Family woodgraining tradition continues with third generation business.
After more than 30 years in the woodgraining business, Liz Taylor still hasn’t found the exact word to explain what it does to a house. But she knows precisely how people react to it.
“More often than not, I hear ‘Oh Wow!’” says Taylor, owner of Woodgraining by Liz Taylor & Son. “It does more than just make it look good. There’s a richness, but it’s a word I haven’t yet come across,” she says.
Woodgraining is a painted wood effect so close to the real thing, the naked eye has a hard time distinguishing the difference. Unlike artisans who use special combs and brushes to obtain a faux wood grain, Taylor and her son Jesse apply the patterns by hand using a special technique originally developed by Taylor’s father, Albert (Ted), in the 1970s.
Just about any surface that can be painted can be woodgrained. The Taylors have worked on kitchen cupboards, antique panels, furniture, fences, beams, car interiors and even old stereo speakers. Garage doors and entrance ways are most common. In fact, that’s how the business got started in 1978.
Taylor’s father – who had immigrated to Canada from the U.K. three years earlier – looked across the road one day and decided to do something about his neighbour’s unsightly purple garage door, offering to woodgrain it for free. “He said, ‘If you like it, you pay me. If you don’t, I’ll paint it whatever colour you want,” recalls Taylor.
From there business blossomed. Demand in the growing Heart Lake area of Brampton, Ontario, spread by word of mouth and in the early 1980s, Ted was recognized for restoring the historic Peel County Courthouse doors to their former beauty. Liz learned the process in 1980 and carried on the business when her father eventually retired at age 87 in 1989.
Today, the company charges about $1,300 to woodgrain an average-sized double garage door plus double front door entrance. A single front door plus single garage door runs about $695, making it a very economical way to add value to a home. One of the more popular choices these days is rich black.
“When somebody is selling a house and they don’t want to replace the cupboards, I come alone and in three days, the kitchen looks brand new,” she adds, noting that prices are usually set on a project basis, depending on size and volume.
The company offers a variety of colour choices and will match existing wood. The technique is applied directly onto surfaces with no need to sand first, including wood that has been varnished.
Recently, Taylor completed a mahogany finish on a steel door that was so authentic, the client “was over the moon,” commenting that he couldn’t tell the difference between his door and that of another homeowner who had paid upwards of $20,000 for solid mahogany.
The precision of her technique has even fooled the “metal man.” Taylor had four steel doors at her property that she was planning to paint as samples. A scrap collector came by and, surprisingly, left behind the two that were already woodgrained.
Besides the cost savings, another advantage to painting a wood finish as opposed to using solid wood is that it leaves room for ingenuity. Taylor has ‘grained’ the names of loved ones into some of her work as a memento, including a family pet. The dog had passed on and the homeowner was reluctant to part with the scratches left behind on the backdoor so Taylor hid the dog’s name in the grain pattern.
“It’s about caring,” says Taylor. “I love my job because it’s so unique. I’m like a friend for a day and at the end I get to hear praise.”
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