Shed the lean-to; built yours to last

Garden shed exterior in Spring, for gardening and outdoor lifestyles. Not Released EDWARDSAMUELCORNWALL / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Today we finalize the plan for what will be your 10’x10’ backyard shed.

Even though this shed will not be subject to the scrutiny of a building inspector, due to it covering an area less than 105 square feet, and thereby not requiring a building permit, we’re not building a dog house.

In other words, we’ve eliminated the babysitter, and any professional advice an inspector could bring to the project, but this shed is going to be a whole lot more than just a few sheets of plywood tacked together.

Now, and after completing this fine shed, should you decide on a late night of carousing and mischief as a means to celebrate the construction of the project, inevitably bringing shame upon your once proud family, the fact this shed now provides you with a quiet space for somber thought, essentially defined as having landed yourself in the doghouse, should in no way be a reflection on the overall integrity of this structure.

First, decide on what type of platform your shed is going to rest on.

A concrete pad is best, but obviously quite permanent, and time consuming to construct, whereby a wooden platform can be assembled within a few hours.

Prepare the platform site by staking out the 10’x10’ space, then remove the grass and dig down about four inches. Next, fill the bed with four to six inches of compacted three-quarter-inch gravel. Now you’re set to either build a 2×6 form, then pour a 4-6 inch concrete slab overtop, or frame a platform using 2×6 lumber and three-quarter-inch treated plywood.

The pros to a wooden base is that it’s an easy build, while being strong and lightweight enough to make this shed somewhat movable. The pros to a concrete base is that it’s of course rock-solid, is there for the long-term, and can handle whatever weighty items you choose to park on it.

Furthermore, 100 square feet of platform will require anywhere from 80 to 100 bags of pre-mixed concrete, making the task of mixing an excellent occasion to initiate a couple of teenagers into the responsibilities of manhood.

As stated last week, the key to this shed being truly functional will be the inclusion of a roll-up, or sectional garage door. Essentially, that’s all you need as a point of entry.

Now, if the idea of a square building with one sectional door seems too commercial for you, then you can certainly make your shed look a little more homey, by adding a single entrance door and a couple of small windows.

Walls? Plan on framing your shed with 2×4 lumber, not 2x3s, and certainly not 2×2 lumber. When the big bad wolf threatens to huff and puff, we don’t want our shed blowing away, or developing a lean, should you happen to bump it with your riding mower.

Plus, walls remain square, while doors and windows tend to operate more smoothly when things are framed with 2×4 lumber.

Next, plan on ordering engineered trusses. Cost- and time-wise, there’s little to save by attempting to re-invent the wheel, so to say, by designing some lean-to type of roof system, or by figuring out the angles needed to arrive at a 4/12-pitchzaed truss.

The roof is a key component to any building, no matter what the size.

As a result, you need an engineered roof that’s designed to handling snow loads, thereby protecting what’s inside the shed, which at times will be you, as well as your precious tools. Plus, your roofline should look perfectly smooth and even, which is what you’ll get with a proper engineered truss.

Siding? Choose something that will complement what’s on your home. Smart panel, readily available in 4×8 sheets, is a good choice because it’s an outdoor, woodgrain panel that installs easily, looks attractive, and can be painted, so the colour choices are unlimited.

Otherwise, vinyl or composite sidings always look good, and offer the homeowner a variety of decorative stone, horizontal, or board-and-batten textures.

Good building.

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

Building better backyard storage

Julie Oliver/Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia Network JULIE OLIVER/OTTAWA CITIZEN

The backyard shed is one of those projects that, similar to a backyard deck, every do-it-yourselfer should attempt once.

The assembly is pretty straightforward and allows the qualified homeowner the opportunity to dabble into a few areas of construction, such as siding and roofing, that they most likely wouldn’t have encountered in their previous decking project.

Bonus to building your own shed? One, everybody needs more storage space. Two, this wooden structure will be far superior to one of those plastic or aluminum jobs that assemble quickly, look pretty, then tend to crumple up and fly away with the first strong gust of wind.

