarco: Vinyl siding?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: So it looks like recycled plastic? What is vinyl siding?

Kenny Alexander: It’s a PVC product, which is a plastic product.

Joe DeMarco: So the same as PVC pipes?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: Okay.

Kenny Alexander: Just different types of plastic, but it’s all PVC, you know?

Joe DeMarco: Because I know Bill used to install aluminum siding.

Kenny Alexander: Plastic.

Joe DeMarco: He told me he started out with aluminum siding, that was his big thing for a while.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: Did you ever do any of that?

Kenny Alexander: I never put it on the wall. I’ve done jobs where I had to repair it and change it out and whatever. But yeah, I never actually did a whole house in aluminum. That was already kind of by the wayside by then.

What Does A Professional Carpenter Do?

Joe DeMarco: What would you consider carpentry? What is the scope of carpentry, exactly? What does that cover? And a construction site?

Kenny Alexander: Anything where you’re building. Carpentry could be… I mean, even steelworkers are carpenters really. Because they’re putting together a building.

Joe DeMarco: So it’s not just wood?

Kenny Alexander: No.

Joe DeMarco: So it’s anything that has to do with the construction process?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. Cause if you’re doing sheetrock, you’re still doing carpentry, but it’s sheetrock, you know what I mean? 

Joe DeMarco: Really?

Kenny Alexander: It’s still carpentry.

Joe DeMarco: Oh, so even when you’re doing foundation? The foundational stuff?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. Still carpentry.

Joe DeMarco: So carpentry’s literally just the entire building of the house Basically?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, building. Yeah, it’s a building thing.

Joe DeMarco: Because I always had it in my head carpentry was just the framing and the cabinet work, stuff like that.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, finish work.

Joe DeMarco: Yeah. Finish work, exactly.

Kenny Alexander: Yep. But it’s also siding and roofing.

What’s The Biggest Challenge For A Carpenter?

Joe DeMarco: What would you say is the biggest challenge when it comes to a carpentry job?

Kenny Alexander: Old houses.

Joe DeMarco: Old houses. Really?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. Some houses, the studs are anywhere from an inch and a half to a full two inches thick. And the oldest stock was more true to the wood. If it was a 2×4, it measured two inches by four inches. Then as it went on some studs they got down to doing inch and three quarters by three and three quarters.

Joe DeMarco: They still advertised as 2×4?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, and they still are now. They’re inch and a half by three and a half and there’s still 2x4s. Unless you go pressure treated. Sometimes a pressure-treated stock will give or take an eighth.

Joe DeMarco: So why do you think they still advertise it as 2×4 if you’re not getting a 2×4?

Kenny Alexander: I guess probably because it’s easier to say than inch and a half by three and a half.

Joe DeMarco: Costs less money just to label them all as the same. I see what you’re saying.

Kenny Alexander: Probably. Yeah, I’m guessing that’s how they do it. Plus they don’t want you to think that you’re getting less wood, you know what I mean?

Joe DeMarco: Yeah.

Kenny Alexander: They want you to think you’re still getting the same product just like today in grocery stores. You know what I mean?

Joe DeMarco: Oh yeah. They shrink the sizes of everything, even in the grocery store.

Kenny Alexander: The packaging.

Joe DeMarco: Oh yeah.

Kenny Alexander: And then raise the price.

Joe DeMarco: Do you think the wood quality of the stock in the lumber was better back in the day than now?

Kenny Alexander: Yes.

Joe DeMarco: You think so?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. They waited for it to grow longer and they dried it slower. Now they grow it quick and they dry it quick and the wood isn’t as stable as it used to be.

Joe DeMarco: And what do you mean by stability?

Kenny Alexander: It bows easier now. Twists and bows easier.

Joe DeMarco: It splits easier.

Kenny Alexander: And because it’s still drying, even though you build with it, it’s still really still drying, even though it’s kiln and dried, it isn’t completely dried like it used to be.

Joe DeMarco: Yeah. I mean now the woods even, I mean I’ve heard Bill told me before, lumber prices, especially since Covid, they’re through the roof.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: Crazy.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, this is true. Although they seem to be coming down a little bit.

