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

That’s a wrap

When building, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion exposed so that the wood may be allowed to ìbreatheî or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate. Postmedia Network

I think the inventors of Baggies sandwich bags, and Saran Wrap, are two of the most intelligent and opportunist people in the world. Intelligent because they’ve managed to develop a lightweight, flexible, and user friendly manner of sealing and protecting foodstuffs. Opportunists because they’ve not only developed something useful, but have enabled us, as humans, to fulfill one of our most instinctive and powerful needs, and that’s the simple desire of wanting to wrap things.

What do we do with a newborn baby? Although it’s referred to as a swaddle, we’re essentially wrapping ‘em. Bloody finger? Wrap it. Christmas gifts, sprained ankle, hole in the car’s muffler? Wrap, wrap, wrap.

After supper the other night, I wrapped or bagged 10 different leftover items and tossed them in the fridge. Approximately 50 per cent of these items will see action in the immediate future, two to three things might be caught in time for use, with the last one or two items forgotten and allowed to develop into 15 types of mold. Regardless, they were all good wraps.

What do we do with a staff meeting that’s gone 30 minutes into overtime? We wrap it up. So, what do we do with basically any wood project or structure? Well, if you’re still not sure as to the theme of this week’s rant, for the good of the wood, you wrap it. For all intents and purposes, plywoods, basic framework, and wooden posts, will stick around for the long term if they’re kept dry. The strategy to keeping wood dry in a four season climate such as ours is challenging because wood is a product that naturally absorbs moisture. So, with a “dry season” unfortunately not forming part of the four seasons we experience, our plywoods and 2×4 framing lumber are always in a state where they’re retaining some level of humidity, regardless of the fact the lumber was kiln dried at some point in its production. As a result, we can’t simply saran wrap every piece of lumber because that would trap the humidity, which would lead to our lumber looking like the aforementioned science experiment regarding the 15 types of mold. Instead, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion of the plywood or lumber exposed (with these exposed sides usually facing the interior of the building) so that the wood may be allowed to “breathe” or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate.

So, whether you’re building a shed, or 3000 sq. ft. home, we always protect the plywood walls with a house wrap. Because the interior, or what’s referred to as the warm side of a standard, insulated wall, must have a plastic vapor barrier, in order to prevent moisture from entering the wall cavity, the outside wall cannot be saran wrapped, or covered in the same manner, because that would trap the moisture already in the plywood, and stud framework. So, we cover the exterior wall with a house wrap, a product that sheds water, should rain or snow makes its way past the siding, but is still porous enough to allow the wood to breathe.

Our plywood roofs require the same type of protection. Although asphalt paper was for the longest time the product of choice, synthetic felts are the better product. Similar to a house wrap, synthetic roof felts shed water and breathe. However, they differ from house wraps in that they reflect UV light, and are far superior to paper felts because they can protect a roof for up to six months, which is a real bonus when inclement weather causes unforeseen delays.

Other areas in need of protection are the wooden framework around windows and doors. When the caulking around a window or door frame begins to shrink or crack, water infiltrates into the wall and puddles on the sill, leading to mold or rot. For this reason, we now wrap three out of the four sides of the wooden frames with a rubberized membrane.

Next week, more on wraps. Good building.

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

A crowning achievement

A necessity, no, but crown molding can really make a room. Postmedia Network

If you’re the type of do-it-yourselfer that is willing to try most any small renovation at least once, provided of course the potential for injury or loss of home due to fire or flood is kept to a minimum, then at some point in time you’re probably going to attempt to install a crown molding.

For the uninitiated, a crown molding is the decorative trim used to elegantly bridge the harsh corner between your interior walls and ceiling. Is the crown molding a necessary part of a home’s finishing? No. However, will a home be all the better for having crown moldings, providing an upscale setting, allowing you to host guests and dignitaries somewhat above your normal social status? Very likely. So, for the décor value, as well as the potential to expand your guest lists, thereby elevating the conversation of your gatherings beyond such subjects as to whether Mankind really deserved the win over The Undertaker in WrestleMania 13, we install crown moldings.

