Why glass breaks

Today we examine Case no. 805, titled ‘extra crunch for the Captain’ involving a Mr. Lester W. Bligh.

Mr. Bligh, aka “the Captain”, with this designation having no relation to Lester’s ancestral, seafaring British name, or his receiving top of the class honors upon graduating from the ‘introduction to sailing’ laser dinghy club, but is rather due to his eating of the Quaker Oats, ‘CAP’N CRUNCH’ brand cereal with regularity. On this occasion, our Captain Bligh is seated in his usual position at the kitchen table one frosty morning, enjoying a cup of coffee, along with a bowl of those golden, crunchy nuggets of sugar. The sea (although several hundred miles away) was angry that day, and with a strong Nor’easter wind mercilessly pounding Lester’s breakfast nook, the inside pane of his fixed thermal window suddenly shattered, sending bits of glass shrapnel into his bowl of CAP’N CRUNCH, minimally adding some much needed fiber.

Why do thermal panes break? Essentially, we don’t know for sure, but there are theories as to why this happens.

Breakage theory no.1, blunt force trauma, otherwise regarded as something made contact with the window. Unfortunately, the blunt force theory can only be proven if there’s evidence. Rarely will a culprit leave their baseball or football lying at the scene, or volunteer the fact they were using the bird feeder just outside your window as target practice for their new pellet gun.

Can a bird break a window? An albatross, yes, a chickadee, probably not, with every flying creature in between definite maybes. So, unless there’s a corpse, the bird theory is inconclusive.

Generally speaking, the modern thermal pane is a pretty tough customer, whereby it can handle some relatively severe shocks. However, glass has three main enemies, them being seismic activity, temperature extremes, and compression. Essentially, glass cracks, or shatters, because something has disturbed its comfortable state. I remember one fellow telling me every time he closes the front door in the winter, the windows shake, the dishes rattle in the buffet, and the cat gets blown back about eight feet. This represents an air circulation issue, whereby the home is so airtight, any action of opening, and then swiftly closing an exterior door, creates a vacuum of new air entering a home that doesn’t have the space to accept it. Hence the vibrations, and hence the need for an air exchanger.
Otherwise, homes can sometimes shift, or settle, regardless of age, which will cause doors to jamb slightly, windows to not slide so well anymore, and of course glass to crack.

Unfortunately, there’s not much action that can be taken to reduce the chance of seismic shifts, other than building a foundation beyond regular code minimums. Because our climate zone has our window panes experiencing extreme temperature differences between the outdoor glass surface, and indoor glass surface, the glass panels are constantly under the stress of cold contraction meeting hot expansion. If you take a hot dinner plate out of the dishwasher and place it under a stream of cold tap water, you’ll soon discover how glass reacts to hot meeting cold. For this reason, floor grates (often found directly below our windows) that aim straight upwards, should have deflectors placed on them, directing this heat flow into the center of the room. Also, and on a particularly cold day, be sure to open up those blinds and curtains. Blinds and curtains will create an insulated air space between them and the glass. If it’s sunny outside, this space can really heat up. When the indoor/outdoor temperature differential on a glass surface exceeds 30 degrees Celsius, your thermal pane enters the risk zone.

Finally, if there are several glass panes that have failed, it could be the result of too tight an installation. Due to our environment, our window frames need flux room, and should be installed so that they somewhat float within a halfinch perimeter space filled with foam insulation. With the captain accepting these prognoses, Case no. 805 was closed.

Good building.

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

Why we wrap

We need to wrap our outdoor things, mostly the structural wooden outdoor things, essentially for two reasons.

One, painting doesn’t cut it anymore. And two, we’re not quite as handy as our fathers, in general, and not even close to comparing with the handiness of our grandfathers, again in general, when it comes to having an aptitude, or even desire, to fix things ourselves. So, when you’re as unhandy as our, and this next generation is, albeit through no fault of our own, since we were focused on watching the Brady Bunch after school, instead of learning how to change the oil in our parents’ cars, with this next generation preferring not to risk losing a finger on a table saw, when there’s still level 10 to achieve in PlayStation’s Resident Evil 7: biohazard game, you can understand how we failed as a society to maintain most of our home maintenance competence.

The issue with exterior paints and stains is that they simply can’t last any more than a couple of years in our climate zone. As a result, homes with wood posts, wood spindles, wooden decks, or wood sidings, all require maintenance. And, since we’re not so competent, or have the desire, or are too consumed with other affairs to really dedicate much maintenance time towards our wood structures, our homes are often left to the mercy of the elements.

When that happens, the home loses every time. So, in order to maintain the dignity and curb appeal of our homes, without actually having to maintain them, it’s imperative that we cover, or wrap our wood things, with something better than paint.

First thing to consider wrapping, or replacing, are your porch posts. Often made of either 4×4 or 6×6 treated lumber, square or turned wood posts can look good for a few seasons. Then they twist a bit, crack a bit, and all of a sudden, don’t look so good. Painting or staining a post can help camouflage the issue for a while, but unfortunately, there’s no hiding a crack. So, instead of replacing a weathered post, we wrap ‘em. Even though a post has twisted, and suffered a few cracks, the compression strength of a 4×4 or 6×6 timber is still strong. As a result, and in order to avoid the engineering challenge of replacing a post that’s structurally supporting a roof or overhang, we suggest wrapping the post with a PVC vinyl sleeve. As long as the post remains dry, it’ll avoid rotting, and maintain its strength.
Because the copper injected into treated lumber will sometimes corrode other metals, we don’t recommend wrapping a treated post with aluminum. The vinyl sleeves are an easy install, even for the unhandy, whereby the four walls that make up the sleeve simply snap together. These PVC sleeves also come with a number of decorative crown and base options that snap together as well, then get glued to the wrap, effectively turning a wood post into a very impressive white column.

Next, consider using PVC trim boards. Trim boards are moldings used to enhance the exterior look of a window or door by providing a four-five inch picture frame type border around the perimeter of these units.

Trim boards also serve well to border the base of the homeowners chosen siding, getting installed just above the foundation line, while providing an equally decorative border molding along the top, running just below the soffit. Trim moldings are attractive because they’re slightly thicker than the siding, and effectively help define the windows and doors, along with the general lines of the home. Unfortunately, by protruding out in this manner, wood trim pieces would often succumb to rot, simply due to the rain and snow matter resting on the edge of these moldings. With PVC trims, rot can’t happen.

Next, if you’ve got a wood deck in need of replacing, modification, or maybe we’re talking about a new build, it’s time to consider composite decking.

Next week, the maintenance free deck.

Good building.

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