The nose knows when to bail on this cottage

Expanding polyurethane foam in spray cans is an essential ingredient when insulating and an excellent adhesive for fastening rigid foam insulation. It is indispensable for air-sealing around the edges of the sheets. POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILES

Today we continue our following of famed local home inspector Jack Nailbucket, aka Insp. Clouseau, as he meticulously examines a peculiar waterfront home that is for sale.

Bill Granite, the potential buyer of this home, and the one responsible for the hiring of Nailbucket Home Inspections, will not be continuing the tour. Unfortunately, our Mr. Granite is clearly dejected by the revealed failings of this home so far, including a cracked foundation, negative sloping landscape, and decking platforms that require a complete reconstruction.

With his dreams of cottage life fading, he’s found himself a comfortable spot down by the water, and for the past few hours has been true to his nickname, passing his time quaffing ale, then crushing the empty tins against his forehead, followed by unceremoniously tossing these tins into Lake Ontario.

From this point on, Crushers’ contribution to the inspection will regrettably be unintelligible babble.

At present, we find ourselves in the home’s basement, with our Clouseau scenting a problem. Besides the obvious moisture issues, evidenced by two dehumidifiers running full-blast, our inspector was detecting a further, potentially more serious problem.

Due to Jack’s rather large schnoz, a hereditary trait passed on by generations of Nailbuckets and Clouseaus, our inspector is capable of discerning odours and smells in the range of one part per million, placing him second only to the American bloodhound in scent detection.

After only a few minutes in the basement, Clouseau noted the presence of mould. Was the mould severe? No, but the 2×8 joists and plywood flooring were in some areas the same colour as the area’s native speckled trout, while being somewhat cool and moist to the touch, which isn’t good.

For some unknown reason, the basement floor was unfinished, having only a gravel base. In a poor attempt to somewhat control the moisture coming from the soil, and concrete block walls, a six-millimetre plastic had been spread and taped over the gravel floor and walls.

The basement housed the furnace, water purification systems, and other electrical units, so this was indeed an area that saw semi-regular human activity.

The problem was this basement was more designed as a cold storage, with an environment better suited to house this year’s batch of pickled beets, than human life. What to do?

Essentially, this area needs to be humanized, which means switching the basement environment from wet and damp, to warm and dry.

First, we’ll need to quash the basement floor humidity issue by installing a layer of two-inch pink rigid foam board, providing R-10 of thermal value, over the existing gravel and poly.

The floor should then be covered with four inches of concrete, spread directly over the foam. This modification would raise the floor about six-to-seven inches, which will also involve raising the furnace, likely affecting the ductwork. With the present basement height being a simply adequate 80 inches, this raising of the floor isn’t devastating news, since 80 per cent of the population will still feel comfortable navigating the area.

Next, the furnace’s ductwork system, now feeding only the living spaces above, will need to accept further venting and cold air returns in order to service the basement.

If we’re creating a living space out of the basement, or at least making it comfortable, then we’ll need to keep the heat in the space by installing a rigid foam board against the block walls, followed by 2×4 framing, then the appropriate levels of fiberglass pink insulation.

Or, forget the whole basement idea, move the furnace and mechanical systems to the main floor, insulate the floor, then seal the basement off altogether.

Simply put, this was a home that required a lot of work, but was fortunately situated on a beautiful lot. Essentially, a situation where all it takes is money to make things better.

With that information, our Mr. Granite accepted the report of our Clouseau, then graciously poured himself into a cab. Case #823 closed.

Good building.

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

Insp. Clouseau looks for clues at the cottage

Getty Images/iStockphoto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week, the inspection continues.

Good building.

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

This ain’t no cottage

The Cottages on Salt Spring Island. Courtesy, Steve MacNaull

Case No. 823, titled “The year-long investment,” has Mr. Bill Granite, aka “Crusher” to his buddies – due in part to Granite’s profession of pounding stones into gravel, and being capable of reducing an expired beer can into a pancake by firmly pressing it against his forehead – looking to spend his weekends by the water.

