Civilized decking

Pergolas can be built to allow the light to shine in or for sun protection, or as a stand-alone unit or attached to an existing structure. Postmedia network

With the term civilized defined as ‘bringing a place or people to a stage of social, cultural, and moral development considered to be more advanced’, and decking defined simply as ‘a wood planked platform or terrace that is attached to a home’, how do we combine the two?

Like everything else, with focus, foresight, and a little determination.

Essentially, we want our deck to be a comfortable place to live on, and not just on those slightly cloudy, 25 degree Celsius days. Which brings us to advanced decking feature no. 1, the SunLouvre pergola.

Scorching sun or a mid-afternoon rain need not send the party indoors. A regular pergola is a good deck feature because it offers partial shade. Partial shade on a sunny afternoon is a good thing. However, when it’s high noon, and the sun’s at its strongest, those pieces of 2×6 or 2×8 lumber overhead, fixed in position on their edges, will be offering limited relief. And, if it should happen to rain, well . . . unless you’re a member of our national ballet core, there will be no staying dry under a plank of lumber that’s 1-1/2 inches wide.

So, in comes the SunLouvre pergola. Built completely out of aluminum (making maintenance, staining, and cracks or warpage, a thing of the past) the big advantage to a SunLouvre pergola is that the top sleeves are movable, operating on a system of louvres. This feature allows the homeowner to relax under full sun, full shade, or anything in between.

When the louvres are closed, the sleeves overlap in a manner that prevents rain from entering. So, and unless we’re talking a torrential downpour of biblical proportion, there will be no need to corral your guests indoors at the first sign of a few droplets. In most cases, the pulling down of one mechanism will operate an entire ceiling structure. Although the aluminum columns that support the SunLouvre system are quite decorative, if you’re a wood lover who absolutely wants to keep their wooden columns intact, the SunLouvre system works independently of the posts, and as such, can be custom ordered to fit and operate on an existing wood frame.

Next, if inside storage space is considered to be an essential asset, then it’s going to be just as valuable a commodity outside. Decks can be like any other living space, either spacious and neatly staged, or cluttered with furniture, side tables, and any number of appendages. So, where is a homeowner to store chair cushions and those extra folding chairs?

Plus, decks often cozy up to pools. Pools require brushes and leaf nets, long hoses for vacuuming, and little floaty devices, with all this stuff having to be placed somewhere when not in use. You can always toss these items into a pool or storage shed, but it certainly would be more convenient if things could be tucked away in a drawer.

Which, brings us to advanced decking feature no. 2, the ‘Deck Storage Drawer’. In general, the space underneath a deck would be regarded as a damp, spider infested no man’s land. However, the Deck Storage Drawer changes all that, enabling the homeowner to gain 64 cubic feet of quality, dry storage space. The Deck Storage Drawer is essentially a box of hardware, containing the necessary tracks, wheels, and brackets to assemble (along with the required treated plywood) a drawer that can be up to 48 inches wide x 24 inches deep x 96 inches long, capable of holding up to 250 pounds of whatever you like. The added bonus of the deck drawer is that it doesn’t take up valuable deck floor area, while having about twice the storage capacity of one of those plastic, surface deck boxes. It also comes with its own pull handle and keyed lock mechanism. The front of your Deck Storage Drawer can be finished with whatever product you’ve chosen as a skirting material for around the deck, be it lattice, treated lumber, or composite decking.

Good building.

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

Bringing indoor comforts outside

Backyard decks are a terrific addition to any home.

Without them, well, you’re basically barbecuing and lounging about on grass or mud. And, besides a deck providing the homeowner with an easy transition from the interior of their home to a level section of outdoor living space, it’s important that the homeowner not forget the ideals of what makes a living space comfortable. In other words, a backyard deck plan that calls for little more than a raised platform is essentially a giant frypan designed to unmercifully roast you in the scorching sun. And, while an open concept living space may be desirable inside, this same strategy outdoors will simply allow your scrutinizing neighboors to question why a hefty 260-pound man such as yourself, would once again purchase the latest style in men’s competitive speedo swimwear.

So, understanding that indoor living is comfortable due to us being able to control the light, shade, and our privacy, while also protecting us from the wind and rain, it stands to reason that if we’re to enjoy a little outdoor living, some of these indoor living features will need to be duplicated outdoors.

Now, what about those persons who claim that the outdoors is what it is, and that we should accept the elements in all their natural glory? Those persons are what we refer to as campers, and they’re essentially nuts. How else can you explain such uncivilized activity as sleeping in tents and collecting your poop in plastic bags? We might as well go back to walking with the aid of our hands and living in caves.