Not that our wooden structure can’t be stylish, with perhaps a window flower box and a few gingerbread moldings along the roofline to soften things up a bit.

However, our 2×4 framing will provide us with rock-solid construction, allowing us to more efficiently divide the interior of our shed into shelving, pegboard, and if required, a few heavy duty hooks and brackets as well.

First, understand we are building a shed, which is somewhat defined as a structure equal to, or less than 10 square metres (about 105 square feet) in area. Any structure larger than 10 square meters falls into the category of garage, or warehouse, which will require a building permit, and preferably the hiring of a professional contractor.

So, look to build something in the 8’x12’ or 10’x10’ range. If you run out of room, which always happens, either build something bigger next season, or build a second shed.

Actually, a homeowner can have up to three accessory buildings. Check your local zoning bylaw, which will spell out how many you can have for your home.

Now, creating this type of shantytown decorum in your backyard could draw the ire of your upscale neighbors. Regardless, they’ll certainly understand your desire for more storage space, and hopefully accept the general construction opinion that the value of gardening and green space is grossly overrated.

As always, start with a plan.

Restrictions? Besides the 10-square-metre floor space confine, the only other shed bylaw restrictions are those relating to spacing within your lot, and building height.

Essentially, your shed will need to be distanced at least 0.8 metres (2.62 feet) from your property line.

So, know the exact location of your property lines. Otherwise, you could end up having to share your wall of rakes and shovels with your neighbour.

Plus, don’t attempt to maximize your 10-square-metre shed footprint limit, by building this structure three stories high, somewhat adopting a Dr. Seuss type of house plan.

Maximum shed height is five metres (16 feet), providing more than adequate room for a cathedral ceiling, or the very classy turret, should you have chosen a medieval theme for this structure.

As mentioned above, your best bet – and before starting this shed project – is to check with your building permit office regarding the local zoning and building regulations. They’re not the same in every city and township.

Things to consider? Your entrance will be key. A wide single door, or double doors are good, but a roll-up or sectional garage door is far better. It all has to do with convenience and accessibility.

When I’ve got yard work to do on a Saturday, my first task is to open our garage door. I don’t necessarily like opening the garage door for the same reason we don’t usually open all our closet doors when guests come over to visit. Essentially, you’ve got to have quite the organized and neat garage in order to proudly put it on display for the neighbourhood to pass comment on as they walk or bike on by your home.

However, when requiring access to a tool or garden hose, I’d rather walk through a nine-foot opening, than push through a three-foot swinging door.

As a result, and regardless of our garage’s state of messiness, the garage door stays open for the duration of the task. So, make sure to squeeze both a single entrance door, and garage type door (available in 4’, 5’, and 6 ft. convenient shed widths) into your shed plan.

Next week, more shed tips.

Good building.

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

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

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

Your choice in roofing

Yeah, you need to take the old shingles off before putting on the new. Postmedia Network

At some point in time, your home is going to need a new roof.

Whether the reasons for this expenditure are due to your present roofing showing signs of severe wear and tear, or simply because you ran out of pails this past weekend in a frantic attempt to control the drips leaking down from the ceiling, eventually, roofs need replacing.

Essentially, you’ll have two choices, them being steel or fiberglass asphalt shingles.

There are rubberized and composite type shingles out there, but they’re considerably more expensive, and are not so readily available locally. And, with this column being very much pro-local shopping, along with encouraging the pro-local hiring of tradespersons, we won’t be considering these products.

What about cedar shake roofing? Real, cedar shake shingles, whether they be hand-split (varying texture) or rough sawn (more uniform texture) look terrific, especially on a stone or colonial styled home. Unfortunately, and regardless of their traditional good looks, cedar shakes are probably not the best choice for our climate zone. Simply put, our climate is too wet, too cloudy, and we have far too many trees casting shadows over our roofs. So, with these cedar roofs rarely achieving even relative dryness, you can pretty well expect algae and mold growth within a year or two. Combine this with the three to four freeze and thaw sessions we experience over the course of a winter, and you’ve got all the reasons as to why putting a wood product on your roof is a bad idea.

