Why buy local?

Local businesses help support local people, events, and fundraising initiatives. So, when donations from local retailers are based on a percentage of profits, the amount of support local retailers get from their local community, directly affects how many funding dollars will be tossed back into the community pot.

The more people support local businesses, the greater the amount of money available to those local persons and charities in need. As a result, by spending your money locally, you’re not only encouraging a local business, but you’re also helping support the local sports teams, theatre, community events, and the many charitable fundraisers. When local businesses make more money, they give more back. When sales are down, we inevitably have less to give. And that’s it. That’s all you’ve got to remember. Buying local helps your neighbors as well as the retail store or local tradesperson you just completed business with. That’s all the incentive anybody should require in order to shop locally.

How do you know when a salesperson isn’t local? Some clues are more evident, such as the fellow who knocks on your front door, introduces himself as Biff or Jett, let’s you know he’s in the neighborhood for the balance of the afternoon and would require only 15 minutes of your time, all while his unmarked, white paneled van is parked road side, still running, with only a silhouette of somebody at the wheel. For all intents and purposes, this guy’s about as local as the red poison-dart frog (more commonly found in the tropical forests of New Guinea).

Why buy local? Because in most cases, the local retailer or professional is going to care more. Not only is it our job to serve people well, and because that’s inherently what local business people strive to do, but we’re also part of the community. So, we live and interact with our customers every day. As a result, it’s in our best interest to be as good as we can.

Why buy local? For the after-sales service. Sometimes, a sale doesn’t go quite as smoothly as expected. Either a part is missing, or the product arrives in the wrong color, is the wrong size, or is damaged. When the customer has purchased a product locally, they’ll find themselves face to face with the person responsible for this misfortune, who by following up with the manufacturer, will hopefully be able to resolve the issue in a timely manner. Regardless of the problem, the key factor here is that you’re “face to face” with the salesperson. When a product is purchased from an out of town retailer, and there’s a problem, you’ll find yourself at the mercy of either a sales representative on line, or on the phone. So, should an issue arise after a product is purchased, what scenario, in your estimation, would present a customer with the best chance of success in resolving an issue, face to face, or over the phone?

Unfortunately, discussions regarding the after-sales service policy are often forgotten, or dismissed as irrelevant when making a purchase, when in fact it should be an element of priority.

Next, if you’ve allowed this travelling salesperson into your home, either because you’re lonely, have day-old baked cookies that need to be eaten, or are actually interested in what this salesperson has to say, please, DON’T SIGN ANYTHING. No matter what the deal, the one-time save 20 per cent today only type offer, or even if it’s a don’t pay for two years if you sign up right now, DON’T SIGN ANYTHING.

This darling salesperson may remind you of your grandson, but your signature gets sent directly to the head office, whereby any second thoughts regarding your purchase will be met with a not so darling pre-suit notice letter from their lawyer. In most cases, you’d have to be a really bad boy to get a lawyer’s letter from a local retailer. That’s why you buy local.

Good building.

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

Just hang up on home-repair telemarketers!

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The call usually starts off with a friendly, “Hello, my name is (insert most any non-aggressive name, such as Tabitha, Rose, or Barbie). I represent Wee Willey Windows, and if you’ve been thinking of replacing your outdated windows, it’s your good luck that we have a salesperson in your area today.”

That’s the bait.

Your first mistake was picking up the phone when the number on the screen seemed unfamiliar to you. However, with only about 20 seconds of your life invested into this conversation, it’s still not too late to simply say, “no thanks, I’m not interested,” and hang up.

I know, it’s not easy being abrupt, or even slightly impolite, and after all, you’re being told that today’s your lucky day by a total stranger, so it might very well be true— right? Otherwise, what are the odds of you being singled out in this manner?

Actually, the odds are pretty good.

Tabitha and her friends at Wee Willey Windows couldn’t pick you out of a lineup if the balance of the subjects were members of the Bulgarian weightlifting team.

