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

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

Nothing simple about this standard

Keep it simple! Those were the bold words expressed to a supplier by the chairman of our negotiating committee as we were discussing a pricing and rebate program some years ago.

This fellow, the owner of 24 lumberyards across Western Canada, was probably the most intelligent person in the room. Regardless, his goal was to negotiate the simplest program possible, something your average fourth grader would understand. He has since retired, sold lock, stock, and barrel, then built himself and his family an ocean front home in Hawaii. Now that’s keeping life simple.

Perhaps it’s being a little selfish, but I wish this fellow had delayed his retirement and been given the task of running the MMA (Ministry of Municipal Affairs). At issue is the MMA’s Supplementary Standard SB-12 for 2017. I refer to it as Supplementary Bullcrap-12, due to the fact my lack of education prevents me from fully comprehending what exactly is being asked and specified in this new for 2017 insulating home initiative.

From what I can decipher, and based on such factors as heating systems, window efficiency, floor design, number of levels, whether you have two to three cats in the house, and your preferred brand of beer, there are between six and 13 manners in which to strategically insulate a home.

I use the term strategic because even within the parameters of the SB-12 compliances, there exist sub-manners of install, based on whether these particular areas will be regarded as finished areas, storage, or simply open.

So, when my limited intelligence prevents me from understanding a concept being presented, I naturally seek the aid of someone more educated. My question was simple, and related directly to the proper and allowable use of sheeting tape and vapor barrier on a finished concrete basement wall. First I spoke with a building engineer, who gave me his interpretation of the standards, and as such, related to me his preferred method of install. “OK, I accept your interpretation”, I said, “but based on the various scenarios I was presenting, what was the rule? There’s got to be a rule, or procedure to follow, right?” I stated. “Well, we’re not all on board yet” was his reply.

How can the “we” (a.k.a. next level of intelligence) not all be on board? What type of direction will us lesser folks be facing if the “we” don’t have the answers?

At this point I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth, called our local planning department, and asked them the same basic question regarding the insulating of a basement wall, and the necessity or use of a vapor barrier and tape. That was two weeks ago. So far I’ve co-ordinated with two people, neither of them are familiar or confident enough in their interpretation of the new regulations to forward me an answer, and have as a result, differed my inquiries to the building inspection staff for further consultation.

Now when I call, in an attempt to speak with a human being, I get the answering service, which transfers me to a mail box, to which I leave a message received apparently by no one. This whole scenario reminds me of the movie Terminator 3 Judgement Day, whereby the engineers, planners, and architects working on this SB-12 proposal, have designed a system so complicated and so complex, that they’ve lost all control to a series of computers that will someday bury us all in mounds of fiberglass.

My real lack of understanding of the SB-12 document is in part due to the over use of the word “coefficient”, which in the document is often followed by a series of shapes and lines that appear to be more closely related to oriental calligraphy. When I look up “coefficient” in the dictionary it simply states ‘term used by those of higher learning, with there being no actual meaning’. Very strange, very strange indeed.

Next week, insulating your basement with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Good building.

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

Band aids are for cuts

File #182, case name “Moldy Band Aids ”, has a young couple searching for a mold resistant paint in order to protect their joists and plywood from mold.

The couple had just added a 400 sq. ft. four season sunroom, including a full height basement, onto their existing 1200 sq. ft. home. While in the freshly poured basement, they noticed mold growing on the 2×10 floor joists and plywood below the newly finished area above. Their intentions were to scrub off the mold, then paint the floor joists and underside of the plywood, creating a less desirable surface for this household menace to grow on.

Although their strategy to paint the joists and plywood wasn’t totally flawed, with there certainly being mold resistant paints and primers available, it was definitely a young person’s solution. Encouraging somebody who’s 60-plus to reach up and paint floor joists, providing them with the opportunity to revive some of those old shoulder joint pains, would be like convincing them to bungee jump.

As they were further explaining the situation, my thoughts were more directed towards what was causing this mold issue in the first place. They requesting my recommendation of paints or primers, was kind of like seeking my advice as to what size of pail would best remedy a leaky faucet.

Bandage solutions are for the young, because they have the energy to watch them fail, then do them all over again. When you get older, your goal is to do things once. My suggestion was to focus on the real issue, which is what’s causing the mold, as opposed to choosing the proper roller and angled paint brush.

