A drill-down on making great holes

Getty Images/iStockphot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week we’ll have more on creating holes.

Good building.

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

Painting’s more than picking up a brush

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

Painting tradespersons don’t get the respect they deserve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good painting.

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

Pros vs. Jos: The drywall edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Kitty through the door

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Some feline accessibility

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

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

What’s the reason for this renovation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The words gently tap through are key.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week, finishing the hole. Good building.

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

Outdoor fine finishing

Handout Not For Resale SUPPLIED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

It’s a cake walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

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