The only thing that looks like wood, is wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until further notice, case no. 215 is closed.

Good building.

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

Foghorn’s foggy morning

Fog in the pane? Our handyman has the answer. Postmedia Network

Case #345, titled “The Rooster’s lost his head” has a Mr. Fogazio Legano, aka ‘Foghorn Leghorn’ a nickname he picked up in grade school, due in part to his schoolmates from the local farming community having difficulty pronouncing his name, along with this term of endearment somewhat reflecting his large, boisterous manner, waking up to a foggy day.

In actuality, the morning was a little cool, but quite clear, with a bright sun rising slowly over the silos. What fooled Foghorn was the fact the thermal pane glass in his bedroom double hung window had suffered a broken seal, and had basically fogged up.

A thermal pane unit is essentially two sheets of glass united by a spacer, then further sealed with a rubberized type of air-tight band. Thermal pane glass is also referred to as an insulated pane because the space between the two sheets of glass is filled with argon gas, along with a clear film of material (Low-E) attached to the inside panel.

Argon gas is a colorless, odorless, and harmless gas that’s five and a half times heavier than air. The argon’s weight factor is what makes it several times superior to air when it comes to insulating a space. The clear low-E film allows light and some solar heat to pass through, while reflecting the heat provided by the home’s furnace, back into the room. Having both argon gas and Low-E film in a sealed unit is what creates a glass pane of optimal efficiency.

When the seal on a thermal window breaks, the argon gas escapes into the atmosphere, and is replaced with air. On a cool fall morning, this air will condensate in between the panes of glass, causing what’s simply known as a foggy window.

What really upset Fogazio though, was that due to him thinking the climate outdoors was so unfavorable, he ended up binge watching seasons 1 through 8 of ‘The Gilmore Girls’ with his girlfriend Juanita, aka Miss Prissy, basically wasting what was a beautiful weekend.

As a result of this lost opportunity, and with a few other windows in his home experiencing this same condensation issue, Foghorn began ranting and running about the place like a chicken, er, rooster with his head cut off. With his head still in a buzz, Fogazio called the number off a flyer he had seen in the mailbox some weeks before — it simply read as “Freddy’s Fog Removal” specializing in removing condensation from thermal glass panes, just call Freddy, aka ‘fast Freddy’, aka ‘Freddy the fog’.

Within days, Freddy showed up, and proceeded to drill a hole in each thermal pane, followed by the installation of a vent valve to help keep the window clear. This type of venting process, or strategy, can work, and if your goal is simply to have a clear window to look out of, then this is certainly a convenient, and less expensive (at least initially) solution to a foggy window. However, there’s a downside to convenience. The mini spare tire that allows you to drive your car home after a blowout, is convenient, as is using duct tape to hold up a sagging muffler, or having a bag of mixed nuts in your glove compartment, should you get a bout of the hungries. Convenience is good, but it’s inefficient, and only temporary. Without the argon gas, and with air moving freely into the pane, the glass panel has lost 50 percent of its capacity to retain heat.

As the months passed, these re-conditioned windows began to once again condense, along with a few other random panes. After evaluating the situation with Fogazio, it was decided the only two acceptable solutions to his window condensation problem would be to either replace the failed glass with new thermal panes, or in the case where the window was having operational difficulty, replace the window entirely. This way, maximum efficiency and home value would be maintained.

Case #345 closed. Good building.

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

Watch fall temperatures

If you’re planning on doing some caulking in the fall, make sure the temperature is at least 5 degrees celsius. Postmedia Network.

So, you’re finally getting around to preparing your home for the winter. Great!

Fall is an excellent time to be doing outdoor work. Not too hot, not too cold, and with the days getting shorter, darkness will force you to quit your tasks at a more reasonable hour, placing you safely in your slippers so that you may be fed and couch bound with a beer in your hand, well in time to catch the start of the hockey game.

What is the task at hand? To bolster our home’s system of defense. Who is the enemy? The demon is well known, and is the same, notorious culprit that’s been slowly destroying homes for years, that being water. It’s form? Rain, snow, sleet, or basically anything that pours or puddles. Strategy? To seal by means of a paint, caulking, or mastic (roofing and foundation cements), anything that resembles or what might be described as a crack.

There are a lot of products that form the exterior shell of the home, and the cracks are usually found where one of these products, such as your windows and doors, butts up against a foreign product, such as a brick or vinyl siding. The products themselves are usually fine, whereby the inherent design of a window, or the manner in which brick or vinyl siding is installed, are by themselves perfectly functional in diverting the elements. However, the challenge to the builder is joining two products such as these to form a watertight seal. Achieving this goal will require the installer using various membranes and flashing products, with the finishing touch to this assembly being a bead of caulking. Over time, it’s the bead of caulking that’s going to shrink and crack, which leaves the homeowner with no other choice but to re-caulk this important first line of defence.

Start by examining the roof (binoculars will help) specifically where the roofs flashings contact either the roof vents, or the side of the home, and make note of where the deficiencies, or problem areas are. Follow the same procedure for all windows and doors.

Although the fall weather provides a comfortable working atmosphere, the challenge at this point will be the falling temperatures. Caulking, paints or stains, and mastics, install better and more easily when the temperatures are at least 5 degrees Celsius. When the mercury drops below this basic user line, you risk the product not sticking properly to the surface it’s being adhered to. When caulking doesn’t stick, it won’t seal, which will mean having to follow this process over again next season.

Basic step number one, remove the paints, caulking, or mastic products from the car and put them somewhere in the house as soon as you get back from the building supply center. Don’t leave them in the garage, or forget them in the trunk of the car overnight. When caulking and mastics are left in temperatures that are close to freezing, they don’t squeeze out of the tube so well. When a cold caulking is moving slowly up the spout, the novice user will become impatient, and inevitably begin to over-squeeze the caulking lever, which usually results in the caulking blowing out the bottom of the tube. A caulking backfire has yet to result in serious injury, but the resulting gooey hands, and loss of what was a perfectly good tube of caulking, will be frustrating.

Next, watch the weather reports, and choose your time accordingly. You’ll want to install the caulking or mastic (roof repairs) while the temperatures will be in the 5 degree Celsius range for two to three hours.

If you’re hoping to do some fall painting or staining, or if the foundation is in need of parging, then you’ll require a 24-hour window of plus temperatures, due to these water based products taking longer to cure. So, if frost is expected overnight, you’ll have to wait until the next warm spell before proceeding.

Good building.

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

Stay off the grass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Just be clear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave no decision to chance.

Good building.

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

Notice of continuing suspension

The biggest single factor related to the effective finishing of a basement space is ceiling height.

Basically, and in most cases, there’s rarely enough of it.

So, other than spending $150,000, to have your home raised off its foundation, or conversely, hammering out your basement’s concrete floor, and gaining the headroom by digging down a few steps, the challenge to finishing a basement involves dealing with the many ceiling obstacles. Our goal is to install a suspended ceiling.

It’s a logical choice for a basement due to the vast series of ductwork, plumbing, and wiring that may on occasion require cleaning, repair, or adjustment. The dilemma?

In order for our ceiling tiles to be installed and removed (if necessary) with relative ease, the grid components will need to be four inches lower than the floor joists above. Or, four inches below whatever’s lower than the joists.

Basically, there are three things we shouldn’t touch in a basement, being the floor joists, which support the first floor components, the beam supporting the floor joists, and the jack posts supporting the beam. If you didn’t make the connection, “support” was the key word here.

So remember, you never touch something that is, or in any way could be, supporting something else.

Unless, of course, you’re willing to put down the big bucks for some re-engineering.

If we can’t touch the posts, or the beams, or the joists, then in order to get a reasonably high ceiling, let’s look to move some of the plumbing and ductwork that are cluttering our otherwise perfectly good ceiling. If the original homeowner, or builder, didn’t have a finished basement strategy in mind, then the tradespeople would have taken the simplest, most direct route when making the various plumbing and ductwork connections.

Now that we’re talking finished ceiling, it’s time to call the plumber and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) fellows back. Their goal will be to re-route the plumbing and mechanical venting, if possible, around what would be the future finished area. With a little imagination, and the help of some engineering mechanics or motorization, plumbing and ductwork can be directed through the utility, or storage areas of the basement.

If logistics dictate that certain plumbing lines or venting must pass through the finished area, then perhaps it can be relegated to the edges of the room. This way, the pipes and vents could be hidden by a false wall, or bulkhead, and go practically unnoticed.

As mentioned last week, we want to install the perimeter moldings first, then the main tees, placing them four feet apart, and perpendicular to the joists. With the room’s dimensions drawn to scale on a sheet of graph paper, outline where the four-foot and two-foot crosspieces will be placed.

The graph paper will allow you to more easily centre the tiles and avoid too narrow a border – less than six inches is too thin, and unattractive. Plus, it’ll strategically help you avoid obstructions such as beams and posts.

Inserting the cross pieces should not be left to guesswork, or trial and error. These components are stubborn to detach if you’ve inserted them in the wrong hole. So, avoid the hassle, and get things drawn on paper first. Having things on paper will also help you plan a lighting schedule.

Be sure to secure the help of your electrician when deciding how much recessed lighting will be necessary. What size of tile works best? The larger 2’x4’ tiles are easier and quicker to manipulate, while the 2’x2’ tiles, due to their softer, less etched surface, and recessed edge, generally look better.

If you’ve got a lot of border cutting to do, a recessed tile will require a lot of extra trimming. In this case, you may want to use a non-recessed tile for the border only, keeping the more decorative tiles for the center of the room.

Good building.

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

Suspended ceilings

When installing a suspended ceiling, our handyman recommends going in with a plan. Postmedia Network.

Today we’re going to be discussing the consumer’s most versatile ceiling option, that being a grid system of T-bar shaped metal tracks with either 2’x2’ or 2’x4’ sized tiles, otherwise known as a suspended ceiling.

Suspended ceilings are popular, especially in basement renovations, because the manor of assembly is a relatively quick learn, and a natural progression for those homeowners who received gold stars in kindergarten for their excellence in manipulating Lego blocks.

The grid system is comprised of four basic components — a 12 ft. wall angle, a 12 ft. main tee, along with 2 ft. and 4 ft. cross tees. The strategy to assembling the grid components in a basement involves following three basic steps. One, the 12 ft. wall molding gets installed first, using regular wood or drywall screws, and follows the entire perimeter of the room. Next, sit the edges of the 12 ft. main tees in the L-shape of the perimeter molding, making sure they lie perpendicular to the floor joists above. Then, space these main tees four feet apart.

Whether the ceiling space is square or rectangular is irrelevant. Spacing the main tees four feet apart allows you to lay the tiles (if we’re talking 2’x4’ panels) in whatever direction you wish. Laying the main tees perpendicular to the floor joists, allows you to easily support these main tees with wires strung down from screws inserted into the joists. Place a supporting wire every four feet along the length of your main tee. With the perimeter moldings installed, and the main tees secured in position, two and four foot cross tees can then be installed. This, in a nutshell, are the basic steps regarding the installation of a suspended grid.

Now, however simple this procedure seems, frustration and profanity will be your future if you don’t come up with a strategy beforehand. Because the cross tees insert quite easily, but are about as much fun to disconnect as having to undue a tight knot in a shoelace, you’re only going to want to fasten a cross tee to a main tee, or cross tee into an adjoining cross tee, once.

Getting every connection right the first time you assemble grid in a room requires either a lot of previous practice, or a plan. So, assuming you’re not a professional ceiling installer, let’s come up with a plan that’ll leave all our trials and errors on a few sheets of paper in the recycle bin. On a sheet of graph paper, outline the exact co-ordinates of the room. In order for the ceiling panels to be easily placed into the track, the entire grid system must hang four inches below the lowest beam or length of ductwork. Please understand that the four inch drop is a minimum. With the main tees measuring about two inches in depth, a four inch minimum drop leaves you with about two inches of air space to slide in, and manipulate a tile into position. If you’ve purchased a ridged tile, and because of their superior quality and sound attenuation value, I definitely recommend that you do, these panels are going to be a son of a gun to handle if you’ve shorted yourself drop space. If dropping the grid system four inches below the lowest beam is going to create a living hazard for those with futures in basketball, with the proposal that persons susceptible to head scuffing protect themselves with the coveted basement helmet, receiving little praise, then the beam may have to be left as is. In cases such as these, beams get boxed-in with drywall, or simply painted, to somewhat camouflage their existence, with the grid systems butting up to it on either side. In most basements, it’s not so much the low lying beams, as much as the low lying ductwork, that can make finishing a ceiling all the more difficult.

Next week, what to do with ductwork and other ceiling obstacles.

Good building.

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

Master of none

He must know what he’s doing, he has tools and a hard hat, no? Postmedia Network.

When you stop to consider how many Jacks there are in this world, it’s overwhelming.

You’ve got your quick and nimble Jack, whose co-ordination and speed were arguably never really challenged by simply jumping over a candlestick. Regardless, the task demonstrated some courage.

You’ve got the Jack who befriended Jill, Jack Sprat, Jack and the beanstalk, and the always ready for a party, Jack in the box.

A lot of Jacks for sure. So, if you’re a homeowner looking to have a number of renovations performed on your home, renovations that will include a variety of electrical, plumbing, and drywall repair, as well as some finished carpentry and detailed ceramic tile work, which Jack are you going to call?

A simple question, which fortunately has just as simple an answer. If you need plumbing performed on your home, you call Jack the plumber. If there’s a switch to be moved, or you require a few recessed lights in your kitchen, you call Jack the electrician. Drywall? Jack the drywaller. Ceramic tile needed in the bathroom? Jack the ceramic tile guy is the person for the job.

Essentially, there’s far less chance of disappointment when the task of connecting the pipe from bathtub A, to the air stack located in the adjoining wall of bedrooms X and Y, is performed by a Jack, or Jill (because there are a lot of very qualified ladies out there as well) whose profession and expertise involves doing only that.

