The only thing that looks like wood, is wood

Wood siding is beautiful, but takes work to maintain. Postmedia Network

Case no. 215, titled “the winds of change” has a Mr. Martin V. Particular, aka ‘MVP’, due to his prowess on the local seniors pickleball circuit, looking for a solution to an exterior siding problem he and his wife Penny P., aka Penny Poo, have been dealing with for several years now.

The Particulars own a home with a beautifully stained, pine horizontal siding. The situation? The back of the home faces the south-west, and therefore sees a ton of prolonged sunlight, while having to suffer through the brunt of our inclement weather. The problem? Stained wood sidings don’t exactly thrive under these conditions. As a result, Martin finds himself sanding and re-staining the backside of his home on practically a biannual basis, due to the finish having peeled or crackled.

MVP doesn’t so much hate the task of sanding and staining, since the results make for a very attractive, and unique type of real wood finish, but of course the time involved in keeping this siding looking pristine is edging into his practice sessions, which is killing the chances of him and penny Poo maintaining their no.1 ranking on the seniors mixed doubles tour.

Homeowner’s goal? Martin and Penny are looking for a comparable, horizontal, maintenance free type of siding that will match the color of the three other exterior walls of the home. The challenge? The “V” in Martin V. Particular often stands for “Very”. So, this isn’t simply a case of saying goodbye to a high maintenance wood product, and replacing it with any number of composite, vinyl, steel, or fiber cement type sidings available on the market today. The very Particulars are looking for something that is both maintenance free, and a close match to the walnut stained pine planks on the balance of their home.

Likelihood of success? You’d have a better chance of convincing the Habs Carey Price to switch from goaltending, to filling the vacant no.1 center position between Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. Unfortunately, the only thing that looks like wood, is wood. The composites and various other maintenance free sidings all somewhat resemble wood, and to the neighbor driving by at 80 km per hour, basically looks like wood, but when put side by side with wood, usually makes for a disappointing match.

So, with Martin Particular being very particular, finding a suitable alternative to his existing pine siding has to this point been fruitless. Suggested plans of action? The existing pine siding is beautiful, and in good condition, with the only issue being maintenance. So, instead of replacing it, why not protect it? In essence, all this southern facing wall needs is a little shade.

Extreme option no.1, bring in three 40 ft. hard maple trees. Otherwise, the Particulars should perhaps extend the roof over their backyard deck and patio. Or, consider installing either one large, or a couple of pergolas along this same backyard deck area. If this southwest facing wall is getting too much sun, then so too are the Particulars. The MVP and Penny Poo are already getting more than their share of vitamin D due to regular outdoor pickleballing. With a pergola providing intermittent shade, or full shade if you chose the aluminum model with the movable louvers, it may be the best and least intrusive solution, since a pergola is self- standing, and requires minimum deck preparation.

Or, paint the wall. Painting would keep the shape of the wood siding intact, but obviously forfeit the warmth of the wood grain. However, paints last longer than stains, and require only repainting, as opposed to the more arduous task of having to sand, stain, and seal. Otherwise, this wood siding may have flat-lined, or basically served its purpose, and it’s time for MVP to call it.

The alternatives to wood are many, with several pre-finished steel and aluminum sidings offering beautiful, wood grain type finishes.

Until further notice, case no. 215 is closed.

Good building.

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

Stay off the grass

Just because you cut it, doesn’t mean you own it. Postmedia Network

Case #572 titled ‘The Barber on a Kubota’ has our Alonzo Andretti, aka “Scizzors” Andretti, due to his ability to cut an average man’s hair in under five minutes, including shaving of the back of the neck, and necessary eyebrow and ear trimmings, drawing the ire of his neighbors.

Alonzo has two passions, cutting hair, and cutting lawn, doing both at excessive speed, while maintaining an exquisite quality. What’s at issue is that Scizzors tends to not only cut his neighbor’s head, but his neighbor’s lawn as well, often crossing what’s regarded as the relative property line between homes. And, as everybody knows, you don’t cut your neighbor’s lawn, unless of course there’s 50 bucks in it for you.

