Go wider and straighter on doors and passageways

This file photo from 2011 shows a home in London, Ont., with a 36-inch wide front door. MIKE HENSON/LONDON FREE PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Today we continue our efforts to offer insight and advice to those novice homeowners looking to build a new home in the spring.

Our qualifications? A lifetime of errors, miscalculations, and poor decisions.

Our goal? To enlighten first-time homebuilders with a “What Not To-Do” list of home and renovation faux pas, thereby avoiding the building of more multi-divided, multi-levelled, tiny-kitchen/big dining roomed homes by this next generation.

Which, brings us to building error No.12: Narrow doorways and passageways.

The most effective way of realizing most home entrance and doorways are too narrow is by attempting to move something through them. As a father, husband, and owner of a pickup truck, I sometimes get asked to help move things. Which is no problem, because I like picking things up, along with the simple sense of accomplishment one incurs by successfully moving a fridge from point A to point B.

The sensation I don’t so much cherish is the feeling of three layers of skin slowly being shredded off my knuckles by the door jamb, as I attempt to move a 31.5-inch piece of furniture through a 32-inch wide opening.

So, in order to make things a little easier on all those dads, buddies, and certainly the professional movers, let’s add at least two inches to the average door opening.

Plus, you have to consider that people aren’t moving into homes with 1950s- and 1960s-sized fridges and stoves. Today’s kitchen appliances, sofas, and cabinetry, are often huge entities. So, it stands to reason the average 32- to 34-inch front door, and standard 30-inch bedroom doors, are going to have to be widened up a bit.

Start by ensuring the slabs of your exterior doors, including the front entrance door, side entrance doors, and door leading in from the garage, are all 36 inches in diameter.

Next, consider ordering your front entrance door with a handicap sill plate. Other than being a friendlier type of sill for walkers and wheelchairs to navigate over, and very convenient for dollies wheeling heavy appliances, the low profile of a handicap sill simply eliminates the trip ledge created by a standard sill plate.

Next, make your bedroom doors a minimum of 32 inches wide. Thirty inch-wide slabs are the standard, and the reason why I either dent a wall, or bump an elbow, every time I move a cabinet or walk through the doorway with a hamper of clothing.

Although young people tend to walk a little straighter than older folks, having 32-inch + sized interior door slabs will make your moving around a whole lot easier regardless.

Next, if your home is going to have a second storey, thereby requiring stairs, be sure to review the stairway strategy. Some architects and home designers love to incorporate curved stairways, or stairways that have multi-rest stations, having the homeowner climbing up a few steps to a platform, then turning 90 degrees, up another four or five steps, platform, turn, then another four or five steps to the second-floor finish line. The nice thing about curved or tiered stairways is that they’re visually beautiful.

The not so great thing about stairways that are anything other than straight, is you’ll find yourself cutting, then folding your queen-sized box spring in half in order to squeeze it up the stairs.

Non-straight stairways also present a challenge for those taller and wider pieces of furniture, where damage to the drywall is almost guaranteed, and that’s every time you carry it up, or move it down. Plus, every curve or change of direction in a stairway is going to stress the lower backs of the movers.

So, when it comes to stairs, keep ‘em plain, straight, and simple.

Next, wider door slabs will mean less wall space, which may cramp the size of your door casings. So, confer with your architect to ensure he or she allows for at least four or five inches around each finished door opening.

Good building.

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

Think before you build, part one

If you’ve got plans to build a new home next spring, or are thinking about major renovations involving your existing home, let’s go over a few of the do’s and the don’ts regarding your building strategy.

Home building strategy No. 1: Avoid bumps, stair splits, or varying levels of any kind. Essentially, once you, your family members, or your guests, have climbed the three or four steps leading up to the front door, the challenge of further obstacles and light cardio activity should be minimal.

Known as the split level, some home designers have seen it useful to have the homeowners, once comfortably in the home’s entrance and after having placed their shoes and jacket in the closet, climb another four or five steps in order to get themselves into the parlour or lounging area of the home.

