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

Civilized decking

Pergolas can be built to allow the light to shine in or for sun protection, or as a stand-alone unit or attached to an existing structure. Postmedia network

With the term civilized defined as ‘bringing a place or people to a stage of social, cultural, and moral development considered to be more advanced’, and decking defined simply as ‘a wood planked platform or terrace that is attached to a home’, how do we combine the two?

Like everything else, with focus, foresight, and a little determination.

Essentially, we want our deck to be a comfortable place to live on, and not just on those slightly cloudy, 25 degree Celsius days. Which brings us to advanced decking feature no. 1, the SunLouvre pergola.

Scorching sun or a mid-afternoon rain need not send the party indoors. A regular pergola is a good deck feature because it offers partial shade. Partial shade on a sunny afternoon is a good thing. However, when it’s high noon, and the sun’s at its strongest, those pieces of 2×6 or 2×8 lumber overhead, fixed in position on their edges, will be offering limited relief. And, if it should happen to rain, well . . . unless you’re a member of our national ballet core, there will be no staying dry under a plank of lumber that’s 1-1/2 inches wide.

So, in comes the SunLouvre pergola. Built completely out of aluminum (making maintenance, staining, and cracks or warpage, a thing of the past) the big advantage to a SunLouvre pergola is that the top sleeves are movable, operating on a system of louvres. This feature allows the homeowner to relax under full sun, full shade, or anything in between.

When the louvres are closed, the sleeves overlap in a manner that prevents rain from entering. So, and unless we’re talking a torrential downpour of biblical proportion, there will be no need to corral your guests indoors at the first sign of a few droplets. In most cases, the pulling down of one mechanism will operate an entire ceiling structure. Although the aluminum columns that support the SunLouvre system are quite decorative, if you’re a wood lover who absolutely wants to keep their wooden columns intact, the SunLouvre system works independently of the posts, and as such, can be custom ordered to fit and operate on an existing wood frame.

Next, if inside storage space is considered to be an essential asset, then it’s going to be just as valuable a commodity outside. Decks can be like any other living space, either spacious and neatly staged, or cluttered with furniture, side tables, and any number of appendages. So, where is a homeowner to store chair cushions and those extra folding chairs?

Plus, decks often cozy up to pools. Pools require brushes and leaf nets, long hoses for vacuuming, and little floaty devices, with all this stuff having to be placed somewhere when not in use. You can always toss these items into a pool or storage shed, but it certainly would be more convenient if things could be tucked away in a drawer.

Which, brings us to advanced decking feature no. 2, the ‘Deck Storage Drawer’. In general, the space underneath a deck would be regarded as a damp, spider infested no man’s land. However, the Deck Storage Drawer changes all that, enabling the homeowner to gain 64 cubic feet of quality, dry storage space. The Deck Storage Drawer is essentially a box of hardware, containing the necessary tracks, wheels, and brackets to assemble (along with the required treated plywood) a drawer that can be up to 48 inches wide x 24 inches deep x 96 inches long, capable of holding up to 250 pounds of whatever you like. The added bonus of the deck drawer is that it doesn’t take up valuable deck floor area, while having about twice the storage capacity of one of those plastic, surface deck boxes. It also comes with its own pull handle and keyed lock mechanism. The front of your Deck Storage Drawer can be finished with whatever product you’ve chosen as a skirting material for around the deck, be it lattice, treated lumber, or composite decking.

Good building.

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

Bringing indoor comforts outside

Backyard decks are a terrific addition to any home.

Without them, well, you’re basically barbecuing and lounging about on grass or mud. And, besides a deck providing the homeowner with an easy transition from the interior of their home to a level section of outdoor living space, it’s important that the homeowner not forget the ideals of what makes a living space comfortable. In other words, a backyard deck plan that calls for little more than a raised platform is essentially a giant frypan designed to unmercifully roast you in the scorching sun. And, while an open concept living space may be desirable inside, this same strategy outdoors will simply allow your scrutinizing neighboors to question why a hefty 260-pound man such as yourself, would once again purchase the latest style in men’s competitive speedo swimwear.

So, understanding that indoor living is comfortable due to us being able to control the light, shade, and our privacy, while also protecting us from the wind and rain, it stands to reason that if we’re to enjoy a little outdoor living, some of these indoor living features will need to be duplicated outdoors.