Regardless, because Alonzo regularly trims his lawn down to almost putting green height, while his neighbors aren’t near as meticulous in their cutting, basically encouraging dandelion growth, Alonzo’s habit of overcutting has his property looking quite larger than it is. Which legally, isn’t an issue. Having your neighbor mowing two feet over into your property for 25 years won’t automatically transfer that piece of land over to them, simply because they’ve theoretically maintained it for that length of time. However, if through the years Alonzo continues his habit of overcutting, all while the properties next to him get sold and purchased a number of times, without one of these new homeowners bothering to have a survey done, then the relative property line will certainly begin to differ from the actual property line.

In most cases, homeowners assume, and generally accept, that the property line between properties is approximately the halfway point between the two homes. However, if one neighbor has in the past built an addition, or garage, which further widened their home to the very edge of their property line, then the midway rule would no longer apply. When this widened home comes up for sale, with the home next to it being sold a few years later, without a survey being completed by either party, then these new homeowners will simply assume the line is again, running somewhere down the middle of the properties.

In most cases, neighbors get along. They may not like that Alonzo is cutting into their property, and may have even mentioned this to him in the past. But, in order to keep the peace, because in most cases it isn’t a big deal, people tend to leave the Alonzos of this world to enjoy their riding mowers. There’s never an issue, of course, until one homeowner decides to have a survey done on their property, and discovers that their neighbor’s driveway crosses their property line, or the drainage pipe running the length of their neighbor’s property, and installed by the former owner of this adjacent property 20 years before, actually belongs to them, or the just completed deck by their neighbor, stretches two feet onto their property. Then what do you do? Well, decks can be cut back, and driveways can be modified, but if a drainage pipe is serving the best interests of the homes in the immediate area, then removing such a structure may get you into a legal tussle with the local township.

It’s certainly strange that people will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home, yet forgo the thousand bucks it cost sto have a survey completed. So, if you’re about to purchase a new home in an area where the properties are not so well defined, request that the property be surveyed. If you own a home where the property line is a best guess scenario, due to the steel pins being no longer visible, or their location buried and long forgotten, pay to have a survey completed.
When the property lines between neighbors are clear, things tend to go along a lot more smoothly. And Alonzo, well, he’ll have to live with a few survey stakes guiding him back onto his property. Case #572 closed.

Good building.

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

Just be clear

Don’t assume your contractor will guess right as to what you want done. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

With my broken elbow about to go under the knife in the next 15 minutes, the orthopedic surgeon pushed his way through the swinging doors of the surgical room, making his way towards the gurney on which I lay. “We’re doing the left elbow today, is that correct?” he questioned.

Being very careful not to respond “that’s right”, I simply stated “that is correct”. “OK then” he confirmed, to which he then lifted my forearm, pulled a wax pencil from his breast pocket, and drew a large “X” on my left elbow.

Here was a 50-something-year-old fellow, with years of education, practice, and probably a thousand repaired knees and elbows under his belt, relying on an “X” to remind him of what body part he was about to repair that morning.

A few months later, I’m buying sod from one of our local growers, and as he’s getting set to leave the property after dropping off the several pallets of rolled up lawn, he says to me with a smile, “Oh by the way, green side up.” To which I responded, “Okay, I’ll try to remember that.”

Before the procedure of using X’s, were perfectly good body parts being operated on? Or, without the 10-second ‘green side up’ product knowledge seminar, had somebody in the past really laid their sod grass side down? Not sure, could have happened. Regardless, the moral of these stories is that no matter what the education, experience, and overall competency of the people you’ve hired to perform a new build, or renovation work on your home, leave absolutely nothing to chance.

After 35 years in retail, along with having witnessed construction and finishing work done by any number of very qualified individuals, if there’s anything I can pass on to the next person or couple looking to build or renovate, it is this: “Thinking your contractor will make the right decision, without your input, simply because he’s knowledgeable and experienced, will disappoint you every time.”