Then, after this short climb, designers have often further challenged the home’s occupants with a third, lower tier, in the form of a sunken living room.

If this were an industrial or commercial type of setting, such rises and drops would require a line of yellow caution tape forewarning occupants about the change in floor-scape. Cautioning people to the varying floor heights of a home would be a good idea, but incorporating these yellow caution lines into the colour scheme might be a challenge for your decorator.

On the other hand, there’s no quicker way to sending grandma hurtling to the floor than with the installation of a few strategically placed speed bumps, referred to as ‘thresholds’ in the home biz.

Thresholds can be strips of wood, composite material, or metal, and are used to transition one type of flooring into another when two floorings either differ in thickness, or when floors continue from one room into another.

Regardless of their convenience in joining two floors of varying heights, the inconspicuous quarter-inch bump is often just high enough to catch a passing sole, which is hilarious for everybody except the victim.

Generally, thresholds can be avoided by either adding a layer of subfloor to the thinner flooring, or in the case of ceramic tile, which often finishes to a thicker-than-average height, choosing a cement board or dimpled plastic type of substrate, which is a thinner alternative to the often used spruce plywood sheeting.

Home building strategy No. 2: Avoid stairs. There are a few things in this world that are best left to the young, such as playing contact sports, letting your hair grow long, and climbing stairs.

So, if you’re 30- or 40-something in age and are looking to build a home, incorporate all the various levels and build all the stairs you want. Don’t stop at two stories, but perhaps even go for three, real old-school stuff, with your workout room and stair-master machine located at the top of these two flights of stairs, allowing the homeowner endless opportunities to climb.

However, know that by doing so you’ll be limiting the re-sale potential of your home to a very small demographic.

So, do we avoid stairs and stick to one-storey homes? If possible, and if your lot size will allow it, then absolutely.

There are a number of challenges, like general home maintenance and upkeep, that aging homeowners are going to have to face, so avoid adding climbing stairs to the list.

Home elevators? They exist and they’re costly, but if you’re determined to own a two-storey home well into your 70s and 80s, definitely explore this option. If your budget will allow for an in-home Otis, but you feel you’re a little too young for the elevator option at this point in your life, don’t worry, you’ll eventually get there.

In the interim, if your plans involve staying in your new build for as long as you can stay healthy, then have your architect design the stairway in a manner that will allow for an easy transition to such an option.

Next week, more building options to ponder.

Good building.

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

Making that room even quieter

Today we improve our home comfort with more strategic ways of eliminating room-to-room sound transmissions.

As mentioned last week, the most opportune time to do so is when renovating your kitchen, bathroom, or really any room in the home. Essentially, if you’re going to be moving or opening up a wall in order to redirect wiring, plumbing, or ductwork, then you might as well be taking advantage of this opportunity to create a little more privacy.

Why the need to block the transfer of sound? Because silence is golden, and after your 12-year-old has returned home with a set of bagpipes as his musical instrument of choice, silence will maintain your sanity.

What decreases sound from transmitting from point A to point B? Distance and obstacles. With the average residential building lot being anywhere from 50 to 60 feet wide, increasing the distance between the theatre room and your desktop computer is going to be a challenge.

So, we’re left with the alternative of obstacles.

Disclaimer: The following sound-blocking procedures will effectively muffle general sounds created in the home, however, the enactment of said procedures should not be used in falsehood, or as a crutch, for a person’s habit of selectively hearing.

Yes, we can reduce the sounds being transmitted by the loud operation of a television (producing about 60 decibels) being operated in room A, from entering room B, to little more than a whisper. However, a human cry for attention (producing about 80 decibels) should the lady of the home see a mouse, or be attempting to get a long-overdue chore completed, will indeed transmit through, albeit not quite in its entirety.

Regardless, if there’s no movement on the part of the person on the receiving end of this cry, know that it’s not so much the sound blanket doing its job, but the fact you are indeed being ignored.