But they do know you either live in a mature neighborhood, and as a result, may very well own a home in need of renovations; earn a household income that’s higher than the regional average; or, are members of the national jams and jellies of the month club, and have a past history of purchasing online or over the phone.

So, with the lure of “our salesperson being in your neighborhood, just for today, and just for you,” the information regarding the demographic you represent is telling Barbie you most likely will stay on the line. Part of the lure of you choosing a company such as this, totally unknown to you, and totally out of the blue, is of course your opportunity to save money.

“Sign up with us today and save 20 per cent on both the windows and labour to install,” is indeed a big savings, if of course the discount has been reduced from a real price.

Most companies have list prices or suggested retail pricing, which in essence mean nothing, since this pricing is often significantly higher than what would be considered a fair retail price.

So, where’s the savings when a 20 to 25 per cent discount is being offered from a price that is ridiculously high in the first place? The answer is simple, there’s no real deal to be had here.

If the representative from Wee Willey’s should show up at your door, do you let him enter your home? No.

What if they’re well dressed and seem to be holding a tiny ship in a bottle, or cheeses of the world labelled box, which could be a unique type of housewarming gift, just for you? Then, simply out of politeness, do you allow them to enter?

Never.

When the doorbell rings, grab the poker out of the fireplace, or lay your hands on some similar type instrument, keep it behind your back, then open the door and let this person know that unfortunately you will not be entertaining a visit from them today.

If they should move forward in some forceful, aggressive retail-type manner, a determined swing of the poker up between their legs, following through to the neck, should have them re-evaluating the potential success of today’s sales call.

Actually, a sincere “thanks, but no thanks” should have you avoiding any confrontation.

The danger with letting this fly by night salesperson into your home is that they will likely subject you to a 10- to 15-minute video describing the many attributes and advantages of buying a product from a seemingly national supplier. That’s 10 to 15 minutes of you wishing for a power outage, or somebody dropping a bomb on the house, in order for you to be mercifully put out of the misery of having to watch such a rehearsed sales pitch.

Next week, “Why we buy local.”

Good building.

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

Making a house wish list

Nothing like the view from a balcony, though most aren’t as high as this one. Postmedia Network

Building a home this spring? Or, looking to gain a little more living space by putting on an addition?

If this is the case, let’s examine the wish list of home features you and your spouse, if there’s a bit of wiggle room in the budget, and if the landscape permits, should be discussing with your architect.

Please note that the following suggestions are a wish list, as opposed to a dream list of home features. Dream lists are like dream homes, very costly. Wish lists, on the other hand, are far from free, with the following suggestions, or recommendations, no doubt costing you more money than had you stuck with a standard eight ft. deep, rectangular foundation. However, these upgrades are game changers, with the added value of these great home features further differentiating your home from the masses, unless of course everybody starts modifying their homes in the same manner.

Wish list modification #1, the walk out basement. Basically, you’re replacing about six-eight feet of poured concrete with a sliding patio door. The benefit to a walkout basement is of course the fact you’ve now linked the buried portion of your home to the exterior. With an abundance of natural light, and a straight out access to the back yard, you’ll be effectively turning what was traditionally a dungeon, into comfortable living space.

A key factor in making a walkout basement a reality will be the landscaping. How your property manages the rain and snow melt will be essential construction details. Structurally, the walkout basement is a very doable, and feasible adaptation to most regular foundations.

The challenge will lie in preventing the water runoff from pooling at what will be the lowest point of the above grade portion of the home, which will be where the basement’s patio door meets your concrete or interlocking stone platform. So, once the walkout basement has been engineered and drawn up on paper, hand the plans over to a landscape designer. Don’t move forward on your walkout basement project until a landscape designer or engineer, can figure out where to divert the rain water.