So, how should the average homeowner equip themselves in order to avoid disappointment when building or renovating a home? One, educate yourself about the product you’ve chosen, including how it’s to be sealed, installed, and finished. Two, make a list, or plan, as to how you want your flooring or windows installed, then hand this over to your installer. And three, go over the installation strategy before work begins. Until humans develop the advanced mental capability of being able to link minds, you and your contractor will never be able to truly work as one. As a result, if you’re teaching class, and the fellow installing the windows at your home couldn’t remember whether you had wanted a sill extension or not, whereby seeking the information from your husband was fruitless, due to him abstaining himself from all decision making, then with time being of the essence, the contractor will most probably make a decision on your behalf, and likely the wrong one.

Educating yourself on how a product is to be installed is usually as simple as reading the back of the product box. Some ceramic floor and wall tiles, especially the long and narrow styles, recommend a 1/3 coverage, instead of the more standard 50/50 or brick type pattern of placement. However, if the installer, although well versed in ceramic, is unfamiliar with this new type of tile you’ve chosen, then these specialty tiles will most probably be installed in a very regular fashion. Will they look bad? Probably not. Will visitors realize the error while sitting on your bathroom throne? Most likely not. But, if you happen to be in the lobby or washroom of some fancy hotel, and you see a similar tile installed in the manner to which it was supposed to be, you will have wished you’d had taken the few minutes to read the back of the box.

Leave no decision to chance.

Good building.

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

Nothing to weep about

Air movement and ventilation are a must in your kitchen if you like to cook. Postmedia Network

In case no. 647, titled “The Weeper”, we find a Mrs. Deloris W. Willow, crying a river while seated at her kitchen table.

Mrs. Willow, aka ‘the weeping willow’, due to her habitually breaking out in tears as a means of coping with her anxiety, is quite distraught over the fact her kitchen cabinet doors are beginning to delaminate. Basically, the vinyl laminate that seals and encases the particle center core of the doors, is beginning to peel back at the corners, revealing the particle substrate.

Although there are minor signs of this stress on a few of the lower cabinet doors, the more severe cases of delamination are occurring on the doors and framework of mainly upper units. “The cabinets above the stove are the worst” describes Mrs. Willow. “It’s gotten to the point where I feel I have to open the cabinet doors every time I boil water, so to lessen the effect of the steam hitting them directly.”

“Plus,” she continued, “I’ve had to move my toaster-oven from its spot under the corner cabinet, and set it on a nearby table beside the crock pot, while the underside of the cabinet that’s situated over the little toaster, is starting to peal as well.”

Being of Mediterranean descent, Mrs. Willow loves to cook. This passion has her regularly boiling water, while simultaneously operating counter top appliances, which unfortunately have created a room environment with a humidity level slightly under that of a Turkish bath. What boost of humidity her tears add to the kitchen area is unknown, but the resulting salt deposits on the counter and hardwood flooring cannot be good.

Solution? Weeping Willow refuses to modify her cooking habits, and with local fresh corn soon to be available, she expects to be keeping all four stovetop burners on high for about a three-week stretch, pumping enough boiled water to effectively change the climate zone in her neighborhood from temperate, to humid subtropical. As a result, there will be no modification or change to what’s causing the moisture and humidity issues.

Can we change the cabinet doors to something more resistant to moisture than a regular PVC wrapped product? Materials such as stainless steel or glass can hold up to sustained high moisture, but the cost of switching to such a series of doors and hardware would be exorbitant. Plus, this style of cabinetry would be far from the standard colonial or shaker type panel door that Mrs. Willow prefers. Solid wood or solid MDF cabinet doors come stained or painted, and due to them being effectively contained in this manner, would certainly resist the effects of moisture, but not forever.

Therefore, with our goal being to keep the costs of satisfaction to a minimum, and with Weeping Willow having no desire to drastically change the entire cabinetry, but perhaps replace only the affected cabinet doors, the solution to this moisture dilemma will have to be mechanical. Basically, the $50 existing range hood will have to be go, and should see its last hurrah as the feature item in next week’s garage sale. It’ll be replaced by a 400-500 cfm, exterior venting, range hood unit that will be able to expel steam as quickly as it’s produced.