As a result, a “Cottage for sale” sign, located about 2.5 hours from his Toronto home, has garnered his attention.

First, I think we need to have the Webster Dictionary people either eliminate the term cottage from our vocabulary, or come up with a better word to define what exactly people are getting themselves into.

As I recall, our cottage on Stanley Island was essentially a four-wall, one-roof, 20’ x 30’ structure, supported by concrete blocks about two feet off the ground. By today’s standards, it would be like building a residence on top of a standard backyard deck.

We had electricity, and indoor plumbing, with the water pumped into the cottage directly from the river.

Water purification system? None that I can recall, other than a piece of metal screening loosely fitted at the submerged end of the flexible pipe. The screen basically prevented small stones and sea shells from entering the system, with river bacteria and most other components allowed to flow in freely. But hey, we were always healthy, and rarely missed a day of work or play.

Upon arriving at this residence for the first time, it was clearly evident that this structure was not a cottage, at least by my definition.

What stood before us was a nice, but still modest, 1,600-square-foot bungalow, equipped with all the heating, cooling, multiple bath and shower conveniences of any regular home. The house also had a full basement, which spanned most of the home’s square footage, with the exception of the crawl space found under a most recent addition.

Essentially, this was a home, and would have been called such in any other environment, except for the fact there was a great big expanse of water in front of it, thereby earning its classification as a cottage.

Besides having country experienced friends on board to offer advice, Crusher also engaged the help of a professional home inspector, which is a good idea, and something I would definitely recommend all potential home buyers do before signing on the dotted line.

Friends will usually tell you all the good things about the home, while a home inspector will do a thorough inspection (which should take about two-to-three hours) then give you the straight facts about the joint.

After walking through the home and inspecting the grounds, there were minor issues here and there that were certainly noteworthy, however, the big issue from my perspective, and the one undeniable factor regarding this purchase, was the fact this was an investment in a second home, not a cottage.

Prepping our cottage for the winter months meant disconnecting the water pump, pulling the line out of the river, boarding up a few windows and doors, then motioning to the summer homestead with a final “see ya in six months” salute.

You can’t do that with a modern home, unless of course it’s located in Arizona, where the humidity varies from dry, to very dry.

However, this residence faces the winds of Lake Ontario 365 days per year— winds that’ll not only be pelting this home with rain, snow, and sleet every other weekend, but will be enveloping this house with sufficient humidity to effectively grow mushrooms on the ceilings. The battle to keep this “cottage” viable is going to be, like any other home, a full-time job.

So, does a person move forward with such a purchase? As long as you realize you’ll be caring for and paying expenses on two homes, instead of one and a half, like you might have expected, it’s all good.

Next week, the cottage inspection.

Good building.

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

Measurement is usually an exact science; it’s why we do it twice

Joe Nelson of Eco Roof London constructs a frame that will bear a new steel roof on a home in London, Ontario on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. . DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /Postmedia Network

Today we examine case No. 622, titled “Measure twice, order once,” involving a Mr. Joaquin D. Aster, aka the “walking disaster.”

Actually, Mr. Aster’s life isn’t so disastrous, but it is riddled with errors, errors that could be avoided by implementing a few procedural changes in his lifestyle.

Essentially, Joaquin is a risk taker, and for example, consistently walks into the grocery store without a written list. As a result, he always forgets the butter. Remembering milk and bread is easy, but without a list, forgetting to pick up the butter, unless you see it in someone else’s cart, is practically a given.

Coincidentally, Mr. Aster refuses to get the gas gauge fixed on his automobile, relying simply on whether the car feels heavy or not, and predicts the daily forecast based on the severity of his nasal condition.

To know one’s surprise, the walking disaster often finds himself trudging along the roadway, in the rain, carrying bags of groceries in both hands, still missing the butter.

Joaquin’s antics rarely involve personal or collateral injury, but this pattern of behaviour will cost a person time and money.