With a regular, hollow-core wall assembly having a STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of about 32, it would be nice to boost this wall assembly up to a STC 55, thereby muffling out most loud noises.

Step one: Fill the space in between the studs with Roxul’s Safe n’ Sound insulation, immediately boosting our wall assembly from a STC 32 to a STC 42.

Next, and before installing the drywall, fasten a sheet of 0.75”x4’x8’ Sonopan to your wood studs. Sonopan, recognized by its green colour and dimpled texture, is a lightweight fibre board that adds another 10 STC points to your wall assembly.

With both the Roxul Safe n’ Sound and Sonopan fiber sheets, our wall assembly now stands at an impressive STC 52.

Getting to our goal of STC 55 is going to require the help of a slight air space, along with a bit of solid mass. The air space will create a drum effect, further dissipating the transmission of noise, and will be provided by the addition of steel moldings, referred to as resilient channel. Installed horizontally at every 16 inches on centre, and placed directly over the Sonopan panels, the resilient channels will be fastened with 2.5-inch screws, reaching through the Sonopan, penetrating into the wood studs.

Avoid using regular 1×3 spruce strapping for the creation of an air space. The spruce’s mass will allow sound to reverberate through the wall, whereby the resilient channel’s mass is minimal, offering no route for the sound to follow.

Next, we follow up with two layers of 5/8” inch drywall, as opposed to a single layer of half-inch drywall. The 5/8” drywall provides the mass we’ll need to reach our goal of building an STC 55 wall structure. The first sheet of 5/8” drywall will be fastened to the resilient channel, but won’t penetrate the Sonopan board, while the second sheet of 5/8” drywall gets fastened to the first sheet, effectively creating a break in sound transmission.

Bonus to the 5/8” drywall is the double layer of fire-resistant product.

That’s how we keep things quiet.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder

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

Take the ‘opportunity of silence’

One type of stone-wool insulation is this Canadian-made Roxul STEVE MAXWELL/OTTAWA CITIZEN/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

If you’re planning a renovation this winter, then don’t pass up the opportunity to make your home a little quieter.

The ‘opportunity of silence’ refers to the fact most renovations involve the total gutting of the room needing attention.

Gutting a bathroom or kitchen means removing not only the existing cabinetry, but the flooring, light fixtures, and the drywall, thereby exposing the studs— essentially bringing the room back to its original state of framing.

Gutting a room becomes necessary when basically every component in the room is being replaced.

Replacing fixtures often results in having to re-direct the electrical wiring and plumbing pipes, or updating them to today’s codes and standards.

The error homeowners make, is after all the electrical and mechanical changes have been made, the wall simply gets closed up again with drywall in preparation for the cabinetry. That’s what’s referred to as a missed opportunity of silence.

The thing about rooms, especially kitchens and bathrooms, is they create noise, noises that in most cases need not be leaked or transmitted into neighbouring rooms. So, if you were lucky enough to score tickets to the Habs game, yet unlucky in your choice of the burrito special at Senor Rodriguez’s take out Tacos, the continued tooting of your horn after arriving home need not be advertised any further than your washroom.

How to make a wall increasingly more sound proof means first understanding a few terms.

A wall assembly will have a STC (sound transmission class) rating, based on how effectively the wall prevents sound from moving from one room to the next. So, the higher the STC rating, the better that wall will be at blocking sound.

Decibels (db) are simply a measurement of how loud something is, based on a sound pressure scale. For example, a casual conversation will register at 40 db, a large truck driving by at 80 db, and your home’s fire alarm at 100 db.

Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz), and relates to the tone, or time cycle of a sound. So, the low sound created by a tuba would register 30 Hz, whereby the clashing of two cymbals might register 10,000 Hz. Humans can only hear sounds that occur between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, with the capability of registering and effectively translating sound frequencies, and range of frequency, declining with age.

