Never underestimate the resourcefulness of water

Yep, that's definitely water in your basement. Not usually this bad, but it happens. Steps can be taken to avoid it though. Just ask Handyman Hints. Postmedia Network file photo
Yep, that’s definitely water in your basement. Not usually this bad, but it happens. Steps can be taken to avoid it though. Just ask Handyman Hints. Postmedia Network file photo

In the home biz, if it’s wet where it shouldn’t be wet, we call that a flood.

Case #322, File name “kitty knew first”, has our homeowner victims quietly watching television on their sofa, when not so suddenly, the family cat jumps from the floor up onto the lap of the lady of the house. A regular occurrence at this late point in the evening, all except for the slightly wet paw prints left on the homeowner’s thighs.

“Where have you been?” the lady inquires. Unfortunately though, and at this same moment, Alana, a.k.a. ‘Honey Boo Boo’, is receiving her last few tidbits of instruction from ‘Mama’ June, moments before she prepares to hit the stage in yet another gripping episode of Toddlers in Tiaras. Alas, the distraction of reality television causes this first hint of trouble to get lost in the drama.

What could be the issue? Well, the cat could have fallen into the toilet, or, could have just come in from the rain. But, with only its paws dampened, and the cat being in the house for the last few hours, the evidence was suggesting something else. In fact, water was trickling into the sump pump well quicker than the flow of Honey Boo Boo’s tears after a heartbreaking second-place finish to her archrival Anastasia a.k.a. ‘pumpkin’, following a horrific drop of her cheerleader’s baton during the talent segment of the competition.

The following morning, the real world had our homeowners discovering their basement floor two inches deep in water. Fortunately, the basement wasn’t finished. However, every boxed item on the floor was lost, and the perimeter drywall ruined.

So, what happened? Well, water trickles into sump pump wells all the time. In fact, the sign of a healthy, unplugged, uncrushed, and otherwise efficient weeping tile system, is confirmed by this collection of rain and snow melt draining into the well. If water isn’t being effectively diverted into the weeping tile, it will be making its way into the basement through whatever cracks or compromised areas in the concrete floor or walls.

In this case, the homeowners didn’t have a working sump pump in the well. Where was the pump? Collecting dust on one of several basement shelves, of course. Reason? There was never a need for a sump pump. The home sits atop a hill, has a proper gutter system along the entire roofline, and is surrounded by a favorably sloping landscape. Plus, in the 10 years these people have owned the home, and in the 20 years experienced by the previous owners, never was there a flood, or ever the need for a working sump pump.

Which, brings us to lesson #1 in the world of being a homeowner. Wind, sleet, snow, rain, and especially ‘water’, have little regard for precedence. So, if your home has a sump pump well, and, regardless if it’s as dry as a bone, make sure it’s equipped with a working sump pump and hose line directing the water outside, well away from the foundation.

Lesson #2, sump pumps enjoy company. So, if you’ve got only one sump pump in the well, add a second pump. Reason? A basement flood will totally disrupt your home and lifestyle. So, we do everything we can to avoid them. The second ‘backup’ pump should be powered by either a separate, trickle charged battery, or better yet, a pressure water system that can be supplied from your existing water line, or a permanent generator.

Lesson #3, if you disturb the landscape, then you’ll have to accommodate the certain change in water run-off. In this case, the homeowners added an above ground pool and surrounding deck, which in theory, shouldn’t have changed the landscape so drastically. Regardless, water knows only one direction, and that’s downhill. In hindsight, the pool and deck construction should have been followed up with a series of weeping lines installed in between the house and pool, providing an outlet for the dam of water created by the pool and deck pillars.

Never underestimate the resourcefulness of water.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Really, ya gotta be kidding me

Really! There’s no Santa Claus. Ya gotta be kidding me… was my surprised response upon learning this unfortunate fact.

But, even as a child, I accepted the storyline as being well intentioned.

Then, I was told professional wrestling wasn’t real. Ya gotta be kidding me, I stated once again. This time, however, I was totally devastated, and to this day, still suffer from the trauma of that enlightenment.

Today, in the world of retail biz, we use the phrase “Ya gotta be kidding me” all the time, although mostly in thought, and usually due to misconceptions or poor decisions made by homeowners regarding house improvements and maintenance.

Case in point, and docket #322 on the customer file, male Caucasian, somewhat passed middle age, looking to resurface, or possibly rebuild, his multi-tiered deck and walkway platform.

Issue, existing treated lumber surface is looking quite worn, having succumbed to 25 years of weathering and repeated attempts to paint or stain.

