By Mike Wilson

Inter Ocean Cabinet Co. completes a high-profile build-out on a tight deadline for a downtown Chicago hotel.

One of the project’s most unusual finished surfaces is the specialty $200-per-sq.-ft. stainless steel mesh for a custom-designed escalator surround. Other finished highlights include 3,500 lineal feet of South African zebra wood baseboard; 3,500 lineal feet of South African mahogany baseboard and Mozambique wall paneling.

Inter Ocean Cabinet Company dodged disaster during a recent job because its carefully laid plans even accounted for the unexpected.

The job was a complete interior build-out of the Hyatt Regency's ballroom in downtown Chicago, and the Elmhurst, IL-based architectural woodworking company was facing a 20-day deadline to complete the entire installation.

During the install, they were informed that their plans for the walls would have to be changed, because the placement of two AV projectors on the ceiling that went into the sidewalls had to be switched. This change threw off the patterns of wood on the walls and the niches built into the walls for the units, says Chris McCaffrey, who was the project manager in charge of the job.

"We knew that something was going to go wrong, so we did have certain products laying around in panel-good form. The veneers we already had laid up in certain forms, knowing that we might need something," McCaffrey says. “We had to move this over, and recut and redo all these sections of wall that were sequence-matched, but we took the task, did it and it came out perfect.”

Click here to take a tour of Inter Ocean Cabinet Company's shop.

That level of preparation is a big reason why contractors feel confident to hire the 110-year-old architectural woodworking company, says John Farrell, who is president of Inter Ocean.

The company, which has about 40 employees between the shop and office, gets most of its business from bidding jobs from general contractors. The company does its own installation with a team that consists of about a dozen union carpenters, Farrell says.

He says that Inter Ocean's emphasis on providing excellent customer service, along with the quality of its products, enables them to get repeat business from customers.

"We really walk them through the job and do a lot of hand-holding," Farrell says. "Besides providing quality products, we give accurate bids and maintain schedules."

Those company strengths were drawn upon heavily during the Hyatt Regency ballroom job, as the company's meticulous planning was needed to complete the big project on a tight schedule, McCaffrey says. In total, the build-out took an estimated 10,000 man-hours between time spent on project management, fabricating the parts, doing the lay-ups and completing the installation, he says.

“The challenge for us was to pre-build almost everything before we went in and installed it,” McCaffrey says. “So the thing that we worked on diligently was to go into the existing space, get the dimensions from existing walls that were behind already constructed millwork from the old part of the ballroom, and from there generate drawings.”

He adds everything needed to be ready to go, so when the demolition of the old ballroom began Inter Ocean could quickly begin installing the new millwork. Since the work involved a variety of subcontractors, from plumbers to electricians, the company had to coordinate and plan around all the components of the ballroom.

“Our engineering department and drafting department generated some really good drawings. One of the things that the architect and the general contractor had asked us (to do) was basically make drawings that everyone could work off,” McCaffrey says.

The 35,000-sq-ft Regency Ballroom in Chicago’s Hyatt Regency Hotel features built-in presentation box niches following its recent full renovation. Inter Ocean Cabinet Company built and installed the niches, as well as other finished surfaces throughout the multi-use facility.

Right after demolition started, those drawings were put into action, he says.

“When we did get into the project and they started demolishing everything, myself and some of the other superintendents literally laid out on the floor, on the walls, on the ceiling, with lines, where everything should go,” McCaffrey says. “Not just where our millwork should go, but where the stud should go, where an opening in the drywall should go for an AV unit… That way we also knew that when we put our woodwork over it, it was going to fit.”

Due to the time spent planning, the installation team only had to work two shifts during most of the 20-days, McCaffrey says.

“Tight schedules are our forte,” he says. “We can do a job in 10 days, a job in 20 days, We’ll do what we have to do, and it’s all in our pre-organization skills.”

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