This ain’t no cottage

The Cottages on Salt Spring Island. Courtesy, Steve MacNaull

Case No. 823, titled “The year-long investment,” has Mr. Bill Granite, aka “Crusher” to his buddies – due in part to Granite’s profession of pounding stones into gravel, and being capable of reducing an expired beer can into a pancake by firmly pressing it against his forehead – looking to spend his weekends by the water.

As a result, a “Cottage for sale” sign, located about 2.5 hours from his Toronto home, has garnered his attention.

First, I think we need to have the Webster Dictionary people either eliminate the term cottage from our vocabulary, or come up with a better word to define what exactly people are getting themselves into.

As I recall, our cottage on Stanley Island was essentially a four-wall, one-roof, 20’ x 30’ structure, supported by concrete blocks about two feet off the ground. By today’s standards, it would be like building a residence on top of a standard backyard deck.

We had electricity, and indoor plumbing, with the water pumped into the cottage directly from the river.

Water purification system? None that I can recall, other than a piece of metal screening loosely fitted at the submerged end of the flexible pipe. The screen basically prevented small stones and sea shells from entering the system, with river bacteria and most other components allowed to flow in freely. But hey, we were always healthy, and rarely missed a day of work or play.

Upon arriving at this residence for the first time, it was clearly evident that this structure was not a cottage, at least by my definition.

What stood before us was a nice, but still modest, 1,600-square-foot bungalow, equipped with all the heating, cooling, multiple bath and shower conveniences of any regular home. The house also had a full basement, which spanned most of the home’s square footage, with the exception of the crawl space found under a most recent addition.

Essentially, this was a home, and would have been called such in any other environment, except for the fact there was a great big expanse of water in front of it, thereby earning its classification as a cottage.

Besides having country experienced friends on board to offer advice, Crusher also engaged the help of a professional home inspector, which is a good idea, and something I would definitely recommend all potential home buyers do before signing on the dotted line.

Friends will usually tell you all the good things about the home, while a home inspector will do a thorough inspection (which should take about two-to-three hours) then give you the straight facts about the joint.

After walking through the home and inspecting the grounds, there were minor issues here and there that were certainly noteworthy, however, the big issue from my perspective, and the one undeniable factor regarding this purchase, was the fact this was an investment in a second home, not a cottage.

Prepping our cottage for the winter months meant disconnecting the water pump, pulling the line out of the river, boarding up a few windows and doors, then motioning to the summer homestead with a final “see ya in six months” salute.

You can’t do that with a modern home, unless of course it’s located in Arizona, where the humidity varies from dry, to very dry.

However, this residence faces the winds of Lake Ontario 365 days per year— winds that’ll not only be pelting this home with rain, snow, and sleet every other weekend, but will be enveloping this house with sufficient humidity to effectively grow mushrooms on the ceilings. The battle to keep this “cottage” viable is going to be, like any other home, a full-time job.

So, does a person move forward with such a purchase? As long as you realize you’ll be caring for and paying expenses on two homes, instead of one and a half, like you might have expected, it’s all good.

Next week, the cottage inspection.

Good building.

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

Measurement is usually an exact science; it’s why we do it twice

Joe Nelson of Eco Roof London constructs a frame that will bear a new steel roof on a home in London, Ontario on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. . DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /Postmedia Network

Today we examine case No. 622, titled “Measure twice, order once,” involving a Mr. Joaquin D. Aster, aka the “walking disaster.”

Actually, Mr. Aster’s life isn’t so disastrous, but it is riddled with errors, errors that could be avoided by implementing a few procedural changes in his lifestyle.

Essentially, Joaquin is a risk taker, and for example, consistently walks into the grocery store without a written list. As a result, he always forgets the butter. Remembering milk and bread is easy, but without a list, forgetting to pick up the butter, unless you see it in someone else’s cart, is practically a given.

Coincidentally, Mr. Aster refuses to get the gas gauge fixed on his automobile, relying simply on whether the car feels heavy or not, and predicts the daily forecast based on the severity of his nasal condition.

To know one’s surprise, the walking disaster often finds himself trudging along the roadway, in the rain, carrying bags of groceries in both hands, still missing the butter.