Status? Person is well groomed, pulls into our parking driving a 7 series BMW sedan, and has a deep tan. Not the peeling nose, five day, discounted air fare trip to Cuba type colouring, but a real, several weeks or months spent in Florida kind of pigment.

If I had to guess, this guy has most probably not seen a winter in years, and obviously moisturizes. Location of home in question? Waterfront, as in St. Lawrence River, real big ship water, as opposed to Mulberry Creek, all you need is a pair of rubber boots to cross, or large puddle in the backyard, type of stuff.

With this information, we can further conclude that this fellow is neither the head patty flipper at Bob’s Burger Bonanza, or has recently pulled a sidewalk camp out, in order to secure his spot on the front line of Walmart’s last midnight madness, door crasher event.

Nope, and as far as I can see, we’re talking pure executive status. “So”, I begin with this fine gentleman, “what type of decking material were you thinking of resurfacing your deck and walkway with?”

“I’m thinking treated lumber”, the fellow said, “but instead of the green stuff, I think we’d like to consider the new brown coloured decking, that, with a coat of sealer every other year, ought to look pretty good, don’t you think?”

Ya gotta be kidding me, was my only thought. Executive fellow, living in an executive home, and his thoughts are to replace his existing, crappy deck boards, decking planks he’s toiled with for the past 25 years, sometimes sanding, always either painting or staining, with nothing better than an updated version of the same stuff.

Ya gotta be kidding me. Now, there’s obviously nothing wrong with building a deck using treated lumber, whether it be green or brown. And, if you’re a 20, or 30, or 40 something year old, building your first deck, or budget wise, require the simple pleasure of a modest backyard platform and railing system, then treated lumber is most likely your best choice and value.

However, if this isn’t your first deck, or you have the financial capacity to go with something better, and due to your mature stage in life, have fewer weekends ahead of you, than what you have already under your belt, then you’ve got to treat yourself to spending your golden years on a composite deck.

Composite or solid PVC decking is expensive, ranging anywhere from 8-10 dollars per square foot for the premium products and colours.

However, when it comes to finish, even wood enthusiasts, and I’m one of them, admit composites look several times better than even a stained cedar.

“If I had a small deck, I’d go composite, but with such a large surface to cover, I thought treated lumber would be the best option” was his thinking.

Wrong. The bigger the deck, the more work regarding maintenance, and all the more reason to go composite. Next week, why composites make cents.

Good building

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Suiting up your home with siding

Conrad Hofmeister, installs siding in this July 6, 2015 file photo in Grande Prairie, Alta. Alexa Huffman/Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune/Postmedia Network
Conrad Hofmeister, installs siding in this July 6, 2015 file photo in Grande Prairie, Alta. Alexa Huffman/Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune/Postmedia Network

Whether you’re building a new home, addition, garage, or storage shed, one of the big decisions is going to be choosing the kind of siding that will best suit your investment.

Key to success? Don’t fret over which siding will be the easiest to install, or conceivably last the longest, resist dents or scratches, require painting, or cost you more or less money.

If you’re going all brick, or all stone, then there’s nothing to worry about. But, if you’re going to require a siding other than brick or stone, whether it be to accent the home, or completely cover it, then siding your home with the proper product, or one that best “suits” the home, is key.

Basically, siding choices can be slotted into four categories, vinyl, composites, cement board, and real wood.

Vinyl siding can be the least expensive of the three, if you’re considering the standard horizontal lap pattern, or the most expensive, if you happen to like one of the heavier stone or simulated cedar shake sidings.

One thing to keep in mind about vinyl siding, it doesn’t play well with others, and tends to look best on its own. So, if vinyl siding is what you’re leaning towards, then go vinyl all the way.

It’s often been the strategy, when building a modest sized new home, to install brick on the facade, with the three remaining walls relegated to regular vinyl.

This “looks good from the street, because the sides and back don’t matter so much” mentality only cheapens the structure, and let’s everyone know your house plan is fresh out of the 70’s.

So, if you can stretch the budget in order to have four brick walls, then terrific, you’ll end up with the classic “wolf will never blow me down” Ontario type home.

If the budget is fixed, then consider putting your brick facade money towards a higher quality, deeper tone, more refreshing and updated vinyl colour scheme on the entire house.

“Doesn’t vinyl siding fade, or break easy should it get struck by a hockey puck in the winter” is a question we field often.

Fade? Yes, and like everything else exposed to the sun, perhaps a little over time. And break easy? Well, things break easy when hit by hard, fast moving objects, just ask Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadians.

