The little things are important

Today we paint the exterior of our home.

And, whether the challenge at hand be your wood siding or backyard deck, it’s the little things relating to this task that are going to maintain your optimism.

Outdoor painting or staining isn’t easy. Optimally, and under the right conditions, this job can be relatively bearable. In most cases, we spend these hours of labour hating ourselves.

Keys to painting bliss? Get the little things right, starting with your choice of clothing.

Acrylic paints, which supposedly clean up with soap and water, are actually about as water soluble as a hockey puck. If you happen to sprinkle a blotch on your pant leg, you’ll have two choices.

Either disrobe immediately, then soak the area under warm water. Or, two, realize that disrobing on your back deck could initiate a reaction by the neighbourhood watch committee, and simply accept the fact you’ve just devalued your designer pants by about 90 per cent.

When it’s time to paint, I go to my closet, get out my painting jeans, paint stained T-shirt, paint stained windbreaker, if it’s a little breezy, and paint stained running shoes.

All these items were, at one time, perfectly good pieces of clothing I thought I could get away with wearing, while painting, if I was really careful. In other words, clothes worn during painting, inevitably become permanent paint wear.

Next, invest in an official paint lid pry-tool, rubber mallet, and have a roll of Saran wrap handy. I couldn’t find my lid prying tool the other day, and instead used the closest thing within reach, that being a flat headed screwdriver.

The lid, of course, opened, but not after somewhat damaging the rim. No big deal once, or twice, but by the third non-regulation opening, you might as well consider the balance of the paint a loss, and either give whatever you’re painting a third coat, paint something else, or save it for the hazardous waste day, weekend drop-off.

So, with the paint lid prying tool probably the handiest thing you’ll have in the toolbox for under a buck, you’re best to invest in a few of them.

Rubber mallet? Used for closing the lid of course, offering a firm, but soft touch. A regular nailing hammer is overkill, and will permanently dent the lid, making a good seal impossible once that happens.

Saran wrap is key to you having a well-deserved coffee break without risking the brush and top skin of the paint drying up. Simply tear off about a forearm length of plastic, place all but the handle of the brush down on the wrap, then dexterize the bristles by folding the brush over and over again until you’ve reached the end of the plastic. Finally, fold any excess plastic over the top of the brush. To temporarily seal the paint, tear off about a foot of saran wrap, lay it over the open can, then gently press the lid back on the can.

Use just enough force to hold the lid in place. Place the brush and paint in a cool, shady spot, fire up the coffee maker, and enjoy your toast and jam.

Next, wear gloves. I like the heavy duty, plastic type gloves that practically reach up to your elbow, instead of the tight surgeon style. The heavier gloves won’t provide the same dexterity, but can be removed more easily, just in case the phone rings, or you require another sip of coffee. And, they won’t tear, allowing you to handle those heavier chairs and tables while you’re painting.

Last, but definitely not least, plug in the radio, blasting away your favourite tunes, or set on sports talk, where once again, the debate regarding Montreal’s demise will be rehashed and attributed to Carey Price’s injury, and the fact GM Marc Bergevin couldn’t manage toddler ball hockey at the local day care.

Good building.

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

I’ll take a sprinkle of water please

The art of spreading cement is similar to that of icing a cake.

Easy stuff, provided you have 1,000 cake icings under your belt. Not so easy if you’re last cooking experience was with Hasbro’s easy bake oven.

However, and regardless of the surface being a little thick on one edge, and slanted to your weak side, the cake usually tastes good just the same. The same goes when it comes to resurfacing a chipped or deteriorated concrete surface with new cement.

With experience and practice comes near perfection.

Until then, well . . . you’ll have to live with a not so level, and perhaps even a little wavy, newly surfaced walkway. But hey! It’ll be crack free, and hardly noticeable to the undiscerned and visually impaired.

The convenient thing about doing cement repairs these days is that the homeowner has only one major factor to keep in mind, and that’s water.

Plus, attempt to read the mixing instructions. I know, the writing on these containers is incredibly small, which if unreadable with your aging eyes, is perhaps fate letting you know you may be too old to be mixing concrete.

If this is the case, relish the fact that you’ve been around long enough to have witnessed Montreal’s last Stanley cup win, and hire someone who, unfortunately, hasn’t experienced this euphoria.