Joaquin’s antics rarely involve personal or collateral injury, but this pattern of behaviour will cost a person time and money.

Which brings us to the case in point: Our Mr. Aster is looking to purchase a metal roof for his 40-plus-year-old home.

Installing steel roofing on a home is an excellent investment, and one that should last the full 50-year warranty period. However, and like a whole lot of quality products, things go a whole lot better when measurements are absolutely exact.

Achieving this goal requires that measurements be checked, then verified once again, by whomever will be installing the product.

I’m still amazed by supposed carpenters who enter a building supply centre, let the salesperson know their looking to build a deck, or frame a wall, then ask the question, “So, what am I going to need for the job?”

What kind of carpenter, or person given the task of building something, needs the help of a salesclerk to figure out what materials he would need to get a project constructed? And, who the heck hires such unqualified people?

Regardless, it happens too often.

In Mr. Aster’s case, he brought in a lined drawing of his roof structure, a relatively large roof outlay which included a number of peaks and valleys, and requested roofing tin be ordered according to the measurements on the plan.

Although there were no numbers or any indication of actual lengths on the drawing, Mr. Aster indicated the scale was of the standard quarter inch equals one foot type of measurement.

Ordering steel roofing is not like ordering asphalt shingles. One or two bundles of shingles under or over the estimated number required is of little consequence, due to asphalt shingles being relatively inexpensive and a product commonly carried in stock by most building retailers.

There are three manners, in general, by which steel roofing is ordered.

One, the installer simply dictates the lengths and number of sheets required.

Two, the installer measures the roof, peaks and valleys, then goes over these measurements with the salesperson, who orders the product.

Or three, and in the case of a new build, the truss lengths are provided to the salesperson by the roofing company, with the steel sheets and necessary trims and moldings ordered off these exact measures.

In this case, Mr. Aster refused to take the time to supply the salesperson with either of the first two options, and since there was no existing truss plan to follow, was insistent the roof drawing was accurate.

When Joaquin was informed of the possible risks of ordering off a paper drawing, he dismissed the advice to produce accurate measurements, signed the requisition, and informed the salesperson to go forward with the order. Weeks later, the steel roofing supplies arrived, with several sheet lengths being incorrect.

Who pays for this lost time, money, and frustration? Unfortunately, it’s the walking disaster. Case No. 622 closed.

Good building.

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

A drill-down on making great holes

Getty Images/iStockphot

One thing penetrating into another is always made easier by first creating a hole.

No matter how skilled, how mighty, or how overwhelmingly powerful the athlete carrying the ball is in the sport of professional football, his success in progressing past the line of scrimmage will correlate directly with the size of the hole created.

If the 300-pound offensive lineman creating this hole was successful in separating the angry bunch of 300-pound defensive linemen in the way, then the skilled ball carrier passes through with minimal discomfort.

If the offensive lineman fails to create a hole, either due to lack of skill, poor timing, or the fact a few individuals are somewhat disgruntled by recent contract negotiations, then the ball carrier will certainly be facing a whole lot of hurt.

Most nails and screws will penetrate wood. There are self-tapping screws designed to drill and pierce through steel. There are even nails that can be hammered into solid concrete.

However, it’s always easier when there’s a hole created first.

Let’s look at some of the things we can use to create holes. Things to realize; steel drill bits will cut through wood, but wood bits won’t cut through steel, while concrete bits will only really cut through concrete.

That being said, with enough weight or pressure, a drill bit could be forced through just about anything, just like a grand piano could be forced through the mail slot of a front door, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

To keep things easy, and pretty, we use the proper designated drill bit for the task at hand.

Essentially, small holes of 3/16” or less, often used to pre-drill wood in order to accept a nail or screw, are effectively done with a steel drilling bit.

Holes required to be anywhere from a quarter-inch to 1.5 inches in diameter are best drilled with a spade bit, which has a flat head, similar to a canoe paddle. Using a steel bit for these sized holes will work, but you’ll be forfeiting accuracy. A steel bit will move around a little on the surface before it bites down into the wood. Plus, the hole will be frayed at the sides, due to the steel bit lacking the extended, cutting edges found on a typical spade bit.