Which brings us to the case in point: Our Mr. Aster is looking to purchase a metal roof for his 40-plus-year-old home.

Installing steel roofing on a home is an excellent investment, and one that should last the full 50-year warranty period. However, and like a whole lot of quality products, things go a whole lot better when measurements are absolutely exact.

Achieving this goal requires that measurements be checked, then verified once again, by whomever will be installing the product.

I’m still amazed by supposed carpenters who enter a building supply centre, let the salesperson know their looking to build a deck, or frame a wall, then ask the question, “So, what am I going to need for the job?”

What kind of carpenter, or person given the task of building something, needs the help of a salesclerk to figure out what materials he would need to get a project constructed? And, who the heck hires such unqualified people?

Regardless, it happens too often.

In Mr. Aster’s case, he brought in a lined drawing of his roof structure, a relatively large roof outlay which included a number of peaks and valleys, and requested roofing tin be ordered according to the measurements on the plan.

Although there were no numbers or any indication of actual lengths on the drawing, Mr. Aster indicated the scale was of the standard quarter inch equals one foot type of measurement.

Ordering steel roofing is not like ordering asphalt shingles. One or two bundles of shingles under or over the estimated number required is of little consequence, due to asphalt shingles being relatively inexpensive and a product commonly carried in stock by most building retailers.

There are three manners, in general, by which steel roofing is ordered.

One, the installer simply dictates the lengths and number of sheets required.

Two, the installer measures the roof, peaks and valleys, then goes over these measurements with the salesperson, who orders the product.

Or three, and in the case of a new build, the truss lengths are provided to the salesperson by the roofing company, with the steel sheets and necessary trims and moldings ordered off these exact measures.

In this case, Mr. Aster refused to take the time to supply the salesperson with either of the first two options, and since there was no existing truss plan to follow, was insistent the roof drawing was accurate.

When Joaquin was informed of the possible risks of ordering off a paper drawing, he dismissed the advice to produce accurate measurements, signed the requisition, and informed the salesperson to go forward with the order. Weeks later, the steel roofing supplies arrived, with several sheet lengths being incorrect.

Who pays for this lost time, money, and frustration? Unfortunately, it’s the walking disaster. Case No. 622 closed.

Good building.

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

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

It’s a cake walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Shed the lean-to; built yours to last

Garden shed exterior in Spring, for gardening and outdoor lifestyles. Not Released EDWARDSAMUELCORNWALL / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Today we finalize the plan for what will be your 10’x10’ backyard shed.

Even though this shed will not be subject to the scrutiny of a building inspector, due to it covering an area less than 105 square feet, and thereby not requiring a building permit, we’re not building a dog house.

In other words, we’ve eliminated the babysitter, and any professional advice an inspector could bring to the project, but this shed is going to be a whole lot more than just a few sheets of plywood tacked together.

Now, and after completing this fine shed, should you decide on a late night of carousing and mischief as a means to celebrate the construction of the project, inevitably bringing shame upon your once proud family, the fact this shed now provides you with a quiet space for somber thought, essentially defined as having landed yourself in the doghouse, should in no way be a reflection on the overall integrity of this structure.

First, decide on what type of platform your shed is going to rest on.

A concrete pad is best, but obviously quite permanent, and time consuming to construct, whereby a wooden platform can be assembled within a few hours.

Prepare the platform site by staking out the 10’x10’ space, then remove the grass and dig down about four inches. Next, fill the bed with four to six inches of compacted three-quarter-inch gravel. Now you’re set to either build a 2×6 form, then pour a 4-6 inch concrete slab overtop, or frame a platform using 2×6 lumber and three-quarter-inch treated plywood.

The pros to a wooden base is that it’s an easy build, while being strong and lightweight enough to make this shed somewhat movable. The pros to a concrete base is that it’s of course rock-solid, is there for the long-term, and can handle whatever weighty items you choose to park on it.