Joe DeMarco: Coming down now?

Kenny Alexander: A little bit, but not much. It probably won’t. Once it goes up, it never comes back down to where it was.

Joe DeMarco: No, of course not.

Kenny Alexander: It never does.

What’s The Process Of Gutting And Framing A Wall?

Joe DeMarco: What’s the process if you’re starting from scratch, building walls? So if you have a room like this and you’re trying to just gut it and redo all the drywall and walling, what’s the start to finish of that?

Kenny Alexander: Well, once you tear everything down, you have to do your layout. That’s the first thing you got to do. Find out where you’re going to put the wall.

Joe DeMarco: Is that on a design plan?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. Usually they have plans you can go off of and it tells you how far away from the outside wall and where you want your walls and stuff. So then you put your thing down, you snap your line. So where you want to put the wall, you cut your plates to go in that area that you’re putting the wall. Then once you cut the plates, you lay them out off one end and you’re doing 16 on center with your studs. Bang them all together, nail them together. Then you gotta make sure they’re plumb and square if you can, but sometimes it’s not always an option.

Joe DeMarco: What Is plumb? Yeah, what do you mean by plumbing square?

Kenny Alexander: Plumb is when it’s perfectly level up and down. 

Joe DeMarco: Oh, plumb. Okay.

Kenny Alexander: Level is on the horizontal. Plumb is vertical and square is corner to corner.

Joe DeMarco: So when you say level, you mean it’s not bowing or anything?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, it’s not bowing, but also it’s on a straight plane and is level with the level bump.

Joe DeMarco: Oh. Rather than inching a little vertically or going down a little bit or something.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, I see what you’re saying. It’s straight across the level. You know what I mean by the level.

Joe DeMarco: I mean if you’re leveling the frame of a place like that, it’s important obviously to get it leveled and measured correctly.

Kenny Alexander: Absolutely.

Joe DeMarco: What kind of issues could you run into if you didn’t follow those steps properly?

Kenny Alexander: The walls you’re doing could be out of plumb, which is going to change the plumb on your outside studs. Middle studs should still be plumb, but the outside ones might not be plumb because the walls, if the walls are leaned out or in or whatever, which will also make it so you can’t really square it. So it makes sure that’s square. So everything’s plumb.

Joe DeMarco: So the framing, if one piece of framing isn’t plumb, it could affect the entire wall?

Kenny Alexander: No, not really.

Joe DeMarco: Not really. So you have to detrimentally screw up.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: Okay, I see what you’re saying.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. I mean you make your studs all plumb, all in the middle. If the outside ones are out of plumb, it’s because it’s up against the wall. And then you just have to cut your sheetrock at an angle.

Joe DeMarco: So you know the tricks of the trade, I mean you’ve been doing this long enough to get around that.

Kenny Alexander: Yes.

How Important Is Client Communication For A Carpenter?

Joe DeMarco: Would you say client communication is a very large part of your job?

Kenny Alexander: Oh yeah, absolutely. You have to talk to the customers all the time. You need to know what they want. And if the print shows you one thing and once you tear everything down, you can’t see inside walls. So once you tear everything down, if it isn’t the way that they’re showing you on the print, then sometimes you have to work around that. You know what I mean? And sometimes you have to talk to the customer about the options that he has to work around it and what he wants to do. You know what I mean? Different options are also different prices depending on how far you want to go with it.

Joe DeMarco: Different materials and stuff too?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, it could be different materials or maybe you want to straighten that wall out instead of just going up to it. Something like that. You know what I mean? So there’s other options you can do.

Joe DeMarco: What do you mean by straighten the wall?

Kenny Alexander: If the wall’s out a plumb.

Joe DeMarco: Okay.

Kenny Alexander: And you don’t want to have your wall out of plumb in that corner looking crooked and you want to have it nice and straight, well then we’d have to straighten out the other wall that you’re going up to. So that would be more money because now you’re not just building a wall between two walls. Now you’re fixing a wall that you weren’t going to touch it all.

Joe DeMarco: And when you fix the wall, do you got to tear down the whole wall? You can’t just fix it if it’s out of plumb on a small section of the wall, you got to go into the whole wall.