Now, what about those persons who claim that the outdoors is what it is, and that we should accept the elements in all their natural glory? Those persons are what we refer to as campers, and they’re essentially nuts. How else can you explain such uncivilized activity as sleeping in tents and collecting your poop in plastic bags? We might as well go back to walking with the aid of our hands and living in caves.

When I step outside, I want to be comforted by the texture of treated lumber, or a composite deck underfoot. Then, once I make my way over to the louvered privacy wall, adjusting the planks, thereby enabling a slight breeze to help counter a hot, still air, created by a relentless afternoon sun, I would then park myself under the partial shade of a pergola. That’s as close to roughing it as I want to be. Matter of fact, if throughout these few minutes of setup, my coffee were to chill slightly, then this outdoor experience would have been truly regretful.

Further to bringing some of the general comfort amenities of indoor life to the outdoors, your deck is also going to require you providing it with some storage space. Deck chairs, benches, and sofas, often come with cushions. Unless you plan on bringing these cushions in every night, a better and simpler option would be to keep them in an outdoor storage space.

With our theme for the next few weeks relating to what every deck should have in order to provide more peaceful and comfortable outdoor living, let’s start with how to ensure a little privacy. Creating privacy between you and your neighbour can be a sensitive issue. We all like our privacy, and we generally get along well with our neighbours, so, how formidable a dividing wall structure do we need to build?

Does the building of a solid plank wall essentially say, “I’d rather not talk to you”, with a lattice wall, or typical offset plank (good neighbour) pattern, signifying that you’re more open to visitation? To answer this state of condition between neighbors, with the bonus of being able to go either full disclosure, or complete privacy, homeowners should consider the ‘Deck Sunblind’ system.

The Deck Sunblind is a hardware kit that permits the homeowner to construct a louvered section of panels up to 72 inches wide, by 48 inches high. With most dividing walls being about 6 ft. in height, the 48 inch high section of louvers works well because it allows the builder to install a 12-18 inch section of solid wall at the bottom, with 6-12 inches of solid planking at the top, which when all assembled will look quite decorative. The 72 inch maximum width is a guideline, since going any wider with 5/4×6 decking planks would risk them warping.

Next week, more deck must haves.

Good building.

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

Start from the top down

A qualilty underlay felt is important when roofing, says our handyman. Postmedia Network

Today we wrap up our three-week tenure on roofs with a few tips on how to get the most out of your asphalt roofing shingles.

Why so much talk about roofing? Because a roof in poor condition is to a home what Dion Phaneuf is to a defensive corps of professional hockey players.

Essentially, the potential for damage is extreme, with an aged roof eventually springing up leaks faster than Dion’s ability to cough up pucks in his defensive zone.

So, realizing that maintaining a home free from the damaging effects of water infiltration starts with your roof, we need to do all we can to ensure the long term success of our roof investment. Remembering that every layer of shingles represents one 1965 Pontiac Parisienne parked unnecessarily on your rooftop, if you’re redoing a roof’s surface, we start by removing every layer of existing shingles.

Next, fiberglass asphalt shingles need to be nailed onto plywood. Spruce plywood, or an equivalent OSB (oriental strand board) roofing product, will provide the necessary stability, and are the only underlay materials suitable to support the more ridged fiberglass shingle. So, if the existing roof has been covered by 1×6 or 1×8 pieces of spruce lumber, cover these planks with a 3/8” plywood, or the 15/32” OSB product.

Next, and still on the theme of stability, create the proper environment for your fiberglass shingles by ensuring your attic is adequately vented. Basically, you want the surface temperature of your shingles to match that of the underlayment, or, that the air temperature in the attic, matches that of the exterior air. The only way to achieve this is by creating an effective draft whereby outside air will enter the attic space via the soffit, then exit through a vent, or series of vents, located near the peak of the roof.

Venting through the soffit is pretty straight forward, and requires no calculating, because the strategy is to simply insert Styrofoam baffles in between each truss.

The Styrofoam baffles get stapled to the roofing plywood, and are positioned so that they reach down into the soffit space, thereby preventing the attic insulation or blowing wool from blocking this key point of air entry.

The air exit strategy will be satisfied by a Maxivent. Maxivents are the not so attractive, chimney-like devices you see on most roofs these days. There are alternatives to the Maxivent, such as using ridge venting, or a series of smaller, slantback vents, or even solar power vents that operate with their own fans.

However, with no moving parts, and only one maxivent needed on most roofs, which means only one hole to cut out and seal, none of these alternative products can compare with the ease of installing, general efficiency, and long term viability of the Maxivent.

How to calculate your maxivent needs? One #301 Maxivent will service up to 1200 square feet of attic floor space, or meet the needs of your average 40’x30’ home. If you own a larger or smaller home, or have a garage or addition that requires venting, optional Maxivents include the #303 model (satisfies 800 sq. ft. of attic area) or the #302 Maxivent (satisfies 500 sq. ft. of attic floor space). Essentially, you can’t have too much ventilation, so if you’re not sure, go bigger.

Next, use a quality underlay felt. Your fiberglass shingles will require both an ‘ice + water shield’ product, used along the roofs edge, and in any valleys, along with a felt paper on the balance of the roof. ‘Ice + water shield’s’ are pretty standard, however, there’s a world of various felt coverings to choose from.

Recommendation? Avoid the paper felt, and buy the best synthetic felt available. A quality synthetic felt offers that key, secondary line of defence against water infiltration and ice dams.

Finally, if your home is situated in a wind tunnel, have your roofer follow the extra nails, extra caulking procedures related to better shingle tab adhesion.

Good building.

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

Asphalt shingles still number one

Asphalt shingles are still the most popular shingle, price being one of the main reasons. Postmedia Network

Asphalt shingles have received a lot of complaints.

Some people have complained so much about their asphalt shingles that they’ve decided to form a club, referred to as a class action suit, by which they formally issue a legal complaint against the asphalt shingle maker. Then, after getting some pittance of a settlement, enough to certainly cover a Tim’s run for the fellows tearing off their perceived defective shingles, they feel vindicated, then go out and buy asphalt shingles all over again.

Now, it should be mentioned that said class action suits against the asphalt shingle manufacturers were as a result of perceived problems with their line of ‘organic’ asphalt shingles, which stopped being produced in 2010. The term “perceived” is defined quite clearly in the class action results, and refers to the fact these shingle manufacturers never actually admitted to making defective goods, but have offered some type of compensation regardless, because they’re all really nice guys, once you get to know them.

Today’s asphalt shingles have a fiberglass matting, as opposed to the original paper felt, and are referred to as fiberglass asphalt shingles. So, with all these complaints and class action stuff going on, why do 90 percent of homeowners still choose asphalt shingles?

Two reasons. First, there’s the price, where at about .75 cents per square foot, asphalt shingles are minimally half the cost of regular steel roofing, and one quarter of the price of composite, cedar shake, or the more decorative steel roofing options. And two, there’s the issue of lifespan.

Essentially, the average consumer buying a roof for their home either believes he or she will not be at their present address for any great length of time, or, are doubtful their remaining days on earth will allow them to take full advantage of a premium roofing product. Often, the customers will do their ROI (return on investment)/lifetime expectancy calculation right at the service desk.

“Well Deloris, whaddya think, do we go steel or asphalt?” her husband Alfie asks. To which Deloris replies, “I don’t know Alfie… you’re 76 and I’m 72, how much longer are we going to be around?”

At this point in the conversation I usually interject with a helpful, “Listen folks, I agree, the Grim Reaper is likely sitting in the back seat of your car as we speak, regardless, the advantages of a steel roof are many, including better roof performance, enhanced curb appeal, and a sign to the next buyer that you’ve put quality products into your home”.

“Nah”, Alfie states. “You guys sell a 10-15 year shingle here?” Alfie questions, after doing some predicted lifespan mathematics on a scrap piece of paper. “Unfortunately no,”, I reply, “the least warrantied shingle is one of 25 years” I confirm. “OK, then let’s go with that,” Alfie says. And, that’s the way things generally roll in the asphalt shingle biz.

However, if a fiberglass asphalt shingle is installed correctly, there’s no reason why a homeowner couldn’t expect to get 25-30 years, or longer, out of their chosen product.

As stated in last week’s column, the keys to fiberglass shingle and steel roofing longevity, starts with stability. Stability comes in one form, and that’s plywood. So, if there’s an existing shingle on the roof, or maybe even a layer or two of shingles, remove them. If upon removing those shingles you discover a plywood substrate, terrific! Simply verify that the plywood is still in good condition. If not, repair or replace as necessary. If you discover a 1×6 or 1×8 spruce planking underneath, which was a common substrate 30 years ago, don’t remove it. Instead, cover it with a 3/8” spruce plywood.

Fiberglass shingles are a relatively rigid product that doesn’t like to bend or in any way compromise their position, kind of like the average male once they lay down on the couch to watch the hockey game. So, we avoid nailing shingles to anything but plywood.

Next week, more keys to shingle longevity.

Good building.

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

Your choice in roofing

Yeah, you need to take the old shingles off before putting on the new. Postmedia Network

At some point in time, your home is going to need a new roof.

Whether the reasons for this expenditure are due to your present roofing showing signs of severe wear and tear, or simply because you ran out of pails this past weekend in a frantic attempt to control the drips leaking down from the ceiling, eventually, roofs need replacing.

Essentially, you’ll have two choices, them being steel or fiberglass asphalt shingles.

There are rubberized and composite type shingles out there, but they’re considerably more expensive, and are not so readily available locally. And, with this column being very much pro-local shopping, along with encouraging the pro-local hiring of tradespersons, we won’t be considering these products.

What about cedar shake roofing? Real, cedar shake shingles, whether they be hand-split (varying texture) or rough sawn (more uniform texture) look terrific, especially on a stone or colonial styled home. Unfortunately, and regardless of their traditional good looks, cedar shakes are probably not the best choice for our climate zone. Simply put, our climate is too wet, too cloudy, and we have far too many trees casting shadows over our roofs. So, with these cedar roofs rarely achieving even relative dryness, you can pretty well expect algae and mold growth within a year or two. Combine this with the three to four freeze and thaw sessions we experience over the course of a winter, and you’ve got all the reasons as to why putting a wood product on your roof is a bad idea.

If your budget has the wiggle room to accept the price of cedar shakes, then you should be considering a steel shingle. However, before choosing between steel and fiberglass shingles, let’s examine what’s underneath your existing roofing.

In the olden days, with ‘olden’ referring to the days of organic shingles, and otherwise recognized as the days when Canadian based teams won Stanley cups, shingles could be layered up to three thicknesses deep. Plus, it was very common to carefully remove the 1×6 planks of wood that served to form the foundation walls, once the concrete dried of course, then reuse this lumber as roof sheeting. When it came to steel roof application, the support, or underlay strategy back in those days had the installer simply installing lengths of 1×4 rough strapping at every 16 inches on-center over the roof trusses, and that was it.

Were these install strategies misguided or reckless? Not necessarily. They were simply justified practices in accordance with what was known and understood during those times, just like bloodletting was the treatment of choice in the 1700’s for those who had fallen ill with anything from laryngitis to an upset stomach.

Sometimes, even our most intelligent people get it wrong.

Today, we understand that both fiberglass asphalt shingles and steel roofing panels require stability. When things move, nails and screws will loosen. When that happens, the next Nor’easter wind will be forcing shingle tabs up, and peeling back your steel roofing panels like the skin on a ripe banana.

The answer to providing a stable roofing underlay is plywood. So, if you’re building a new home, addition, or garage, whether the finished roofing product is fiberglass shingles, or steel roofing, the underlay material must be plywood.

Can fiberglass shingles or steel roofing be installed over an existing shingled roof? Although this strategy will save you dumping fees, stacking one roof over another is going to cause a number of problems. One, the average roof requires about 65 bundles of shingles, which equals about 4600 pounds, or the weight of a 1965 Pontiac Parisienne. So, with every layer of shingles representing one 1965 Pontiac Parisienne left unnecessarily on your rooftop, you can see how this practice could eventually overwhelm an aging truss structure. Plus, a layer or two of shingles will have a certain sponginess to it, preventing the installer from effectively securing a new shingle tab, or tightening down the screws on steel roofing.

Next week, more on roofing.

Good building

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

Roofin’ it

Need some roof work done? Best to let the pros handle it, says our handyman. Postmedia Network

I remember going up onto a roof once, once!

I would frequent my roof more often if it didn’t require the use of an extension ladder. Understanding that every step upwards on an extension ladder exponentially increases the odds of the homeowner dying, I naturally avoid this otherwise key component to general roof repair. My only regret to avoiding extension ladders is that I’m now forfeiting the feeling of calm exhilaration one senses when your leading foot touches down on the grass after taking that last step down.

So, with my generosity in home repair responsibilities being sincerely unbounded, I wholeheartedly recommend that these moments of death defying exhilaration be unselfishly shared with licensed professionals. In other words, if you need your roof repaired, call a licensed roofer.

When should you be inviting a member of this fine class of tradespersons over to your home? Hopefully, it’ll be well before you experience a leak. That’s like waiting for a blowout in order to justify replacing your balding car tires.

Generally, asphalt roofing shingles last about 15-20 years. Today’s asphalt shingles have a fiberglass base, and are often referred to as “fiberglass shingles”, or simply “glass” shingles. Regardless, these fiberglass based shingles have the same ceramic coated rock surface, embedded into asphalt, as their organic (paper based) predecessors. So, even though the warranty on a fiberglass shingle may be 40 years, or a lifetime (considered 50 years), if you’ve gotten 20 years out of your shingles, without a hitch, they’ve served you well.

Why can’t a 40 or 50 year warrantied roofing product actually last 40 or 50 years? They can, of course, under the right conditions, such as the middle US states, where temperatures are consistently and moderately mild, and in the arctic, where things are consistently and moderately cold. In our part of the world, where weather conditions are about as consistent as Carey Price’s goaltending, there’s little hope for any product lasting more than 20 years outdoors, let alone a roof. Other than age, look for shingles tabs that have broken off, or curled up in a very obvious manner. Fiberglass shingles don’t curl so much, due to their more ridged backing. So, if you’re experiencing shingle curl, your shingles are most likely organic, and could be getting close to their expiry date.

Shingle curl, often referred to as ‘winter curl’ was relatively common in an organic shingle. However, the summer season would see this tab curl mostly flatten out. If the tabs aren’t going back, they’ve most likely dried to the point of no return. As a test, you could have a roofer attempt to push a curled shingle tab downwards. If the tab refuses to go down, or because of its dried leaf consistency, would likely crumble, then there’s no saving this roof. Be sure to wait until the outside temperatures are above 10 degrees Celsius before attempting this procedure, otherwise you risk breaking what was a healthy shingle tab.

If the tabs can be pushed down into position without effort, then consider putting a loonie sized dab of plastic cement under the lifted tabs. This will help settle the tab, prevent future wind blow off, and maybe secure you a few more years of roof life.

Are discolored asphalt shingles a problem? Essentially, no. Discoloration of asphalt shingles is normally due to moss and algae growth. Moss and algae growth on asphalt shingles, although unattractive, isn’t a detriment to a roof’s long term sustainability, unless of course things get to the extreme, whereby your home looks like it’s going to be swallowed up by some moss-like creature. If moss and algae are an issue, have your roofer install a strip of zinc metal, available in a 2-1/2 inch x 50 ft. roll, just under the tabs of the capping shingles along the peak of the roof. When it rains, zinc ions will trickle down over the shingles, and kill off the moss and algae.

Next week, more on roofing.

Good building.

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

The cutting edge

Using the right type of blade for the job is important. Postmedia Network

“That’s not a knife . . .this is a knife,” states Paul Hogan (starring as Crocodile Dundee) as he presents his 10-inch Bowie survival knife to a group of street hoodlums, and “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” as stated by Roy Scheider (starring as Chief Brody) to boat Captain Quint, as Brody backs into the cabin area in a somewhat bewildered manner, are a couple of memorable movie lines that exemplify persons showing up for a job with slightly less than adequate tools for the task.

One situation has a New York gangbanger looking to challenge a seasoned Australian outbacker with a simple six-inch switchblade, with the other having a mish mash crew looking to catch a 25 foot Great White shark while aboard the Orca, a 30 ft. aged wooden trawler.

So, with today’s theme relating to cutting and munching, we’re going to be looking at what type of blades are best suited to cut the various building products we do-it-yourselfers will be encountering over our amateur careers.

First rule of thumb to make note of? If there exists a building product or piece of material that needs cutting, then there also exists a specific cutting blade or wheel for that task. That being said, can some saw blades or knives serve in a multi-purpose role, having the capacity to cut or sever a number of building products other than then the one they’ve been specifically designed for? Absolutely.

A circular saw blade, or hacksaw blade formulated to cut steel, will eventually make its way through a piece of wood, eventually, just like Frank Morris eventually carved his way out of the Alcatraz prison in 1962 using a cafeteria spoon. Had inmate Morris had the luxury of procuring himself a cordless drill, with the appropriate concrete bit, I’m sure he would have jumped on the opportunity to save himself the six months of work. And, this is an important point for do-it-yourselfers to understand — don’t go for the spoon, or otherwise semi-adaptable saw blade or drill bit in the toolbox simply because it could perform the task at hand, although poorly, but save you the 10 minute drive to the local building supply center.

Using an 80 tooth finishing blade to rip lumber (cutting lengthwise), when a 24 tooth blade is the better choice, will actually cost you time. Furthermore, a finishing blade designed for cross cutting, but instead used in a ripping manner, will overheat, most likely warp, and certainly dullen the teeth beyond any further productive use. Then there’s the risk factor of forcing lumber into a finishing blade that was not meant to chew through wood at a rip pace. You know you’re tempting fate when pushing a piece of lumber through your table saw requires the same amount of force used to push an automobile out of the snow. In this scenario, the blade is heating up, and is moments away from swelling or warping slightly. When this happens, the blade jams itself into the plank, either shorting out the table saw, or as in most cases, causes a ‘kick back’, appropriately referred to as such due to the lumber jolting backwards, usually hitting the operator in the groin with a force equal to that of an annoyed Appaloosa.

Essentially, every circular or table saw blade will list the items it’s designed to cut on the blade itself. So, if you’re cutting melamine, or plywood, or ripping lumber, look for a blade that lists exactly the type of cutting you’ll be performing. Looking to cut re-bar, steel bolts, angle iron, or steel lath, then choose the appropriate metal blade. Avoid the grinder type of composite discs to cut steel or concrete. They’re certainly less expensive, but wear down quickly. A proper steel blade, designed for the cutting of steel, concrete, or non-ferrous metals (metals that don’t contain iron, such as copper or aluminum) is your best bet.

As always, wear tight fitting work gloves and eyewear when cutting anything.

Good building.

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

Raised gardens

A raised garden bed can be much easier on the back and knees. Postmedia Network

With spring in the air, the strategy of the raised garden bed will no doubt be the subject of discussion amongst those homeowners looking to grow their own prized tomatoes and zucchinis.

The raison d’être, or the “why’s” to building a raised garden bed, which is essentially a bunch of ground poured into a raised frame, lies primarily in the simple fact this structure raises, or elevates, the planted vegetables to a more accommodating height, thereby alleviating the knee joint and lower back pain normally associated with the task of gardening.

Psychologically, the raised garden bed, or box, is a good value because it makes gardening easier, with the good results rewarding the homeowner with sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Physically, the raised garden box delivers all of the health benefits associated with a person simply being outdoors, thereby allowing them to enjoy a little sunshine, while participating in a relatively light duty activity at their own pace.

Money wise? Well… and depending of course on several factors relating to the manor of construction, and the types of materials used, the ROI (return on investment) on the average raised garden box is not stellar. Essentially, you’d be better off putting your disposable income into a travelling petting zoo, the local Ponzi scheme, or a series of honor system, unmanned lemonade stand franchises. However, the pride associated with growing your own fresh vegetables usually outweighs the fact your cherry tomatoes are probably going to cost you about a buck a piece to produce.

If you’ve never built a raised garden box before, go small, making this first build something in the 4’ X 4’ or max 4’ X 8’ size. If this is your second or third build, then you’re obviously familiar with the process, and realize it’s probably time to go big, incorporating a screened-in, removable cage over a more permanent, beefier type of raised box made of 6 X 6 timbers. However, with this being your first attempt at a box, let’s not break the bank on this project, and perhaps choose a plan that’ll have you investing about an afternoon of your time.

A raised garden box could be made out of a number of products, including concrete blocks, stacked stones, or the very classy choices, and definitely worthy of front lawn display, old bathtub on legs, or tractor tire. Otherwise, 2” X 8” lumber is probably your best choice, due to it being lightweight, with a pretty easy assembly strategy. If this raised garden is to be something totally experimental, due to you being unsure of where to place it on your lot, your commitment to watering, or the fact you might be adding a deck or installing a pool in its place next summer, and all you might need is a couple of seasons out of this structure, go with spruce boards. If this is to be a longer term project, or more permanent structure, then cedar or BC fir would be the better choice. Although treated lumber would seem a logical choice, since the arsenic element in the treatment process has been replaced with a stronger copper content, which has been deemed an environmentally friendlier alternative by the powers that be, I would suggest avoiding the use of any chemically sealed or infused product around food. Retired railway ties would also be a poor option. Theoretically, treated lumber could be painted, or sealed from the ground with a plastic membrane, but why risk the chance of contaminating the soil.

Using 4” x 4” lumber for the corners, and pieces of 2” x 4” lumber every few feet along the perimeter, create a frame by stacking 2” x 8” planks, 2 boards high. Using 2” x 8” lumber, create a triangular seat in every corner, which will also provide strength to the structure. This plan provides you with about 15 inches of raised bed, a good start. Any higher will require a lot more ground, and a doubling up of the framework.

Good building.

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

Thar she blows

Postmedia Network Blowing insulation into an attic is fairly easy, especially if you follow the advice of our handyman.

Today we’re going to be adding insulation to an existing attic.

The home in question was built in the mid 1970’s, and presently has about six inches of fiberglass insulation on the attic floor, providing about R-20 of thermal value. With today’s attic insulation standards set at R-60, the homeowner will need to add about 14 inches of Atticat blowing wool.

Why add insulation to an attic that’s already insulated? Because this attic is insulated to 1970’s standards. In the 70’s, energy and electrical costs were relatively low, the economy was strong, and the Montreal Canadiens were winning Stanley Cups. So, it was no big deal having to put on a sweater before curling up under the covers, because hey, the Habs were winning hockey games. Today, the Canadiens wouldn’t recognize the Stanley Cup if it walked up and bit them on the butt, so there’s no celebratory mood to help warm your cockles.  Furthermore, home heating costs are atrocious, while Justin Trudeau’s focus is on getting fitted for his dragon embroidered Changsha (traditional ceremonial robe) in preparation for his trip to China, because that’s what Chinese men wear every day, apparently, with the deficit issue far down his list of concerns.

So, we’re left to fend for ourselves, which means reducing our heating bills by bumping up our insulation levels. Why choose a blowing wool, as opposed to fiberglass batting, to insulate an attic? Because the blowing wool strategy provides the homeowner with longer arms, allowing them to distribute the insulation matter from a series of vantage points, thereby eliminating the risk of having to gingerly step across the truss joists. The suggestion to use the Atticat strategy is based on the element of P&P, prudence and probability. The safety relevance of the P&P is based on what’s referred to as ‘balance beam heartbreak’, which simply refers to the fact 40 per cent of gymnastic injuries are balance beam related. Considering this beam measures four inches wide, and is stepped upon by trained athletes, what are the chances of the average do-it-yourselfer making it safely across a series of truss joists that are only 1-1/2 inches in diameter? Unfortunately, official documentation regarding this action is limited. However, ‘prudence’ tells us the average non-gymnast homeowner should be avoiding the strategy of straddling joists as they place batts individually over the attic floor, because ‘probability’ tells us the resulting fall will drive one’s scrotum up into their body cavity.
So, with this vision in mind, cut yourself a couple of 16”x48” sheets of 5/8” plywood, or pick up a couple of 2×10 pieces of lumber, and toss them up into the attic beforehand. These will provide a safe walkway as you slowly manœuvre over the floor joists.

Step one to this project, ensure the attic space will be adequately vented. For this job, you’ll need to staple vent baffles, aka rafter mates, in between each truss. The vent baffles prevent the insulation and blowing wool from blocking air from entering the attic through the soffit. Then, make sure there’s adequate roof venting to create this necessary draft of fresh, outdoor air. The roof venting requirement can be satisfied by having an accredited roofer install a Maxivent type of product near the peak of the roof.  Next, create an extended attic hatch tunnel by stacking 2×8 lumber edgewise along the perimeter of the hatch. This extended tunnel will prevent the blowing wool from falling through the attic hatch door. Since we’ll be requiring about 14 inches of Atticat blowing wool, use a tape measure to mark the 14 inch necessary depth along the truss webbing, or staple a series of Atticat paper rulers to the joists at 10 ft. intervals. In order to add R-40 of thermal value to this attic space, the amount of Atticat required will be based on the calculation that one bag of Atticat blowing wool will provide 49 sq. ft. of coverage. Be sure to watch the Atticat install video, and follow all instructions.

Good building.

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