The most dangerous Jack you can hire to renovate your home is the ‘Jack of all trades’. Jacks of all trades are enticing because they know how to do most things pretty well. As a result, they offer one-stop shopping to the person paying for the renovation. They also carry an air of confidence, due to their ingenuity, which gives the homeowner further peace of mind. Plus, the Jack of all trades will save you time and money, he or she figures, by liberating you from having to pay the going rate of registered tradespersons, while avoiding you the hassle of needing to co-ordinate the various timetables of these trades. And, for the grand finale, deal sealing piece de resistance, the Jack of all trades will comfort you with the fact all of his services will be provided without permits, quashing certain property tax increases, and eliminating any potential delays caused by those pain in the butt inspectors who have nothing better to do than scrutinize his or her work, causing further delays should something not be done to their satisfaction.

So, with one cheque to sign at the end of every week, why wouldn’t you hire such a Jack or Jill? Because, if there’s one ideal that holds true, whether it be in the world of business, sports, the trades, and/or any profession, it is that practice makes for perfect. Essentially, Jacks of all trades are unpracticed. An unpracticed Jack is a dangerous sort of animal because once out of their element, they’ll improvise. When the fan belt on your car breaks and it’s 2 a.m. on some dark, country road, you remove your tie, socks, or use whatever string or rope matter is available, and you improvise. When the copper water line leading into your home cracks just below the shut-off valve, and with a plumber hours away, you grab the roll of hockey tape out of your equipment bag, and you improvise. Otherwise, improvising isn’t a good thing.

The problem with Jacks of all trades is that improvising is their specialty, and the only thing they’re really practiced at. So, your improvised hot water tank, or shower door, or floor joist system, will likely function, but for how long? If you happen to stop by a new home under construction, you’ll notice two things. The first will be the permit on the wall, along with an anthill of co-ordinated, licensed tradesperson activity. That’s how to build, and that’s how to renovate.

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

Nothing to weep about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

To float, or to dig that deck’s foundation

There are two ways to support a backyard deck.

Either the deck, or more specifically the deck’s platform, can be supported by beams and columns that rest on deck blocks, or these beams and columns can sit on poured concrete piers.

Deck blocks, often accompanied by an 18”x18” patio stone underneath, placed there in order to lessen the chance of the deck block sinking by strategically spreading the working load of the deck, create what’s known as a floating deck.

Concrete piers, poured about 48-54 inches deep into the soil, require the homeowner to first dig a hole in order to accommodate the sono-tube (cardboard cylinder) and accompanying Bigfoot base the concrete gets poured into.

Why a homeowner would dig, as opposed to float a deck, depends entirely on circumstance.

A Bigfoot base, or footing tube unit (plastic base and cylinder in one) demands such a large hole, you’re going to require the services of a backhoe. Don’t attempt to dig this hole by hand, or bother hiring the manual labour to do so, unless of course you’ve happened upon a band of migrant workers from some third-world country.

You likely shouldn’t be getting your heart rate up to the level of horsepower necessary to effectively move this amount of earth, while the chances of getting a local young person to drop her or his cellphone in exchange for a spade shovel, separating them from the outside world for the few hours this task will require, is conservatively estimated at zero.

Backhoes require space to manoeuvre, which will be a challenge if you’ve cut off access to your backyard by means of a fence or stone walkway. Then you’ll be faced with having to ask your neighbours for permission to have the backhoe access your backyard through their property, which could be awkward if ties are somewhat strained, due to you allowing your Rottweiler to regularly poop and basically run amok through their gardens for the past six months.

Then you’ll have to hire a crane to lift the backhoe over your home, dropping it into your backyard. It’s a quite spectacular and doable feat indeed – and perhaps costly – with you certainly forfeiting a little anonymity, if your goal was to build this deck under the radar of the local building inspector.

The advantage of having concrete piers is stability, being that it allows the builder to secure the balance of the deck’s weight to the home’s foundation.

Decks supported by poured concrete piers and ledgers attached to the home don’t generally move.

Plus, poured piers can accept tons of weight, which along with the proper engineering, will permit the -homeowner to transform an existing deck into the floor of a future three- or four-season sun room.

If you’re not thinking sun room in the future, or at least a screened in porch, you ought to be, it’s often the natural progression of a deck if as the homeowners, you plan on sticking around for the foreseeable future.

Because floating decks are subject to sinking or heaving up at certain times of the year, although quite mildly in most cases, they should work independently, and not be attached to the home. As a result, and to ensure your floating deck remains stable and level, the beams supporting the joists should be constructed of three-ply 2x10s, spaced no more than eight feet apart. This triple beam should rest on 6×6 timbers (4x4s are no longer permitted) which will sit in the heavier 6×6 deck block.

If the floating deck is to be three or more feet off the ground, homeowners should consider using adjustable post brackets. Basically, the 6×6 posts get locked into the U-shaped, adjustable brackets, which in turn rest in the deck blocks.

The adjustable brackets are insurance against severe sinking or heaving, since they allow the homeowner to adjust the height of the supporting beam with the simple turn of a nut.

Good building.

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