Next, we’ll check the HRV (heat recovery ventilation unit). If it’s old, replace it. If it’s nonexistent, let’s get one hooked up to the existing furnace. The HRV works in conjunction with the furnace fan and ductwork, drawing fresh air in, and expelling stale air out, operating 24/7, while also balancing the humidity levels in the home.

Then, let’s allow for more air movement by de-cluttering, or basically moving those counter top appliances into drawers or cupboards. Next, replace the center light fixture with a lighted ceiling fan. We need air movement, and this will help big time. Finally, and if humidity levels remain high, we’ll plug in a dehumidifier.
Case #647 closed.

Good building.

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

In the hole

Adding to your deck? There are a few things you should know. Postmedia Network

Case #662, titled “Digger” has a Mr. Conrad W. Crete, his close buddies refer to him as “Con” or “CW”, looking to extend his existing backyard deck by another six feet.

His present deck spans the width of the home, but only extends out about 10 feet, which up to this point, has provided plenty of sitting and lounging space.

However, with a just purchased hot tub on the way, measuring about eigh ft. in diameter, the existing 10 foot depth allowance is going to be eaten up pretty quickly. Plus, C dub’ya wants to access his hot tub comfortably from all sides, which would require a new deck depth of at least 16 feet.

Mr. Crete’s present deck is of standard wood construction, complete with a ledger board attached to the home’s foundation, and four poured concrete piers, which support a beam and the balance of the joists system. At issue is the fact ‘Con’ wants to simply attach this deck extension to his existing deck, using deck blocks to support this new framework. In essence, he wants to attach a floating deck to a poured concrete pier deck.

Adding more challenge to the situation is the fact Mr. Crete is hoping to simply butt this new piece of framework up against the existing series of joists, enabling him to make a seamless transition from old surface decking to new.

In theory, and if all things could remain as dry and as warm as the day of assembly, then a floating deck attached to a permanent structure could possibly work. However, that’s not going to happen. Once the rain and snow melt seep through the floor boards, and/or the water runoff from the downspouts surround the deck blocks, with this dampening of the soil either causing the blocks to sink slightly, or heave up a little during the colder months, you’ll be able to sell tickets to school children by having them experience your crooked deck exhibition. Floating decks and permanent structures (such as a deck supported by piers, or your home) are like the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Stanley Cup. They’re fine apart, but never the two shall meet.

A floating deck can provide a good surface to live and play on, but because it’s susceptible to whatever ground forces lie underneath, it’s got to work independently. So, a floating deck can butt up to a home, or existing deck, which would allow you to make various adjustments to this deck if necessary, but it should never be attached.

C dub’ya really wanted to float this deck addition, since the thought of mixing cement was about as enticing as attending a 6 a.m. outdoor yoga class. The challenge would be in maintaining a seamless transition between existing deck structure and floating deck, since the floating deck is most likely to move a little bit, whereby even a one-quart to one-half inch of difference would create a dangerous trip hazard. It was then suggested to Con that he add 16 feet of floating deck, positioning it one step lower than his existing deck, creating a second tier (which would look quite attractive) while solving the issue of having to maintain a perfect seam, or transition, between the two surfaces.

This suggestion was quashed. Con and his wife Babette enjoy winter hot-tubbing, where C dub’ya felt the 10 ft. sprint between patio door and hot tub, dressed only in his bathrobe, at any point below 10 degrees Celsius, would result in shrinkage significant enough to affect the intimacy.

So, it looks like we’re digging. Because we’re elongating an existing deck, the support beams already in position were simply made about six feet longer, and would be supported by a second series of poured concrete piers. Additional lumber was then added to the existing piers, in order to help them support the connection between new and existing beams.

Case #662 closed. Good building.

