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

A drill-down on making great holes

Getty Images/iStockphot

One thing penetrating into another is always made easier by first creating a hole.

No matter how skilled, how mighty, or how overwhelmingly powerful the athlete carrying the ball is in the sport of professional football, his success in progressing past the line of scrimmage will correlate directly with the size of the hole created.

If the 300-pound offensive lineman creating this hole was successful in separating the angry bunch of 300-pound defensive linemen in the way, then the skilled ball carrier passes through with minimal discomfort.

If the offensive lineman fails to create a hole, either due to lack of skill, poor timing, or the fact a few individuals are somewhat disgruntled by recent contract negotiations, then the ball carrier will certainly be facing a whole lot of hurt.

Most nails and screws will penetrate wood. There are self-tapping screws designed to drill and pierce through steel. There are even nails that can be hammered into solid concrete.

However, it’s always easier when there’s a hole created first.

Let’s look at some of the things we can use to create holes. Things to realize; steel drill bits will cut through wood, but wood bits won’t cut through steel, while concrete bits will only really cut through concrete.

That being said, with enough weight or pressure, a drill bit could be forced through just about anything, just like a grand piano could be forced through the mail slot of a front door, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

To keep things easy, and pretty, we use the proper designated drill bit for the task at hand.

Essentially, small holes of 3/16” or less, often used to pre-drill wood in order to accept a nail or screw, are effectively done with a steel drilling bit.

Holes required to be anywhere from a quarter-inch to 1.5 inches in diameter are best drilled with a spade bit, which has a flat head, similar to a canoe paddle. Using a steel bit for these sized holes will work, but you’ll be forfeiting accuracy. A steel bit will move around a little on the surface before it bites down into the wood. Plus, the hole will be frayed at the sides, due to the steel bit lacking the extended, cutting edges found on a typical spade bit.

Anything larger than 1.5 inches would require a hole-saw, which is a cylinder-shaped cutting tool. Hole-saws are two component drilling tools, requiring a centre bit, referred to as a “mandrel,” to start the hole. The mandrel further guides the circular hole-saw into the wood. If this is your first hole-saw purchase, don’t forget to buy both components. Generally, one mandrel will service a number of various hole-saw diameters.

However, not all centering mandrels match all hole-saws. So, be sure to test-fit your existing mandrel with the newer hole-saw before leaving the building supply centre.

Note to self: drilling with larger spade bits and any sized hole-saw bit is like playing catch with a football, best done using two hands. If your drill doesn’t have an extended arm to place a second, steadying hand, definitely consider ordering one of these components for your specific brand of drill. Otherwise, keep two hands firmly on the trigger shaft.

Spade bits and hole-saws will sometimes jamb in the wood. If that happens, and you’ve only got one hand on the drill, the sudden twist is going to leave your wrist looking and feeling like a strand of cooked spaghetti.

Next, be wary of purchasing just any spade bit. Some spade bits have regular tips, others a full-thread tip. The full-thread bit option effectively draws the spade bit blades into the wood, making this bit very aggressive— which is fine if you’re an electrician with 1,000 holes to drill. Otherwise, I prefer the gentle push, draw back (which helps clear the hole of cuttings) then push forward strategy of a regular spade bit.

Next week we’ll have more on creating holes.

Good building.

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

Painting’s more than picking up a brush

Painter’s tape being applied to a baseboard. POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Painting tradespersons don’t get the respect they deserve.

This is due to the belief most of us feel we’re generally capable of painting a room with little consequence, while delivering acceptable results.

True enough, few people have electrocuted themselves or flooded the home’s basement as a result of performing a poor paint job. Plus, cuts and bruises are minimal, and although painters tend to keep their fingers over the course of their career, there was the tragic beheading of Sir Edward “Eggshell” Egleton, by order of the Earl of Warwick in 1645, due to a sloppy effort of painting where the ceiling met the stained crown trim, a treasured molding of the Earl. Unfortunately for Eggshell Egleton, who prided himself on a revolutionary paint texture that duplicated a beloved breakfast food, but whose trimming hand was a little shaky, masking tape would only be invented 300 years later, and painter’s tape, another 50 years after that.

All to say, dipping a brush into a can of paint is relatively easy.

The key to getting from this point to a desirable finish, while avoiding any headaches, will take a whole lot of care.

First, organize your supplies. Besides the paint, angled brushes, pans, roller cages, and refills, you’ll need a few canvas drop mats, drywall repair compound, painter’s tape, and paintable caulking.

The key to achieving a nice finish is to first prepare the surface. No matter how good the paint, it won’t camouflage nail holes, dents, or smooth out a poor drywall repair job.