Next, if your home or addition is going to have a second story, consider having a balcony extending off the master bedroom. If a walkout basement is going to be a reality, then a balcony overtop makes for the perfect house accompaniment. Basically, balconies are like backyard decks, there’s no mistake to be made with having one, other than going too small. So, whether a balcony is designed to serve a specific room, or extend the entire width of the home, you’re always going to enjoy time spent on a balcony. Similar to a walkout basement, a balcony added to a home after the fact will incur plenty of engineering and construction costs, while making it part of the original plans basically requires the contractor extending the floor joists and pouring a few cement footings in order to accept the supporting pillars. So, if there’s room in the budget, do the balcony now.

Reasons for a balcony? Better sun, better breeze, better view, if it’s a choice between deck or balcony, the balcony is always a better experience. Plus, the security, tranquility, and peace of mind to being on a balcony simply makes it superior to ground level living. When you’re on your balcony, enjoying an early morning coffee, or late night tea, the odds of you being interrupted by the neighbor’s cat, or the neighbor’s dog, or the neighbor, drop to zero.

Next, consider installing skylights. General work areas such as your kitchen, bathroom, or exercise room, will benefit greatly from the supplementary, natural light offered by a couple of skylights. Now, you may ask, don’t skylights leak? Like everything else, they leak eventually. So, and like everything else, some maintenance is required. Regardless, skylights are a terrific modification.

Next week, more wish list tips. Good building.

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

Fiddling on the roof

Up on the roof? Making sure you’re tethered is a very good idea. Postmedia Network

Saw a fellow the other day using one of those high powered gas leaf blowers. Got no problem with that, and as a matter of fact, I own one of these noise pollution, raise the dead type of machines, myself.

He was cleaning his eavestroughing, aka the roof gutters. Got no problem with that either. Although using a tool of this magnitude is akin to rinsing your dinner dishes with a pressure washer, this procedure seemed somewhat more effective than my strategy of climbing a ladder, scooping out leaf matter with my hands, then flushing the remaining debris through with the garden hose.

What was most interesting though, was that this fellow was operating his leaf blower while walking along the edge of his roof, untethered, staring death right in the face, moving with the same relaxed, confident manner he would have possessed had he been blowing leaves off his garden path.

I might have a few reservations concerning this strategy. If I’m going for a walk, and happen to see a person up on a roof, I take notice of two things. One, I look to see how this person has tethered, or secured him or herself to the roof. This, not only for safety reasons, but the fines for this type of noncompliance can be severe, so I’m hoping this contractor is following the rules. And two, I try to see if there’s a logo on the door of the pickup truck parked in the driveway, just to see which local company has been hired to do whatever task is at hand.

In this case there was no tether, no lifeline, not even a tree branch to reach out to in some last leap of faith should this fellow stumble, and of course, nothing but regular, noncommercial type vehicles in the driveway.

So, we’ve got an untethered homeowner, perhaps a father, maybe a grandfather, up on his roof, one step away from disaster. So, for all you young fellows and young ladies out there, who own homes and may have witnessed this gentleman calmly going about his untethered roofing yard work, DON’T DO THIS.

Being in the retail building supply biz, we see a lot of the same contractors every day. Occasionally, we won’t see a fellow for a few weeks. This is concerning, which leads us to inquire into this fellow’s well-being, or asking our fellow staff members and other contractors if they’ve seen this fellow around or not. Then, he shows up, hobbling down our center aisle with the aid of crutches, with what appears to be a Volkswagen Jetta clamped onto his left foot. Fell off a ladder, fell off a scaffold, or fell off a garage roof, in 99.9 per cent of the cases that lead to injury, the word “fell” is in the claims report.

My wife and I are currently watching a drug cartel, bad guys chasing good guys, who are chasing other bad guys, type of action drama. With all this chasing, men and women are constantly jumping down from first or second floor apartment dwellings and tiered parking lots, landing on some platform or the street below, often falling a couple of body lengths. Through one and a half seasons of such activity, what’s amazing is how effective the art of ‘tuck and roll’ has served in saving the show’s main characters from minimally incurring a sprained ankle, or even suffering a loss of breath. The hero and heroine either jump or are tossed down, tuck and roll, dust themselves off, then start running again. It’s like they’re all cats. Needless to say, when non-Hollywood humans fall from 8-10 feet, a break or sprain is usually the best case scenario. In most cases, things shatter, leading to months of recovery. So, if you’ve got roof work to perform, and you’re adamant in wanting to complete this task yourself, invest in a roofer’s safety harness, it’ll at least give those passing by a little peace of mind.

