He’s here to become a pain with his cracks

The beige, cylindrical object towards the left of the furnace is the humidifier with its controls. CANSTOCK PHOTO

Arriving under the cover of darkness, usually around the time of our first snowfall, this little fellow will slip into your home.

While visions of sugarplums dance in your head, he’ll open up his bag of goods in your living room and begin his night’s work. The only problem is, this little fellow ain’t Santa Claus, and he’s no jolly elf.

The fact is your unexpected guest is an ogre by the name of Charles W. Cracks, with the W standing for willfully. His eyes don’t twinkle, and his dimples are about as merry as roadway potholes.

His cheeks are like roses, and his nose is like a cherry, although not so much coloured by participating in a healthy outdoor life, but more related to his six-pack-a-day smoking habit, and topped up flask of rot-gut brandy in his breast pocket.

Upon opening his sack, there are no presents to be found, but instead a large assortment of pry bars and chisels.

Alas, the Ogre of Cracks is not here to deliver cheer, but instead will get to work on separating miter joints from between moldings, and creating the heartbreaking and ultimately most disappointing drywall crack of all time— that being the separation of where ceiling meet walls. The thing about miter joints separating and cracks developing along your ceiling line, is that they’re the product of humidity, the physics of cold meeting hot, along with various atmospheric conditions.

Which, sorry to say, makes the homeowner’s ability to control these eyesores about as likely as hiding behind the big sofa into the wee hours of the night, and successfully catching the Crack Ogre as he descends the chimney.

Now, however bleak the reality of being able to prevent cracks, there are ways of lessening the extent of your casing and baseboards separating.

Crack preventing remedy No.1: control the humidity levels in the home by investing in a HRV (heat recovery ventilation) unit.

In the olden days, we had to rely on signals such as a dry throat and nosebleeds to let us know the air in the home was a little dry, or frost on the windows to remind us that it’s time to ease up on the pasta making. Which, would have us either opening windows or setting pots of water about the home to counteract dry or wet atmospheric conditions.

So, you can stick with that rather unscientific strategy, or invest in the mechanics of a HRV. Not only will your HRV regulate indoor humidity levels, which will vary throughout the year due to changing outdoor temperatures, but the HRV will also circulate and clean your household air 24/7.

Further to a HRV is a humidifier, which like the HRV, will work in conjunction with your furnace to efficiently distribute quality air into every room of the home.

Crack remedy No.2: fill the miter gaps with a paintable/flexible quality caulking. When cracks develop where the walls meet the ceiling, you’ve got a situation referred to as truss lift.

The good news about truss lift is that it’s a non-structural situation, so it’s not really affecting the home in any type of supportive, or building, manner— other than being simply unattractive. The bad news about truss lift is that once your home develops it, it tends to come back every winter.

Truss lift occurs when the trusses pry themselves off the partition walls in a home. Why trusses move in this way can be attributed to moisture conditions in the attic, whereby some trusses fall victim to condensation, and swell up in the cold, while the trusses buried in the insulation stay dry, and shrink slightly in the cold. Where shrink meets swell you get movement.

Solution? None that aren’t excessively intrusive or costly.

Remedy? Install a crown molding, or large cove molding to the ceiling only (not the wall), along the perimeter of the room. This way, when the ceiling lifts, the decorative molding moves with it, and nothing cracks.

Good building.

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

A great comeback

Paneling is making a comeback, and that’s a good thing according to our Handyman. Postmedia Network

“Fifty-five seconds left in the penalty, 1:27 left in regulation time, Boston 4, Montreal 3, Lafleur, coming out rather gingerly on the right side, he gets it up to Lemaire, back to Lafleur, he scores!!”

These were the immortal words of broadcasting great Danny Gallivan, as he called the tying goal in Game 7 of the Boston vs Montreal 1979 semifinal series. Yvon Lambert would go on to score in overtime, giving Montreal the series win, and a berth in the Stanley Cup final, which they won.

Lafleur’s tying goal followed by Lambert’s overtime score was one heck of a comeback. Although this decorating comeback may not stir your emotions, or cause you to leap out of your lazy-boy in the same manner so many Habs fans did back in 1979, this product’s comeback is nevertheless pretty big.

What product are we referring to? Paneling! Yes, that’s right, paneling. Popular in the 70’s, and basically the go-to product for anybody finishing their basement walls in those days, paneling is not only back, but it’s back in style.

Will consumers be seeing some of the birch and walnut woodgrain patterns that so faithfully adorned our basement and bedroom walls growing up? Mercifully, no. We expect that soft, woodgrain look to come back into play sometime around the year 2070, or when Montreal wins their next Stanley Cup. Today’s preferred paneling is made of 100 per cent recycled wood, and is referred to as HDF (high density fiberboard). Available in the standard 4’x8’ sizing, the advantage of a high density panel is that it can be grooved in any manner possible. This versatility allows the manufacturers to not only offer a series of standard V-groove, or beaded patterns, but also a stone looking, and more formal, raised panel type of wainscotings as well.