Furthermore, 100 square feet of platform will require anywhere from 80 to 100 bags of pre-mixed concrete, making the task of mixing an excellent occasion to initiate a couple of teenagers into the responsibilities of manhood.

As stated last week, the key to this shed being truly functional will be the inclusion of a roll-up, or sectional garage door. Essentially, that’s all you need as a point of entry.

Now, if the idea of a square building with one sectional door seems too commercial for you, then you can certainly make your shed look a little more homey, by adding a single entrance door and a couple of small windows.

Walls? Plan on framing your shed with 2×4 lumber, not 2x3s, and certainly not 2×2 lumber. When the big bad wolf threatens to huff and puff, we don’t want our shed blowing away, or developing a lean, should you happen to bump it with your riding mower.

Plus, walls remain square, while doors and windows tend to operate more smoothly when things are framed with 2×4 lumber.

Next, plan on ordering engineered trusses. Cost- and time-wise, there’s little to save by attempting to re-invent the wheel, so to say, by designing some lean-to type of roof system, or by figuring out the angles needed to arrive at a 4/12-pitchzaed truss.

The roof is a key component to any building, no matter what the size.

As a result, you need an engineered roof that’s designed to handling snow loads, thereby protecting what’s inside the shed, which at times will be you, as well as your precious tools. Plus, your roofline should look perfectly smooth and even, which is what you’ll get with a proper engineered truss.

Siding? Choose something that will complement what’s on your home. Smart panel, readily available in 4×8 sheets, is a good choice because it’s an outdoor, woodgrain panel that installs easily, looks attractive, and can be painted, so the colour choices are unlimited.

Otherwise, vinyl or composite sidings always look good, and offer the homeowner a variety of decorative stone, horizontal, or board-and-batten textures.

Good building.

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

Building better backyard storage

Julie Oliver/Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia Network JULIE OLIVER/OTTAWA CITIZEN

The backyard shed is one of those projects that, similar to a backyard deck, every do-it-yourselfer should attempt once.

The assembly is pretty straightforward and allows the qualified homeowner the opportunity to dabble into a few areas of construction, such as siding and roofing, that they most likely wouldn’t have encountered in their previous decking project.

Bonus to building your own shed? One, everybody needs more storage space. Two, this wooden structure will be far superior to one of those plastic or aluminum jobs that assemble quickly, look pretty, then tend to crumple up and fly away with the first strong gust of wind.

Not that our wooden structure can’t be stylish, with perhaps a window flower box and a few gingerbread moldings along the roofline to soften things up a bit.

However, our 2×4 framing will provide us with rock-solid construction, allowing us to more efficiently divide the interior of our shed into shelving, pegboard, and if required, a few heavy duty hooks and brackets as well.

First, understand we are building a shed, which is somewhat defined as a structure equal to, or less than 10 square metres (about 105 square feet) in area. Any structure larger than 10 square meters falls into the category of garage, or warehouse, which will require a building permit, and preferably the hiring of a professional contractor.

So, look to build something in the 8’x12’ or 10’x10’ range. If you run out of room, which always happens, either build something bigger next season, or build a second shed.

Actually, a homeowner can have up to three accessory buildings. Check your local zoning bylaw, which will spell out how many you can have for your home.

Now, creating this type of shantytown decorum in your backyard could draw the ire of your upscale neighbors. Regardless, they’ll certainly understand your desire for more storage space, and hopefully accept the general construction opinion that the value of gardening and green space is grossly overrated.

As always, start with a plan.

Restrictions? Besides the 10-square-metre floor space confine, the only other shed bylaw restrictions are those relating to spacing within your lot, and building height.

Essentially, your shed will need to be distanced at least 0.8 metres (2.62 feet) from your property line.

So, know the exact location of your property lines. Otherwise, you could end up having to share your wall of rakes and shovels with your neighbour.

Plus, don’t attempt to maximize your 10-square-metre shed footprint limit, by building this structure three stories high, somewhat adopting a Dr. Seuss type of house plan.