Kenny Alexander: Well, it’s all tied in with the sheetrock and stuff. So you can’t just move the wall over because the sheetrock is in the way. You’d have to cut the ceiling back so you can move the wall over even.

Joe DeMarco: I see what you’re saying.

Kenny Alexander: You know what I mean? And then you got to get up in there where it’s attached to the ceiling and to the floor, depending on if you have to move the bottom out or the top end. Depending on what you have to do, you would have to open up above or below so you can get at the nails where they’re nailed into the floor or into the joists above so you can move it.

Joe DeMarco: Give me examples. What’s a problem you’ve personally run into on some jobs?

Kenny Alexander: Well, framing houses, I’ve run into situations where the foundation wasn’t put in square. It measures the same amount from across the corner, across corners. It has the same amount, same measurement. And I’ve had to hang this seal plate over off the foundation a couple inches sometimes. Because you still want what you are building to be square,

Joe DeMarco: But obviously you’re not going to be able to change the foundation. So you have to work around what you have?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. So instead of using a 2×6, we ended up using a 2×10, so we could still bolt it to the foundation and it just hung out over the foundation a little bit. The plate hangs over the foundation. So now when I build my box, the floor, it can be square and then we can go up from there, square all the way up. But if you start out at the foundation not square, you’re not going to get a square the rest of the way up either. You know what I mean?

Joe DeMarco: But there are ways for you to get around it?

Kenny Alexander: There’s ways to get around it.

Why Are Historic Homes Such A Challenge For Carpenters?

Joe DeMarco: Okay. And you mentioned historic homes being probably the biggest challenge when it comes to it.

Kenny Alexander: That’s because you get the historical society involved.

Joe DeMarco: You need special siding?

Kenny Alexander: No historical society on historical houses. They’re usually involved in it. And they have their own special way of how they want things done. They don’t necessarily want you to fix it, they just wanted you to make it safe and make it look good, but not necessarily fix the issue on it.

Joe DeMarco: So they want to keep the aesthetic of the home?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. I did this house, that Samuel Herrick house in Beverly. So the contractor who hired us wanted us to straighten the floors up because the floors are really wavy. So we spent a week straightening out all the floors, jacking up all this stuff, we even jacked it up off the foundation, got everything all right. We got the floors perfectly level and pretty and everything. Historical society comes in and flipped out. They were not happy with it at all. They said we took all the character out of the house. In the meantime, I’m sure the house was built originally with straight floors.

Joe DeMarco: Oh, yeah. Someone’s going to trip on the bumps on the floor.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, exactly.

Joe DeMarco: Do you need special stock for a historic home too? That matches the historic look, matches its originality?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. Some stuff they want like windows and stuff. They want to match the old style of windows. It could be new windows, but they want it to look like the old style.

Joe DeMarco: Oh, so they make new windows that look old?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: On purpose. I see those cost more money than normal.

Kenny Alexander: Oh yeah.

Joe DeMarco: Wow.

Kenny Alexander: Of course. Because they’re special orders.

Joe DeMarco: Yeah, I was going to say historic homes probably cost even more money sometimes to renovate than something like my house..

Kenny Alexander: And a lot of times with historic homes, they don’t want you to just rip out and put in new stock. They want you to refurbish what’s there. So they want it to look the same. And some of that stuff you have to do by hand or remake it to make it work.

Joe DeMarco: Make the stock by hand. What are you making?

Kenny Alexander: Sometimes you have to make the stock. Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: How do you make stock by hand?

Kenny Alexander: You use your table saw and your routers and whatever other tools you need to make whatever you’re making. You know what I mean?

Joe DeMarco: So what are you getting originally that you’re transforming into construction materials?

Kenny Alexander: Most times flat stock.

Joe DeMarco: What is flat stock?

Kenny Alexander: One by one quarter, five quarter stock or 1×4, 1×5 or five quarter, 1×4 and 1×5. It says one is really only three-quarters of an inch thick. So the five-quarter stock, what they call five quarters, is actually only one inch thick; four quarters. So I don’t know why they say that.