This might explain why after 25 years of marriage, men can still effectively receive and translate the low frequency sounds being emitted from the television, yet have difficulty registering the higher-pitched sound of their wife’s voice when asking them to take out the garbage.

With the wall cavity opened up, now’s the time to make your soon-to-be renovated bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen, a little more sound proof.

A standard 2×4 wall with half-inch drywall on both sides has a STC rating of about 30. If casual conversation creates about 40 db, a standard wall assembly will somewhat muffle the room-to-room sounds of regular conversation passing through, but will do little to impede the decibel frequencies created by any loud music or television sounds.

Muffling this noise transmission, or creating a transmission loss, will mean having to slightly modify and beef up our regular wall assembly with a number of sound-absorbing products.

The easiest modification one can make to a wall assembly is the addition of Roxul Safe n’ Sound insulation. At 3.5 inches thick, the Safe n’ Sound batts conveniently fit into any 2×4 or 2×6 wall, and bump up the STC rating by 10 to 12 points. Now you’ve got a wall assembly that’ll at least muffle out most regular low sounds.

Bonus to the Safe n’ Sound’s ability to block sound, is its ability to limit the spread of flames, somewhat creating a safe room, at least for a few key minutes.

So we’ve managed to block the sound of casual conversation, now what about the clash of cymbals? That’ll be next week.

Good building.

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

Insp. Clouseau looks for clues at the cottage

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Today we’ll be following home inspector Jack Nailbucket, aka Insp. Clouseau, due to Jack’s genealogical connection with his French cousins, and a preference of wearing a white fedora and trench coat while performing his home inspections.

The inspector will be passing his magnifying glass over a potential cottage for purchase by a Mr. Bill ‘Crusher’ Granite, the subject of last week’s column.

Now to be clear, the use of the term cottage in this case is purely subjective. What’s for purchase here is a standard 1,600-square-foot home with nearly a full-height basement, and not an 800-square-foot hunting lodge raised up on cement blocks. There’s no way we’ll be closing this baby up for the winter.

In order for this cottage to remain healthy, general maintenance, a few upgrades, and providing heat for this home year round, regardless of occupancy, will be absolutely necessary.

Our Clouseau was also suspicious of the sales person’s repeated mention the sellers of this cottage are a physics professor and his wife who are looking to retire to the city. Very good, the home has been lived in by someone capable of splitting an atom.

Unfortunately, this same fellow was befuddled by the soggy state of his loafers as he walked the perimeter of his home, and failed to recognize the fact the home’s landscape was working in a negative manner, directing water towards the foundation.

So, be leery of trusting all is good simply because a home has been lived in by persons of means or intelligence. It should be viewed as little solace or guarantee your future dwelling has been well cared for, or built to code.

The home had several little decks that permitted seating on the east, west, and north sides of the home, allowing the homeowners to view the water and strategically follow the sun, or the shade, throughout the day.

A lovely idea, except for the fact each deck was in its own stage of decay. This was due largely in part to the puddles of water and moisture-filled soil that lay beneath these decks, and the fact all three decks had been framed perilously close to the ground.

Further to the deck issue was a relatively significant crack in the corner of the foundation wall that supported the garage. Our Clouseau suspects rainwater and snow melt had been allowed to pool in this area, with this moisture infiltrating the concrete, then expanding during the freezing periods.

We haven’t even entered the cottage yet and we’re facing a foundation repair, dismantling the existing decks (which thankfully are of treated lumber, as opposed to composite, and represent no great loss), a total re-do of the landscaping (which may or may not include replacing the weeping tile, if it ever existed), then re-building the decks once again.

Properly grading the landscape is going to be a challenge because there’s little to no foundation left to work with. It’s as if the house had sunk into a hole. Built on bedrock, this cottage has never sunk, but its foundation was probably two or three rows of concrete blocks too short, a strange error considering the age of the home and the general guidelines of building.