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

Hardwood flooring

When it comes to hardwood flooring, know what you’re paying for. Postmedia Network

Case #502, tag name “Quick Draw” has a Mr. Bill ‘shorty’ Remington looking to purchase hardwood flooring for his newly constructed home. Shorty had seen some ‘Gunsmoke’ stained, pre-finished oak hardwood on special at the local Big Box outlet, and was wondering if we, the local family owned building supply center, could match their price by either procuring the same stuff, or finding something comparable in color and price.

The code on the product tag indicated this product was exclusive to the Big Box people, while the perspiration stains on the cardboard boxes were obviously those of exploited sweat shop workers and the under-aged, further evidence of product derived from the Orient. The advantage to having an exclusive product is that the consumer can’t really compare it, price or quality wise, with products from other retail outlets, since the “exclusive” supposedly represents, or signifies, a product only available through them. As a result, and without the information available to properly search this product’s grade ranking and origin, the buyer is left to make a decision based on this flooring’s general appearance. And, with a sales sticker overhead indicating some great, limited time offer, consumers may feel the urge to take advantage of this perceived special buy.

However, further examination of this exclusive product showed it had an uncanny resemblance to the ‘Buckshot’ series of pre-finished hardwoods, available nationally from Dodge City Distributors. So, the only thing exclusive about this hardwood flooring was the cardboard box, along with its almost undecipherable coding . . . almost. The Buckshot series of flooring is a mid-range product whose grade falls somewhere in between rustic grade flooring, which is recognizable by its color variated, knotty complexion, and select flooring, which is more uniform in color, has generally longer pieces, and no visible knots. So, this flooring could be what we call a natural grade, which is the usual tag name given to those floorings having a little bit of color variation, with only small, pin head sized knots.

But it wasn’t quite that either. To further confuse the grading issue, the planks of this Gunsmoke oak were finished with a micro-v bevel on the edges only, and not the butt ends, while the knots (although small) were filled and somewhat camouflaged with a color matched paste. The micro-v edge is a crucial feature in pre-finished flooring because the planks aren’t sanded after they’re installed. Unfinished flooring must be sanded after installation in order to smoothen the transition from plank to plank, due to the always slight variation in plank height. Otherwise, as people shuffle over the floor, slide chairs, or move furniture over top, the flooring would be subjected to chipping. Because pre-finished flooring essentially skips the post installation sanding stage, it requires a micro-v edge to smoothen the slight difference in plank height that you still get with a pre-finished product. This micro-v edge should be on all four exposed edges.

So, why was the v-edge omitted from the butt edges of these pre-finished flooring planks? Not sure. Either the grade school aged children who were given the task of v-edging couldn’t reach the router’s table top, so the task was forgotten in exchange for milk and cookie time, or the elimination of the butt edge micro-v was simply heralded as a strategic cost saving measure.

Next, paste filled knots look fine enough, but with hardwood flooring in a constant state of flux, there’s the likelihood that these fillers will become loose, exposing the knot, thereby dropping  your floor down a grade.

“So Shorty, wha da ya think?” I inquired, “I can source you the same stuff, at the same price, or you can pay an extra buck per square foot and get something you’ll really be satisfied with”, I concluded. Shorty paused for a moment, weighed the options, thought about which flooring his wife would prefer, then loaded up the wagon with the better grade.

Case #502 closed. Good building.

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

Living on the edge

Imagine the dinner conversation around this live edge table. Postmedia Network

Why would anyone want to attend a rock concert where the lead singer is 74 years old? Because in this case, the fellow with the microphone in his hand is Mick Jagger, and the band behind him is called the Rolling Stones.

This ain’t the “Hot Rocks”, the “Rolling Pebbles”, or some tribute band you can catch for 15 bucks at the local watering hole, or grand opening of another Suds ‘n Duds dry cleaning outlet. We’re talking being in the presence of arguably the greatest rock ‘n roll band of all time, along with 30,000 others, enjoying the real thing. Real things, or seeing real things live, have value, and that’s why they demand the big money.