If your goal is to paint the room in one day, pick up a bag of ‘sheetrock 20.’ This powdered, just add water compound can be sanded 20 minutes after it’s applied.  If time is on your side, regular joint compound will require 24 hours to set.

First, clear the room of as many obstacles as you can. Although you’ll be using a water-based paint, removing paint splatter off the kitchen table or the coffee maker will be a pain in the butt, especially if the droplets go unnoticed for a few hours.

Using a narrow putty knife, and a small plastic container you’ve salvaged from the recycle box, mix a small amount of sheetrock 20 to a cake icing consistency. Then, apply it over the holes and rough surfaces.

Next, start taping. Professional painters avoid taping because it’s time consuming, costly, and because they’ve in most cases mastered the technique of trimming. Unless you’re a medical surgeon or dismantle bombs for a living, odds are that with the amount of coffee and medication in your system, your hand stroke is about as steady as gas prices on a holiday weekend.

So, protect the things you don’t want to colour with a painter’s tape, and not masking tape. Painter’s tape is a new-and-improved version of masking tape, and is designed to seal as soon as paint makes contact with its edge.

Besides your crown, window, and door moldings, be sure to tape around the doorknobs and light fixture bases as well. Once you’ve finished applying the painter’s tape, the ‘sheetrock 20’ will be ready for sanding.

Next, lay your canvas drop mats in position. The canvas mats are more expensive than the plastic or paper protective coverings, but they spread and handle far better. The canvas mats are available in 3’x20’ or 4’x12’ formats, which is convenient when moving from wall to wall.

Try not to walk on the mats as you paint. Otherwise the droplets they’ve absorbed will end up on the soles of your slippers, with your trips back and forth from the fridge well documented from that point on.

Even though you’ve protected things with a painter’s tape, begin the painting sequence using a quality tapered brush around the moldings and where the wall meets the ceiling. Once the molding’s been painted, remove the tape as soon as you can. This way, any paint that’s made its way under the tape can be easily rubbed off.

Good painting.

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

Pros vs. Jos: The drywall edition

Jesse Gift applies drywall compound to the ceiling while framed by the 12-inch white pine beams that form the structure of the virtual high school being constructed on the main street of Bayfield. The building was still under construction when photographed on Wednesday December 14, 2011. MIKE HENSEN/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/Postmedia Network

There used to be a TV commercial which had a diminutive, computer analyst-type fellow in the checkout line of some hardware store, supplies in hand, with a couple of contractors in close behind him, slowly moving towards the cashier.

The TV viewer recognizes the little fellow as a do-it-yourselfer because he was wearing a fine dress shirt and dress pants, and everybody knows that amateurs, no matter what the task, be it cooking, painting, or even playing a sport, always wear their good office clothing while participating in such events.

The two gentlemen behind the little fellow were obviously tradesmen because they were both 260+-pound behemoths, sporting hard hats, while classily attired in torn blue jeans and timeworn bowling shirts with mustard stains that dated back to the 1990’s, because that’s what building contractors look like.

Regardless, the two professional contractors see the do-it–yourselfer is about to buy a bunch of cheap building supplies, so they tug the little feller out of the cashier line, remove whatever he has in his hands, then fill his arms up with better tools, with the lesson being buy what the pros use. Once through the cash, the three of them leave the hardware store laughing and giggling like a troop of schoolgirls.

In most cases, it’s better spending a little more money on quality products. However, when it comes to mudding drywall, how the pros work, and how they buy, isn’t always what’s best for the do-it-yourselfer.

Essentially, the amateur drywaller will lack technique, know-how and speed. As a result, his or her product choices will have to differ, at least in a few areas, from what the pros use.

When it comes to taping a joint, especially in the case of a repair, the amateur should consider using a Fiberglas tape. Professional drywallers commonly use a paper tape because it’s less expensive and can be rolled out and applied more quickly.

Fiberglas tape will stick to the drywall, unlike paper tape, which requires the user mudding the joint beforehand. Mudding, or adding joint mix to the seam, then embedding the paper tape into the joint compound, requires speed and technique, otherwise things gets messy, with joint compound spilling onto the floor.

As an amateur, methodically and patiently moving from one procedure to the next, and not speed, is what’s going to get you to the finish line.

After carefully placing the Fiberglas tape over the seam, the amateur can move on to the next step, mudding. The professional drywaller will choose either a beige or white all-purpose light compound. As amateurs, we’re going to go with the dust-control product.