If your budget has the wiggle room to accept the price of cedar shakes, then you should be considering a steel shingle. However, before choosing between steel and fiberglass shingles, let’s examine what’s underneath your existing roofing.

In the olden days, with ‘olden’ referring to the days of organic shingles, and otherwise recognized as the days when Canadian based teams won Stanley cups, shingles could be layered up to three thicknesses deep. Plus, it was very common to carefully remove the 1×6 planks of wood that served to form the foundation walls, once the concrete dried of course, then reuse this lumber as roof sheeting. When it came to steel roof application, the support, or underlay strategy back in those days had the installer simply installing lengths of 1×4 rough strapping at every 16 inches on-center over the roof trusses, and that was it.

Were these install strategies misguided or reckless? Not necessarily. They were simply justified practices in accordance with what was known and understood during those times, just like bloodletting was the treatment of choice in the 1700’s for those who had fallen ill with anything from laryngitis to an upset stomach.

Sometimes, even our most intelligent people get it wrong.

Today, we understand that both fiberglass asphalt shingles and steel roofing panels require stability. When things move, nails and screws will loosen. When that happens, the next Nor’easter wind will be forcing shingle tabs up, and peeling back your steel roofing panels like the skin on a ripe banana.

The answer to providing a stable roofing underlay is plywood. So, if you’re building a new home, addition, or garage, whether the finished roofing product is fiberglass shingles, or steel roofing, the underlay material must be plywood.

Can fiberglass shingles or steel roofing be installed over an existing shingled roof? Although this strategy will save you dumping fees, stacking one roof over another is going to cause a number of problems. One, the average roof requires about 65 bundles of shingles, which equals about 4600 pounds, or the weight of a 1965 Pontiac Parisienne. So, with every layer of shingles representing one 1965 Pontiac Parisienne left unnecessarily on your rooftop, you can see how this practice could eventually overwhelm an aging truss structure. Plus, a layer or two of shingles will have a certain sponginess to it, preventing the installer from effectively securing a new shingle tab, or tightening down the screws on steel roofing.

Next week, more on roofing.

Good building

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

Roofin’ it

Need some roof work done? Best to let the pros handle it, says our handyman. Postmedia Network

I remember going up onto a roof once, once!

I would frequent my roof more often if it didn’t require the use of an extension ladder. Understanding that every step upwards on an extension ladder exponentially increases the odds of the homeowner dying, I naturally avoid this otherwise key component to general roof repair. My only regret to avoiding extension ladders is that I’m now forfeiting the feeling of calm exhilaration one senses when your leading foot touches down on the grass after taking that last step down.

So, with my generosity in home repair responsibilities being sincerely unbounded, I wholeheartedly recommend that these moments of death defying exhilaration be unselfishly shared with licensed professionals. In other words, if you need your roof repaired, call a licensed roofer.

When should you be inviting a member of this fine class of tradespersons over to your home? Hopefully, it’ll be well before you experience a leak. That’s like waiting for a blowout in order to justify replacing your balding car tires.

Generally, asphalt roofing shingles last about 15-20 years. Today’s asphalt shingles have a fiberglass base, and are often referred to as “fiberglass shingles”, or simply “glass” shingles. Regardless, these fiberglass based shingles have the same ceramic coated rock surface, embedded into asphalt, as their organic (paper based) predecessors. So, even though the warranty on a fiberglass shingle may be 40 years, or a lifetime (considered 50 years), if you’ve gotten 20 years out of your shingles, without a hitch, they’ve served you well.