Basic tools for the job will include a 10 inch chop saw, and an air-compressor type of finishing gun. Because your crown molding will most likely be painted, and as a result made of MDF (medium density fiberboard), you’ll require the power and blade count (at least 60 carbide teeth) of a 10 inch blade, along with the superior performance of an air gun. Don’t attempt to pre-drill and install a crown molding with finishing nails. Finishing nails are fine for pine and real wood moldings because real wood, even when dry, maintains some of its elasticity. MDF material, on the other hand, is simply too hard, and offers no forgiveness, causing the amateur carpenter to make a mess of the molding’s surface when countersinking the finishing nail.

Considered the most challenging finishing molding to install, due to the crowns two beveled edges needing to be placed squarely against the wall and ceiling, there are strategies to installing this molding correctly. As a precautionary measure, and before loading the car up with tens of moldings, be sure to purchase the two following items. One, an 8 ft. piece of the crown molding of your choice, and two, an “OGEE” cutting guide. Once at home, carefully remove the OGEE cutting guide from its box (because you may have to return it) and read the how-to instructions. Finishing carpenters each have their own type of wooden jigs or strategies when it comes to holding a crown molding in place as they cut it. The OGEE guide is simply a plastic version of one of these jigs, and safely sets the crown molding in position under the saw for the amateur finisher. The 8 ft. length of molding is basically a 10-12 dollar research and development expense into whether you’re capable of performing this task or not. Because the crown molding sits on an angle, has beveled edges, and must be further cut at 45 degrees, all while being positioned in an upside down manner for at least half of the required cuts, the directionally challenged person is going to find this experience frustrating.

So, read the OGEE guide’s instructions, take your 8 ft. molding, and try a few left and right hand, inside and outside corner, practice cuts. Then, using these short lengths of moldings, see how they fit up into the corners of where the wall meets the ceiling. Once you’ve established what an inside left corner cut is, as well as an inside right, and any right or left outside corner cuts, label these short pieces with a marker. These “pre-cuts” will be a great help in directionally guiding you when it comes to cutting the longer lengths. On the other hand, if after cutting an entire 8 ft. crown into bits and pieces you still can’t get the hang of it, don’t despair, some people can perform open heart surgery, then can’t figure their way out of a round-a-bout, it’s just what is.

Good building.

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

How to pick an interior door

There are plenty of choices, but if the budget allows, our handyman suggests getting solid core doors. Postmedia Network

Last week we discussed the advantages of choosing a pre-hung door unit, as opposed to buying the door slab, jamb, hinges and door stop, separately. So, with the “how to” of buying an interior door settled, what style of interior door should a homeowner be looking for?

First, let’s examine basic door composition. Interior doors are composed of two door skins, held together by a pine frame that follows the perimeter of the skin. From this point, the slab will either have a hollow core, whereby the space in between the two door skins is mostly air, along with a honeycomb type of cardboard grid, or the slab will have a solid core, with the core space filled with particle wood matter.

Most doors stocked at your local building supply dealer are of the hollow core variety, mainly because they’re less expensive than their solid core cousins.

Essentially, a pre-hung door costs about 100 bucks, while a pre-hung solid core door will set you back $150. So, you’re paying about 50 per cent more for a solid core slab that looks exactly like the hollow core version.

Still, if you can swing it budget wise, go solid core. In the same way opening the door of a Cadillac provides a better sense of security than that of a Russian Lada, the extra weight of a solid core door simply feels better when you handle it.

Furthermore, a solid core door is significantly more dent resistant, and a much easier repair. Solid core slabs also provide the homeowner with a reliable substrate in which to install a mirror, shoe-rack, or whatever type of racking that could prove handy in a bedroom, closet, or walk-in storage type of area.

However, the solid slabs biggest value, other than it being an effective fire block, is its ability to muffle sound. Basically, whether we’re talking an office or media room, bathroom, laundry room, or bedroom, there isn’t a room in the house that couldn’t benefit from a door that helps either keep the sound in, or sound out. So, for those reasons, consider the solid core option when ordering your interior pre-hung doors.

Next, what door style to pick? Choosing a style or panel design will be entirely in the hands of you or your decorator. The only advice I would give to new home builders and renovators, is to avoid choosing the standard wood grained colonial door. Nothing against the wood grained door, since it’s faithfully served the interior, residential door market for the last 30 years, but . . . it’s done its time, with the smooth finished door being the better choice.

Trending these days are the three and five paneled, embossed doors, which offer a touch of elegance that dates back to what was popular a century ago. Other than simply being an attractive door style, the smooth surface of these interior doors is easier to repair than its woodgrain counterpart, and provides a better match to both casings and baseboards, with its finish perfectly duplicating that of today’s MDF moldings.