When I step outside, I want to be comforted by the texture of treated lumber, or a composite deck underfoot. Then, once I make my way over to the louvered privacy wall, adjusting the planks, thereby enabling a slight breeze to help counter a hot, still air, created by a relentless afternoon sun, I would then park myself under the partial shade of a pergola. That’s as close to roughing it as I want to be. Matter of fact, if throughout these few minutes of setup, my coffee were to chill slightly, then this outdoor experience would have been truly regretful.

Further to bringing some of the general comfort amenities of indoor life to the outdoors, your deck is also going to require you providing it with some storage space. Deck chairs, benches, and sofas, often come with cushions. Unless you plan on bringing these cushions in every night, a better and simpler option would be to keep them in an outdoor storage space.

With our theme for the next few weeks relating to what every deck should have in order to provide more peaceful and comfortable outdoor living, let’s start with how to ensure a little privacy. Creating privacy between you and your neighbour can be a sensitive issue. We all like our privacy, and we generally get along well with our neighbours, so, how formidable a dividing wall structure do we need to build?

Does the building of a solid plank wall essentially say, “I’d rather not talk to you”, with a lattice wall, or typical offset plank (good neighbour) pattern, signifying that you’re more open to visitation? To answer this state of condition between neighbors, with the bonus of being able to go either full disclosure, or complete privacy, homeowners should consider the ‘Deck Sunblind’ system.

The Deck Sunblind is a hardware kit that permits the homeowner to construct a louvered section of panels up to 72 inches wide, by 48 inches high. With most dividing walls being about 6 ft. in height, the 48 inch high section of louvers works well because it allows the builder to install a 12-18 inch section of solid wall at the bottom, with 6-12 inches of solid planking at the top, which when all assembled will look quite decorative. The 72 inch maximum width is a guideline, since going any wider with 5/4×6 decking planks would risk them warping.

Next week, more deck must haves.

Good building.

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

Start from the top down

A qualilty underlay felt is important when roofing, says our handyman. Postmedia Network

Today we wrap up our three-week tenure on roofs with a few tips on how to get the most out of your asphalt roofing shingles.

Why so much talk about roofing? Because a roof in poor condition is to a home what Dion Phaneuf is to a defensive corps of professional hockey players.

Essentially, the potential for damage is extreme, with an aged roof eventually springing up leaks faster than Dion’s ability to cough up pucks in his defensive zone.

So, realizing that maintaining a home free from the damaging effects of water infiltration starts with your roof, we need to do all we can to ensure the long term success of our roof investment. Remembering that every layer of shingles represents one 1965 Pontiac Parisienne parked unnecessarily on your rooftop, if you’re redoing a roof’s surface, we start by removing every layer of existing shingles.

Next, fiberglass asphalt shingles need to be nailed onto plywood. Spruce plywood, or an equivalent OSB (oriental strand board) roofing product, will provide the necessary stability, and are the only underlay materials suitable to support the more ridged fiberglass shingle. So, if the existing roof has been covered by 1×6 or 1×8 pieces of spruce lumber, cover these planks with a 3/8” plywood, or the 15/32” OSB product.

Next, and still on the theme of stability, create the proper environment for your fiberglass shingles by ensuring your attic is adequately vented. Basically, you want the surface temperature of your shingles to match that of the underlayment, or, that the air temperature in the attic, matches that of the exterior air. The only way to achieve this is by creating an effective draft whereby outside air will enter the attic space via the soffit, then exit through a vent, or series of vents, located near the peak of the roof.

Venting through the soffit is pretty straight forward, and requires no calculating, because the strategy is to simply insert Styrofoam baffles in between each truss.

The Styrofoam baffles get stapled to the roofing plywood, and are positioned so that they reach down into the soffit space, thereby preventing the attic insulation or blowing wool from blocking this key point of air entry.

The air exit strategy will be satisfied by a Maxivent. Maxivents are the not so attractive, chimney-like devices you see on most roofs these days. There are alternatives to the Maxivent, such as using ridge venting, or a series of smaller, slantback vents, or even solar power vents that operate with their own fans.

However, with no moving parts, and only one maxivent needed on most roofs, which means only one hole to cut out and seal, none of these alternative products can compare with the ease of installing, general efficiency, and long term viability of the Maxivent.

