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Carpentry Over the Decades

After 40 years of building his carpentry business, Joe Testa, 64, is still busy.

Years back, Joe Testa searched for work, and his cousin Tony DeLuca guided his path into the carpentry business by offering him a job and teaching him the basics of carpentry. In 1972, Testa branched out with his own business, . Forty years later, Testa, 64, is still busy building, but now alongside his son, Corey Testa. The Testas work on anything related to the home industry, from putting in foundations, building houses and additions, to home repairs. In a recent interview, Joe Testa reflected on how demand has changed over the decades, as well as experiences in dealing with the weather, unique pets, and injuries.

Is anything trending as far as construction and what people want built?

The economic times today are really putting the brakes on a lot of big projects. But there are some projects out there that are in the bidding for a couple of additions, large additions. We’ve been doing a lot of necessary repairs. We’ve had a lot of bad storms. 

Over time, have you noticed construction requests changing?

Oh, yes. In the 70s, there used to be a lot of basic, general repairs. Then it started changing in the 90s. In the 90s, a lot of people were starting to do their basements over. In the late 90s, a lot of them were doing mother-in-law apartments because of the economy. That is a big thing today, in-law apartments. 

What is the most unique construction job you’ve done?

Bring a house like that to a house like that [shows before and after pictures]. That house didn’t have anything done to it since the 1940s. The guy told me to bring it back to life, and I did. 

How do you go about building on a house when you don’t want to change too much of its historical quality?

What we try to do, if they want to modernize it and keep the old look, we try very hard in keeping that old look, such as a siding here. We kept all the corbels on my house, the structural forms. We do little things when we bend aluminum. We try to keep a little three quarter inch round in there to give it a little detail. Also, in the 80s, I started hiding J Channels so that they’ll look like a piece of wood on the outside [of windows]. In the 80s nobody else was doing it that way. 

What are the challenges to carpentry?

[A challenge is] trying to compete with people who don’t use quality. It is hard to do a job the way you want to because of the competition. That’s why I’ve always done it my way. That is what kept me in business for 40 years. I’ve got to be doing something correctly. 

How do workers lower their risk of injury?

Practice safety features. I wouldn’t tell somebody to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. That is probably the biggest thing. 

Have you ever been injured on the job? 

I fell about 18 feet, and I finished a day working. God was with me. The ladder went through the window on an addition and the other end came up and broke my fall. 

Are there any funny stories behind a building project? Such as an encounter with animals?

Yeah, as a matter of fact, there is. We went to repair a house once, and we had to go into the cellar to get electricity. The woman had snakes in the cellar. She had a big cage. She had a large monkey in there. When I asked her where the monkey is now, she said, “He is in another cage outside.” I was a little bit nervous because I couldn’t see a cage outside. I didn’t know if he was loose or what, but we finished the job, and we got out of there really quick. That was scary. 

How does the weather affect the building process?

It’s terrible. If I listened to the weatherman all the time, I would have been out of business several years ago. They are generally wrong. There is a chance of rain. So what does that mean? Is it going to rain or isn’t it? It’s pretty rough trying to figure out the weather. Your work is coming to work on time, the delivery of materials. You have to make sure you do your homework and are prepared. You always have to look ahead. 

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