Once upon a roof

Roofing has changed quite a bit over the years. Postmedia Network

Home builders once used 1×8 spruce planking to cover the roof trusses of a new home under construction. That was once.

The strategy basically involved the following. Build the retaining walls for the poured concrete foundation using 1×8 spruce lumber. Then, once the cement was dry, the spruce planking would be removed and used as sheeting material over the roof trusses. One product, serving two purposes, and although a little labor intensive, produced hardly any clean-up or waste to speak of. In those days we also put chains on our summer tires for better winter traction, used rotary phones, and thought lawn darts to be a great summer game for the whole family.

Times have changed. Winter tires have become the standard, rotary phones are about as common as a Stanley cup parade down Yonge Street, while lawn darts have been taken off the retail consumer shelves completely, having been remarketed as the preferred weapon of choice for those low-budget mercenary types.

Was the use of 1×8 spruce planking as a roof sheeting a bad idea? In retrospect, no. Back then we were roofing homes with what was known as an organic shingle, due to its base consisting of a mixture of asphalt and wood fibers. Organic shingles were flexible, and molded themselves easily over the not so perfect 1×8 planking. Plus, warranties back then were in the 10-15 year range. So, if a roof lasted 10-12 years or so, people were generally satisfied. If tearing off these old shingles and replacing them with new ones seemed excessive, people would simply re-roof, adding a second, or even third layer of asphalt shingles. If the homeowner chose to go with steel roofing, as opposed to asphalt, then the steel would either get screwed directly to the planking, or the installer would first install 1×4 rough spruce, spaced every 16-24 inches, over the existing 1×8 planking. Either way, emphasis concerning the protection of one’s home was placed on the surface product, not so much on the substrate.

Today, roofs occasionally leak. In the olden days, they leaked a lot. Why roofs leak less today has everything to do with the substrate, along with better education and information relating to proper venting, and attic insulation. So, what have we learned over the years? 1×8 spruce lumber will expand, shrink, and with prolonged exposure to water, will of course rot. However, the main knock against the old plank system is the issue of movement. You can’t install something that doesn’t want to move, like fiberglass shingles, or steel roofing, over something that naturally, due to our varying climate and atmospheric conditions, can’t stay still. That would be like wrapping a puppy in gift paper, setting it under the tree Christmas Eve, and expecting it to stay still, without wrinkling or tearing the wrapping paper, until the surprised recipient picks it up the next morning.

When the substrate moves, screws loosen, nails pop, and when the shingle tiles separate from each other, or in the case of steel roofing, the overlap on the ridge develops a gap, your roof will no longer be water impermeable.

The first sign of a breach in the roofing system is the decorative sunburst that develops on your ceiling, or a domed ceiling fixture filled with water, enabling you to create the very unique ceiling fish bowl (just don’t turn on the power).

The key to a roof’s long term success in shedding water is stability, and that can only be achieved by nailing or screwing it into plywood. So, if you own a home with a boarded roof, be sure to remove all existing shingles, then fasten a layer of 3/8” spruce plywood directly to the 1×8 lumber. Next, cover this plywood with a quality synthetic felt, then install the required roof venting. Your roof is now ready to receive the finished product.

Good building.

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

The camper

Case no.424, titled ‘The Not so Happy Camper’ has us examining the case involving a Mr. Lee K. Tent a.k.a. “the camper” and his frustrations with a building supply center that inadvertently burnt his marshmallows.

As the story goes, the camper ordered a bathroom vanity and sink combination, and was told the unit would take approximately two to three weeks to arrive. A few days into week two, the camper inquired as to the exact timing of the delivery, and was given a tentative date of Wednesday, the usual delivery day for this Toronto based manufacturer, in the week that was to follow. The camper was then cautioned that due to this particular week having a long weekend, with Monday being a holiday, the vanity unit could, and most likely would, be delayed until Thursday, or maybe even Friday of that same week.

Furthermore, the camper was also instructed that as soon as the vanity arrived, he would be called, and an arranged time for said delivery established.

With that knowledge tucked safely into his zippered chest pocket, the camper threw caution into the campfire, hedged the likelihood of a timely delivery with the prayer that a long weekend in Ontario wouldn’t have the 401 backed up from Belleville to Burlington, and in anticipation of a Wednesday delivery, instructed his plumber to arrive first thing Thursday morning.