Mold requires the same three elements for survival as us humans, them being air, food, and water. Eliminate any one of the three, and you will have solved the mold problem. Air, we all require, while food particulates floating around in the home’s atmosphere are going to be practically impossible to control. So, that leaves water. Upon further questioning, it was discovered that the basement area had yet to be heated, and was simply accessible through a doorway, whereby the finished area above was being serviced by a gas stove. The original 1200 sq. ft. home is being heated by the only unit the house has ever known, a 16-year-old gas furnace.

Solution? This newly poured basement is exuding gallons of moisture, which is no doubt feeding this thriving colony of mold. As a result, this couple has got to get some air circulation and heat into the basement. When I inquired as to the existence of a heat or air exchanger, the fellow thought that there was indeed a unit attached to the furnace, although its age was uncertain. When I inquired as to their plans on replacing the furnace, since their existing unit was certainly near the end of its life cycle, and was going to be asked to further handle 30 per cent more living space, the fellow assured me the unit was in good working order, and that there were no plans for a change.

“What about installing an air/heat exchanger in the new basement area, wouldn’t that solve the moisture issue?” the fellow questioned. Perhaps, but again, we’re talking an $800 band aid solution. Basically, the budget for this rather extensive renovation should have included a complete reconfiguration of the heating systems and ductwork by a HVAC (Heating, Cooling, and Air conditioning) contractor or engineer. What this home needs is a high efficiency furnace and HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation) unit, along with the necessary ductwork to circulate heat, and draw air out of the new basement and living space above.

If you’re not sure as to the efficiency of a mechanical unit, or whether it needs replacement, consider the age and reliability of your machine in dog years. That big number should help in your decision to upgrade the mechanical services in your home.

Good building.

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

Rock cousins

Today we’re talking brands of insulation, and where it should be installed in the home.

There are basically two kinds, or more common types of batt insulation used in the exterior walls of most homes, them being fiberglass and mineral wool.

Fiberglass batts, such as Owens Corning’s pink insulation, is not so surprisingly, made of woven fibers of glass. Mineral wool, also referred to as rock wool, is made of crushed volcanic rock, steel slag, and other bonding agents.

The most popular mineral wool insulation in today’s market is a product made by the Roxul Company. The Roxul name has become so recognized by homeowners and contractors alike, that people never specifically request a mineral wool insulation, but will simply ask for “Roxul” instead.

Is there a difference between a fiberglass and rock wool product? And, is one better than the other? Material wise, the pink insulation is made of glass, which comes from sand, whereby mineral wool is derived from crushed rock. So, these products are pretty close cousins.

Consistency wise, fiberglass pink is kind of like day old spaghetti, while Roxul has a density similar to toast. As a result, the pink fiberglass is somewhat stringy, and a little more difficult to cut. Plus, the glass fibers can break apart a bit if the material is over andled, which will cause an itchy reaction if you’ve made the mistake of not wearing pants, a long sleeve shirt, gloves, goggles, and a dust mask.

Roxul, on the other hand, cuts like . . . well toast, making it an easy product to fit around electrical outlets and ductwork. Roxul, like toast, is crumbly, or rather, a little more dusty than fiberglass. So again, completely covering your body with clothing, along with goggles and a dust mask, are all required equipment.

Choosing one over the other depends primarily on whether you like the Owens Corning Pink Panther logo, which for some may rekindle thoughts of the mischievous cartoon character, and some of the classic Inspector Clouseau movies starring Peter Sellers. Or, if you’re a fan of home repair reality television, whereby Roxul is certainly the favored batt product of the celebrity carpenters (Roxul must be feeding these guys all the insulation they can butter).

Price wise, fiberglass pink is significantly cheaper than Roxul. This could be due to actual costs of manufacturing, or the fact it costs a few more bucks to feed Mike Holmes, than it does paying royalties to MGM Studios.

Product wise, both are used primarily as insulation in the exterior walls of residential homes. Roxul has the added bonus of being fireproof, whereby a Roxul booth at a typical home and trade show will usually have the rather impressive feature of a piece of Roxul being blasted by a direct flame of heat. Regardless, after a total and complete loss to fire, never has a home been found with a pile of Roxul sitting amongst the rubble. In other words, you put enough heat on something, it’s going to burn, or melt. However, timing is everything when it comes to a fire in the home, whereby if the flame spread can be delayed by even a minute or two, lives can be spared. As a result, Roxul is a popular choice to use in walls separating the garage from the house, or in the floors of a home, separating the basement from the living space above. Fiberglass pink can also be used in this manner, with glass obviously having a relatively high threshold to heat. However, fiberglass pink doesn’t advertise itself as fireproof, and is primarily marketed for its value as an insulation. Besides being an essential product for the exterior wall, and an effective barrier to flame spread, insulation can be an excellent sound barrier. So, be sure to consider it for bathroom and bedroom dividing walls if you’re going to be building a new home or renovating this spring.

