As part of a yearlong renovation and addition project, the new owners of a 1920s Connecticut house wanted to upgrade an enclosed sun porch with a paint-grade coffered ceiling. Subcontracting for Fox Hill Builders of Darien, Conn., Hobart Builders of nearby Fairfield had to puzzle out the challenge of the concrete ceiling, which was neither flat nor level.
Hobart’s Joe Milicia had veteran carpenters Don Carlson and Bill Broome do the work. They started by snapping lines to establish the locations of the beams; then they screwed and glued 3-1⁄2-in.-wide strips of plywood to the lines. After using a laser to establish the perimeter blocking, they shimmed a second layer of plywood to level over the first. The idea was to establish a flat reference plane for the big beams and to work back toward the ceiling, rather than from the ceiling down.
After setting the perimeter, Don and Bill built the two large cross beams in place, then measured and built the smaller intermediate beams, each of which was installed in one piece. New drywall panels above the crown in each bay concealed the cosmetically challenged original ceiling. The takeaway here is not the job itself, but the ways that the carpenters approached and executed the various parts of it.