Further to these grooved HDF panels, that come painted white, but can be repainted by the homeowner in the color of their choice, is a series of HDF prefinished panels. This new series of prefinished paneling is much like the paneling of old, in that the wood finished surface was essentially a picture of wood, and not actual wood. The only difference is of course the guys and gals in the product development department these days have thought of a lot more fun surfaces and textures to copy, other than birch and walnut. Furthermore, the picture quality and definition of these portrait type paneling is absolutely excellent, creating a remarkable trompe l’oeil, embossed pattern, out of what is otherwise a flat surface. So, and like touching a trompe l’oeil painting to see if it’s really a portrait, and not an actual shelf, these panelings will definitely have you touching them to test their authenticity.

That being said, at about 50 bucks per 4’x8’ sheet, these panelings aren’t cheap, however, it’s a fraction of the price of a real brick or stone wall, and is something the relatively handy homeowner can install themselves, since one panel simply butts up against the other, with no special moldings or brackets needed.

What are some of the favorite patterns? Remarkably enough, and maybe it’s due to the old factory loft, or industrial type of living theme that has become somewhat popular, the look of concrete is now in vogue. So, we have engineers and architects telling us homeowners to cover up our concrete basement walls with insulating products, because that’s the environmentally responsible thing to do, with the décor people suggesting we cover this insulation with something that appears like concrete, because that’s the stylish thing to do.

To further that industrial theme, concrete looking panels are also available in 2’x4’ sheets, designed to fit into existing suspended ceiling grid systems. Other than the look of concrete, wall images of slate, marble, a variety of barn-woods, and even copper, are some of the terrific panels that are also available.

So folks, look to go with paneling, it’s made an impressive comeback.

Good building.

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

Big Gulp moldings

Unusual and elaborate crown molding is kind of old school, and that can be a good thing. Postmedia Network

Because door and window casings, as well as baseboards, account for about 90 per cent of the finishing trims in a typical home, let’s look at how to effectively choose a casing and baseboard.

First, and not so much a rule, but more of a general recommendation, don’t be shy to go big. In fact, buying casings and baseboards is kind of like ordering popcorn and pop before taking your seat at the movie theatre. A small drink and medium sized bag of popcorn may seem sufficient when presented to you, but once in your seat, the drink’s gone in moments, while the popcorn inevitably gets eaten during the movie prelims, leaving you with nothing but a dry mouth, and un-popped kernels to munch on during the feature film.

Back in the olden days of home building, generally referred to as the frugal 1970’s and 80’s, where disposable incomes were put towards the purchase of polyester leisure suits in anticipation of hitting the discotheque Saturday night, a standard casing of 2-1/8 inches in width, was paired with a very modest 3-1/8 inch tall baseboard. Today, casings are a standard 2-3/4 inches wide, and get combined with a 3-7/8 to 4-1/8 inch baseboard, which seems heavy enough, especially if you’re renovating a 1970’s styled home, or grew up surrounded by those somewhat diminutive 70’s moldings.

Regardless, even though the standard casing and baseboard sizes have gotten larger, people should really be looking to duplicate what was put in the grander homes of the early 1900’s. With casings measuring anywhere from 4-6 inches wide, along with 8-10 inch baseboards, this generation definitely new how to finish a home, and how to dress up for the weekend. Recommendation, go with the ‘Jumbo’ sized bag of popcorn, and two-litre ‘Big Gulp’ every time.

Translated into moldings, custom home builders, as opposed to those building rental units, should consider using at least a 3-1/2 inch casing, along with a 5-1/2 base. Again, when comparing moldings in your local building supply centre, these casings and baseboards may look a little big at first glance, but don’t despair, the hesitancy you’re experiencing is due to your familiarity of being handed a medium bag of corn and small pop since infancy, when you really merited the Jumbo and Big Gulp.

How do you pick a casing and baseboard? These types of moldings form part of a series of either Colonial, Victorian, modern, or Contemporary styles, with casings generally having a matching base to partner up with. So, depending on the home and interior door style, a person would be directed towards one of these particular series of moldings.

Once a style or series of casings and baseboards has been decided on, it’s then time to experiment. Because each series of casings and baseboards will have a number of profiles to choose from, the most effective way of picking one over the other is to have a few chosen baseboards butt up against their matching casings, while both moldings lay on the store’s floor. This way, you can stand back and better evaluate all the pairings. Try to avoid comparing moldings by standing or leaning them up against whatever wall, or racking is available. It’s our experience that when a bunch of casings and trims get leaned up against something, either the moldings or the something gets bumped, with the whole mix toppling over. When things are laid out on the floor, they’ve got nowhere to fall. Laying the casings and baseboards out in this manner also allows you to add a back-band trim (casing enhancing molding), various quarter round moldings, or to mix and match the various styles and sizes, in a much more effective manner.

The only one rule to keep in mind when matching moldings is that the casing must always be thicker than the base, and the base always wider than the casing. Enjoy choosing your Jumbo and Big Gulp moldings.

Good building.

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