Sway me over to a wider door

Over the last 10 years my elbows have been taking a beating. What seems to be the cause?

Well, I’m not a member of the army reserves, so it’s not due to me having to crawl on all fours during bi-weekly basic training. I don’t play tennis, and I don’t arm wrestle, after being soundly defeated by little Wendy Shulster in the quarterfinals of the 1972 primary school sports activity week. The problem, after further investigating the situation, and studying the effects of time on the human body, has been pinpointed to one specific affliction affecting most of us over the age of 40, that being “sway”.

Basically, if you’re under the age of 40, you probably walk a relatively straight line. Over 40, well, we’re facing two realities. One, we probably wouldn’t fit into our high school gym shorts. And two, with sports injuries, manual labor, or the weight of life having taken its toll, the head movement of the average middle ager as they perform the simple task of walking, is like following the crow’s nest of a sailing ship on a stormy night.

That natural sway that we develop isn’t exactly a handicap, unless of course you’re attempting to move from one room of the home, to the other. Basically, I can’t manage to carry a basket of clothing, move even a light piece of furniture, or carry a burger in one hand, beer in the other, through a standard sized 30 inch doorway, without bumping at least one elbow. Give me more than 40 lbs. to carry, and I end up pin-balling my way through.

Solution? Widen the doorways. Now, I don’t expect those persons in existing homes to start taking a sledge hammer to perfectly good interior doors and frames, unless of course you’re totally fed up with bruised limbs. However, as we progress from those first starter type homes, and look to build for the first time, it might be a good idea to keep our aging lifestyle in mind as we design the floorplan. Or, if your middle-aged income will allow you to begin extensive renovations on an existing home that you’ve come to love, then it’s time to look past the weekly door crasher sale specials on 30 inch pre-hung doors.

Plus, some of our futures will involve walkers and wheelchairs, which for ease of movement, will of course require wider than average doorways.

Is aging all doom and gloom? For the most part, yes. Regardless, if you’re building or renovating at the age of 35-40, and you plan on staying in this home for the next 10-15 years or so, then know this. Even healthy older folk wake up sore in the morning, put on their slippers, then begin that gentle sway as they make their way to the washroom. So, make that passage more manageable by installing a 32-34 inch wide door slab in all bathrooms.

The balance of the home, including bedrooms and office areas, should have minimum 32 inch wide door slabs. Where will the 30 inch and skinnier slab sizes find a home? As linen closets, perhaps.

These wider door dimensions, along with the tendency towards people choosing larger casing moldings, will of course require 2-4 inches more of wall space in order to make it all conform. As a result, be sure to inform your architect, home planner, or whoever’s making the drawings for your new home or addition, of your desire for wider interior slabs.

Wider bedroom doors may not directly affect the structure, but bathroom doors, often found squeezed into a space at the end of a hallway, will certainly require some slight modifications to a general plan. No matter what the delay, it’s much easier, and cheaper, to make changes to a floor plan when it’s on paper, as opposed to after construction begins.

So, do yourself a favor when designing your next home, and widen those doorways.

Good building.

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

Don’t settle when answer is clear and easy

This week has us examining case #231, titled “In Search of the Skinny Casing”, a tragic story involving a young couple in finishing turmoil.

What’s the problem? Three out of their 10 interior doors, in their newly constructed home, have been framed in a manner that restricts the width of the casing (finish molding surrounding the door).

In each case, the pre-hung doors in question, had been framed about three inches away from the corner of an adjoining wall, leaving barely enough room to fit a standard 2-3/4″ inch wide casing, or at best, a three inch wide casing.

Issue at hand? The young bride had chosen a somewhat higher than average 6-1/2 inch Victorian style baseboard molding. The matching Victorian casing to this baseboard molding is 3-1/2 inches wide.

So, how do you squeeze a 3-1/2 inch casing molding into a 3 inch space, without compromising the look by having to rip the molding down to size? The quick answer is, you can’t.

Plus, a casing molding never looks attractive tight up against a corner wall, and requires at least an inch or two of wall space to look even somewhat presentable. Therefore, in order to properly accommodate this 3-1/2 Victorian casing, we would require at least five inches of wall space.

But we’ve got only three inches. Solution? You shift the doors over the appropriate amount of inches. “But we can’t do that!” was their response.

“The drywall’s just been completed, the first coat of primer is about to be applied, this could mean having to move a light switch or two, so no way, it would cause just too much upheaval” they further stated.

Then, choose a shorter, standard sized baseboard to match the 2-3/4 casing you were forcing yourself to accept, was my suggestion. However, the young lady was adamant she wanted the higher Victorian base.