Other than deciding on a door style, and whether the slab will have a hollow or solid core, you’ll need to specify four other things when ordering a pre-hung door.

These include door height and width, jamb depth, color of hinges, and door swing. The required door size can be acquired by measuring the existing door slab that you’re replacing, or measuring the rough opening (space into which the pre-hung will be inserted). Determining the jamb depth means measuring the thickness of the wall, while the color of the hinges should match your chosen door knobs. As for swing, it’s either opening to the right, or to the left. Sounds easy, but many an error has been committed when it comes to determining the swing. So, make sure what you perceive as a right or left hand swing, matches that of the salesperson ordering the door.

Good building.

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

Buying an interior door

Putting in or replacing an interior door? Read our handyman. Postmedia Network

At some point in time, and as a homeowner, or landlord, you’re going to need a new interior door.

The reasons for such a purchase can vary. Mahogany, smooth faced doors, were popular in the 1970’s and 80’s. So, if you’ve recently purchased a home from that era, you may be looking to update that rather plain look to the more in vogue, smooth raised panel door. Other than that, basic roughhousing can also contribute to change. That’s why on those cold winter days, we in the retail building supply biz encourage those parents with small children to have them learn and participate in indoor games using real hockey pucks and baseballs, as opposed to some insulting ‘Nerf’ replica. How a child can hone his stickhandling and shooting skills, or learn how to throw a decent curve ball, using some similar shaped piece of foam, is beyond me. Or sometimes, like Oscar Pistorius, you fear an intruder has occupied your bathroom, providing you with just reason to blast through the door with four rounds of gunfire, only to discover it was actually your supermodel girlfriend brushing her teeth, oops! Hey, it happens.

So, for those reasons, and certainly others, replacing an interior door is sometimes necessary.

First, let’s review a few terms. You have a door “slab”, which refers to the panel that moves, the door “frame”, which holds the door in position, and the “pre-hung” door, which includes both the door, hinges, and the frame, all as one unit. So, if a door has been damaged, or is no longer in style, you have the option of replacing only the slab, or the slab and the frame, which would require you ordering a pre-hung door. Due to the work involved in having to cut out the hinges, drill for the door knob, fitting the door stop and cutting the frame, slabs and frames are rarely ordered separately, since this would require an assembly from scratch by the carpenter. Today, it’s economically more feasible to simply buy a door slab already hung in its frame, hence the term pre-hung. In most circumstances, it’s easier for your finishing carpenter, and certainly the ‘do it yourself’ homeowner, to replace a door slab with a pre-hung door, as opposed to replacing a slab for a slab.

Fitting a new slab door into an older, existing frame will be a painful exercise, due to the purchaser having to cut out the hinges, drill for the knob, then hand plane the door so that it fits into what is often a frame slightly out of square.

What about purchasing a pre-drilled slab that already has the hinges cut out? The chances of the hinge and door knob placement of this new, pre-machined door, matching your 50-year-old frame, is between none and zero. Then you’re left with having to modify either the hinge placement on the door or the frame, using wood fillers to patch up the differences, which will look horrible. Only in the case of the existing casing and frame having extreme, irreplaceable value, should a homeowner pay a finishing carpenter to replace a slab for a slab. Otherwise, order a pre-hung door every time.

When purchasing a pre-hung door, be sure to measure both the width and height of the existing door slab. The door slab sizes in a pre-hung unit range from 12-36 inches wide, in two inch increments, and are a standard 80 inches high. Measuring the height of the door slab you’re replacing is important because door slabs in the olden days were 78 inches high. Plus, and in the case of a basement, or under a stairwell installation, the original door could have been cut down even further to fit an opening.

Can a pre-hung door be cut down to size? It’s not easy, but yes. Best bet when faced with a door slab that’s shorter than 80 inches? Custom order it pre-hung to size.

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

Start planning now

Too cold outside? Get planning. Postmedia Network

So, what’s a homeowner to do over the course of the next few, cold winter weekends, where stepping outside, let alone participating in some god forbidden, snowshoe or cross-country skiing type activity, would just be too damned unpleasant an experience?