Thursday morning arrives, along with the sun, chirping birds, a plumber with a full coffee thermos, but no vanity. Camper waits until noon to call, tells the salesperson he’s been paying a plumber to twiddle his thumbs for the last four hours, wants to know when he will be receiving his vanity, and further wants to know who’s going to compensate him for the time loss and money owed to his plumber.

With the answer to this request somewhat beyond the responsibility scale of the salesperson in question, it’s recommended to camper that he speak directly with management. Upon meeting the manager, our disgruntled soul simply states, “Hello, my name is Lee K. Tent, and just so you know, I’m not a happy camper.”

Why do people camp? What’s the attraction to leaving the safe confines of your home, your couch, your fridge, and especially a bathroom only 15 paces away, to live in a ghetto of tents and trailers, where the only hint of running water is the charming sound of your intoxicated neighbor urinating against the bumper of your pick-up truck?

Although sympathetic to the emotional stress and non-substantiated financial loss of this unhappy camper, the manager unfortunately had to school Mr. Tent on the fact his high risk renovation strategy was pretty well doomed from the moment he dialed 1-800-plumber.

The strategy to ordering cabinetry, appliances, or any type of product that requires installation, should be as follows. Once the product is ordered, and an approximate timeline of delivery is established, check the availability of your preferred licensed tradesperson. Don’t book a date, simply establish a week where this installer could be available. If the product you’ve ordered is going to require several weeks to arrive, have your supplier keep you updated on its progress. When you’re told of your product’s impending delivery to your home, notify, but don’t book your installer. There are too many variables, gremlins, and unknown forces out there that could still rain on your campfire.

Next, be home when the delivery crew arrives with your cabinet, making sure to having cleared the walkway. Installing a roll of protective cardboard felt on your floor, should this unit need to be carried to a specific area, is also a good idea.

Finally, inspect the unit. If there are no dents and scratches, if it’s of the right size and color, and if there are no reasons to demand its return, call your installer.

With the camper having failed to follow any of these precautions, he was left holding his uncooked sausage, with no further compensation provided. Case #424 closed.

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

Let’s be clear

Have an idea of what you need before you order from the lumberyard, says Handyman Hints. Postmedia Network

“I think I need . . . no . . . no . . . well. . . let me see, OK, make that eight pieces of 4x4x10 treated lumber, now . . . nope, that’s not right,

OK, I’m sorry about this, I’m trying to read the list my carpenter gave me, and you wouldn’t believe what just happened on the ‘Crazy Pet Tricks’ TV program I’m presently watching, OK, so make that 10 pieces of 4 by, now . . . is that a 10 or a 12 — jeepers, if I brought this list into you, do you think you could help me figure out this guy’s writing?

That, my friends, if there was any doubt, is the wrong way in which to order building supplies over the phone.

So, in an effort to make your building or renovating experience as pleasurable and less stressful as possible, let’s go over some of the do’s and don’ts of ordering and receiving lumber.

Rule no.1, keep things clear, to the point, and simple.

When ordering products for delivery over the phone, first provide the clerk with your name and delivery instructions. Then state the name of the product desired, followed by the quantity. If the list you’re following was not prepared by yourself, be sure to study and understand its contents before you dial. And, please avoid the infamous voice call relay. Trying to focus on the voice of the person ordering the product, while hearing the faint, barking echoes being delivered by the guy on the couch eating a sandwich, whose receiving his instructions by the hired carpenter in some room 20 feet further away, will be painful for whoever’s serving you.
Best case scenario is to have the person who’s performing the task, do the ordering.

I’m always flabbergasted when I meet a customer, and it’s usually some little blue haired granny, who’s been given the task by their contractor of searching for and picking up a list of specialty items they’re totally unfamiliar with. That would be like granny asking her contractor to pick up the necessary ingredients for Crêpe Suzette.

Also, don’t be the fellow who walks up to the service desk, grabs a notepad from beside the cash, takes about 30 seconds to draw a series of sticks and rectangles, adds in a few numbers, then pushes the sheet back to the clerk with an inquiry as to how much it’s going to cost to build a deck of this size. Again, all we’re asking for is a little respect for the world of retail, and the consumer beside you who may not want to stick around while an attempt is made to decipher your chicken scratch.