The convenient thing about vinyl siding is that it’s probably the easiest type of product to replace, even if the damaged panel is in the middle of a wall.

Solution to the puck issue? Build your kid a decent perimeter of rink boards. Otherwise, vinyl siding is a respected, harsh weather product.

Matter of fact, vinyl siding is the preferred product in the Maritime provinces and along the east coast, which arguably endures Canada’s toughest weather conditions.

Although style and affluence minimally affect the numbers, where cement-based products have failed, due to the constant moisture and corrosiveness of the sea air, and where wood and composite sidings require constant paint touch-ups and general upkeep, vinyl sidings do very well.

Composite sidings include such brand names as Canexel (wood fiber base) and Goodstyle (wood chip base). Composites are the closest thing to looking like real wood, and have the advantage of being significantly more stable than wood, which means they don’t warp or crack like wood.

Like real wood sidings, composites are a good accent product for stone and brick homes. Cement-based sidings, such as James Hardie board, work extremely well in our weather zone, and a super tough, fire proof, good looking siding that can work on its own, or act as an excellent complement to your brick or stone home.

Like wood, composite and cement products will require painting every 10-12 years, but don’t let this fact discourage you from the many great features of both these sidings.

Good building

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

It’s what’s underneath that matters

Which is the best roofing product for a new home, steel roofing or asphalt/fiberglass shingles?

Actually, I dislike ’em both, especially during the winter thaw season. Why? Because they leak, and nothing in the home renovation biz is as frustrating as a leaky roof.

Therefore, if I had to consult a homeowner as to what type of product to choose in order to best protect their homes, year round, regardless of seasonal timeframe, I’d say cover your home with one of those vinyl roofed mega-domes.

So far, the only roofs that haven’t leaked at our lumber yard are the mega-domes. North, steel covered warehouse roof, leaks. Flat, rubberized roof over main store, leaks. Asphalt roof on main residence, leaks.

Very frustrating. So, for a mere $100,000, I say go mega-dome. If you’ve got two hundred grand to blow, I’d recommend doming the entire property, basically eliminating winter altogether.

If either scenario seems somewhat beyond budget, or practicality, and if changing the roof structure and general truss engineering of your home is equally as unlikely, then what can we do to make our roofs more dome-like?

Dome roofs have the advantage of being made of a tightly fitted, one piece, waterproof membrane. Unfortunately, roof dormers, chimneys, plumbing vents, skylights, or an attached garage, make the possibility of a one piece roof application in residential home construction, basically impossible.

That being the case, the best alternative is to follow some of the successful strategies of a dome type roof.

Step one, keep it tight. In our residential case, this means keep it solid. This can be achieved by ensuring your contractor uses minimally a 1/2 inch plywood, or 15/32 OSB (oriented strand board) roof-deck, as sheeting material over the trusses.

Bad things happen when roofing plywood sags due to the weight of a snow load. Steel roofing (being so thin) and asphalt shingles, have no structural strength.

As a result, the integrity of every seam between the sheets of tin, and the tar bond between shingle tabs, will be compromised should the plywood bend.

With “compromised” in the roofing biz meaning a leak is in the near future, we avoid the thinner (yet code compliant) plywood’s.

Note, in the past, steel roofing could be supported by 1×4 rough lumber. Because lumber is more unstable than plywood, causing screws to pop loose and mild warpage to occur, the better choice for steel roofing is a plywood underlay.

Next, we need an impermeable membrane. Roofing paper (again, code compliant) is a poor choice.

There are a number of quality synthetic membranes available, such as the Titanium UDL50 and UDL30 products, followed by the somewhat lesser weight, but still synthetic, Rhino and Deckgard products.

The better synthetic membranes are thicker, more tear resistant, and actually hug the nail (or screw) once it’s been perforated, providing optimum resistance to leaks.

What about installing an ice and water shield over the entire roof?

Ice and water shield is a heavy, rubberized peal and stick membrane that’s usually installed on the area of the roof that extends past the edge of the house. Ice and water’s main task is to guard against ice dams, so, installing it over the entire roof would certainly be overkill.

However, you could do it with a steel roof, but it would be aesthetically risky with asphalt shingles. The reason is the overlap, which with this thicker membrane, may cause a horizontal ripple in the shingles every 3 feet up the roof.

What about doubling up on the shingles, or installing steel roofing over existing asphalt shingles? This practice is no longer recommended.

Two reasons. One, its extra weight your roof trusses don’t need. And two, the spongy surface of an older shingle wouldn’t provide a good base for our new roofing. Best bet, remove the old shingles, assess the underlay, then remove or repair accordingly.

Good building

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard