That’s a wrap

When building, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion exposed so that the wood may be allowed to ìbreatheî or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate. Postmedia Network

I think the inventors of Baggies sandwich bags, and Saran Wrap, are two of the most intelligent and opportunist people in the world. Intelligent because they’ve managed to develop a lightweight, flexible, and user friendly manner of sealing and protecting foodstuffs. Opportunists because they’ve not only developed something useful, but have enabled us, as humans, to fulfill one of our most instinctive and powerful needs, and that’s the simple desire of wanting to wrap things.

What do we do with a newborn baby? Although it’s referred to as a swaddle, we’re essentially wrapping ‘em. Bloody finger? Wrap it. Christmas gifts, sprained ankle, hole in the car’s muffler? Wrap, wrap, wrap.

After supper the other night, I wrapped or bagged 10 different leftover items and tossed them in the fridge. Approximately 50 per cent of these items will see action in the immediate future, two to three things might be caught in time for use, with the last one or two items forgotten and allowed to develop into 15 types of mold. Regardless, they were all good wraps.

What do we do with a staff meeting that’s gone 30 minutes into overtime? We wrap it up. So, what do we do with basically any wood project or structure? Well, if you’re still not sure as to the theme of this week’s rant, for the good of the wood, you wrap it. For all intents and purposes, plywoods, basic framework, and wooden posts, will stick around for the long term if they’re kept dry. The strategy to keeping wood dry in a four season climate such as ours is challenging because wood is a product that naturally absorbs moisture. So, with a “dry season” unfortunately not forming part of the four seasons we experience, our plywoods and 2×4 framing lumber are always in a state where they’re retaining some level of humidity, regardless of the fact the lumber was kiln dried at some point in its production. As a result, we can’t simply saran wrap every piece of lumber because that would trap the humidity, which would lead to our lumber looking like the aforementioned science experiment regarding the 15 types of mold. Instead, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion of the plywood or lumber exposed (with these exposed sides usually facing the interior of the building) so that the wood may be allowed to “breathe” or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate.

So, whether you’re building a shed, or 3000 sq. ft. home, we always protect the plywood walls with a house wrap. Because the interior, or what’s referred to as the warm side of a standard, insulated wall, must have a plastic vapor barrier, in order to prevent moisture from entering the wall cavity, the outside wall cannot be saran wrapped, or covered in the same manner, because that would trap the moisture already in the plywood, and stud framework. So, we cover the exterior wall with a house wrap, a product that sheds water, should rain or snow makes its way past the siding, but is still porous enough to allow the wood to breathe.

Our plywood roofs require the same type of protection. Although asphalt paper was for the longest time the product of choice, synthetic felts are the better product. Similar to a house wrap, synthetic roof felts shed water and breathe. However, they differ from house wraps in that they reflect UV light, and are far superior to paper felts because they can protect a roof for up to six months, which is a real bonus when inclement weather causes unforeseen delays.

Other areas in need of protection are the wooden framework around windows and doors. When the caulking around a window or door frame begins to shrink or crack, water infiltrates into the wall and puddles on the sill, leading to mold or rot. For this reason, we now wrap three out of the four sides of the wooden frames with a rubberized membrane.

Next week, more on wraps. Good building.

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

Window options

Installing new windows is never a bad idea but there are a few things to consider. Postmedia Network

My new pick-up truck comes with a manual the size of a New York City phonebook, explaining the roughly 500 electronic display and movable part options that are all designed to make my driving life more comfortable.

Including the heated seats, automatic windows, and time delayed windshield wipers, I have a pretty good grasp of about five of these 500 computer advancements. I did, however, participate in the 60-minute orientation lesson regarding these options, well . . . actually, I cut the deliberations short by about 50 minutes, mostly because I find modern electronic type conversations tiresome, and all I really needed to know was how to access the spare tire. So, I’m really the owner of a regular pick-up, with incredible potential.

Does my lack of adaptability somewhat reduce the value of all these personalized and voice recognition type options? Perhaps, but only until which time a more computer savvy, 25-year-old gets behind the wheel.

Windows are like automobiles, in that there are several options, or upgrades to choose from after deciding on either a casement, horizontal slider, or guillotine, base style unit. And, like a car option, some of these window options will deliver a more efficient, better performing window, while other options may simply enhance the looks. Because I value heated seats over fiery decals (isn’t aging a bummer) I lean towards those upgrades that provide real value.

In general, today’s CSA certified windows provide decent efficiency. So, even though a casement style of window will deliver better results than a horizontal slider on the national A440 test, with this test measuring a window’s performance in relation to air, water, and wind pressure, a new window, regardless of style, is a good renovation decision every time.

So, if the difference in window style performance is somewhat negligible, then what can we add to a base model window to make it better? Start with the glass. A standard thermal pane with Low-E glass delivers an R-value of 3.85, which when compared with your 15-20 year old existing window, is pretty impressive.

However, those numbers would never steal the headline from Donald Trump during a Wolf Blitzer situation room scrum. With the cost of heating fuel steadily on the rise, paying for a better thermal unit is definitely money well spent.

How do we make a thermal pane better? By adding more glass, essentially upgrading from a standard dual pane, to a triple pane unit. And, by adding more layers of Low-E film, going from one to four layers of this clear, energy saving coating. Now we’re talking about a glass unit that provides R 7.87 of thermal value (get Blitzer on the line). With 25 ;per cent of a home’s heat lost through the panes of glass, doubling the usual efficiency of your thermal panes will generate huge savings.

Next, eliminate any trace of wood. If you’re a lover of all things wood, then enjoy your wood kitchen table, wooden chairs, the purchasing of wood carvings, or join a Saturday morning arts and craft club that specializes in wooden stir stick creations, but avoid wood windows, or wood framing around your windows, like you would the plague. Simply put, wood sashes and wood jamb buildouts, will over time, disappoint.

Instead, choose a vinyl or aluminum clad window, with most importantly, a vinyl sill and buildout that extends the full depth of the wall. Window maintenance is something you want to avoid, and with several interior cladding colors to choose from, the value of a PVC finished jamb extension is worth every penny.

What option might a window purchaser avoid? Grills in the thermal pane. Colonial type window grills can look quite stylish, until misfortune leads to a cracked glass or thermal seal failure. Due to most companies having a lifetime warranty on the window, the challenge lies not in replacing the glass, but matching a grill molding that may have changed over the years. So, save yourself the headache of this fiasco, and order your windows with clear thermal pane units.

Good building.

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

How to buy a window

When installing windows, try to avoid the inserts and replace the whole thing. Postmedia Network

Whether you’re replacing an existing window, or buying windows for your future home, the process involved in choosing a type of window, along with the desired finish and depth of frame, is basically the same.

The only difference will be the sizing, whereby a new window going into the space of a window scheduled for termination, will of course have to conform to the existing parameters of this space.

What about insert windows? And are they a viable option? Insert windows are like fast food restaurants, in that they’re seemingly convenient at the time, but a choice you inevitably end up hating yourself for afterwards. An insert window refers more to the install strategy than any actual style of window. Essentially, they’re either a casement, guillotine, or slider type of window with a narrower, 3-1/4 inch frame.

The insert strategy has the contractor removing only the moving parts of the old window, or basically the sash and perhaps a few track moldings, leaving the frame of the old window intact. The replacement, or insert window, is then positioned in this remaining space. The insert strategy is convenient because the narrow, 3-1/4” depth of this unit, permits the installer to set the unit permanently in position with the use of a couple of quarter round moldings, and a tube of caulking. Unfortunately, like a trip through the fast food drive-through, the tummy ache to purchasing an insert window comes shortly afterwards.

Although the insert strategy satisfies the need for new glass panes, it does nothing to remedy the air infiltration issue surrounding the existing window frame, or rectify an often hidden water penetration (most likely causing mold) situation, or fix the general deterioration of the existing framework and interior moldings. Essentially, you’ve replaced an energy loser, that being the existing glass, with another energy loser, that being the new thermal pane, with a very marginal gain in energy-saving performance. Plus, the insert strategy has you basically placing a window inside of another window, which results in a slight forfeiture in natural light, never a good thing.

Finally, although an insert offers the convenience of requiring only a bead of caulking on the exterior to somewhat complete the installation, the old, existing frame often gets left as is, which looks lousy. Or, the old frame gets covered with aluminum, which is effective, and looks slightly less lousy, but has the home basically screaming at each passerby, “Hey! My owner was too cheap to replace my windows properly, so please don’t judge”. Essentially, the insert strategy disappoints.
So, when it comes to replacing an existing window, avoid this quick-fix alternative of an insert, and instead, choose the strategy of complete window replacement. Window style options include the casement (crank-out), guillotine (single or double hung), and horizontal slider. Fourth and fifth options include awning windows, which are basically casement windows that are hinged at the top, as opposed to the sides, and fixed windows, which are inoperable panes of glass that sit in the same, identical frame as your other functioning windows. Fixed windows have a purpose in that they’re more efficient than their working counterparts, and require zero maintenance, due to the lack of moving parts. Plus, and because it’s not necessary that every window in the home be operational, fixed windows offer the option of large, unobstructed viewing. So, don’t dismiss the value of a fixed window.

Awning windows, on the other hand, have limited value because the operating mechanism allows it to open to about 50 per cent of its potential. Plus, with the sash hinged at the top of the window frame, and the crank-out mechanism stretching out from the bottom of the frame in an accordion type manner, escape via an awning window during an emergency type of situation, would be challenging, if not impossible. As a result, its placement in most cases is limited to over the kitchen sink, or some first story bathroom.

Next week, which type of window will best serve most homeowner’s.

Good building.

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

A handful of reasons to change your windows

Windows

One, they’re old.

I drive a 15-year-old sports car during the summer months. Why? Because its purchase seemed like a good idea at the time.

Basically, it’s hard on gas, develops a shimmer at about 50 km/h, and isn’t near as comfortable as my newer pickup truck. Essentially, the appeal of such a vehicle is limited to the retractable roof, which seemed pretty cool at the time, until one realizes that driving in air-conditioned comfort, while still being able to hear the radio, is probably more relaxing.

So, if your window is 15 years of age or older, I can guarantee you it’s tired and has forfeited not only its efficiency, but its will to operate.

Two, you can’t see out of them from Dec. 1 to March 15.

Condensation between the thermal panes, or frosty windows, aren’t factors that necessarily demand a complete window overhaul. Glass panes can be replaced, while the issue of thermal panes “sweating” due to high humidity issues, then frosting up on those really cold days, can be solved with a mechanical air system.

However, a broken seal, often blamed on a pigeon’s confused fight pattern, or the little baseball touting rascal next door, is more often the sign of an unstable frame or sash.

While frosty glass was once a common occurrence, today’s high-efficiency glass panels, no matter what the temperature outside, and no matter how much pasta mamma has on the burner, rarely condensate up the pane more than an inch or so.

Three, the windows no longer open.

Somewhat related to the age issue, window sashes that are either painted shut, or are so stubborn to open they require the homeowner preparing themselves with the same 15-minute warmup used by Olympic weightlifters. If the herculean feat required to open your double-hung window may risk igniting your sciatic nerve issues, are definitely past the rescue stage.

Four, a cool draft curls around your toes, then sweeps up and grabs you by the wazoo every time you step out of the shower.

Some people believe drafts to be a somewhat effective means of getting fresh air into the home. They’re the same folks that anxiously wait for the Easter bunny and Santa Claus to show up every year.

Drafts signify cold, outside air, infiltrating the home envelope, eventually meeting up with the warm, inside air. When cold meets warm, you get condensation.

With condensation comes mold, and with mold comes poor air quality, leading to colds and sniffles that last all winter long.

Every home can benefit from continued fresh air being circulated throughout. However, the answer to a fresh-air source can’t be you depending on the lack of insulation and caulking surrounding your windows and doors, or the lack of weather-stripping on your window sashes, or the fact the sash is warped, and no longer sits tightly within the window frame.

The solution to fresh air and consistent humidity levels will be an HRV (heat-recovery ventilation) unit. The answer to drafts is a newly installed window, properly insulated with spray foam and sealed with a quality exterior caulking.

And five, you’re getting older.

Regardless of the fact we heat our homes in the winter, cool them in the summer, and have mechanical systems to control the air quality and humidity levels, sometimes it’s just nice to be able to open a window.

When you’re young, this doesn’t present much of a challenge.

When you’re a little older, leaning over the kitchen sink in order to tug that sliding sash over will put your lower back in a very vulnerable position. Single and double-hung, guillotine-styled units, can also be challenging if they no longer function smoothly.

Unless you can get your hips tight up against the window sill, what’s equivalent to about a 50-pound barbell curl will definitely cause some strain.

Answer?
Consider the more user friendly casement window.

Next week, how to buy a window.

Good building.

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