That being said, not all senior performers can draw a crowd. I play old-timer hockey with a bunch of former great athletes, guys who used to fill their respective barns to the rafters come playoff time. These days though, the crowds are a little slimmer, where the average attendance Tuesday nights has unfortunately dropped to about one, and that includes the Zamboni driver. But don’t kid yourself, challenge any one of these guys to a chug a lug, or pie eating contest, and they will bury you.

This need or desire to own, see, feel, and touch the real thing, has developed a niche in the world of furniture known as ‘Live Edge’. Live edge basically describes the strategy of using slabs of trees to serve as table tops, shelves, desk tops, and if cut from a large enough, and long enough tree, even board room tables.

Now, why buy a slice of a tree trunk, complete with the worm holes, cracks and splits, along with the mishmash of color and grain patterns you’re bound to find on a slab of raw wood? Not so strangely, it’s these general imperfections in the wood that make each piece so naturally attractive, and of course unique.

We live in a world where a tree is sliced up, graded, then cut up into smaller pieces, graded again, then glued back together in an attempt to achieve the most perfectly uniform table top, or cabinet door. Plus, and depending on where and what you’re buying, so called wood furniture these days is about as close to being 100% real wood, as a multi-chain, fast food hamburger has of being 100% real beef. In other words, there’s a lot of particle core furniture out there, and it all looks good and seems solid enough, until of course you have to move it, or reassemble it, a second time.

So, if anything, live edge wood slabs are a refreshing change to what we see every day. If you’ve been to some of the larger cities, live edge products can be found in specialized or boutique type retail outlets. You’ll know when you’re in a boutique type store when the person serving you is a size 2, very fashionably dressed, and offers you an expresso coffee if you happen to show the least bit of interest in the boardroom table, fashionably priced at $22,000.00.

The big city outlets usually offer South American type species of wood, which no doubt cost a bundle, considering this lumber is harvested from a rain forest, then sailed down an Amazon River filled with piranha, while surrounded by a jungle occupied by tigers and other man-eating creatures.

So, in all fairness to the seemingly high price point requested by these boutiques, there’s a cost of shipping factor tied to these products that we usually don’t experience in Cornwall and area. Regardless, creating your own live edge furniture won’t be near as pricey as the finished versions if one, you sand and finish these slabs yourself, and two, stick to local species of wood.

Simply google “Goodfellow Live Edge” to see what’s available, and the possibilities that exist, in the world of real live lumber.

Good building.

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

Little things on the deck

A little deck lighting is a good thing. File photo.

Building a deck isn’t exactly rocket science.

You’ve got a triple 2×10 beam, supporting 2×8 lumber spaced at every 16 inches on center, with either 2×6 or 5/4 decking planks fastened over top. That’s basically all the background education you’re going to require. Worst case scenario is that it’s built a little crooked, or not so level, with the odd crack and splinter here and there.

In the rocket science biz, one loose valve has 100 people in white jackets scrambling to solve the issue. In deck building, you could have a shaky newel post, missing spindles, and a couple of loose floor boards, and all the attention that would generate from the homeowner is him pulling up his undershirt and scratching his belly as he leans back into his plastic deck chair, along with the comment, “yep, I’ve got to get to that someday” while raising his beer in preparation for another chug.

So, we’re talking about two completely different animals. Regardless, there’s no reason why your deck can’t be a beautiful thing. The key is giving special attention to the little things.

So, helpful little deck thing no. 1, the “Decktrack” or “Camo” system of installing your treated lumber or cedar decking planks. Composite decking’s biggest advantage over regular wood decking is the fact the planks are pre-grooved on their edges, allowing the boards to be installing using a side mounting clip. So, no surface screws, which makes for a significantly more attractive finish. Decktracks are 4 ft. long pieces of angled steel that get fastened to the joist system, and allow the installer to drill into the planks from below, pulling the decking planks down snugly against the joists. The Camo tool is basically a clamp with two angled insert holes, and allows the installer to fix the decking plank into position by driving a specially designed deck screw into each side of the plank.