How to calculate your maxivent needs? One #301 Maxivent will service up to 1200 square feet of attic floor space, or meet the needs of your average 40’x30’ home. If you own a larger or smaller home, or have a garage or addition that requires venting, optional Maxivents include the #303 model (satisfies 800 sq. ft. of attic area) or the #302 Maxivent (satisfies 500 sq. ft. of attic floor space). Essentially, you can’t have too much ventilation, so if you’re not sure, go bigger.

Next, use a quality underlay felt. Your fiberglass shingles will require both an ‘ice + water shield’ product, used along the roofs edge, and in any valleys, along with a felt paper on the balance of the roof. ‘Ice + water shield’s’ are pretty standard, however, there’s a world of various felt coverings to choose from.

Recommendation? Avoid the paper felt, and buy the best synthetic felt available. A quality synthetic felt offers that key, secondary line of defence against water infiltration and ice dams.

Finally, if your home is situated in a wind tunnel, have your roofer follow the extra nails, extra caulking procedures related to better shingle tab adhesion.

Good building.

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

Asphalt shingles still number one

Asphalt shingles are still the most popular shingle, price being one of the main reasons. Postmedia Network

Asphalt shingles have received a lot of complaints.

Some people have complained so much about their asphalt shingles that they’ve decided to form a club, referred to as a class action suit, by which they formally issue a legal complaint against the asphalt shingle maker. Then, after getting some pittance of a settlement, enough to certainly cover a Tim’s run for the fellows tearing off their perceived defective shingles, they feel vindicated, then go out and buy asphalt shingles all over again.

Now, it should be mentioned that said class action suits against the asphalt shingle manufacturers were as a result of perceived problems with their line of ‘organic’ asphalt shingles, which stopped being produced in 2010. The term “perceived” is defined quite clearly in the class action results, and refers to the fact these shingle manufacturers never actually admitted to making defective goods, but have offered some type of compensation regardless, because they’re all really nice guys, once you get to know them.

Today’s asphalt shingles have a fiberglass matting, as opposed to the original paper felt, and are referred to as fiberglass asphalt shingles. So, with all these complaints and class action stuff going on, why do 90 percent of homeowners still choose asphalt shingles?

Two reasons. First, there’s the price, where at about .75 cents per square foot, asphalt shingles are minimally half the cost of regular steel roofing, and one quarter of the price of composite, cedar shake, or the more decorative steel roofing options. And two, there’s the issue of lifespan.

Essentially, the average consumer buying a roof for their home either believes he or she will not be at their present address for any great length of time, or, are doubtful their remaining days on earth will allow them to take full advantage of a premium roofing product. Often, the customers will do their ROI (return on investment)/lifetime expectancy calculation right at the service desk.

“Well Deloris, whaddya think, do we go steel or asphalt?” her husband Alfie asks. To which Deloris replies, “I don’t know Alfie… you’re 76 and I’m 72, how much longer are we going to be around?”

At this point in the conversation I usually interject with a helpful, “Listen folks, I agree, the Grim Reaper is likely sitting in the back seat of your car as we speak, regardless, the advantages of a steel roof are many, including better roof performance, enhanced curb appeal, and a sign to the next buyer that you’ve put quality products into your home”.

“Nah”, Alfie states. “You guys sell a 10-15 year shingle here?” Alfie questions, after doing some predicted lifespan mathematics on a scrap piece of paper. “Unfortunately no,”, I reply, “the least warrantied shingle is one of 25 years” I confirm. “OK, then let’s go with that,” Alfie says. And, that’s the way things generally roll in the asphalt shingle biz.

However, if a fiberglass asphalt shingle is installed correctly, there’s no reason why a homeowner couldn’t expect to get 25-30 years, or longer, out of their chosen product.

As stated in last week’s column, the keys to fiberglass shingle and steel roofing longevity, starts with stability. Stability comes in one form, and that’s plywood. So, if there’s an existing shingle on the roof, or maybe even a layer or two of shingles, remove them. If upon removing those shingles you discover a plywood substrate, terrific! Simply verify that the plywood is still in good condition. If not, repair or replace as necessary. If you discover a 1×6 or 1×8 spruce planking underneath, which was a common substrate 30 years ago, don’t remove it. Instead, cover it with a 3/8” spruce plywood.

Fiberglass shingles are a relatively rigid product that doesn’t like to bend or in any way compromise their position, kind of like the average male once they lay down on the couch to watch the hockey game. So, we avoid nailing shingles to anything but plywood.

Next week, more keys to shingle longevity.

Good building.

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