Good building.

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

The gambler

Replace a few cracked tiles, or do the whole thing over? Our handyman gives his answer. Postmedia Network

Case #465, titled “Dealers Choice” has a Mr. Jacques Chardonnay, aka “Black Jack”, due to his propensity to lay down a few bucks at the gaming table, unsure as to where to place his next bet. At stake is the future of his ceramic kitchen floor.

Black Jack very much likes his ceramic floor, but with six to seven cracked tiles in need of replacement, the question is, does he roll the dice, and surgically remove and replace each cracked tile individually? Or, with a five-pound sledge, cover all his bets, pound the hell out of the floor, then replace the entire surface?

Jacques, a gambler, and with several spare ceramic tiles in the basement (because a good gambler always hedges his bet) he’s leaning towards the strategy of replacing the six to seven tiles, since it would would be far less intrusive to the general workings of the household, rather than having to destroy and replace about 200 pieces.

The gamble of course, or risk factor in replacing only the cracked tiles, lies in the fact his kitchen floor may inherently be compromised. In other words, if the integrity of the floor’s joist system falters as guests linger around the center island, thereby allowing for a little bounce, or the plywood used as the underlay was too thin, these newly cemented tiles may crack as easily as their predecessors. After all the effort that would be required to carefully remove, reinstall, and grout even a small number of tiles, it would be heartbreaking to watch them crack all over again.

Decision? We’re replacing only the cracked tiles. Are we carelessly throwing caution to the wind, tempting fate, or playing a game where the odds overwhelmingly favor the house? Perhaps. However, before setting these new replacement tiles in position, we’re going to tilt the odds a little more in our favor, load the dice, or mark the cards, so to speak, in order to lessen our risk of going bust.

The reason for tile failure is most likely related to the floor moving, as opposed to these tiles being simply defective. Once the cracked tiles have been removed, and before we simply mortar the new tiles in position, we’re going to re-strengthen the bond between the 5/8” plywood floor, and what’s in this case, a half-inch plywood underlay. Once standard issue, spruce plywood is no longer the preferred choice as an underlay. Plywood is strong, but it always remains somewhat flexible, which is great in most cases of general household construction, except for the case of ceramic tiled floors, which need an underlay to be inflexible and rock solid.

Today’s first choice for ceramic tile underlays include Fiberock and Durock, both fiber-cement based sheathings, or Schluter’s Kerdi matting, an orange colored, dimpled plastic.

With some of the cracked tiles sporadically spaced amongst the good tiles, and others creating only a small cluster of cracked tiles, it’ impossible in this case to replace the underlay. With the cracked tiles removed, make sure to completely remove the old mortar and grouting from the space. Because any mortar or grout residue left behind will either lessen the strength of the bond between ceramic and plywood, or interfere with how the replacement tiles lay in position, really cleaning out the space is key. Use a Shop-Vac and water dampened cloth to ensure every bit of dust is removed from the plywood underlay. Next, use 1-1/2 inch laminating screws, screwed every four inches apart, to effectively bond this weak spot in the underlay to the plywood subfloor.

Don’t use regular wood or floor screws. Floor screws work well to fasten plywood to spruce lumber, relying on their length for strength. Laminating screws have a heavier thread that runs the entire length of the shaft, and are more effective at bonding two sheets of plywood together. With this weakened area now a lot more solid, the tiling can begin. Then, we wait and see how the cards fall.

Case #465 closed. Good building.

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

Ceramic surgery

When pulling up ceramic tiles, patience is key.

Today we replace the few cracked ceramic tiles in our kitchen and/or bathroom floor areas.