Anything larger than 1.5 inches would require a hole-saw, which is a cylinder-shaped cutting tool. Hole-saws are two component drilling tools, requiring a centre bit, referred to as a “mandrel,” to start the hole. The mandrel further guides the circular hole-saw into the wood. If this is your first hole-saw purchase, don’t forget to buy both components. Generally, one mandrel will service a number of various hole-saw diameters.

However, not all centering mandrels match all hole-saws. So, be sure to test-fit your existing mandrel with the newer hole-saw before leaving the building supply centre.

Note to self: drilling with larger spade bits and any sized hole-saw bit is like playing catch with a football, best done using two hands. If your drill doesn’t have an extended arm to place a second, steadying hand, definitely consider ordering one of these components for your specific brand of drill. Otherwise, keep two hands firmly on the trigger shaft.

Spade bits and hole-saws will sometimes jamb in the wood. If that happens, and you’ve only got one hand on the drill, the sudden twist is going to leave your wrist looking and feeling like a strand of cooked spaghetti.

Next, be wary of purchasing just any spade bit. Some spade bits have regular tips, others a full-thread tip. The full-thread bit option effectively draws the spade bit blades into the wood, making this bit very aggressive— which is fine if you’re an electrician with 1,000 holes to drill. Otherwise, I prefer the gentle push, draw back (which helps clear the hole of cuttings) then push forward strategy of a regular spade bit.

Next week we’ll have more on creating holes.

Good building.

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

Painting’s more than picking up a brush

Painter’s tape being applied to a baseboard. POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Painting tradespersons don’t get the respect they deserve.

This is due to the belief most of us feel we’re generally capable of painting a room with little consequence, while delivering acceptable results.

True enough, few people have electrocuted themselves or flooded the home’s basement as a result of performing a poor paint job. Plus, cuts and bruises are minimal, and although painters tend to keep their fingers over the course of their career, there was the tragic beheading of Sir Edward “Eggshell” Egleton, by order of the Earl of Warwick in 1645, due to a sloppy effort of painting where the ceiling met the stained crown trim, a treasured molding of the Earl. Unfortunately for Eggshell Egleton, who prided himself on a revolutionary paint texture that duplicated a beloved breakfast food, but whose trimming hand was a little shaky, masking tape would only be invented 300 years later, and painter’s tape, another 50 years after that.

All to say, dipping a brush into a can of paint is relatively easy.

The key to getting from this point to a desirable finish, while avoiding any headaches, will take a whole lot of care.

First, organize your supplies. Besides the paint, angled brushes, pans, roller cages, and refills, you’ll need a few canvas drop mats, drywall repair compound, painter’s tape, and paintable caulking.

The key to achieving a nice finish is to first prepare the surface. No matter how good the paint, it won’t camouflage nail holes, dents, or smooth out a poor drywall repair job.

If your goal is to paint the room in one day, pick up a bag of ‘sheetrock 20.’ This powdered, just add water compound can be sanded 20 minutes after it’s applied.  If time is on your side, regular joint compound will require 24 hours to set.

First, clear the room of as many obstacles as you can. Although you’ll be using a water-based paint, removing paint splatter off the kitchen table or the coffee maker will be a pain in the butt, especially if the droplets go unnoticed for a few hours.

Using a narrow putty knife, and a small plastic container you’ve salvaged from the recycle box, mix a small amount of sheetrock 20 to a cake icing consistency. Then, apply it over the holes and rough surfaces.

Next, start taping. Professional painters avoid taping because it’s time consuming, costly, and because they’ve in most cases mastered the technique of trimming. Unless you’re a medical surgeon or dismantle bombs for a living, odds are that with the amount of coffee and medication in your system, your hand stroke is about as steady as gas prices on a holiday weekend.

So, protect the things you don’t want to colour with a painter’s tape, and not masking tape. Painter’s tape is a new-and-improved version of masking tape, and is designed to seal as soon as paint makes contact with its edge.

Besides your crown, window, and door moldings, be sure to tape around the doorknobs and light fixture bases as well. Once you’ve finished applying the painter’s tape, the ‘sheetrock 20’ will be ready for sanding.