Then we move the doors, was again my suggestion. It may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s not.

We’re not asking your carpentry crew to raise the roof or dig the basement deeper. The solution to this problem will require three hours of labor and a couple of hundred bucks in material. But, the resulting wider margin will look spectacular.

However, being young people, maybe a little impatient, and perhaps blind to the big picture, they couldn’t get around the notion of sometimes needing to take two steps back, and fix the real issue, in order to get things right and move forward.

So, the search began for a skinny, 2-3/4 or 3 inch casing that would adequately match their extra-large, 6-1/2 inch Victorian base.

On an unrelated note, this couple also confided in me their upcoming vacation plans to search out the Loch Ness monster, visit Santa Claus in the North Pole, and research the mating habits of the Easter Bunny.

The challenge of matching a wide baseboard, with a narrow casing, is that the wider base moldings are often thicker than the standard casings.

When the two moldings meet at the floor, the baseboard ends up protruding past the casing, or being shaved back even to the casing, in order to salvage this non-conforming joint.

Rule #1 in finishing is that the casing must always be thicker than the baseboard. Unfortunately, there’s no salvaging this picture when the opposite happens.

It would be like a mature man tossing on a tank top, tucking it in his cut-off jeans, securing this classical professional midget wrestling look with a belt, then hoping he could save the ensemble by pulling on a pair of knee high socks, then slip into a pair of sandals.

Undaunted by the facts, and determined to keep their 6-1/2 inch baseboard, the couple settled on a 3 inch casing that looked like, with a little imagination, and at a quick glance, just OK.

I hate settling when the answer is clear and easy.

Good building.

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

Let ‘er slide

We had garden, or regular in-swinging doors, leading onto our back deck once. Once!

Now we have sliding patio doors, and they’re a welcome change.

Generally purchased in either a five or six foot width, the standard white vinyl sliding door has been a staple in new home construction for the past 50 years.

Basically, if you were building a new home or addition, and there was to be a deck attached, in all likelihood there was going to be a sliding patio door involved.

Why was the choice of a patio door such a popular one? Value.

For about half the price of a double door system with full length glass, the standard patio door delivered a full view, clean look, with a simple operating mechanism. Plus, you had the bonus of a sliding screen, making the decision of choosing a patio door over conventional doors a no-brainer.

Downside to these original series patio doors? Unimpressive locking system, with a limited colour selection that included white, white and white.

Then came the garden door, basically a double door, hinged either at the side, or stylishly hinged at the center mullion, with of course the newly designed sliding screen option.

Now home builders were able to have the somewhat classier look of a double door, due to its wider style and rail, with the convenience of a screen to let in that welcomed summer breeze. Further bonuses to choosing a garden door included a basically unlimited choice of door colours, along with a frame colour that would match the windows, should the choice be other than white.

Plus, garden doors could be accessorized with the same type of lockset and deadbolt as the other exterior doors, so there was a consistency factor that made choosing the garden door, even at its elevated price, the better decision.

The downside of a garden door is that it swings inwards. Not a big deal if you’ve got the living room, bedroom, or kitchen space to spare.

However, if things are already a little tight, the person seated closest to the door is certainly in peril of having their afternoon tea tossed onto their lap every time somebody bumps their chair in an attempt to get in or out of the home.

That hasn’t changed, and until the standard butt hinge is replaced, or sees some major metamorphosis in its structure, doors will continue to require space as they swing inward.

What about swinging a door towards the outside? Although possible, it’s not a recommended option. Out-swinging doors take up valuable deck space regardless, and require a deck platform equal in height to the door sill, otherwise they can be a real tripping hazard.

Plus, a strong wind will tear an out-swinging door right out of your fingers, which can certainly damage the slab, and minimally surprise the bejesus out of the first time victim.

Finally, an out swinging door would require an inside sliding screen, which would look odd.

So, why the switch back to the seemingly antiquated, sliding patio door?

Colour, of course. Combo PVC (coloured exterior, white interior) sliding doors have become the new go-to product for home owners requesting their doors match the exterior windows, which have made the switch from white sash and frame, to the more decorative grey and pebble colours.

Black (aluminum) coloured sliding doors are also becoming very popular, due perhaps to the sliding patios narrow style and frame, which appears quite elegant when these thinner lines are inserted into a stone or brick veneer.

Are wood sliding doors available? Absolutely. Aluminum cladding will finish the exterior, with the customer having a variety of choices regarding wood specie and stain colour for the interior.

What if a person fears missing the look of their garden door? Go with the wider style and rail option, which combines the prestige of a garden door with the convenience of a sliding unit.

Good building!

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