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

Watch fall temperatures

If you’re planning on doing some caulking in the fall, make sure the temperature is at least 5 degrees celsius. Postmedia Network.

So, you’re finally getting around to preparing your home for the winter. Great!

Fall is an excellent time to be doing outdoor work. Not too hot, not too cold, and with the days getting shorter, darkness will force you to quit your tasks at a more reasonable hour, placing you safely in your slippers so that you may be fed and couch bound with a beer in your hand, well in time to catch the start of the hockey game.

What is the task at hand? To bolster our home’s system of defense. Who is the enemy? The demon is well known, and is the same, notorious culprit that’s been slowly destroying homes for years, that being water. It’s form? Rain, snow, sleet, or basically anything that pours or puddles. Strategy? To seal by means of a paint, caulking, or mastic (roofing and foundation cements), anything that resembles or what might be described as a crack.

There are a lot of products that form the exterior shell of the home, and the cracks are usually found where one of these products, such as your windows and doors, butts up against a foreign product, such as a brick or vinyl siding. The products themselves are usually fine, whereby the inherent design of a window, or the manner in which brick or vinyl siding is installed, are by themselves perfectly functional in diverting the elements. However, the challenge to the builder is joining two products such as these to form a watertight seal. Achieving this goal will require the installer using various membranes and flashing products, with the finishing touch to this assembly being a bead of caulking. Over time, it’s the bead of caulking that’s going to shrink and crack, which leaves the homeowner with no other choice but to re-caulk this important first line of defence.

Start by examining the roof (binoculars will help) specifically where the roofs flashings contact either the roof vents, or the side of the home, and make note of where the deficiencies, or problem areas are. Follow the same procedure for all windows and doors.

Although the fall weather provides a comfortable working atmosphere, the challenge at this point will be the falling temperatures. Caulking, paints or stains, and mastics, install better and more easily when the temperatures are at least 5 degrees Celsius. When the mercury drops below this basic user line, you risk the product not sticking properly to the surface it’s being adhered to. When caulking doesn’t stick, it won’t seal, which will mean having to follow this process over again next season.

Basic step number one, remove the paints, caulking, or mastic products from the car and put them somewhere in the house as soon as you get back from the building supply center. Don’t leave them in the garage, or forget them in the trunk of the car overnight. When caulking and mastics are left in temperatures that are close to freezing, they don’t squeeze out of the tube so well. When a cold caulking is moving slowly up the spout, the novice user will become impatient, and inevitably begin to over-squeeze the caulking lever, which usually results in the caulking blowing out the bottom of the tube. A caulking backfire has yet to result in serious injury, but the resulting gooey hands, and loss of what was a perfectly good tube of caulking, will be frustrating.

Next, watch the weather reports, and choose your time accordingly. You’ll want to install the caulking or mastic (roof repairs) while the temperatures will be in the 5 degree Celsius range for two to three hours.

If you’re hoping to do some fall painting or staining, or if the foundation is in need of parging, then you’ll require a 24-hour window of plus temperatures, due to these water based products taking longer to cure. So, if frost is expected overnight, you’ll have to wait until the next warm spell before proceeding.

Good building.

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

Stay off the grass

Just because you cut it, doesn’t mean you own it. Postmedia Network

Case #572 titled ‘The Barber on a Kubota’ has our Alonzo Andretti, aka “Scizzors” Andretti, due to his ability to cut an average man’s hair in under five minutes, including shaving of the back of the neck, and necessary eyebrow and ear trimmings, drawing the ire of his neighbors.

Alonzo has two passions, cutting hair, and cutting lawn, doing both at excessive speed, while maintaining an exquisite quality. What’s at issue is that Scizzors tends to not only cut his neighbor’s head, but his neighbor’s lawn as well, often crossing what’s regarded as the relative property line between homes. And, as everybody knows, you don’t cut your neighbor’s lawn, unless of course there’s 50 bucks in it for you.

Regardless, because Alonzo regularly trims his lawn down to almost putting green height, while his neighbors aren’t near as meticulous in their cutting, basically encouraging dandelion growth, Alonzo’s habit of overcutting has his property looking quite larger than it is. Which legally, isn’t an issue. Having your neighbor mowing two feet over into your property for 25 years won’t automatically transfer that piece of land over to them, simply because they’ve theoretically maintained it for that length of time. However, if through the years Alonzo continues his habit of overcutting, all while the properties next to him get sold and purchased a number of times, without one of these new homeowners bothering to have a survey done, then the relative property line will certainly begin to differ from the actual property line.

In most cases, homeowners assume, and generally accept, that the property line between properties is approximately the halfway point between the two homes. However, if one neighbor has in the past built an addition, or garage, which further widened their home to the very edge of their property line, then the midway rule would no longer apply. When this widened home comes up for sale, with the home next to it being sold a few years later, without a survey being completed by either party, then these new homeowners will simply assume the line is again, running somewhere down the middle of the properties.

In most cases, neighbors get along. They may not like that Alonzo is cutting into their property, and may have even mentioned this to him in the past. But, in order to keep the peace, because in most cases it isn’t a big deal, people tend to leave the Alonzos of this world to enjoy their riding mowers. There’s never an issue, of course, until one homeowner decides to have a survey done on their property, and discovers that their neighbor’s driveway crosses their property line, or the drainage pipe running the length of their neighbor’s property, and installed by the former owner of this adjacent property 20 years before, actually belongs to them, or the just completed deck by their neighbor, stretches two feet onto their property. Then what do you do? Well, decks can be cut back, and driveways can be modified, but if a drainage pipe is serving the best interests of the homes in the immediate area, then removing such a structure may get you into a legal tussle with the local township.

It’s certainly strange that people will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home, yet forgo the thousand bucks it cost sto have a survey completed. So, if you’re about to purchase a new home in an area where the properties are not so well defined, request that the property be surveyed. If you own a home where the property line is a best guess scenario, due to the steel pins being no longer visible, or their location buried and long forgotten, pay to have a survey completed.
When the property lines between neighbors are clear, things tend to go along a lot more smoothly. And Alonzo, well, he’ll have to live with a few survey stakes guiding him back onto his property. Case #572 closed.

Good building.

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

Just be clear

Don’t assume your contractor will guess right as to what you want done. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

With my broken elbow about to go under the knife in the next 15 minutes, the orthopedic surgeon pushed his way through the swinging doors of the surgical room, making his way towards the gurney on which I lay. “We’re doing the left elbow today, is that correct?” he questioned.

Being very careful not to respond “that’s right”, I simply stated “that is correct”. “OK then” he confirmed, to which he then lifted my forearm, pulled a wax pencil from his breast pocket, and drew a large “X” on my left elbow.

Here was a 50-something-year-old fellow, with years of education, practice, and probably a thousand repaired knees and elbows under his belt, relying on an “X” to remind him of what body part he was about to repair that morning.

A few months later, I’m buying sod from one of our local growers, and as he’s getting set to leave the property after dropping off the several pallets of rolled up lawn, he says to me with a smile, “Oh by the way, green side up.” To which I responded, “Okay, I’ll try to remember that.”

Before the procedure of using X’s, were perfectly good body parts being operated on? Or, without the 10-second ‘green side up’ product knowledge seminar, had somebody in the past really laid their sod grass side down? Not sure, could have happened. Regardless, the moral of these stories is that no matter what the education, experience, and overall competency of the people you’ve hired to perform a new build, or renovation work on your home, leave absolutely nothing to chance.

After 35 years in retail, along with having witnessed construction and finishing work done by any number of very qualified individuals, if there’s anything I can pass on to the next person or couple looking to build or renovate, it is this: “Thinking your contractor will make the right decision, without your input, simply because he’s knowledgeable and experienced, will disappoint you every time.”

So, how should the average homeowner equip themselves in order to avoid disappointment when building or renovating a home? One, educate yourself about the product you’ve chosen, including how it’s to be sealed, installed, and finished. Two, make a list, or plan, as to how you want your flooring or windows installed, then hand this over to your installer. And three, go over the installation strategy before work begins. Until humans develop the advanced mental capability of being able to link minds, you and your contractor will never be able to truly work as one. As a result, if you’re teaching class, and the fellow installing the windows at your home couldn’t remember whether you had wanted a sill extension or not, whereby seeking the information from your husband was fruitless, due to him abstaining himself from all decision making, then with time being of the essence, the contractor will most probably make a decision on your behalf, and likely the wrong one.

Educating yourself on how a product is to be installed is usually as simple as reading the back of the product box. Some ceramic floor and wall tiles, especially the long and narrow styles, recommend a 1/3 coverage, instead of the more standard 50/50 or brick type pattern of placement. However, if the installer, although well versed in ceramic, is unfamiliar with this new type of tile you’ve chosen, then these specialty tiles will most probably be installed in a very regular fashion. Will they look bad? Probably not. Will visitors realize the error while sitting on your bathroom throne? Most likely not. But, if you happen to be in the lobby or washroom of some fancy hotel, and you see a similar tile installed in the manner to which it was supposed to be, you will have wished you’d had taken the few minutes to read the back of the box.

Leave no decision to chance.

Good building.

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