Well, find a sheet of graph paper, ruler, pencil and an eraser, then pour yourself a hot cup of cocoa, and get to work on a plan. What are we planning? Doesn’t really matter. Your home is most probably in need of some type of improvement or modification, so your plan could involve pretty much anything.

The thing is, home renovations can fail, or be a disappointing experience for the homeowner, due to any number of reasons. However, 99 per cent of the time, a lousy ending is the direct result of poor planning. So, if that spring or summer home addition, garage, deck, or fence project is going to roll along smoothly with as few hitches as possible, the time to start planning is while the snow is still on the ground.

Why so soon? Because things take time, mostly due to the human factor. Humans are flawed, in case you didn’t know. So, considering the fact a human will be designing, collecting the material, then building this contraption, with no other superior being or alien form available to review this process, the possibility of error is as certain as Ottawa’s Dion Phaneuf coughing up the puck in his defensive zone.

So, we start early, taking whatever time is required in order to get this project right. Once you’ve made a sketch of what you plan on building, the next step is crucial, and will inevitably be the make or break part of this project. Best case scenario would have you setting up a meeting with your preferred licensed contractor or carpenter, whereby you would place your sketches, pictures, and drawings in their capable hands, further discuss the build, then let him or her carry the load from this point on.

A poor decision would be to fold this paper up, toss it into the to-do drawer, and take it out sometime next spring, with the full intention of building this yourself, without a permit. The DIY (do it yourself) culture gained prominence in the 1990’s, whereby every manufacturer had a user friendly, lightweight tool designed for those amateurs looking to build things themselves. Twenty five years later, we now realize that the DIY phenomena should have been more appropriately promoted as the SIUY (screw it up yourself) initiative, since many a home brew project led to poor, costly results that inevitably had to be re-constructed.

Many of us homeowners are handy, which is the consolation of course to not being so handsome. Regardless, being handy is a good thing when it comes to repairing a crack in the drywall, painting touch ups, or assembling a few storage shelves in the basement, but when it comes to building something that’ll be attached to your home, the expertise that a professional will bring to your future porch, or backyard deck, will be the real key to your success.

Building projects require permits. In most cases, the permit will require the contractor having to submit engineered stamped drawings relating to the construction, and a possible site plan detailing any surrounding buildings or laneways. Formulating these drawings, along with changes to the plan required by law, or by the homeowner, since people do change their minds on occasion, can all delay the eventual granting of a permit. These delays are tedious for a contractor, but will be exhausting and demoralizing for the uninitiated homeowner. My advice, let the contractor handle the permit process, it’s ‘save your sanity’ money well spent.

All this to say, some things take time, with the building permit process definitely being one of these things. So, save yourself some grief, and start planning your spring renovation project today, because delays will happen.

Good building.

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

Here are some more wish list tips

Postmedia Network

As you contemplate your next renovation or upcoming new home build over the winter months, let’s review some of the various home “wish list” features you should be discussing with your architect or home builder while this whole process is still in the drawing stage.

Having to scrap a few blueprint drawings will only draw the ire of your contractor, or minimally throw them into a pout.

Conversely, waiting to make a change or voicing your opinion only after the concrete in the foundation has dried will certainly have your builder self-medicating.

So, if there are changes to be made in your future home or addition, be sure to speak up before the heavy equipment arrives. Plus, avoid the, “all I want out of this new home is a kitchen with an island, and a soaker type tub in the master bathroom, and nothing else matters,” type of thinking.

Submerging yourself in a bubble bath is indeed pleasurable, while kitchens with islands are great— although in my experience during general gatherings, they tend to attract storytellers so full of the drink you will indeed feel like you’re trapped on some secluded isle.

If you’re splitting the reno between rooms, be sure to divide your energy and attention over the entire project. If not, you may get the kitchen you want, but you risk bumping your head on the furnace ductwork in the basement for the next 20 years because you failed to follow up on the mechanical portion of the project.

Last week we talked about the added value of a walk-out basement, second-story balcony, and what the natural light bonus of a few skylights can provide to a new home. Today, we’ll be adding to our wish list of home features, which essentially means getting things right the first time, starting with the aforementioned full-ceiling height basement.

Built in the 1970s, the construction of our present home unfortunately corresponded with the making of the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder, whereby our furnace ductwork was evidently installed by a team of Oompa Loompas on furlough.