Next, lay your canvas drop mats in position. The canvas mats are more expensive than the plastic or paper protective coverings, but they spread and handle far better. The canvas mats are available in 3’x20’ or 4’x12’ formats, which is convenient when moving from wall to wall.

Try not to walk on the mats as you paint. Otherwise the droplets they’ve absorbed will end up on the soles of your slippers, with your trips back and forth from the fridge well documented from that point on.

Even though you’ve protected things with a painter’s tape, begin the painting sequence using a quality tapered brush around the moldings and where the wall meets the ceiling. Once the molding’s been painted, remove the tape as soon as you can. This way, any paint that’s made its way under the tape can be easily rubbed off.

Good painting.

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

Pros vs. Jos: The drywall edition

Jesse Gift applies drywall compound to the ceiling while framed by the 12-inch white pine beams that form the structure of the virtual high school being constructed on the main street of Bayfield. The building was still under construction when photographed on Wednesday December 14, 2011. MIKE HENSEN/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/Postmedia Network

There used to be a TV commercial which had a diminutive, computer analyst-type fellow in the checkout line of some hardware store, supplies in hand, with a couple of contractors in close behind him, slowly moving towards the cashier.

The TV viewer recognizes the little fellow as a do-it-yourselfer because he was wearing a fine dress shirt and dress pants, and everybody knows that amateurs, no matter what the task, be it cooking, painting, or even playing a sport, always wear their good office clothing while participating in such events.

The two gentlemen behind the little fellow were obviously tradesmen because they were both 260+-pound behemoths, sporting hard hats, while classily attired in torn blue jeans and timeworn bowling shirts with mustard stains that dated back to the 1990’s, because that’s what building contractors look like.

Regardless, the two professional contractors see the do-it–yourselfer is about to buy a bunch of cheap building supplies, so they tug the little feller out of the cashier line, remove whatever he has in his hands, then fill his arms up with better tools, with the lesson being buy what the pros use. Once through the cash, the three of them leave the hardware store laughing and giggling like a troop of schoolgirls.

In most cases, it’s better spending a little more money on quality products. However, when it comes to mudding drywall, how the pros work, and how they buy, isn’t always what’s best for the do-it-yourselfer.

Essentially, the amateur drywaller will lack technique, know-how and speed. As a result, his or her product choices will have to differ, at least in a few areas, from what the pros use.

When it comes to taping a joint, especially in the case of a repair, the amateur should consider using a Fiberglas tape. Professional drywallers commonly use a paper tape because it’s less expensive and can be rolled out and applied more quickly.

Fiberglas tape will stick to the drywall, unlike paper tape, which requires the user mudding the joint beforehand. Mudding, or adding joint mix to the seam, then embedding the paper tape into the joint compound, requires speed and technique, otherwise things gets messy, with joint compound spilling onto the floor.

As an amateur, methodically and patiently moving from one procedure to the next, and not speed, is what’s going to get you to the finish line.

After carefully placing the Fiberglas tape over the seam, the amateur can move on to the next step, mudding. The professional drywaller will choose either a beige or white all-purpose light compound. As amateurs, we’re going to go with the dust-control product.

Dust-control compound is heavier and thicker than regular light-joint compound, allowing the user to more easily scoop out a trowel full of mud, check their phone messages, go for a coffee, then calmly spread it on the wall.

Light compound is a lot thinner, and lighter, which makes it a whole lot easier on the shoulders and elbow joints of those professionals who work with this stuff for hours on end. However, light compound won’t sit on the trowel for long, so once it’s scooped out of the box, you had better be quick to get it on the wall.

Dust-control compound is also recommended for the amateur because the dust particles fall to the floor when sanded, in a controlled type of manner, hence the name. With the tendency of most amateurs to over apply the joint compound, followed by the need to sand things smooth, this is a key feature to avoiding dust everywhere.

Next, amateurs should invest in sponge sanders, a handy tool to avoiding dust when removing those not-so-perfect raised edges.

Where to copy the pros? The wider the swath of compound applied, the smoother the wall. So, invest in trowels by having four-inch, six-inch and eight-inch putty knives, as well as a 10-inch and 12-inch taping knife in the tool box.

Good building.

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