Maximum shed height is five metres (16 feet), providing more than adequate room for a cathedral ceiling, or the very classy turret, should you have chosen a medieval theme for this structure.

As mentioned above, your best bet – and before starting this shed project – is to check with your building permit office regarding the local zoning and building regulations. They’re not the same in every city and township.

Things to consider? Your entrance will be key. A wide single door, or double doors are good, but a roll-up or sectional garage door is far better. It all has to do with convenience and accessibility.

When I’ve got yard work to do on a Saturday, my first task is to open our garage door. I don’t necessarily like opening the garage door for the same reason we don’t usually open all our closet doors when guests come over to visit. Essentially, you’ve got to have quite the organized and neat garage in order to proudly put it on display for the neighbourhood to pass comment on as they walk or bike on by your home.

However, when requiring access to a tool or garden hose, I’d rather walk through a nine-foot opening, than push through a three-foot swinging door.

As a result, and regardless of our garage’s state of messiness, the garage door stays open for the duration of the task. So, make sure to squeeze both a single entrance door, and garage type door (available in 4’, 5’, and 6 ft. convenient shed widths) into your shed plan.

Next week, more shed tips.

Good building.

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

It’s your serve

Reilly McMillan, 12, plays ping pong with her sister Gracie, 9, and Joy McCullagh under the Fourth Avenue flyover on Wednesday August 9, 2017, in Calgary, Alta. Gavin Young/Postmedia Network

Today we’re building an outdoor ping pong table.

Why outdoor ping pong? Because its summer.

Why the sport of ping pong? Because it’s as much fun as tennis, but a whole lot cheaper, considering the average paved backyard tennis court starts at about $150,000. All in, we should be able to build this baby for under $250.

Plus, a ping pong table usually adapts quite well to most backyard decks (tennis courts, not so well) with one of the supporting leg options being to lay the ping pong surface on top of an existing outdoor dining table. And, ping pong has fewer rules and etiquette boundaries than tennis.

Essentially, backyard ping pong has one rule— regardless of any prevailing winds and rain, table slope, variable conditions including spilled beer and crushed nuts on the playing surface, if the ball hits the table before it drops to the floor, the point’s good.

Ping pong clothing? Optional, it’s your backyard.

Materials for the job will include one litre of exterior latex primer, one litre of exterior ‘super white’ flat latex paint (for the lines), along with two litres of exterior flat latex paint (tinted to your surface colour of choice).

Choosing a ‘flat’ sheen of paint will be key to eliminating glare. Although dark green was the traditional table surface colour of choice, navy blue has been the preferred ping pong surface colour since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Basically, any dark colour will do.

The table surface material of choice will be ¾-inch, Baltic (aka Russian) birch plywood. Avoid cheaper surface alternatives such as fir (good one side), particle board, or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). Their surfaces are too soft, are subject to warpage, and they definitely won’t last outdoors.

On the other hand, there are several reasons why Russian birch plywood makes for the best choice in ping pong surfaces.

First, Russian plywood comes in a 5’x5’-sized sheet, which is perfect in our case, since a standard-sized ping pong table is five feet wide, by nine feet long. So, all you’ll have to do is trim (or have your local building supply dealer perform the cut) six inches off the edge of two 5’x5’ sheets.

Further to that, ¾-inch Russian plywood uses an exterior-grade adhesive, and is made of 12 plies of solid, cross-banded birch. As a result, the Russian plywood will remain flat and stable. Russian birch plywood is also super smooth, allowing it to be painted to a perfect finish, and is super hard.

Hardness in a ping pong surface is important because it provides for better ball bounce.

Be sure to paint the ¾-inch x 5’ x 4.5’ ping pong surface panels before assembling them, it’ll be easier to manoeuver them around this way. Start with the exterior primer, painting both sides of the sheet, along with the edges. Next, after the primer’s dried (60 minutes) apply your first coat of blue (or whatever your chosen surface colour is) finish. Again, do both sides, and don’t forget all the edges.