But, be sure to maintain your supervisory role, because there’s still a difference between young and older person standards. In the olden days, mixing cement was a chemical art, requiring the mixer to add varying amounts of Portland cement, sand, gravel, various bonding agents, and, of course, water to form the correct density for the task at hand.

Today, specific formulas have been pre-mixed and bagged for us. So, if you’re walkway or concrete steps have deteriorated due to any number of factors, then you would choose a resurfacing product such as Spread n’ Bond.

If the thin layer of cement covering your foundation wall has begun to crack and fall off (which happens to 99 per cent of all homes, due to the home settling, or moisture making its way up into the concrete) then there are parging mixes available.

Cracks in the foundation? Again, no problem with hydraulic cement compounds such as Poly-Plug.

I mention these three products because they cover the most common concrete issues facing today’s homeowner. Other than cracks in the foundation, a chipping foundation wall, or rough concrete steps, pre-mixed cements and/or caulking, are available to re-mortar in between brick and stone, repair cracks in cement surfaces, and level off sunken concrete slabs.

Key tools for mixing these specific cement formulas? Depending on the size of the job, have both standard two and five gal. pails on hand.

Next, invest in a paint mixing tool, which fits into a standard drill, and somewhat resembles the beater component of a cooking mixer (again, the cake baking people are going to have the advantage here).

Because these repair cements are made of such a fine powder, the mixing tool is 15 bucks worth of efficiency and time saving.

Pour water into the bucket, then add the cement compound as you’re power mixing.

Basically, there are three water related issues regarding successful cementing. One, soak the area you’re about to repair, then brush off any excess water or puddled areas. Two, no matter what the job, use as little water as necessary to create a workable batch of concrete.

And three, once the concrete has been troweled into position, sprinkle it with water for the next three days. The components of concrete will bond more effectively if the surface is kept wet for the 72 hours following.

Some concrete people say keep it wet for a week. What’s at risk to not following the rules of water and mixing? Cracks, and a weaker concrete surface that would be susceptible to crumbling.

So, follow the water procedures, and avoid having to repeat the task.

Good building.

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

Ye old shed, and how to fix it

Just a guess, but we're thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Just a guess, but we’re thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

“How do you fix up an old shed?” This was the question posed to me by a lovely, 20-something young lady, who just recently purchased an older home with a handsome, 20-something young man.

I mention the ages of the participants because timing is significant, and will certainly affect the strategy in addressing the crooked shed issue. If this were an elderly couple, I’d say forget about the shed, concentrate on booking your next tee-off date and getting your meds straightened out, then let the next guy worry about it.

If you’re middle-aged then I’d recommend taking a flamethrower to this mess, or plowing it into the ground with a bulldozer, depending on which ‘over the top’ method of ultimate doom you prefer. Then I’d recommend building something brand new in its place, at least three times bigger (because by this age we all collect too much stuff) along with the real possibility of adding a finished loft area over top.

But, if you’re young, full of dreams, with the weight of the world having yet to have you cry out in pain as you attempt to pull your socks on in the morning, this old shed project will provide an excellent learning experience in basic framing, siding, and roofing.

First, are we talking an old wood shed, or banged up steel shed? Wood we can possibly work with, whereby a steel (or tin) shed, in poor condition, has the approximate value of a couple of Bell Center playoff tickets in Montreal.

What to do with the pile of dented, steel panels, once you’ve completed disassembly? Toss them in the back of a borrowed pick-up truck (make sure all the participants are wearing gloves) and drive this mess over to the local metal scrap yard dealer. At between 100-130 bucks per ton in reimbursement value, this procedure, whereby 200 lbs. of scrap metal might cover the breakfast special at the local diner, is far from a get rich quick scheme. However, it’s recycling, helps fill your tummies for a few hours, and certainly beats the ‘toss it in the bush’ method used by previous generations.

So, what’s the procedure regarding our decrepit wood shed? First, assess the damage. Crooked we can work with, rot or decay we can’t. And, we definitely don’t want to take the risk of this shed collapsing. Therefore, if once the shed’s contents have been removed, you discover that the sill plates and wood flooring are soft due to decay, secure a chain from the shed to the aforementioned pick-up truck, and pull this baby down.