One of the keys to this renewal attempt will be, of course, having the available replacement tiles on hand. That’s why buying a couple of extra boxes of tiles, just in case, is good insurance against having to replace the entire room, or simply leaving things as is, both undesirable situations.

So, with our replacement tiles (either actual, or hopefully close replicas of the originals) in hand, let’s review our goal, procedural strategy, and compile a list of the necessary tools for the job.

Our goal? As always, to specifically and successfully complete the task at hand, without the careless creation of collateral damage that may incur further, unrelated type repairs or renovations to unspecified portions of the home, incurring further expense and emotional strain between you and your spouse.

Procedural strategy? As mentioned in today’s headline, this will be a surgical procedure, thereby requiring patience and pinpoint accuracy. If we were talking total tile replacement, then the headline would have been “No Holds Barred” or “Seed of Chucky Renovation Day” relating to the fact a five-pound sledge, pry-bar, and a whole lot of blood and mayhem, would have been the order of the day.

Basically, we will begin by removing the grout surrounding the tile, followed by tapping the tile lightly in order to encourage it to pop off its mortar base. Next, insert a chisel into the crack on the tile’s surface, and begin chipping away at this week point in the tile until you’ve made your way through to the plywood substrate. Once you’ve hit plywood, tap the chisel so that it wedges under a small portion of the tile, then begin to gently pry the tile upwards. Pry forward, by tilting the chisel handle upwards, instead of forcing the chisel handle down towards the floor. This way, the tile is forced up in a manner that is less threatening to the neighboring tiles.

The process of removing a tile can be painstakingly slow at first, but its necessary risk management. Damaging a perfectly good neighboring tile should you work too aggressively will be lousy, and frustrating, since you’ve now created another 30 minutes of patient, careful work for yourself. Once the tile has been broken up and removed from the space, use your chisel to pry up any remaining grout and mortar. Key point. The road to success regarding the removal of a tile starts with the removal of the grout. Because the grout connects and somewhat bonds the side of each tile to its neighbor, it needs to be completely removed. Otherwise, even the most careful prying might cause you to damage an adjoining tile should they still be connected by a bridge of grout.

Tools for this procedure? Because the removal of grout is so important, and the most technical, meticulous part of the task, I would strongly recommend you either borrow, rent, or invest in an oscillating tool. A carbide tipped utility knife could remove the grout, but you’d be hating yourself five minutes into the task. You may consider using a grinder, since it’s likely an existing weapon in your tool arsenal, but its high speed action is far too aggressive, risking you damaging adjoining tiles, while spreading a fine dust into every crack and crevice in the home. The shimmering, or vibrating action of an oscillating tool (along with the proper carbide tipped blade) will safely and effectively cut through the grout like it was butter. A three-quarter inch wood chisel and three pound mallet serve well to pry up the tiles and remove bits and pieces of grout and mortar, while a dust mask, safety glasses, knee pads, and Tylenol (taken before and after the job to ease the lower back pain) complete the cast of supporting tools.

Next week, floor prep and tile installation. Good building.

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

Potentially ours

If you have the time, and the funds, a house with potential can be a good idea. Postmedia Network

Case #527, titled “temporarily cramped”, finds homebuyer Fred Frigozia, aka ‘Freddy the Fridge’ due to his rather large 6 ft. 10 inch, 400 pound frame, and unwise habit of dressing completely in white, which on occasion has created some awkwardness as unassuming shoppers check out his body for the optional ice dispenser should he locate himself in the appliance department of the local mall, somewhat undecided.

Fred just married Freda, a petite lady, and their plans are to have children, with these offspring likely having careers as either ballerinas, or starting linemen for the Dallas Cowboys. Fred and Freda are at a turning point in their lives. What’s at stake? Fred’s a big guy. Big guys require space, and with the family about to grow, Fred and Freda are concerned that their possible purchase of a 1000 square foot bungalow that’s most recently come up for sale, won’t suit their needs in the long term.