If you’re the builder, and we’re talking about a relatively simple project, go to bed early, get up with the sun, make yourself a coffee, then sit down at your kitchen table and figure out exactly what products you think you’re going to require. Then, take that run down to your local building supply dealer.

Even with a complete list, there will likely be questions. However, it’ll be a much quicker procedure if you, as the builder, are prepared. If you’re not the builder, and simply want to get a quote on the material cost of a project, be sure to set up an appointment with an estimator. Calling to make an appointment, or requesting a meeting by e-mail with a specific estimator, is best. Dropping into a building supply center, and expecting an estimator to be free to give you immediate estimating service, is hit and miss. So, to avoid disappointment and loss of time, call ahead.

How to handle deliveries? One, be home. And two, clear the walking and dumping area of any obstacles. Power lines are the big ticket item the delivery trucks don’t want to snag. As a result, the driver’s eyes are usually looking up as they back up, and not down at the tricycle left carelessly at the edge of the driveway.

Next week, checking what you’ve received. Good building.

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

Permit me to ask

I don’t like having to get a building permit, basically because the whole process is a pain in the butt.

Building permits, due to the rules, regulations, and compliances that accompany even the changing of a kitchen sink, inevitably incur delays. That being said, I’d still never start a project without one. And, until somebody comes up with a more streamlined version of today’s turtle-like procedure, building permits are the public’s only assurance, or confidence, that what they’re investing in has been properly assembled.

A lot of homeowners find little need in procuring a building permit. They justify this omission by hiring experienced carpenters, or people that just know how to do things. This way, they save a few bucks on labor, permits, and the future tax hit. Unfortunately, this strategy is short sighted. You personally, may be comfortable with the fact a few buddies from keg league hockey and yourself managed to create extra living room space by removing a couple of walls that may or may not have been load bearing, but what’s the next home dweller going to think?

That’s why you get a permit, because it’s as much for you, as it is the next fellow. Permits and the accompanying structural drawings, are the next buyer’s only assurance that whatever renovation was performed on your home, was done correctly.

Which, brings us to case #245, tag name “Stairway to Heaven”, and involves a young couple visiting a century old farm house that had most recently been put up for sale. As suspected, and somewhat expected, the floors of this former farm house were a little crooked. Which is understandable. After 120-plus years of supporting weddings, births, and funerals, expecting a floor of this age to remain true and level would be a little unjust. Plus, this type of floor slant is often coveted, due to it providing generations of occupants with what’s regarded as the ol’ homestead advantage when it came to games of pool or salon bowling.

Generally, a little forgiveness to straight and level would be afforded a home of this age. As the couple progressed through the home, and ventured into what was most likely an addition, the unevenness of the floor became even more evident. Unfortunately, the present day occupants were unable to relay any information regarding the year this addition took place, and of course had no permit documentation for reference.

So, we know the house is old, has slanted floors, and that someone, at some point, built an addition. House is a little crooked, floors are a little crooked, and the addition, without documentation, is a little suspect.

I know, happens all the time. A home is purchased, then usually renovated, then gets sold to a younger generation that wants to implement their own changes or additions all over again. It’s the life cycle of a home. However, without documentation, how is the next buyer supposed to feel comfortable mortgaging their future on such an investment?

Moo…ving along, the visitors find themselves upstairs, to which they notice a steel framed spiral staircase, leading up to a finished room in the attic. Not sure, but the last time I visited the homes situated at Upper Canada Village, I didn’t notice many second floor spiral staircases. Most likely because heat retention was key to survival, whereby the opening up of an attic for supplementary space would have been considered a deathblow. So, the chances of this oddity being part of the original 1887 house plan were unlikely. Documentation and stamped engineered drawings relating to having cut open the ceiling joists and modified the 120-plus year old rafters? None. Assurances that this undocumented, permit-less, and otherwise unauthorized renovation won’t lead to roof collapse, where this circular stairway to the next level may indeed be this young couple’s stairway to heaven? Again, none.

Recommendation to this young couple, who otherwise found the house quite endearing. Walk away. Case #245 closed.

Good building.

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