Why can’t a 40 or 50 year warrantied roofing product actually last 40 or 50 years? They can, of course, under the right conditions, such as the middle US states, where temperatures are consistently and moderately mild, and in the arctic, where things are consistently and moderately cold. In our part of the world, where weather conditions are about as consistent as Carey Price’s goaltending, there’s little hope for any product lasting more than 20 years outdoors, let alone a roof. Other than age, look for shingles tabs that have broken off, or curled up in a very obvious manner. Fiberglass shingles don’t curl so much, due to their more ridged backing. So, if you’re experiencing shingle curl, your shingles are most likely organic, and could be getting close to their expiry date.

Shingle curl, often referred to as ‘winter curl’ was relatively common in an organic shingle. However, the summer season would see this tab curl mostly flatten out. If the tabs aren’t going back, they’ve most likely dried to the point of no return. As a test, you could have a roofer attempt to push a curled shingle tab downwards. If the tab refuses to go down, or because of its dried leaf consistency, would likely crumble, then there’s no saving this roof. Be sure to wait until the outside temperatures are above 10 degrees Celsius before attempting this procedure, otherwise you risk breaking what was a healthy shingle tab.

If the tabs can be pushed down into position without effort, then consider putting a loonie sized dab of plastic cement under the lifted tabs. This will help settle the tab, prevent future wind blow off, and maybe secure you a few more years of roof life.

Are discolored asphalt shingles a problem? Essentially, no. Discoloration of asphalt shingles is normally due to moss and algae growth. Moss and algae growth on asphalt shingles, although unattractive, isn’t a detriment to a roof’s long term sustainability, unless of course things get to the extreme, whereby your home looks like it’s going to be swallowed up by some moss-like creature. If moss and algae are an issue, have your roofer install a strip of zinc metal, available in a 2-1/2 inch x 50 ft. roll, just under the tabs of the capping shingles along the peak of the roof. When it rains, zinc ions will trickle down over the shingles, and kill off the moss and algae.

Next week, more on roofing.

Good building.

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

The cutting edge

Using the right type of blade for the job is important. Postmedia Network

“That’s not a knife . . .this is a knife,” states Paul Hogan (starring as Crocodile Dundee) as he presents his 10-inch Bowie survival knife to a group of street hoodlums, and “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” as stated by Roy Scheider (starring as Chief Brody) to boat Captain Quint, as Brody backs into the cabin area in a somewhat bewildered manner, are a couple of memorable movie lines that exemplify persons showing up for a job with slightly less than adequate tools for the task.

One situation has a New York gangbanger looking to challenge a seasoned Australian outbacker with a simple six-inch switchblade, with the other having a mish mash crew looking to catch a 25 foot Great White shark while aboard the Orca, a 30 ft. aged wooden trawler.

So, with today’s theme relating to cutting and munching, we’re going to be looking at what type of blades are best suited to cut the various building products we do-it-yourselfers will be encountering over our amateur careers.

First rule of thumb to make note of? If there exists a building product or piece of material that needs cutting, then there also exists a specific cutting blade or wheel for that task. That being said, can some saw blades or knives serve in a multi-purpose role, having the capacity to cut or sever a number of building products other than then the one they’ve been specifically designed for? Absolutely.

A circular saw blade, or hacksaw blade formulated to cut steel, will eventually make its way through a piece of wood, eventually, just like Frank Morris eventually carved his way out of the Alcatraz prison in 1962 using a cafeteria spoon. Had inmate Morris had the luxury of procuring himself a cordless drill, with the appropriate concrete bit, I’m sure he would have jumped on the opportunity to save himself the six months of work. And, this is an important point for do-it-yourselfers to understand — don’t go for the spoon, or otherwise semi-adaptable saw blade or drill bit in the toolbox simply because it could perform the task at hand, although poorly, but save you the 10 minute drive to the local building supply center.

