Don’t sweat it

Wet windows? Handyman Hints can help. Postmedia Network

Why are my windows sweating? This is one of the more common questions asked by many a frustrated homeowner during this time of year. And, the answer to this dilemma is not always easy.

If you’re a Leafs fan, it’s just indicative of a clouded vision that will most likely plague you throughout the entire winter season. If you eat pasta with every meal, then use this carbohydrate overload to sweat it out in your home gym, then follow things up with a 20 minute hot shower, you’re likely stirring up more humidity than tropical storm Otto. Or, if you’re the sort of person who’s deathly scared of the cold, and have resorted to saran wrapping every window and non-essential entrance door with the same diligence you used on your luncheon pork chops, proper air circulation is going to be an impossibility.

Basically, you’re trapping humidity in the home. As discussed last week, too much humidity in the home can lead to all kinds of damage to your finish trims, framework, while ultimately encouraging mold growth. So, how do we eliminate excess humidity? It’ll take a combination of air intake, air exhaust, and air circulation.

Unless you’re willing to confine your brisk walks to the areas of the home, going from kitchen, to dining room, then up the stairs, through the bedroom, and back down again, air circulation is best handled by mechanical means. If you own a furnace, keep the fan working fulltime, and, don’t forget to change or clean the filter on a monthly basis. If your home lacks the necessary ductwork to circulate air, consider replacing your ceiling light fixtures with lighted ceiling fans.

Again, and especially during the really cold days, have the fans turning on a continual basis. A working ceiling fan will not only prevent condensation, but with the air being constantly churned, should eliminate any cold areas in the room that are close to the windows. If replacing every ceiling fixture seems excessive, then at least install a table top oscillating fan in the more problematic rooms.

Proof of air flow successfully removing condensation can be witnessed every time you turn your car’s windshield defrost switch on.

Next, air exhaust. Basically, if you’re creating steam or heat, then you’ve got to exhaust it to the exterior. Not into the attic, or the garage, or into the wall or joist system, but into the great outdoors. So, make sure every bathroom, and the kitchen, have their own exhaust fans. Bathroom fans should operate on a timer, set to 30 minutes once you step in the shower. Clothes dryers also create a ton of moisture. As a result, make sure the joints in the dryer ductwork are taped, and lead to a proper dryer exhaust vent (one with a flapper inside). Plus, disconnect the pipe every couple of months to verify that the lint hasn’t balled up inside. Definitely avoid choosing one of those interior exhaust kits for your dryer, they’re about as effective as investing in behavior lessons for your cat. Next, with all this mechanical air circulation and exhaust, comes the need to mechanically bring fresh air into the home.

This duty can be handled by installing a HRV (heat recovery ventilation) machine in your basement, or adequately sized utility room. About the size and weight of a 26 inch television (Quazar, not flat screen) the HRV system exhausts the stale air in the home, and replaces it with an equal amount of fresh outdoor air. The heat recovery is handled by a honeycomb type core that transfers the heat from the air going out, to the new air coming in. HRV units can work independently of your heating system, or be connected to your furnace, taking advantage of the room to room service provided by the existing ductwork. HRV’s will also filter this new air entering the home, and help control overall humidity levels, delivering a healthier living environment for the home’s occupants.

Good building.

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

Do not be afraid of the light from above

Skylights give the impression of more space and can completely change the feel and ambience of a room. (Free press file photo)
Skylights give the impression of more space and can completely change the feel and ambiance of a room. (Free press file photo)

My wake-up ritual is pretty well the same practice every time – get up, shower, get dressed, make my way down the stairs and as I walk through the archway that leads into our kitchen, I stop, turn to my right, flick on four light switches, and move on through.

I like plenty of light to work in. When spreading the almond butter on my toast so that it’s perfectly level, covering every bit of exposed toast surface, it’s essential in providing a positive start to each and every day.

In our previous home, my up and out of bed routine was basically the same, minus the light switch pause. Was I buttering my toast in the dark back then? That would be ridiculous and way too risky, of course. The difference, or game-changer, was that back then we had a kitchen with skylights. Now we don’t.

Whether it be a second floor, bedroom balcony, detached garage, or walkout basement, the topic of home must-haves, if they’re architecturally possible and feasible budget-wise, has been discussed before. Well, add one more home must-have to the list, and that would be skylights.

Providing twice the light of an equal-sized exterior wall window, at about half the price – although the extra installation procedures would essentially make it a break-even scenario, then factor in the energy savings, there are few better values in home options than a skylight.

So, why aren’t they more popular?

Unfortunately, skylights have the reputation of leaking. Which is not only an undeserved slander, but a weak argument to avoid skylights. The reason? Everything, given time, will leak.

Windows leak, roofs leak, 95 per cent of basement foundations leak. A strictly confidential office memo, distributed to our most senior management, was in the hands of the part-timer mopping the floor not five minutes after it was issued – leak!

We live in a society that is comprised of nothing but leaks and procedural failures, so why have skylights become the fall product? Not sure.

Regardless, you won’t find a better, more decorative and more useful home feature than a skylight.

Where to put them?

Any room in the home that would benefit from the bonus of daylight. Which, could be everywhere of course, except for perhaps your theater room or storage areas. Rooms that specifically benefit from skylights are kitchens and bathrooms, since these areas, due to wall space occupied by cabinetry and counter tops, often have smaller windows, yet require the most light. As a result, you get the bonus of light, without forfeiting privacy, unless of course you’ve built beside an airport runway.

Skylights are most effective when installed in a cathedral ceiling, where the light tunnel is minimal. However, regular roof trusses, or flat ceilings, can certainly accommodate a series of skylights. Due to the longer shaft, or walls stemming down from the skylight, the light reflected in will not be as great as a cathedral type installation. However, the look will be every bit as impressive.

Why do skylights leak?

As is the case with our windows and exterior doors, the caulking and various membranes that seal around these units will shrink and somewhat deteriorate over the useful lifespan of the product, which can be anywhere from 15 to 20 years. When it comes to the seal around our windows and doors, we notice when gaps develop or when the caulking cracks and becomes brittle, forcing us to deal with the issue.

Skylights fall under the out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of maintenance schedule, whereby years of caulking neglect will no doubt result in a leak. When this leak eventually makes its way down to the ceiling’s drywall, well, the whole idea of having a skylight gets put under scrutiny.

Having no skylight issues is like every other household appendage. Have it professionally installed, and check the seal every few years, adding a bead of roof tar once those first little cracks appear.

Good building.

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