Joe DeMarco: Seems a little lazy.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: That’s funny. So you got to make the stock sometimes.

Kenny Alexander: Sometimes you have to manufacture it a lot to make it look like the old stuff.

What Was It Like Renovating This Basement Studio?

Joe DeMarco: You know, funny enough, because we’re in here actually right now. You were actually the initial one to work on my room right here.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: I know. I can’t really show it on the camera, but the wall behind you with the door, you actually framed this entire wall. There wasn’t a wall here before.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. And pulled out that big fireplace you had over there.

Joe DeMarco: I remember that day.

Kenny Alexander: You and your friend?

Joe DeMarco: Yeah.

Kenny Alexander: With the sledgehammers.

Joe DeMarco: I know. It was good times.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: What do you remember about that project? A little bit, if you can.

Kenny Alexander: Mostly I remember taking out that fireplace. That was a lot of work.

Joe DeMarco: It was a lot, yeah I know.

Kenny Alexander: It was heavy. I mean this was easy. This is a basic wall.

Joe DeMarco: Yeah. There wasn’t anything there.

Kenny Alexander: Build a wall with a door in it. And that’s easy.

Joe DeMarco: I remember you had to move the heater back there too. You had to move that over because it was in the way of the door.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. And then there was a lot of, well this is a soundproof room, so there was a lot of extra work to this room anyways. You know what I mean?

Joe DeMarco: Yeah. You had to do the resilient channels and everything. Was it double drywall? I think you had to do it.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah. But even the drywall is a sound-deadening drywall that you can buy special.

Joe DeMarco: Is it just thicker drywall?

Kenny Alexander: No, it’s like a two-layer drywall. So I think it has a piece of paper through the middle of it or something. It has something in the middle where it makes it like a two-layer. So it’s one piece, but it’s like two layers. That deadens it that way also. And then you use two layers of the sheetrock with this glue stuff that they use.

Joe DeMarco: The green glue.

Kenny Alexander: Which is the green glue, which is also a deadening. So everything you do is for deadening sound, you know?

Joe DeMarco: Yeah. Nothing getting in. Nothing getting out. That paper probably in the middle must act like I know the air gap between the drywall and the resilient channels. Once the sound’s kind of rumbling through the drywall and hits that air gap, it basically just-

Kenny Alexander: Dissipates.

Joe DeMarco: Dissipates. Exactly. Yeah. I mean actually, I described that in a recent podcast we did and it’s actually a pretty affordable way to soundproof a room. I think Bill was telling me too, he said they do that a lot in condos. They use that same kind of method.

Kenny Alexander: Yes. Between condo units.

Joe DeMarco: Yeah.

Kenny Alexander: They’ll also do a double wall between a condo unit.

Joe DeMarco: Well, how many layers of drywall would you say for a double wall like that?

Kenny Alexander: Three.

Joe DeMarco: Three layers? Okay.

Kenny Alexander: Because they put one on the inside of each unit, but they also put one in between the two walls, between the units.

Joe DeMarco: So then there’s a wall.

Kenny Alexander: So between them,

Joe DeMarco: Yeah, there’s one wall in between the two condos.

Kenny Alexander: Well it’s not really, it’s not a wall. It’s two walls. They build double walls. Then you slide in. When you do this one, you sheetrock both sides of one wall.

Joe DeMarco: And this is inside one condo unit?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, between two units. This is one person’s unit, this is another person’s unit. The wall that’s a party wall between them is usually two walls. They sheetrock both sides on one. And then just the inside on the other. And they use that for sound deadening. And plus they insulate the wall, which would also sound deaden the wall.

What’s The Best Sound Deadening Insulation?

Joe DeMarco: What kind of insulation do you find is the best for sound deadening?

Kenny Alexander: Well, they usually use fiberglass, but the foam is probably better.

Joe DeMarco: I’ve heard that. The spray foam, right?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: How do they usually get the spray foam into the walls?

Kenny Alexander: They use a gun. They have a truck that’s set up with all the chemicals in it and everything. And they run hoses out with a gun and then they just up and down. They’re painting with it.