In most cases, the siding (be it wood paneling, plywood, cedar shake, or vinyl) as well as the roofing shingles, will have been severely neglected, and will need to be removed. Once that task is complete, re-assess the floor and stick framework. Wet’s not a problem, soft and splintering into pieces is. So, if all is good, or a few problem pieces can be safely replaced, get the shed back to square and level by adding a few wall studs, and steel cross bracing if necessary. Building permits aren’t required for sheds of 100 sq. ft. or less. Therefore, if your shed is of the popular 8×8 configuration, I suggest extending the floor and framework to the more spacious 8×12 size. What makes a shed more easily usable, while effectively keeping out the varmints, is the entry door. So, spend a few extra dollars on a more reliable double steel door, or roll-up garage door type of system.

Windows or skylights? Natural light is always a good idea.

Type of siding? Choose something that will either match or complement the home. Vinyl siding is a popular choice, due to it’s easy to maintain good value. However, a painted wood siding, such as a board n’ batten, or channel siding, will look quite charming, and definitely enhance the look of one’s backyard.

Thanks for the suggested topic BB, and good building.

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

Go-bag is a worthwhile investment

A flooded basement can be a nightmare. (File photo)
A flooded basement can be a nightmare. (File photo)

“I just don’t get why our basement flooded.” Or, “our house is built up so high, so where’s the water coming from?” And, “we’ve never had this type of flooding before.”

These are some famous last words expressed by many an exasperated homeowner, standing in their basement, watching the house cat float by on a yoga mat, salvaged from an exercise room that is now four inches deep in water.

The how’s and why’s of water infiltration will be argued, strategized and brainstormed until we all reside on the planet Mars, or until a Canadian-based team makes it to the Stanley Cup finals, whichever comes first. What we know for sure is that flooding can happen in both new and older homes and is exponentially more likely to occur once you’ve finished the basement, or have used the term “never” to describe your basement flooding experiences.

So, assuming a basement flood, or water in the basement – since whatever pipe break upstairs will have water eventually showing up in the basement anyway – is part of every homeowner’s inevitable future, we all need to prepare a Go-Bag. Actually, considering the amount of supplies needed to efficiently rid a basement of water, realistically, you may need a Go-Closet.

Now you may question: “Why go through the time and expense of creating a Go-Bag, when a simple call to the insurance agent is usually all it takes?”

Two key points here.

One, the quicker you can get rid of the water, the better. Depending on a number of circumstances, including time of day and the availability or proximity of a restoration crew, it may be hours before the fellows start hauling equipment  down your basement stairs. If you can get a jump on the crisis and get things somewhat under control before the clean- up crew arrives, the less chance there will be for total loss.

Don’t get me wrong, the first call out in a flood situation has got to be to the restoration people. You’ll require their manpower, expertise, water-removal pumps, humidity control units and dryer fan machines in order to get the basement atmosphere back to normal. However, every bit helps, and if that means being able to keep the flood flow to a minimum, or even dropping the water level a bit, then that will pay dividends.

Which, brings us to Go-Bag reason number two. By taking early action, you may not want, or need, to file an insurance claim. Insurance claims regarding flood losses are a relatively easy process to complete the first time, not so easy the second, with there likely being no third dance.

So, we do what we can to avoid the first claim. Plus, there’s likely a deductible in your policy that will cost you hundreds, or thousands of dollars, depending on which program you’ve chosen.

As a result, if you can keep the damage to an affordable amount, it might be best to pay now, when the damage is  relatively minimal and file for compensation later, should your home suffer a full water disaster.

If the Go-Bag expense and strategy sounds a bit like having one insurance policy in order to guard against another, well, it kind of is. However, having a plan B is never a bad idea.

What goes in the Go-Bag?

Rubber boots, of course, rubber gloves, sump pump and the all-important and never too long sump-pump hose. Sump-pump hoses come in 25-foot sections and cannot be spliced together without the proper connecting flange and tie-clips, which don’t come in the bag with the hose. So, be sure to pre-attach the hoses to a length that’ll easily reach and go beyond, the nearest window.

Next, besides a few buckets, old towels and water scoops, you’ll need the indispensable shop-vac. Capable of drawing up water as well as dirt and practically indestructible under general use, no home should be without one of these guys.

Good building, and good luck avoiding any floods.

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