Mechanically we’re good. Everything works. The only issue is with some of the ductwork and heating vents strategically installed slightly below the six-foot level at various intervals, only my wife and our cats can safely navigate the basement. As a result, our basement area serves the home well enough as a storage space, but due to a lack of foresight on behalf of the original builder, the chance of this relatively large area providing comfortable living space has basically been forfeited.

So, be sure to discuss the basement’s ceiling height with your contractor. Basically, the supporting beams, joists, and everything mechanical (furnace ductwork, electrical, and plumbing) should be at least 8’6” to nine feet off your finished concrete floor. This way, a drop ceiling and any future lighting or electrical work can be comfortably installed below the existing floor joists and beams.

You may never finish your basement, but maybe the next homebuyer will, making a full-height basement ceiling nothing but engineering dollars well spent.

Next item on the wish list, keeping your washer and dryer on the same level as your bedrooms— or your best bet, one-level living. Basically, we’re trying to eliminate having to climb stairs, especially while having to carry a hamper full of clothes, or even a vacuum.

This step-saving, more efficient type of living not only will make things easier for young people, with young families, but will of course serve you better in your senior years.

Next, and staying on the home efficiency theme, eliminate a few walls, especially those between kitchen and dining room, or kitchen and living room.

Segregating people at gatherings involving friends and family is passé. Have your living space as open and free flowing as possible. This will allow the home to handle the crowds better, with the rooms being better and more evenly used as a result.

Good building.

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

Why buy local?

Local businesses help support local people, events, and fundraising initiatives. So, when donations from local retailers are based on a percentage of profits, the amount of support local retailers get from their local community, directly affects how many funding dollars will be tossed back into the community pot.

The more people support local businesses, the greater the amount of money available to those local persons and charities in need. As a result, by spending your money locally, you’re not only encouraging a local business, but you’re also helping support the local sports teams, theatre, community events, and the many charitable fundraisers. When local businesses make more money, they give more back. When sales are down, we inevitably have less to give. And that’s it. That’s all you’ve got to remember. Buying local helps your neighbors as well as the retail store or local tradesperson you just completed business with. That’s all the incentive anybody should require in order to shop locally.

How do you know when a salesperson isn’t local? Some clues are more evident, such as the fellow who knocks on your front door, introduces himself as Biff or Jett, let’s you know he’s in the neighborhood for the balance of the afternoon and would require only 15 minutes of your time, all while his unmarked, white paneled van is parked road side, still running, with only a silhouette of somebody at the wheel. For all intents and purposes, this guy’s about as local as the red poison-dart frog (more commonly found in the tropical forests of New Guinea).

Why buy local? Because in most cases, the local retailer or professional is going to care more. Not only is it our job to serve people well, and because that’s inherently what local business people strive to do, but we’re also part of the community. So, we live and interact with our customers every day. As a result, it’s in our best interest to be as good as we can.

Why buy local? For the after-sales service. Sometimes, a sale doesn’t go quite as smoothly as expected. Either a part is missing, or the product arrives in the wrong color, is the wrong size, or is damaged. When the customer has purchased a product locally, they’ll find themselves face to face with the person responsible for this misfortune, who by following up with the manufacturer, will hopefully be able to resolve the issue in a timely manner. Regardless of the problem, the key factor here is that you’re “face to face” with the salesperson. When a product is purchased from an out of town retailer, and there’s a problem, you’ll find yourself at the mercy of either a sales representative on line, or on the phone. So, should an issue arise after a product is purchased, what scenario, in your estimation, would present a customer with the best chance of success in resolving an issue, face to face, or over the phone?

Unfortunately, discussions regarding the after-sales service policy are often forgotten, or dismissed as irrelevant when making a purchase, when in fact it should be an element of priority.

Next, if you’ve allowed this travelling salesperson into your home, either because you’re lonely, have day-old baked cookies that need to be eaten, or are actually interested in what this salesperson has to say, please, DON’T SIGN ANYTHING. No matter what the deal, the one-time save 20 per cent today only type offer, or even if it’s a don’t pay for two years if you sign up right now, DON’T SIGN ANYTHING.

This darling salesperson may remind you of your grandson, but your signature gets sent directly to the head office, whereby any second thoughts regarding your purchase will be met with a not so darling pre-suit notice letter from their lawyer. In most cases, you’d have to be a really bad boy to get a lawyer’s letter from a local retailer. That’s why you buy local.

Good building.

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