Now, why not just bypass this rather smallish home and continue the search for something else? Although the home is small, and in need of repair, the yard is huge, with the home beautifully located in an older community close to schools, the hospital, and various other resources. So, even though this existing home would receive a poor grade if judged on its own merit, the fact that the location is terrific, boosts this home’s grade up to one of great potential.

If money isn’t an issue, then the strategy regarding such an investment would be a no-brainer. Buy the property, tear down the home, or attempt to sell it to somebody looking for a pre-built hunting cabin, then erect a two story home on either the existing, or modified foundation walls.

In Fred and Freda’s case, the money would be available to purchase the property, with another 20-30 thousand left to put towards renovations. So, the existing needs of the home, including minor siding, kitchen, bathroom, and back deck repairs, could be accomplished well within their budget, but as far as tearing down and rebuilding, well, that’s a dream that would only be years away.

So, what to do? In Fred and Freda’s case, the answer’s as plain as the heel on Freddy’s size 15 boot. If you’re old, you base your purchases on necessity. If you’re Fred and Freda’s age, you probably have the energy, and hopefully a lot of years ahead of you, to make a purchase based on potential.

My suggestion: Buy the little home with the great lot and establish a five-year plan. In the interim, accept the cramped conditions, and slowly start making this place a little more comfortable.

The good thing about owning a home with potential is that it forever holds its value, with generally every penny put into the home recouped in the event of a sale.

Where to start? Well, the four exterior walls are the only untouchables. Other than that, and with the OK of a local engineering firm, you could possibly eliminate the wall that often separates a small kitchen from small living room. With a little ingenuity, two small rooms can add up to one big space. The same goes for the bedrooms. Three bedrooms can be reduced to two, with the master bedroom possibly gaining its own bathroom in the transition.

Next, look to the outdoors. Your new acquisition may not be able to handle you hosting the entire clan for Christmas dinner, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t have the folks over for Canada Day. If indoor living space is limited, then create an outdoor living area by replacing the existing back door and 4’x6’ laundry hanging platform, with a patio door and deck that spans the width of the home. Cover this deck area with a pergola to help shade the sun, or leave a portion of the space available to accommodate a screened in gazebo.

With potential comes greatness.

Case #527 closed. Good building.

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

Speech from the throne

Tub separate from your shower? A must, says the handyman. Postmedia Network

Visiting Europe is always an enlightening experience. Besides being overwhelmed by the medieval castles, and the stories of revolution, pillaging, and conquest, where inevitably somebody gets beheaded, I must say I was quite impressed by the bathroom in our hotel room.

Basically designed to serve two people, the bathroom contained all essential services, including a walk-in shower stall, double sink counter top, tub and toilet. Beside the toilet was a bidet. A relatively common feature in European bathrooms, the bidet offers the toilet user a post cleansing spray of warm water, instead of having to use toilet paper. For whatever reason, the bidet has never really caught on in Canada, which is unfortunate, since the use of toilet paper seems so barbaric, and wasteful, compared to the more effective, and pleasurable experience of cleansing that area with a fountain of warm water.

So, if a bathroom renovation, or new home build are in the plans, save a little room for the more culturally enlightening bidet. Will the bidet replace the need to have a roll of toilet paper fastened to the wall? Theoretically, you could eliminate this forever shrinking roll as a bathroom appendage. However, the peasants and commoners who frequent your home may not understand the mechanics of the bidet without the aid of a user friendly diagram on the wall, or they may be bashfully intimidated by it. As a result, and until those persons evolve past their regular, trailer park manner, you will most likely require having the optional soft grade paper on a roll.

Next, and excellent bathroom feature no.2, the closet toilet, or essentially, an enclosed toilet. Basically, instead of the toilet (and accompanying bidet) being out in the open, this quaint area would be sealed off from the balance of the bathroom by means of a few walls and a door, hence the toilet in a closet effect. Now, toilets behind closed doors are nothing new, with every sports complex or school offering some form of toilet segregation. However, when you can see the feet of the person beside you, and the sounds or conversation are unhindered, where even the space under the separating wall will allow you to pass a supply of paper to this toilet neighbor, should he or she have run out, then this moment falls somewhat short of a private experience.