Next, we visited the basement, which was for some reason only accessible from the outside. Our Clouseau was at a loss as to why the professor forfeited a standard stairwell to the basement, in exchange for added closet space.

His thought was that should an explosion occur in the basement as a result of the professor experimenting with a new rocket fuel, the main living area would have been shielded, with the ensuing damage limited to the basement’s block walls blowing out. With the basement walls gone, the home would have simply crashed down upon the rubble, which would have unfortunately included the professor, but on a positive note, saved on the cost of internment.

Next week, the inspection continues.

Good building.

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

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

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

It’s a cake walk

This kind of deterioration of parging is common. Not to worry though, it’s a pretty easy fix. Postmedia Network KEVIN GOULD / KEVIN GOULD/STANDARD-FREEHOLDER

In keeping with our do-it-yourself motto of “you’ve got to try it at least once” today we’re going to be parging our foundation.

After a home’s foundation has been poured, and the plywood forms removed, the homeowner is left with an exposed concrete wall that isn’t so attractive. In order to remedy this situation, since there’s often 30-36 inches of exposed wall between the grass and the siding, the contractor will apply a thin coat of a cement product called pargemix.

The same situation exists with today’s foam foundations. Whatever portion of foam that isn’t covered by siding, will need to be sealed with a parging compound.

Because all homes settle a bit over time, this thin coat of concrete can develop a few hairline cracks. As water and moisture enter these cracks, thereby infiltrating this cement layer, the parging will tend to break off in small chunks over time, once again exposing the foundation’s rough surface.

The good thing about the task of parging is that it’s a non-structural operation. Parging is essentially a decorative, or esthetic feature. So, if the parge mix happens to fall off in a month or two, or your habit of creating cupcakes with lopsided frosting tops somehow transfers to a foundation wall that is somewhat less than perfectly smooth and level, only your pride and status as a true do-it-yourselfer will be hurt.

However decorative, parging is still the first line of defence against water penetrating the foundation. So, and regardless of the fact a foundation simply looks better after it’s been parged, parging does serve a purpose.

When parging a concrete foundation wall, first tap off or chip away any loose pieces of existing cement with a small hammer and concrete chisel, then sweep things clean using a steel brush. Other tools for the job will include a clean 20L. pail, 24” drywall mixer, 4”x12” cement trowel, 4”x9” sponge rubber float, a notched trowel, margin or pointing trowel, and a tin can or similar type container for scooping.

The drywall mixer attaches to any standard drill, and is essentially a giant beater blade that will blend your pargemix compound in the same manner a power mixer stirs up a cake mix. Besides saving you time and energy, the mixer is key to avoiding further wear and tear on those achy shoulder and elbow joints.

Once the concrete surface has been brushed clean, rinse the area to be covered with your garden hose. Next, pour four litres of water into your pail, then slowly scoop the 30 kg bag of pargemix into the pail, while at the same time operating your drywall mixer. To increase the sticking power of your pargemix, you can replace one litre of water with a one litre bottle of “All-Crete”, a concrete adhesive designed especially to encourage new concrete to stick to old.

Mix the pargemix/water solution for about five minutes. With the pargemix at a nice, spreading consistency (add more water if it’s too thick) use your smaller margin or pointing trowel to gather up a load of pargemix out of the pail, then place this mass on your 4”x12” cement trowel, then apply it to the wall. Start at the bottom (grass level) spreading the pargemix onto the wall as you move your trowel vertically upwards. Perform a few more vertical strips, then work your trowel horizontally to spread things out. A dampened sponge trowel will further help smoothen the parging compound.

Pargemix should be applied no more than half an inch thick. If your foundation wall is severely pitted, you can apply a thin coat on day one, then a second layer a day later. If a second layer is in the plan, etch your first layer with a notched trowel before it dries. This will give the second layer something to grab onto.

If you’re parging a foam foundation, prepare the surface by fastening diamond lath to the foam blocks using deck screws and foam washers.

Good building.

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