Improving your stairway (to heaven?)

Today we’re making the switch from carpeted stairways, to one of hardwood treads and risers.

Why remove the carpeting off your stairs? Well, presuming you’ve already replaced your once-carpeted floors with hardwood, this natural progression completes the project, enabling your stairs to have the same clean, good looking status of your hardwood flooring.

Step one, carefully tear back the carpeting off of “one” step. Don’t remove all the carpeting just yet. The removing of only one step of carpeting will allow you to do some measuring, followed by a bit of research, with the development of a strategy to come next.

This as opposed to creating a scenario where the carpeting has been completely removed, exposing your family members to a minefield of carpet staples until the point in time when you get yourself organized.

The most efficient way of replacing stairway carpeting with hardwood treads is by choosing the “simple tread” kit. These tread kits provide you with one hardwood tread and one riser, in either an oak or maple species of wood.

The wood grain patterns of oak and maple differ considerably, so be sure to inspect the grain patterns of your flooring to ensure compliancy with the treads.

If your hardwood treads are to be painted, choose maple, its smoother and harder finish will provide better results.

Basically, we’re installing new treads and risers over the existing treads and risers.

The advantage to re-treading, as opposed to buying regular stair treads and risers, is the kits’ tread is a thinner, laminated version of what’s standard, allowing you to more easily secure it to the existing spruce or particle board tread. The re-tread also comes with a wide, decorative nosing, which creates a ledge that will be strategic in hiding the edge of the existing tread.

The strategy to using the simple tread kit will involve removing the nose (portion of overhang) of the existing tread, creating a square or flush surface to which to mount your hardwood tread and riser. So, measure the overhang or nose portion of the existing tread (which should be about 1.25 to 1-3/8 inches) then subtract this figure from the total depth of the tread. Hopefully you’ll be left with a depth of 9-1/8 inches or less, with 9-1/8 inches being the total maximum depth that your re-tread will cover.

If for some reason, we’ll call it carpenter’s choice, the person who installed the treads 25 years ago chose to make the treads a little deeper than standard, then you’re going to have a situation where the re-tread’s depth is insufficient.

This is when you either pursue further re-treading strategies, or re-tack the carpeting back in position and get back to your basement beer-making venture. However, and in the interest of progress, since the odds of you causing an explosion, or creating a barely consumable sludge, likely outweigh that of you driving an air nail through your thumb, let’s stick with the stair project.

If the existing tread, once cut, exceeds 9-1/8 inches, then options to solving this spacing issue will include adding a cove or quarter-round molding where the re-tread meets the riser, alternatively using a standard tread, or if possible, trimming the nosing on the re-tread. Regardless, it’ll simply require a little bit of extra finishing carpentry.

If the existing tread, once cut, will be 9-1/8 inches or less, then we’re in business to go forward with the simple tread kit as is.

Keys to success?

One, pre-stain and clear-seal (three coats) your simple treads and risers, as well as any other necessary trim pieces or moldings, beforehand, letting them cure for at least a week before installing. Staining one day, clear coating the next, should you choose to install first, then finish, will undoubtedly leave footprints, which will be disastrous.

Two, put a new blade on your chop saw and table saw.

And three, limit chipping by first scoring the finished surface with a utility knife, then cut on this finished side.

Good building.

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

Get it off the floor

A typical storage space at a client’s home in Lucan, Ont. on Thursday April 16, 2015. CRAIG GLOVER/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

So, how successful was your fall cleanup?

If you’re not sure how to grade your effort, the calculation is as follows. Measure the floor space of your garage, backyard shed, unfinished basement area, and/or those locations that would be defined as storage depots. Next, divide this number by the floor space occupied by items that are not furniture, riding mowers, or things weighing over 40 pounds.

If only 10 per cent of your storage square footage is covered by miscellaneous seasonal matter, or things weighing under what should be a manageable 40 pounds, then 90 per cent of your floor space was clear, essentially earning you an A grade, which is pretty good. The more things remain on the floor, the lower your grade, with anything lower than a B, representing the fact you’ve allowed 25 per cent of your available floor space to be covered with seasonal junk, earning you a failing grade.