Regardless of the fact the bathroom areas in a home are rarely shared, sometimes someone has to get in while the other is stuck on the throne. For that reason, and for those times when two people are preparing themselves for a night out on the town, the closet toilet is a nice, and relatively easy modification to any bathroom space.

Best case scenario would have the closet toilet containing such amenities as an independent exhaust fan, and classical music settings. While the reason for an exhaust fan is obvious, your classical music settings should include renditions of Bach, for times of personal reflection and contemplation, and a few of the more powerful classics, including Beethovan’s 5th symphony, to effectively drown out the disturbing effects of somebody carelessly choosing the extra spicy hot sauce at Tuesday’s wing night.

Last but not least, keep the shower separate from the tub. Showering in a tub may save space, but the sliding doors, or curtains, can be an unattractive, pain in the butt to clean. Plus, we tend to shower a lot more than we bathe, making the ritual of stepping in and out of a tub an obstacle us 50+ people should be avoiding. So, for ease and simplicity, consider the walk-in shower stall. If stall space permits, add a second shower head, because that can be fun also.

And the tub? Leave it on its own, and make sure it’s of the deep, soaker variety. Showers are easy, but nothing soothes achy bones like being submerged in a hot bath.

Good building.

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

The only thing that looks like wood, is wood

Wood siding is beautiful, but takes work to maintain. Postmedia Network

Case no. 215, titled “the winds of change” has a Mr. Martin V. Particular, aka ‘MVP’, due to his prowess on the local seniors pickleball circuit, looking for a solution to an exterior siding problem he and his wife Penny P., aka Penny Poo, have been dealing with for several years now.

The Particulars own a home with a beautifully stained, pine horizontal siding. The situation? The back of the home faces the south-west, and therefore sees a ton of prolonged sunlight, while having to suffer through the brunt of our inclement weather. The problem? Stained wood sidings don’t exactly thrive under these conditions. As a result, Martin finds himself sanding and re-staining the backside of his home on practically a biannual basis, due to the finish having peeled or crackled.

MVP doesn’t so much hate the task of sanding and staining, since the results make for a very attractive, and unique type of real wood finish, but of course the time involved in keeping this siding looking pristine is edging into his practice sessions, which is killing the chances of him and penny Poo maintaining their no.1 ranking on the seniors mixed doubles tour.

Homeowner’s goal? Martin and Penny are looking for a comparable, horizontal, maintenance free type of siding that will match the color of the three other exterior walls of the home. The challenge? The “V” in Martin V. Particular often stands for “Very”. So, this isn’t simply a case of saying goodbye to a high maintenance wood product, and replacing it with any number of composite, vinyl, steel, or fiber cement type sidings available on the market today. The very Particulars are looking for something that is both maintenance free, and a close match to the walnut stained pine planks on the balance of their home.

Likelihood of success? You’d have a better chance of convincing the Habs Carey Price to switch from goaltending, to filling the vacant no.1 center position between Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. Unfortunately, the only thing that looks like wood, is wood. The composites and various other maintenance free sidings all somewhat resemble wood, and to the neighbor driving by at 80 km per hour, basically looks like wood, but when put side by side with wood, usually makes for a disappointing match.

So, with Martin Particular being very particular, finding a suitable alternative to his existing pine siding has to this point been fruitless. Suggested plans of action? The existing pine siding is beautiful, and in good condition, with the only issue being maintenance. So, instead of replacing it, why not protect it? In essence, all this southern facing wall needs is a little shade.

Extreme option no.1, bring in three 40 ft. hard maple trees. Otherwise, the Particulars should perhaps extend the roof over their backyard deck and patio. Or, consider installing either one large, or a couple of pergolas along this same backyard deck area. If this southwest facing wall is getting too much sun, then so too are the Particulars. The MVP and Penny Poo are already getting more than their share of vitamin D due to regular outdoor pickleballing. With a pergola providing intermittent shade, or full shade if you chose the aluminum model with the movable louvers, it may be the best and least intrusive solution, since a pergola is self- standing, and requires minimum deck preparation.