Either way, the result is no surface screws. No surface screws in lumber means no splinters, less chance of cracking, while providing a surface that will not only look better, but will sand and clean more effectively, which translates into the better acceptance of a stain.

Next, and regarding the issue of privacy between neighbors, consider the “Deck Sunblind” louver kit. If you’re looking to spend a little time in your hot-tub, and are a little bashful about exposing the neighbors to your newly acquired mesh speedo swimwear, you may prefer the intimacy of a solid side wall. Those will be referred to as closed louver moments. Otherwise, if it’s an especially warm day, you may want to experience a little breeze as you lounge on your deck with a sandwich and cool beverage, a.k.a. open louver times. The Deck Sunblind kit offers the versatility of both, providing you with the hardware to transform regular decking planks into a very decorative, and obviously very useful, louvered wall that can serve a number of various applications.

Next, consider post cap and deck lighting. Maneuvering on a back deck that may have a number of levels, and most likely a few steps, while being occupied by a full crew of family and friends can be awkward enough under direct sunlight. Under the moonlight though, with vision down about 75 per cent, and with 100 per cent of the remaining family and friends now half in the bag, relating barely discernible stories to themselves, lack of lighting could prove hazardous. So, consider the very easy to install solar post cap, that conveniently fits over a standard 4×4 treated or cedar post.

Deck lighting, following the perimeter of the deck, and especially on your stair risers, is also a good thing. Deck lighting units are best wired into your homes electrical panel, or an available outlet. Providing a brighter, more durable light, these wired lights can be controlled by a very convenient hand held device. So, click-em on at dusk, and click-em off once you kick the last straggler out at 2 am.

Good building.

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

Some woods like paint, some just don’t

The only thing worse than having to paint something once, is having to paint this same item a second time, and then a third, should the finish not turn out quite as good as expected.

So, understanding that having to paint something twice is about as inspiring as watching Maple Leafs pre-season hockey; while also understanding some products simply receive paint a little better than others, let’s make our lives a little easier by choosing products to paint that are actually paint-friendly.

Other than walls and ceilings, things we tend to paint on the interior of a home include moldings, window sills and buildouts, shelving, bookcases, or any number of craft-type projects.

Products that don’t paint so well include fir, spruce, particle board, and mahogany plywood. Wood species that are somewhat unfriendly to paint include knotty pine, spruce, and oak.

Why some product species have difficulty with accepting paint is mostly due to their porosity. When a wood species or plywood is somewhat porous, regardless of its hardness, it tends to absorb paint in a haphazard manner.

As a result and once dry, a porous surface, once painted, will have often produce a raised grain, where the wood fibers rise up like little hairs, creating an uneven sheen, which will require sanding and subsequent coats. The results certainly aren’t disastrous by any means, just unsatisfying.

Now, you may question, if I included spruce in my list of those species not so friendly to paint, then why in last week’s article was it recommended to paint your treated decking planks, which in most cases are made of this same spruce species?

That would be a fair inquiry.

The simple answer is, sometimes it comes down to money. First, outdoor wood products should be painted or stained, regardless of species. So, even though spruce may not be the most suitable product for painting, the fact it’s a fraction of the price of cedar, or composite lumber, makes treated lumber definitely worth the paint risk.

What species of wood best suits the exterior, and paints or stains really well?

That would be cedar. It’s light in weight, easy to cut, drill, and sand, whether you’re looking to build a multi-tiered deck, pergola, or a couple of traditional Adirondack chairs for the backyard.

If we’re talking outdoors and if it’s in the budget, make it out of cedar.

Back in the house, preferred products to use when a painted finish is desired include finger-joint pine, medium density fiberboard (aka MDF), and birch plywood.

Finger-joint pine boards differ from knotty pine planks in that the knots have been cut out, with the board being re-glued back together using what’s known as a finger joint, since the seam resembles the fingers of two hands interwoven together. Finger joint planks represent the best compromise between regular knotty pine and clear pine.