Basically, the storage world has little sympathy for clutter.

So, if up to this point, you’ve been failing in junk management, there are two options. Either you invest in hooks and racking, or you eliminate the junk by means of a yard sale, donation, or dump.

Because humans love to collect and hoard goods, eventually developing a closeness with their stuff, the simple elimination of overstock is rarely possible. So, until death finally separates you from grandma’s wooden bowl collection, boxes of board games from the 1970s, and those priceless paint-by-number works of art, let’s get all this stuff on a shelf.

Because some things are better hung, while other stuff is more comfortable on a shelf, you should consider dedicating wall space to a combination of heavy duty hooks, shelves— and probably the best means of separating and displaying small tools and brackets: a pegboard. Also, we won’t be adding shelving, but in fact be building “racking.”

If you stop by your local building supply centre and ask for shelving, you’ll most likely be given the choice of either 12-, 16-, or 24-inch wide panels of 5/8-inch melamine finished particle board. Melamine shelving is fine for your closets or finished areas of the home, and does well to support towels and shoes.

However, you’re not going to be wanting to toss a car battery, place clay pots, or stack used gallons of paint on melamine shelving.

For racking, I suggest you use three-quarter-inch fir plywood. Fir plywood is more expensive than spruce sheeting (that would work also), but its smooth finish makes for the easier manipulation of goods, especially the heavier things, as you push and slide stuff off and onto the racking. Plus, the fir plywood won’t buckle, even under severe stress, and will take a pounding for the long term.

Support the shelving using 2×3 lumber, fastened along the front and back edges of each shelf.

Hooks for the purpose of hanging anything from extension cords to bicycles should be of the screw-in, vinyl-coated variety. Avoid choosing regular coat hooks. I find the shape of regular coat hooks dangerous, and when I see them, am always reminded of the final scene in the 1978 movie Midnight Express, where the fellow escapes after the guard’s head get skewered on a coat hook during a brief tussle.

You’ll never get skewered using vinyl-coated hooks. Plus, they won’t break like coat-hooks sometime do, and they’ll support significantly more weight.

Vinyl-coated hooks are best installed on a length of 2×4 spruce lumber, with the 2×4 then fastened onto the wall using lag screws. Again, and related to safety, although I can’t recall an improperly installed sheet of pegboard in a scene from Halloween 5, the revenge of Michael Myers, leading to somebody’s untimely death, your sheets of pegboard should be installed behind a shop table, or base shelving, and/or placed at least three feet off the floor.

Bending down to retrieve something off a hook is a recipe for getting skewered.

Good building.

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

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

Natural lighting is a kitchen’s best friend

Laurysen Kitchens was a finalist in the 2016 Housing Design Awards and uses the bay window for a lot of natural light With story by Anita Murray. Ottawa Citizen Photo Email CO

With our goal being to build a new home in the spring, let’s continue our kitchen talk. What do we know so far? Two things: One, keep everything off the counter. Although counters inevitably attract various things, make it your goal to keep it clear. So, know the sizes and shapes of the various coffee maker, toaster, and other appliances that have generally cluttered up your counter surfaces in the past, then have your kitchen designer incorporate them into the cabinetry.

And two, because kitchen cabinets last 20 years, while fridges and stoves tend to die after 8-10 years, order your big appliances locally, and, be sure to stick to standard (easily replaceable) sizing.

Next, make room for a center island. Kitchen islands give the cook plenty of elbow space and are great for getting people involved in meal preparation. Plus, islands simply look attractive, while providing some key lower cabinet space. What about a peninsula, or U-shaped type of cabinetry? They’re OK, but can easily trap the occupants if there’s a flurry of activity, which will be frustrating for the head chef. On the other hand, a center island provides for an efficient flow, where rarely is anybody stalled in kitchen traffic by being caught between an open dishwasher and a cabinet, or some slow hand chopping up the onions.

Not enough space for an Island in the new house plans? Bull feathers! Change things up a bit by having your architect move a wall or two. It’s the kitchen that’ll drive up a home’s value, not the large and spacious TV room.