Joe DeMarco: Do they do it from the inside or the outside?

Kenny Alexander: The inside. Usually they do it on the inside. Yeah. Because they wanted to do it in the bay. So you don’t see this, the foam, you know what I mean?

Joe DeMarco: Would you say this, do you know if the spray foam’s cheaper than just normal fiberglass?

Kenny Alexander: No, it’s more.

Joe DeMarco: More money?

Kenny Alexander: I’m pretty sure. Bill’s better at the pricing though but I’m pretty sure that it’s more money.

Joe DeMarco: Because I know these walls they have, I think it’s the Roxul?

Kenny Alexander: Roxul.

Joe DeMarco: Is that fiberglass or what is that exactly?

Kenny Alexander: I think it’s fiberglass. It’s probably got fiberglass in it, but there’s also some paper I think in it.

Joe DeMarco: Yeah. It’s thicker than the normal pink fiberglass insulation.

Kenny Alexander: It’s denser.

Joe DeMarco: A lot denser, yes, absolutely.

Kenny Alexander: Denser. It comes in squares instead of rolls.

Joe DeMarco: Yeah. And also I remember taking, actually all these panels in this room are made with that stuff. It doesn’t break apart. It doesn’t leave as many shreds and fiberglass.

Kenny Alexander: Or dust and all that too.

Joe DeMarco: Absolutely.

Kenny Alexander: It’s not as itchy.

Why A Carpenter Measures Twice And Cuts Once

Joe DeMarco: Yeah, of course. Another thing I wanted to talk about with you, because I’ve worked with you too, when you’ve worked on some cabinets and everything like that. I mean cabinetry, that seems like delicate work.

Kenny Alexander: Well, it’s a little more exact.

Joe DeMarco: I was going to say, very exact.

Kenny Alexander: You could be a little better on your measurements and stuff. Like when you do sheetrock, you usually cut Sheetrock a quarter. You measure and then you cut it a quarter small. So it goes in there because you cover the seams with the tape and mud and after the fact. But with cabinets and stuff, you got to be right on with your measurements.

Joe DeMarco: There’s nothing going to cover up anything after.

Kenny Alexander: No.

Joe DeMarco: Is it split between where sometimes you have to put the cabinets together? Do they come prefabricated?

Kenny Alexander: Usually they’re prefabricated, but they do have them, like if you get them from Lowe’s or something, they have them all knocked down and you put them together. But they’re usually not as well-built as the ones you buy custom from a cabinet company.

Joe DeMarco: So what kind of work goes into installing a prefabricated cabinet?

Kenny Alexander: Well, you got to find your level lines. Find out if, see if your floor is level, because if the floor is level, the cabinets have to be level. So you might have to shim cabinets up as you go along on the floor cabinets. And then you measure up from the top of the other cabinet up to the bottom cabinets and you set your tops up and usually you got to find your studs because you have to screw the cabinets to the studs.

Joe DeMarco: So you go bottom to top? Is that how that works?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: Okay.

Kenny Alexander: I usually put the bottoms in. Some people put the tops in first. It doesn’t really matter which one you do first. But some people find it easier to put the tops in first because you don’t have to lean over the lower cabinets. But I mean, I’m kind of tall, so I don’t have a problem with leaning over.

Joe DeMarco: Do some people, when you install cabinets too, do you do the flooring before you install the cabinets? If you’re in a new kitchen?

Kenny Alexander: No. You do the flooring after the cabinets.

Joe DeMarco: You do flooring last?

Kenny Alexander: Well, depends on what you want to do. Because again, there’s lots of ways to do it and they’re not wrong, but some people want tile underneath their cabinets. So they’ll tile the floor or hardwood the floor under the cabinets, and then they’ll put the cabinets in. But some people don’t want to pay the extra for the cabinets or whatever for the flooring or whatever. So what they’ll do is they’ll install the cabinets and then you put the flooring up to the cabinets.

Joe DeMarco: Okay, I see.

Kenny Alexander: But if you do it that way, you kind of have to use three-quarter and lift the cabinets up somewhat because otherwise you’re going to have a hard time getting your dishwasher in.