Although knots in a pine plank can technically be sealed with a primer or shellac type solution, in reality, and in time, knots always tend to bleed through to the surface, ruining what was a good finish. Clear pine would be an option, but it’s prohibitively expensive, making finger-joint pine the best value when painting.

Finger joint pine is generally three-quarters of an inch in thickness and available in planks ranging from 2.5 inches to 7.25 inches wide.

If a wider plank is needed, in the case of a deep window buildout, shelving, or bookcase, ask for paint-grade birch plywood. It’s less expensive than stain-grade plywood, but every bit as durable. Paint-grade birch ply can be ripped to any width.

If you’re an artistic or crafty type and are looking to install a cutout of Santa and his eight little reindeer on your lawn this Christmas, then look for Russian (aka Baltic) birch plywood. Available in a variety of thicknesses, Russian birch plywood is the best choice for really any interior wood project or craft that will require paint.

Good building.

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

Why do we stain our decks?

Why cut your lawn? Why comb your hair?

Or, if you’re a fellow old enough to remember the last time the Montreal Canadians won the Stanley Cup, why stick to the more conservative boxer short if you’re purchasing swimwear?

Because, in general, things just looks better that way.

So, why stain a wood deck, knowing full well your efforts will only last a year or two before the stain begins to wear and peal, requiring a repeat of the whole process?

Again, because in general, wood looks better when it’s painted or stained.

The alternative to staining or painting, is sitting idle while your decking planks begin to crack, splinter, warp a little, then turn grey over the next few years. Otherwise stated, they get old-looking.

So, to keep your deck looking as new as possible, for as long as possible, there’s no other solution than having to regularly apply stain.

Does applying a stain mean having to sand the wood beforehand? Not necessarily.

There are three different types of finishes to choose from when considering how to protect your cedar or treated-lumber deck. These choices include a clear coat, semi-transparent, and solid (aka opaque) type stains.

Clear coats and semi-transparent stains are traditional favorites because they accentuate the wood grain. The only issue with clears and semis is that sanding will be required every time. That’s because clear coats and semi-transparent stains are practically as thin as water, and as a result, need to sink deeply into the pores of the wood if they’re to effectively grab hold of the surface.

Unfortunately, wood pores can only be opened up by the act of sanding. If you skip the sanding stage, and simply apply a clear or semi type finish over a pre-existing clear or semi-transparent stain, or even bare wood, the liquid will dry on the surface then most likely peel as the year wears on.

Solid stains are my favorite because they don’t require the homeowner having to sand beforehand. The wood surface will need to be washed, in order to eliminate any surface oils and dirt, and primed, if were talking a new wood surface, but not sanded. Solid stains resemble a paint, in that they completely hide the grain, and only highlight the general texture of the wood.

So, if you’ve been used to seeing grain, a solid-colour surface is going to take a little time to get used to. However, telling yourself you’ll never have to sand again is often all the transitional therapy you’ll require.

Regardless of which type of finish you choose, success in staining will require a little help from the weather gods. Deck stains are like fair-weather golfers and only feel truly comfortable when there are white fluffy clouds in the sky, it’s not too hot, or too cold, with absolutely no chance of rain.

As a result, late summer and fall often offer the best windows of staining opportunity.

When do I paint or stain my new treated lumber or cedar deck? Basically, when the wood is dry.

Testing for dry can be done by randomly sealing (on all four sides) a few 4”x4”pieces of saran wrap to the top of various decking planks that will be in the sunlight for at least the next 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes, you see condensation developing on the underside of the plastic, the lumber is still too wet to stain.

Other keys to successful staining?

Buy a good quality brush, wear gloves, and be sure to choose work clothing— if you don’t rinse a stain splatter within the first 10 seconds, that supposedly water-soluble droplet will be there for life.

Other than that, ease the stress on the knees by strapping on a good pair of knee pads (hockey shin pads are a good alternative), take an Advil for the inevitable lower pain to come, turn the radio on, and get at ‘er.

Good building.

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