Good building.

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

Some frosty window art

Ah, the good ol’ days of frosty window art are practically upon us.

Certainly a cherished pastime by many a youngster, and those young at heart, pressing your nose, or lips, against a chilly window pane, then viewing the reaction of warm flesh meeting ice, has always been good entertainment. Or, when it’s early morning, after a painfully frigid night, and the frost on the glass is particularly heavy, who can resist pressing the side of a clenched fist against the pane, then topping the imprint off with the tips of their fingers, creating the all-time classic, little footprint?

Born from generations of high humidity producers, otherwise known as those who enjoy cooking pasta, taking long, hot showers, or who engage in regular conversation involving large gatherings, frosty window art becomes possible when a thin layer of ice forms on the inside glass pane of various windows in the home. Windows of preference often include those in, or close to the kitchen, and especially bathroom windows, since they’re located in prime, high humidity territory.

As much as frosty window art is an exercise in imagery and artistic expression, at least until the sun hits the pane, it’s unfortunately a sign of an unhealthy home environment. Frost on the inside pane of a window occurs when warm, high humidity air, touches the cold surface of the glass, exploding onto the pane, revealing itself as condensation. If the pane of glass is really cold, this condensation will freeze, creating the not so beloved, frosty glass extravaganza.

Condensation and the ensuing frost on your window panes is not a good thing because this moisture eventually melts, running down the glass pane, inevitably settling on the sill. Or, the water could seep through a crack in the sill, or seem in the casing, making its way into the wall cavity. Either way, condensating windows lead to rot or mold.

So, what’s the game plan? Well, you’ve got to lower the amount of humidity in the home. The simplest way is to open a window. Although hardly scientific, winter air is very dry, or low in humidity, so when it mixes with your high humidity indoor air, it somewhat creates a balance. The weakness in this strategy is of course knowing when to open or close the window, and properly circulating this new air (perhaps by having the children and whatever pets can follow a pattern, run a circuit around the furniture). Or, you could modify your living habits, perhaps by cutting your shower time down to five minutes, and using only lukewarm water. Plus, maybe lay off the pasta, or anything boiled, fried, or foods essentially requiring heat, since these cooking processes all create moisture. Unfortunately, you’ll have to rely more on garden salads and other similar rabbit foods.

Now, if these solutions seems unlikely, then you’re going to have to get mechanical help. First, make sure all the bathrooms have an exhaust fan that directs air to the exterior, either through the roof, or a side wall. Never vent moist bathroom air into the attic, or into the soffit panels. Next, put these bathroom fans on a timer, having them run while you shower, and a full 15 minutes afterwards. Kitchen fans, similar to bathroom fans, should vent to the exterior. Some kitchen fans have a charcoal filter/interior venting option. Avoid this strategy. Sure, the fan will make for an easy install, eliminating grease and various cooking smells, but the filter cannot absorb steam, the main culprit in our battle against moisture.

If things haven’t cleared up yet, you could invest in a dehumidifier. Although it means having a slightly noisy piece of furniture in the room, and having to manually empty it, or minimally provide a drain source, dehumidifiers are proven effective.

Best bet, invest in a HRV (heat recovery ventilation) unit. HRV’s have become the standard in new homes, and work in conjunction with your furnaces ductwork.

Next week, more on dehumidifying your home. Good building.

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

Always ensure a safe burn

A few easy steps will help make sure you have a safe, hot burn with your wood stove or fireplace. Postmedia Network file photo
A few easy steps will help make sure you have a safe, hot burn with your wood stove or fireplace. Postmedia Network file photo

With your just installed wood stove or fireplace — just installed, hopefully, by a WETT (Wood Energy Transfer Technology) certified person, and not Buck’s ‘for cash only’ Carpentry — you’re ready to perform your first burn.

Congratulations, your home will not only serve as a meeting place for conversation and free beer, but from this point on, the ambiance once provided by the rumble of your furnace, will now be replaced by the warmth and crackling sound of a real flame.

However, there will be rules to follow in order to make every burn and house warming a success.

First, and before you light the match, we review the mission statement. It should read something like, “I, blah, blah, look to provide warmth, comfort, and care, blah, blah, blah, for said guests, blah, blah, without injury, casualties, or the need of assistance from our local paramedic and/or fire departments.”

With this in mind, let’s start ourselves a wood fire. Basically, whether we’re talking a wood stove or fireplace, the rules and procedures for a safe burn are relatively the same. Rules 1 and 2. Always begin the burn well in advance of your family and guests arrival, and two, remain of sound mind from start to finish.

Stuff can happen at the beginning of a burn, like forgetting to open the damper, or it may be excessively windy, or the kitchen range hood could be running full throttle, any or all of these factors affecting the air pressure in your home, thereby promoting a backdraft. Backdraft is the term used to describe the action of smoke reversing itself, flowing back down the flue and into your living room.

Backdrafts are lousy, and can fill the immediate space with smoke and carbon dioxide within seconds. If you’re the room’s only occupant, then there’s little ordeal.

Once regaining consciousness, adjust the damper, open a few windows, and gain control of the situation. Minutes later, only a slight hint of soot in the air will be evidence of your screw up.

On the other hand, when backdraft hits a room clamored with guests, we. . . nothing breaks up a party quicker than teary eyes, and the ensuing panic of persons throwing themselves out the nearest window.

Remaining of sound mind should be a given considering alcohol will affect co-ordination, brain function, and memory, three things you’ll need in order to start, refill, and monitor the burn throughout the evening.

Fire starting procedure. Open the chimney damper, open the outside air feed, then crack open a window, just slightly. Two elements will be vying for oxygen in the room, the flame, and your fellow humans. So, make sure there’s plenty to go around. Next, crumple up a couple of sheets of newsprint into a ball, place it at the back of the fire box, then surround it in a tee pee type manner with very small pieces of wood, a.k.a. kindling. Ignite the paper. What you want is plenty of flame, with little smoke. Leave the doors open to your woodstove or fireplace for these first few minutes so that the flame will stay healthy and fast, ensuring a strong updraft.

As the kindling expires, add a few branch-sized pieces. Once that’s almost depleted, and there are plenty of hot embers at the base, toss (actually, place) a few logs on the fire. Close the doors, and stand by for refueling in about 30-40 minutes.

Things to avoid? Using fire starter, gasoline, or any type of additive to help initiate flame. Plus, and although most things will burn, thereby generating heat, use only dry, seasoned wood, recognized by cracks in the ends of the logs, to fuel your fire.

A healthy stove or fireplace will provide plenty of heat, with little scent of smoke inside, and a clean exhaust coming out of the chimney. If you experience anything different, seek the advice of your WETT certified installer.

Good building.

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

Two types of wood stoves

So, you’ve made the decision to invest in a woodstove, terrific! Now, where do you go from here? Well, besides the various shapes, sizes, top feed, side feed, glass door, or solid door models, there are basically two types of wood stoves — catalytic and non-catalytic.

Catalytic stoves have a catalytic combustor, similar to a catalytic converter in an automobile. The catalytic combustor is essentially a block of ceramic with a honeycomb core, placed inside the stove, near the top, and is the last thing the smoke particles and various gases (created by the initial burn), pass through before being drawn out the chimney pipe. It’s during this final burn phase, or catalytic action, that the remaining gases and smoke particles are turned into water vapor and carbon dioxide, providing a very clean exhaust, while squeezing one last bit of heat out of these remaining particulates.

Basically, those are the big pluses to owning a catalytic wood stove, you’re getting maximum efficiency, longer burn periods, with a very environmentally friendly exhaust. Downside to the catalytic woodstove? It requires you regularly cleaning the catalytic combustor (which is a relatively easy, although a little messy, monthly procedure) and replacing it every five years. This regular maintenance factor tends to make a catalytic stove the preferred choice of the serious wood burner, and for those folks who plan on using their wood stove as the primary heat source.

What happens if you don’t regularly clean the catalytic combustor? First signs of a problem will be grey smoke, then black, coming out of your chimney. This unhealthy situation indicates that due to the combustor being clogged, you’re basically operating a campfire, with the first burn gases and smoke bypassing the final burn phase, and being simply released into the atmosphere.

Next, as the catalytic combustor becomes totally blocked, and the resulting air flow reduced, you’ll find the stove more difficult to start, with a greater potential for backdraft.

So, the catalytic woodstove may be the superior model of the two, but unless you’re ready to commit to a maintenance schedule, it’s probably best to avoid the catalytic model.

Non-catalytic woodstoves have secondary combustion chambers, instead of catalytic combustors, to help burn off those gases and wood particles that make it past the first burn. The result is a stove that is still very efficient, and very clean burning, just with numbers not quite as impressive as a clean catalytic model. So, if we’re talking a secondary heat source, with little maintenance, other than having to empty the ash pan, the regular, non-catalytic woodstove, is probably your best choice.