Or, paint the wall. Painting would keep the shape of the wood siding intact, but obviously forfeit the warmth of the wood grain. However, paints last longer than stains, and require only repainting, as opposed to the more arduous task of having to sand, stain, and seal. Otherwise, this wood siding may have flat-lined, or basically served its purpose, and it’s time for MVP to call it.

The alternatives to wood are many, with several pre-finished steel and aluminum sidings offering beautiful, wood grain type finishes.

Until further notice, case no. 215 is closed.

Good building.

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

Foghorn’s foggy morning

Fog in the pane? Our handyman has the answer. Postmedia Network

Case #345, titled “The Rooster’s lost his head” has a Mr. Fogazio Legano, aka ‘Foghorn Leghorn’ a nickname he picked up in grade school, due in part to his schoolmates from the local farming community having difficulty pronouncing his name, along with this term of endearment somewhat reflecting his large, boisterous manner, waking up to a foggy day.

In actuality, the morning was a little cool, but quite clear, with a bright sun rising slowly over the silos. What fooled Foghorn was the fact the thermal pane glass in his bedroom double hung window had suffered a broken seal, and had basically fogged up.

A thermal pane unit is essentially two sheets of glass united by a spacer, then further sealed with a rubberized type of air-tight band. Thermal pane glass is also referred to as an insulated pane because the space between the two sheets of glass is filled with argon gas, along with a clear film of material (Low-E) attached to the inside panel.

Argon gas is a colorless, odorless, and harmless gas that’s five and a half times heavier than air. The argon’s weight factor is what makes it several times superior to air when it comes to insulating a space. The clear low-E film allows light and some solar heat to pass through, while reflecting the heat provided by the home’s furnace, back into the room. Having both argon gas and Low-E film in a sealed unit is what creates a glass pane of optimal efficiency.

When the seal on a thermal window breaks, the argon gas escapes into the atmosphere, and is replaced with air. On a cool fall morning, this air will condensate in between the panes of glass, causing what’s simply known as a foggy window.

What really upset Fogazio though, was that due to him thinking the climate outdoors was so unfavorable, he ended up binge watching seasons 1 through 8 of ‘The Gilmore Girls’ with his girlfriend Juanita, aka Miss Prissy, basically wasting what was a beautiful weekend.

As a result of this lost opportunity, and with a few other windows in his home experiencing this same condensation issue, Foghorn began ranting and running about the place like a chicken, er, rooster with his head cut off. With his head still in a buzz, Fogazio called the number off a flyer he had seen in the mailbox some weeks before — it simply read as “Freddy’s Fog Removal” specializing in removing condensation from thermal glass panes, just call Freddy, aka ‘fast Freddy’, aka ‘Freddy the fog’.

Within days, Freddy showed up, and proceeded to drill a hole in each thermal pane, followed by the installation of a vent valve to help keep the window clear. This type of venting process, or strategy, can work, and if your goal is simply to have a clear window to look out of, then this is certainly a convenient, and less expensive (at least initially) solution to a foggy window. However, there’s a downside to convenience. The mini spare tire that allows you to drive your car home after a blowout, is convenient, as is using duct tape to hold up a sagging muffler, or having a bag of mixed nuts in your glove compartment, should you get a bout of the hungries. Convenience is good, but it’s inefficient, and only temporary. Without the argon gas, and with air moving freely into the pane, the glass panel has lost 50 percent of its capacity to retain heat.

As the months passed, these re-conditioned windows began to once again condense, along with a few other random panes. After evaluating the situation with Fogazio, it was decided the only two acceptable solutions to his window condensation problem would be to either replace the failed glass with new thermal panes, or in the case where the window was having operational difficulty, replace the window entirely. This way, maximum efficiency and home value would be maintained.

Case #345 closed. Good building.

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