Using an 80 tooth finishing blade to rip lumber (cutting lengthwise), when a 24 tooth blade is the better choice, will actually cost you time. Furthermore, a finishing blade designed for cross cutting, but instead used in a ripping manner, will overheat, most likely warp, and certainly dullen the teeth beyond any further productive use. Then there’s the risk factor of forcing lumber into a finishing blade that was not meant to chew through wood at a rip pace. You know you’re tempting fate when pushing a piece of lumber through your table saw requires the same amount of force used to push an automobile out of the snow. In this scenario, the blade is heating up, and is moments away from swelling or warping slightly. When this happens, the blade jams itself into the plank, either shorting out the table saw, or as in most cases, causes a ‘kick back’, appropriately referred to as such due to the lumber jolting backwards, usually hitting the operator in the groin with a force equal to that of an annoyed Appaloosa.

Essentially, every circular or table saw blade will list the items it’s designed to cut on the blade itself. So, if you’re cutting melamine, or plywood, or ripping lumber, look for a blade that lists exactly the type of cutting you’ll be performing. Looking to cut re-bar, steel bolts, angle iron, or steel lath, then choose the appropriate metal blade. Avoid the grinder type of composite discs to cut steel or concrete. They’re certainly less expensive, but wear down quickly. A proper steel blade, designed for the cutting of steel, concrete, or non-ferrous metals (metals that don’t contain iron, such as copper or aluminum) is your best bet.

As always, wear tight fitting work gloves and eyewear when cutting anything.

Good building.

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

Ice belongs in your freezer, not as icicles dripping from your roof

QMI AGENCY FILE

Today we continue with case No. 913, involving Alison Shiver, and her husband M.E. Timbers.

To recapitulate, the ‘Shiver me Timbers’ people are dealing with the fact their roof is producing more ice, in the form of icicles, than the 10 commercial freezers working 24 hours a day at their ice cube company.

The problem? A home attic space that’s too warm, due somewhat in part to heat infiltrating into the attic space, and largely in part to an under-insulated attic floor.

Step one to remedying the infiltration issue involves sealing the gaps found where the electrical outlet’s octagon boxes, and venting ductwork, penetrate the ceiling’s drywall. Products that would serve well in filling these gaps would include an ‘acoustic seal’ caulking, or ‘Gaps n’ Cracks’ spray foam.

Next, we need to ensure any exhaust ductwork traveling through the attic space is not emitting heat. Often, bathroom fan ductwork is fed through the attic, then exhausted out the soffit, or worse, left lying on the attic floor, feeding warm air into what’s supposed to be a cold environment.

One, ductwork travelling through a cold space, such as your attic, needs to be insulated. This can be accomplished by either by wrapping what’s existing with fiberglass insulation and a six-millimeter plastic, or replacing the ductwork with the insulated version of whatever flexible pipe is needed.

Next, we make sure this duct vents out a gable wall, or better yet, out the roof. Because the soffit acts as intake ventilation, the feeding of warm, moisture-filled air created by showers and baths into this area is counterproductive.

Maxi-vents located at the peak of the roof work in conjunction with the soffit vents to create a draft.

Essentially, feeding your bathroom exhaust into the soffit will only have it re-entering the attic space. Venting out a gable wall, or the roof, ensures this humidity gets lost in the atmosphere.

Next, remove those dated pot lights and replace them with the significantly more efficient, non-heat producing, LED-recessed lighting. Pot lights are notorious for their inefficiency, the fact they create heat, and their habit of allowing warm air to infiltrate the attic space.

So, make the change to LED. Fitting tight to the ceiling, and being a fraction of the thickness of a pot light, the newer LED fixtures don’t protrude into the attic space, and therefore will require no special protective cover over top, making them an easy, value-added renovation decision.

Then, we insulate. Because heat rises, and cool air sinks, there’s a big benefit to adding insulation to the floor of your attic. Basically, insulation slows down the transfer of heat, or the transfer of cold, from one space to another.

The more insulation or R-factor that you have in your attic, the longer your living space below will stay warm, which will result in lower fuel costs.

The new home standard for attic insulation is R-60. In order to achieve this level of thermal value, a homeowner would need to cover their attic floor with about 18 inches of fiberglass pink insulation, or about 22 inches of Atticat blowing wool.

Most homes have at least six-to-eight inches, or about R-20 of insulating value in their attics already.