When this first surface coat is dry (four-to-six hours) give all the sides and edges a second coat. Wait a day for this second coat to dry, then using green painters’ tape, prepare the surface for the white lines.

Because we’re making this table to official standards, have a ¾-inch white line follow the perimeter of the sheet, along with a 1/8-inch dividing line running down the centre.

Connect the two sheets using a piano hinge, fastened to the show or playing side of the table. This way, the show side can be folded upon itself, better protecting the playing finish. Cut the piano hinge about four inches shy of the surface edges. This will prevent the hinge from interfering with the standards that support the netting.

If no existing table is available for support, or you’ve got the room to have this gem stand alone, folding table legs could be easily fastened to the sheets.

Good building.

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

The civil deck

One way to put a damper on that backyard barbecue? Splinters from your deck. Postmedia Network

So far we’ve managed to build a deck that can deflect the effects of direct sunlight or a light rain, that can control the winds and skew the view of peering neighbors, and that can provide valuable storage for seat cushions and pool supplies.

Today, we further our quest to build the most civilized of decks by eliminating one of the most dreadful components of exterior deck building, that being splinters.

Essentially, when it comes to entertaining, the book of host etiquette deems it a major faux pas to expose your guests to an environment that can inject them with a pain so formidable, that during times of conflict, the piercing sensation of a splinter was considered an effective means of getting information from infidels.

Basically, if splintering is to be avoided, we are to never screw or nail into wood without first pre-drilling a hole. The best case scenario when fastening down cedar or pressure treated decking will have the installer avoiding the use of surface screws entirely. Surface screws can be replaced by one of two systems, them being the ‘Decktrack’ band, or the ‘Camo’ clamp.

The Decktrack band is a 45 inch strip of powder coated steel that gets nailed along the top edge of the deck’s 2×8 or 2×10 joists. The Decktrack bands are perforated, and allow the installer to insert 7/8 inch screws into the decking planks from underneath.

The Camo clamp is a mechanism that sets the special Camo deck screws in position on an angle. The installer then clamps the plank in position with one hand, then drives the screws into the edge of the plank with the use of a cordless drill, held in the other hand.

The Deck track and Camo systems require a little more time on the part of the installer, and are a little more costly than simply having to buy regular decking screws. However, a deck surface free of screws is a beautiful thing. Surface screwing not only promotes splintering, but by penetrating the wood grain, will enable your decking planks to regularly absorb moisture, which isn’t a good thing. Decking planks that are constantly wet do a poor job of absorbing stain, which will translate into a future of watching your painted or stained decking wear or peel off every season.

Is there any good way of using a surface screw? Yes, by pre-drilling, and using the appropriate countersink bit beforehand.

How else do we avoid splinters? By using connecting hardware every time one piece of lumber meets up, or butts up, against another. The key is avoiding the toe nailing technique. Toe nailing, or toe screwing, is a rough framing strategy whereby a nail or screw is inserted at an angle into wood, in close proximity to the just-cut edge. No matter how careful one is when toe nailing (or screwing) the piece being nailed always cracks and splinters, at least slightly.

With rough framing (that’s inevitably hidden inside the wall cavity) this strategy is quite common and poses no issue. In the world of finishing, the toe nailing procedure looks horrible. So, where the 2×4 railing butts up against the 4×4 newel post, or where your 4×4 newel meets the decking platform, use the appropriate connecting brackets.

Now, connecting hardware isn’t cheap, costing at least a few dollars per assembly joint, compared to paying pennies for a couple of nails or screws. However, and again, we’re building a civilized deck here, not a tree fort.

Next, avoid painting or staining when you can. So, be sure to consider the aluminum spindles (available round, square, or in flat iron) instead of wood, and be sure to cap off your newel posts with the matching aluminum caps.

What’s new in deck accessories? The sliding door kit. Swinging doors can sag over time. So, if cordoning off your back deck is necessary, due to having small children, or small puppy dogs on board, consider the very effective, and smooth operating action of a sliding door.

Good building.

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