TCL Episode #57 – Trim Carpentry and Contracting with Daniel Vella of Vella Contracting

After going to college for new media design where he learned web designing, business, and training, he got a job at Home Depot at a big box store, he then became a project manager. Daniel started 18 years back in construction when he started doing some small side jobs, he worked with a carpenter, and then he ended up doing subdivision homes. He refined his skills and working speed there, and after three years in the union, he decided to take off on his own. Daniel says he didn’t learn the trade from anyone, his first school of construction was his father, who wasn’t even a tradesperson, but he has a passion to learn things he loves, and that’s how he learned construction.

Fixed Income

Daniel explains how many people keep working in the union because they get fixed income, they get pensions, and benefits, and thus keep going on like this, the security can be attractive to many. Although he wanted to be stable and he earned very less money after working on his own, it was his passion to do things the right way, but there’s a huge difference in talent and product finish.

Contractor vs Salesperson?

Daniel pointed out how experienced, professional, and skilled contractors are losing jobs to people who come in cheaper. They are good salespeople, but they cannot make long-term clients, as they never tell the customer all the extra charges they will have to bear at the end, and the things they will have to compromise in the lesser quote. The only thing that matters for them is getting the job no matter the price!

Daniel’s Tools!

Daniel explained that how even though Makita is his favorite, he never prefers one brand and chooses the tool that is suitable for the job. He uses DeWalt table saw, and DeWalt’s 18-gauge cordless nailers. He is a fan of cordless nailers because if he reaches a house to trim, he doesn’t have to load up the compressor. He’ll go, grab that, and just fire a few nails and that’s it! He also has a Makita compressor. He prefers Lepage glues over others, but when it comes to crown molding he uses different types of glues for inside corners, outside corners, and joints and you just have to follow his social media posts to see what he might share.

MDF – History and Concerns

It was first developed in the United States in the early 1960s. But it was kind of derived from an inventor by the name of William Mason in 1925. He attempted to take wood chips and was trying to use them for insulation. He left his machine on overnight, and by the morning, he had a compressed board. So why the health concern? It’s because of the low-cost resins that some of these manufacturers use, they basically have a lot of off-gassing because of the urea-formaldehyde. Daniel is a huge fan of MDF as it finishes nicely, paints nicely, works nicely. Moreover, including furniture, TV, and cabinetry, everything in your house is off gasing so why bother with the MDF.

Poplar vs MDF

When asked if Daniel likes to work with poplar or MDF? He says if he has time and the client has a budget, he prefers Poplar. He sheds light on some important but usually ignored details. A lot of times people buy poplar which is still green and sometimes you need to wait three to four months before you paint it (after it is completely dry). Once he sprayed poplar, it was fresh and green even when it was delivered. A lot of people think poplar’s a tree, but it’s actually a bush, it bleeds, and even though he sprayed two to three beautiful coats of primer and two to three coats of paint onto the baseboards or casings, around two weeks later it started coming to the surface. The poplar was coming through the paint as it was drying up.

Green Book time

In an interesting section of the episode where Carlito and Manny want to educate the listeners, they shared a fact about Occupational Health and Safety. An employer failing to make training and instructions records available to the inspector. It means if you don’t have any of your records for any of your employees or yourself in the business, you get the first fine of $550 for the first event. $550.00!!

Other takeaways of this Episode

  • Daniel prefers to do coping by hand coping saw. He doesn’t use jigsaw and claims he still does it six seconds faster.
  • Though he gets orders on word of mouth, he believes in online and social media marketing. He invests in his advertising, but he posts sensibly and avoids giving away his tricks and work online.
  • He prefers 18-gauge nails for baseboards and says that the 16 gauge gives too big of a hole.
  • Daniel’s filling is perfect, he was asked what does he do for fillers. To which he replied it’s just a white wood filler.
  • He wants to be the king of wainscotting and wants it to become his trademark.
  • He is a fan of Festool too. He sets up a nice base with oil-based primer and dirt-bond.
  • He uses Styrofoam for crown molding.
  • When asked if he is a fan of the no returns? He says it has its place and it’s a good look. However, he says that designers are forgetting the purposes of these pieces of trim.
  • Though people use MDF too, laundry rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms should always use Poplar.
  • He’s a wood guy for wainscotting.
  • Social media don’t show the negative points of the construction industry. How you can lose money, how everything is not beautiful and perfect. Only contractors know the real deal.