So, you’re basically needing to top things off to our 2018 standards.

Fiberglass pink comes in batt form, whereby a standard attic “batt” is 24 inches wide, by 48 inches long, by the desired thickness. Choosing the batt strategy will require the homeowner (or hired hand) placing each piece individually across the attic floor. If this is to be your preferred method, choose the R-20, six-inch thick fiberglass pink batt. This thickness of batt handles easy, and gets you to your R-60 goal quite effectively by using a crisscross pattern of laying the second series of batts over the first.

In Alison and Mike’s case, we’re going to be choosing the Atticat blowing wool. Next week, we find out why.

Good building.

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

Warming your timbers

Case no. 913 has us examining the home owned by one Alison Shiver, along with her husband, M.E. (Michael Eliot) Timbers.

Together, they own and operate ‘Shiver Me Timbers’, taking advantage of this match made in heaven to become the new owners of the local ice cube and ice block company, formally owned by retired seaman L. J. Silver. With over one million cubes of ice being manufactured daily, the Shiver Me Timbers people know how to make and bag ice. Incredibly though, the Shiver Me Timbers company still ranks second in ice production to an element that’s thankfully not a retail competitor of theirs. Who might this element be? Oddly enough, it’s the roof right over their heads.

Alison and Michael’s roof produces icicles, which unfortunately due to the rather stringent laws regarding the use of petroleum oils and granular roof matter in foodstuffs, prevents these icicles from being bagged and sold as a natural after school treat. So, with no profit to be made by harvesting these icy daggers, or added benefit of introducing “Icy Roof Treats” to the company’s line of products, it’s time to eliminate this obvious display of home inefficiency.

Regardless of how charming icicles look in a Hallmark Christmas card, they’re a sign of heat loss. Heat loss in a home is going to happen. We lose heat through our windows, our mechanical exhaust vents, and every time somebody opens a door. Those heat losses are inevitable, not so controllable, and other than having a bunch of poorly operating windows, are no real cause for immediate concern.

However, a warm attic in the thick of winter is not a good thing. Essentially, your attic is going to end up catching a cold. Heat being produced in the home naturally rises up. If this heat, and accompanying moisture, is allowed to infiltrate the attic, it’ll continue up towards the plywood or roof plank underlay. When the plywood warms up, heat gets transferred to the shingles overtop, which melts the snow. This snow melt then races down the roof until it reaches the overhang, the only part of the roof that’s cold because it has no heat source underneath. When the snow melt crosses the overhang, it begins to cool, then freeze, just as it’s attempting its leap off the roof, forming the not so cherished icicle.

Unfortunately, hanging shards of ice will be the least of your worries. If the snow melt fails to make its way to the edge of the roof, it’ll join the ranks of the other icicle wannabes, and become a member of an even more notorious group, known simply as the ice dam bad boys. When heat is allowed to rise into the attic, condensation often forms on the plywood. Now you’ve got a couple of water sources in your attic, one as a result of an ice dam forcing snow melt back up and under the shingles, along with moisture dripping down from the plywood underlay.

Two bad things about these scenarios. One, wet plywood eventually rots. And two, the condensation drippings will fall into whatever insulation you have in the attic, lessening its thermal value, forming mold, and eventually making its way to the ceiling’s drywall. So, how do we keep our attics nice and cold in the winter? By sealing any breach in the ceiling’s drywall, removing any heat sources, and most of all, by insulating.

Start by removing the decorative collar around any hanging light fixtures and ceiling exhaust vents. Sometimes, the drywall cut around the electrical box, or ductwork, isn’t so perfect, which will allow moist air to draft up into the attic. So, seal this gap (if it’s a 1/4 inch or less) with an ‘acoustic-seal’ caulking. Larger gaps can be filled with a ‘Gaps n’ Cracks’ spray foam. Next, make sure any ductwork or venting pipes running through the attic are insulated, and, that they’re not exhausting directly into your attic space.

Next week, we’re insulating our attic. 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