What about buying a used stove, or using Grandpa’s old stove, in order to save a few bucks? Used car, used boat, used lawn mower, no big deal. When they die, you park them on the front lawn with a “best offer” sign on them. Unfortunately, when an old stove dies, or basically malfunctions, you die as well, so we’re not quite talking the same risk factor.

Old or used wood stoves should serve one of two purposes. Park them in the corner of the living room, surround the behemoth with other antiques, and add a few lights to the arrangement around Christmas time, or, earn a few bucks from them as scrap metal.

Buying new allows you to control the key feature, and presumably the main reason why you’re investing in a woodstove, and that’s heat output, or BTU (British thermal unit) capacity. Wood stoves work best when ther\y’re operating at mid-full capacity. So, if you’re looking to add a little heat to the family and TV areas, you won’t need an 80,000 BTU woodstove, attractive as they may be, that’s designed to heat a 2500 sq. ft. area.

Because we’re talking supplementary heat, smaller is usually better. Plus, it’s important to remember what the plan is, supplementary heat without this endeavor becoming too much of a chore.

Next week, the perfect burn.

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

Burning with wood

Nothing burns like wood.
Nothing burns like wood.

As the cooler temperatures slowly creep into our lives again, so does the concern of higher heating costs.

And, with most homes having either gas, propane, or electrical furnaces, we’re all basically at the mercy of the utility companies. So, if the cost of gas or electrical power happens to increase, and it always does, other than complaining about it, or toughening out the winter by investing in long johns (thermal underwear for those readers under 40), what is a homeowner to do?

Well, complaining is easy, but rarely effective, while long johns are effective, but not so easy, and definitely not sexy, so I wouldn’t suggest getting rid of your furnace just yet. Perhaps update it, but let’s not dismantle it for now.

What you may want to consider is a supplementary heat, or type of booster unit that’ll take some of the workload, and cost, off your main heating source. That’s where a wood stove or fireplace can step in.

Now, what about a wood pellet or corn stove, aren’t they more efficient than burning logs? True, they are mechanically a better value, which means they deliver more heat for the dollar. However, pellet stoves require electrical power to operate the auger mechanism, which feeds the flame. Therefore, during a power outage, and unless you’re handy enough to hook this unit up to your car’s battery, there’ll be no heat coming out of this baby. Plus, pellet stoves require regular cleaning of this same auger, otherwise it will jamb, and refuse to turn. No turn means no heat.

Finally, pellet stoves have a very modest flame, in the same way the Montreal Canadians have a very modest power play (averaging a 16% success rate last year). In other words, there’s not much flame to cheer about. So, albeit a good source of heat (when the power’s on) pellet stoves offer little ambiance. On the other hand, “ambiance” is of course wood burning’s middle name. And, no matter how hard they try, there isn’t a gas or propane stove out there that can match the fiery impact, and showcase, of burning wood.

So, why doesn’t everybody own a wood stove or fireplace? At one time of course, everybody did. But, as the convenience of gas and electrical products entered the market, we as a society, all got a little lazier. Now we’re all faced with electric and gas pricing that’s gotten totally out of our control. So, get some of that control back by investing in wood. With wood, however, comes responsibility, whereby it can only be considered a good thing if, as a homeowner, and keeper of the flame, you achieve two goals. One, you provide a warm and cozy ambiance for your family and those guests of the home. And two, nobody dies. Falling short on either goal, due to carelessness or failing to follow procedure, will make the continuation of any further wood burning a tough sell.

So, with these goals in mind, we meticulously follow a proper burning protocol every time. That being said, there’s no need to fear a wood stove or fireplace. Both look great, throw a beautiful heat, and are extremely easy to operate. However, because we’re talking a real burning flame, wood stoves and fireplaces must be respected. What’s the difference between owning a woodstove or fireplace? Besides the obvious physical differences, a woodstove is an airtight unit that burns quite hot, delivering more heat, with about five times the efficiency of a fireplace. So, if heat performance is most important, choose the wood stove option.
Fireplaces are similar to woodstoves in that they come as their own self-contained box, and are usually zero clearance, which means they fit easily into the wall framing. However, they aren’t airtight, which drops their efficiency rating. Regardless, a fireplace filled with logs is going to throw a ton of heat, easily satisfying the needs of the room in question, but its purpose is more ambiance than power.

Next week, more on burning with wood.

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