That being said, if missing the hockey game, or CNN’s breaking news regarding Donald Trump’s latest words of wisdom, is causing you stress, due to you being posted on the spaghetti sauce stir stick every weekend, have a small TV screen installed in the cabinetry. Anything’s possible in the design stages.

Next, make lighting a priority. Other than a lack of counter workspace, where homeowners tend to drop the ball next in their kitchen designs is in the lighting, or lack thereof.

Step one, incorporate all the natural lighting you can. If your kitchen is like most installations and will run along the back exterior wall of the home, don’t sacrifice natural light for a few extra inches of cabinet space. Make that window over the kitchen sink area at least 1-1/2 times the width of your sink. If there’s to be no second story or room above the kitchen, then definitely consider incorporating a cathedral type ceiling into the truss plan, and be sure to add a few skylights. Cathedral ceilings are beautiful, with the warmth and early morning glow of natural light provided by skylights being absolutely spectacular.

So, if there’s room in the budget, then make this happen. If the budget is a little tight, then shrink the living room down a little more and be satisfied with a more modest TV screen size.

Essentially, a home is all about the kitchen, and the bathrooms of course, but that’s to come. Now, don’t skylights have the reputation of leaking? In the olden days, where skylights were installed with little more than a gallon of roofing tar, then left unattended for the next 20 years, then yes, they could have leaked. Or, in the days before HRV’s (heat recovery ventilation) where condensation would sometimes collect on the skylights after a serious session of boiling spaghetti, then yes, there could have been a few drips. However, in today’s modern world, with skylights having specific roof flashings for every roof application, along with procedures in installation and the use of roofing membranes having greatly improved, leaks are a rarity.

Now, regardless of all this potential for natural light, you’re still going to need supplementary lighting in the kitchen. Best bet, have round LED lights following the perimeter of the kitchen at every 3-4 feet, with an extra light placed over the kitchen sink.

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

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

Some feline accessibility

Getty Images/iStockphoto GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Today were going to cut out what is essentially a giant mouse hole into a purr…fectly good wall.

What’s the reason for this renovation?

Tigger and Coco, two recently adopted cats, will be requiring access to their litter box in the basement. Why provide access by means of a hole at the main-floor level, as opposed to simply leaving the basement door ajar, or modifying the door slab with some type of spring action access panel?

Because remembering to keep the basement door open will be a chore; and door access panels can have mechanical issues, which will be problematic should your cats end up being separated from their litter box.

Plus, some door styles, such as French glass models and raised panel slabs, aren’t so compatible with such a hinged mechanism.

Conversely, a cat hole can usually be strategically placed under a raised desk or side table. A cat hole will never tap a cat on its backside, or trap its tail.

So, regardless of the cat hole having to occupy a more visually obvious spot along the wall, cat lovers believe there’s nothing more precious than witnessing Tigger coming out of his cat hole.

Strategically, we’re looking to place the hole in an area that’ll enable the cat to hop down onto the basement stairs, or hop up from the basement stairs into the hole, with relative ease.

So, even though cats can comfortably spring up anywhere from four to five feet, let’s not ask that of your cats, especially if they’re a little older, or a little heavier.

Generally, a two-to-three-step hop (15-24 inches) will be easily manageable.

Hole size and shape? On a sheet of cardboard, draw a hole about six inches wide, by about 11-12 inches high, using the traditional arch-top design gnawed out by mice worldwide. Then, carefully cut out the shape.

After choosing the spot for the cat hole, and before removing the baseboard, gently cut along the top of the molding with a utility knife. The knife will cut through the strip of caulking used to seal the gap between the baseboard and the wall, and will prevent you from tearing the drywall paper when prying off the baseboard.

With the baseboard removed, choose your desired spot for the hole, then use a small finishing nail and hammer to find out where the wall studs are. Because there’s always a sill plate that extends up about 1.5 inches, gently tap through the drywall at a 2.5-inch level above the floor.

The words gently tap through are key.

Once your nail has penetrated about 0.5 inches, the next thing you’re going to hit is either a wall stud, or air, or something else. The something else will be a tinny sound, indicating ductwork, or a pinging echo, indicated copper pipe. In both cases, stop the nail penetration, and continue the piercings a few inches over.