The Importance Of Leveling Cabinets, Doors, And Windows

Joe DeMarco: What kind of problem if the cabinets come up, unleveled, besides the obvious that things could be sliding around, what is detrimental to the cabinets not being perfectly leveled?

Kenny Alexander: Well, like you say, if anything you put it can roll around in. If it’s round, it’ll roll around up in there. Also, when your cabinets come up to your stove, there’ll be at different heights. 

Joe DeMarco: Just looks all Messy.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, it looks terrible.

Joe DeMarco: It looks bad.

Kenny Alexander: Like doors. When you do doors you have to do, doors have to be plumb and square. They have to be plumb. Cause if it’s tipping, say it’s tipping out, when you open the door out, the door can go down and it can scrape. Or if you open it in and it’s leaning in, then when you open the door, you won’t be able to open the door all the way because it’ll hit the floor. So even if the wall isn’t plumb, you still got to put your door in fairly plumb. I mean if it’s a little out, you can mess with it a little bit to get it to go good; if it’s a little out of plumb. But if it’s a lot out of plumb, we’ve actually put two bys in and made them plumb and actually built it out. So say that the top needs to come out, we’ll put in two bys on the sides to go up and then fill in across the top and have one come on the other side. So the door is now sitting perfectly plumb, even though it’s off the wall, it could be a little bit off the wall or whatever at the top. And then you just have to deal with that with the trim and stuff.

Joe DeMarco: Sometimes you got to shave the bottom and the top of the doors too, right?

Kenny Alexander: Usually not exterior doors. Interior doors, if you’re putting a new door in an old opening, and so you’re not putting a new frame in, you’re just putting the door in an old frame. Sometimes you have to trim the top or the bottom, depending on what, because the opening might not be square anymore. You know what I mean?

Joe DeMarco: Is it the same idea of windows too?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah, pretty much.

Joe DeMarco: You got to keep them leveled up with shims?

Kenny Alexander: Well, they got to be, well, they have to be square. Windows have to be square. They don’t have to be plumb, but they have to be square because otherwise when you bring the sash down, you’ll see a different line. A gap will result in a different gap on the bottom. And if it’s like that, if it’s bad enough, it doesn’t even cover. So wind will come in, air can come into it. So you really need a window to be square.

What’s The Best Part About Being A Carpenter?

Joe DeMarco: What would be your favorite part about, or what would be your favorite part about your job?

Kenny Alexander: Carpentry?

Joe DeMarco: Yeah, call it carpentry.

Kenny Alexander: I love doing the finish work.

Joe DeMarco: Finish work is your favorite part?

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: Why?

Kenny Alexander: You can get creative, show some skills.

Joe DeMarco: Really. So if you were to show your skills finishing, what would it be?

Kenny Alexander: Well like building your fireplace up there.

Joe DeMarco: I’ll add a picture of that mantle, absolutely.

a beautifully crafted fireplace mantle

Kenny Alexander: That it came out really nice. That’s all from scratch, you know what I mean? Well, the little designer things, I bought those and just nailed them on because those are a lot of work and I don’t have the tools to do that kind of work. That’s like factory work, that kind of stuff. The scrolly stuff on the thing. But everything else I made myself.

Joe DeMarco: So you had to cut the plane, the mantle and stuff like that and figure out how you wanted to design it?

Kenny Alexander: Right. And again, you still want that to be level because if you’re looking at a mantle, you can tell if it’s out of level, it’d be like, hey…

Joe DeMarco: Candle starts sliding or something.

Kenny Alexander: Yeah.

Joe DeMarco: Kenny, seriously, thank you for allowing me to interview you.

Kenny Alexander: No problem.

Joe DeMarco: Thank you for sharing your time.

Kenny Alexander: Always a pleasure, brother.

Joe DeMarco: Always a pleasure. And thank you guys. This was great. So, Perry Brothers Construction is signing off.

Kenny Alexander: Now I’ll go up and finish that oven hood I was doing.

Joe DeMarco: Yeah. Now Kenny’s going to get back to work, but Kenny does good work. They all do.

Kenny Alexander: Yep.