Dust-control compound is heavier and thicker than regular light-joint compound, allowing the user to more easily scoop out a trowel full of mud, check their phone messages, go for a coffee, then calmly spread it on the wall.

Light compound is a lot thinner, and lighter, which makes it a whole lot easier on the shoulders and elbow joints of those professionals who work with this stuff for hours on end. However, light compound won’t sit on the trowel for long, so once it’s scooped out of the box, you had better be quick to get it on the wall.

Dust-control compound is also recommended for the amateur because the dust particles fall to the floor when sanded, in a controlled type of manner, hence the name. With the tendency of most amateurs to over apply the joint compound, followed by the need to sand things smooth, this is a key feature to avoiding dust everywhere.

Next, amateurs should invest in sponge sanders, a handy tool to avoiding dust when removing those not-so-perfect raised edges.

Where to copy the pros? The wider the swath of compound applied, the smoother the wall. So, invest in trowels by having four-inch, six-inch and eight-inch putty knives, as well as a 10-inch and 12-inch taping knife in the tool box.

Good building.

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

Kitty through the door

A cat hole in the wall? Easy enough. But first, paws to think about how to do it – safely. Postmedia Network KEVIN GOULD / KEVIN GOULD/STANDARD-FREEHOLDER

Last week we cut out a cat hole, or essentially a large mouse hole, at the base of the wall nearest the staircase to the basement. The purpose of this miniature archway was to allow the home’s two felines, Tigger and Coco, free access to their litter box.

Because it’s worth mentioning a second time, when creating a hole in an existing wall, we don’t simply “cut” out the drywall, but instead, we “surgically” remove it. The reason for caution relates to the consequences one could experience, conservatively estimated at, zero to 10 per cent, ductwork damage – 25 per cent, plumbing and related flood damage – 50 per cent, severing an electrical circuit – 10 per cent, and death – five per cent (which computation is based on your 50/50 chance of surviving the cutting of an electrical circuit) should you simply cut through a wall.

Surgically removing a section of drywall means you’re cutting to the depth of the drywall, then basically letting this portion of drywall fall into your hands, keeping this removed portion intact. Observing what’s behind this removed portion of drywall will lead you to either continue the task, or if you’re faced with a series of copper pipes or wiring, place the piece of drywall back in position, patch things up, and either move on to another section of wall, or take this project off the to-do list.

When cutting out a section of drywall, whether it be for a cat hole or any other small renovation project, locate the center of the nearest stud on either side of where the hole will be, then cut your drywall from the center to center of these wall studs.

The reason for this strategy is twofold. One, you’ll rarely get into trouble cutting down the center of a stud, and two, replacing the piece of drywall, or re-fitting it back into position, will be easier when you have these two anchoring studs to work with.

Last word on cutting drywall, put a new blade in the utility knife, then be sure to lightly score the surface, then progressively cut a little deeper with every passing. Again, we’re looking to eliminate any bloodshed, or loss of one’s typing finger, by digging too deeply into drywall, then tugging on the knife in an attempt to cut out a square patch in four passes.

Hold a level, square, or solid straight edge against the wall, then lightly draw your knife downwards. Once you’ve scored over the line three to four times, either put your non-cutting hand behind your back or keep this steadying hand a few feet away, then make that final cut. No one has ever lost a finger doing things this way.

Next, we frame the hole. In the case of our arched cat hole, we’ll be cutting pieces of 2”x2” lumber the depth of our 2×4 wall, about 3 ½ inches, then stacking them between the drywall, following the contour of the arch. Set a bead of glue in between each block, using drywall screws to help hold them in place if necessary. Next, line the 2”x2” blocks with a fiberglass mesh tape (as opposed to regular paper drywall tape) vertically and horizontally, overlapping the drywall by a couple of inches on the outside of the arch. Then, using a flexible plastic drywall corner bead (available in 10 ft. sections), cut it to the desired length (cuts easily with scissors), then fit it around the arched drywall contour. Use 5/16 staples to hold the flexible corner in position. The flexible drywall bead will ensure a nice contour line around the arched hole.

Now you’re ready to apply the drywall mud. Mud the wall surfaces first, let dry one day, then mud the jamb, or inside wall of the hole. Essentially, we’re creating a classic lath and plaster archway, only on a kitty scale. Similar to any drywall repair, subsequent muddings and sandings will have you going further and further out from the hole, as you attempt to make this kitty entrance as level to the wall, and as inconspicuous as possible.

Good building.

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

Some feline accessibility

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

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

What’s the reason for this renovation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The words gently tap through are key.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week, finishing the hole. Good building.

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

Outdoor fine finishing

Handout Not For Resale SUPPLIED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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