Once you’ve spanned a six-to-seven-inch area of hitting just air, sit your cardboard cutout on the floor, then trace the mouse-hole shape onto the wall. Our cat hole will follow standard archway procedure, and will be built flush to the floor.

This as opposed to cutting a hole above the baseboard, which to me would look odd, unless of course the balance of archways in your home have you leaping through holes from room to room as well.

Caution! Do not use a recipro/sawsall demolition tool, jigsaw, or drywall saw to cut out the cat hole profile.

Your “oops, what was that,” will be followed a millisecond later by either a shower of water, or shockwaves running up your wazoo, should you hit a copper water line, or electrical wiring buried in the wall cavity.

Insert a new blade in your utility knife, then carefully cut through the drywall. With the shape cut out, pull back the arched piece of drywall. Hopefully you’ll see nothing but air.

Next week, finishing the hole. Good building.

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

Outdoor fine finishing

Handout Not For Resale SUPPLIED

So, what have you done to improve the curb appeal of your home lately?

Perhaps you’ve swept the spider webs off the soffit areas, painted the mailbox, or finally picked up that dead crow that had flown into your bay window some two weeks ago.
Not exactly impact related changes. Kind of like the Montreal Canadiens finally getting rid of aging forward Tomas Plekanec last year, then resigning him to a new contract for this upcoming NHL season. This stellar management move will likely impact Montreal’s chances of making the playoffs to a degree equal to that of changing the burnt signal light on the team’s bus. At the other end of the NHL spectrum, you have the Toronto Maple Leafs signing star center forward John Tavares, immediately boosting the Leafs into Stanley Cup contention. Now that’s a positive impact decision.

So, if your home’s façade has pretty well looked the same for the last 15-20 years, with the only hint of added decor being a few pairs of equally aged louvered shutters, then it’s perhaps time to create a little impact. Habs management might suggest you simply paint the front door a light cream color, then tint the aforementioned shutters a lovely hue of mint green. Conversely, a more enlightened sense of décor would have you considering Replico’s door and window surrounds.

Exterior door and window surrounds are essentially large casings, architraves, and decorative pillars that were once all the craze back in the post WW2 days of grandiose type estate homes. Why the trend to trim the exterior of our doors and windows, as well as rooflines, with these elegant moldings, somewhat declined in the 1960’s and 70’s, can be attributed to a number of reasons. First, with marijuana flooding the market, and disco taking over the radio sound waves, all sense of class, decorum, and traditional style were lost for about 15 years, with recovery of our former state of building integrity taking another 20 years.

Other than that, homes were getting smaller, and simpler. Mostly though, it was the cost of these ornate moldings that mostly turned people off, and the fact they were made of wood, which of course required maintenance. Now, maintaining a wooden deck and railing is one challenge, but having to climb an extension ladder every year to paint trims around second story windows, or crown moldings that follow the roof line, is a whole different commitment. As a result, people who owned homes with these types of surrounds would often lapse in their maintenance schedules, which would lead to these trims rotting over the course of a few years. And, once things rot, homeowners become fearful of ever dealing with that type of headache ever again, especially if it’s something decorative.

So, why am I suggesting homeowners consider door and window surrounds one more time? Because door and window surrounds have never stopped looking good, and because these moldings are now made out of a ridged polyurethane, which will never rot or succumb to moisture. And, with today’s high quality paints, you’ll be painting your surrounds due to a change in color scheme, as opposed to them needing a re-coat due to peeling or crackling.

Regardless, even if you aren’t so willing to maintain these PVC moldings, there’s no fear of them falling apart. Having the weight and consistency of pine lumber, the convenient thing about PVC door and window surrounds is that they are a non-structural, purely decorative feature that can be easily fastened (glued or screwed) to basically any brick, stone, vinyl, or composite siding surface. So, you’re not needing to cut sidings, or necessarily caulk around these trims once they’re fixed in position. Plus, surrounds aren’t restricted to a few widths, like shutters, and come in a wide enough variety of shapes and sizes to fit most any door or window space. For pictures and more information on door and window surrounds, be sure to visit the Replico website at www.replico.ca.

Good building.

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