Get the lint out

(Getty Images)

Before spring fever hits us and your promise to clean the dryer ductwork gets filed in behind your spouse’s 2013 request to “remove Christmas lights from spruce tree in front lawn,” let’s get what we need to make this job as quick and easy as possible.

A key tool for this task will be a shop vac. Along with the TV remote control and vice grips, a dependable shop vacuum easily ranks in the top three of must-have tools. So, if you don’t have one, get one.

Or, if that special person in your life has a birthday or anniversary on the horizon, few things say love like the hum of a shop vac.

Other tools for the job will include aluminum duct tape, and a 25-foot length of 1-1/4-inch flexible sump pump hose. Notice my reference to the fact your ducts will require aluminum duct tape, and not the popular grey duct tape referenced in Red Green’s quote “duct tape is only temporary, unless it works.”

Based on the premise that if you wrap something enough times, it’s bound to stop leaking, or, if it weighs more than 50 pounds, there’s no shame in having to secure it with a second roll, the grey, material type duct tape – unlike what the name suggests –  is not recommended for ductwork.

The grey duct tape, over time, will dry up, shrink, and lose its elasticity.

So, if you’ve got a leaky boot, broken rear view mirror, or forgot to pack your suspenders, grey duct tape will get you through the next few days, but it’s not to be considered for ductwork.

So, realizing regular duct tape should only come into contact with a dryer if for some reason the door needs to be taped shut, let’s move on to cleaning the ductwork. Dryers that vent directly to the exterior are a pretty quick clean.

However, is your clothes dryer is somewhat centrally located in the home, then the exhaust may be travelling upwards of 30 or 40 feet. These are the instances where clean ducts are essential to the safe and continued good operation of your dryer. If lint collects and clogs the duct, then overheats, it can ignite.

Some of the key strategies to keeping your dyer ductwork clear include using 60-inch lengths of solid four-inch pipe, along with the four-inch solid (manipulatable) elbows. Furthermore, always use aluminum duct tape to connect and seal the duct work joints, and never screws.

Duct screws, even the very short ones, will snag the lint, causing it to accumulate and clog the duct. Accordion type ducting, especially the cheap white plastic stuff, should be avoided as well, simply because the bumpy accordion surface will reduce the effectiveness of the dryer fan, causing lint to collect in the folds.

If flexible ductwork is necessary, use the aluminum product as its folds are extremely small, and much more conducive to proper air flow.

For easier cleaning of your solid-pipe dryer ductwork, consider adding a short length of aluminum flex pipe at the halfway point in the assembly. Ductwork that’s taped and sealed at every joint can be a burden to dismantle, while simply unclamping a piece of flex hose will take only seconds. Once you’ve dismantled a duct connection somewhere between the dryer and the outside, peer into both lengths with your flashlight. The amount of lint you see stuck to the edge of the duct pipe will give you a good indication of how air is flowing. If the lint clumps are quite severe, you’ll have to re-strategize the exhaust route.

Next, stick the sump hose onto the shop vac attachment, start up the vacuum, then wiggle and gently shake the sump hose as you bury it inside the ductwork.

Conversely, switch the shop vac hose to blower, and the pipe can cleaned by blowing lint towards the exterior.

Good venting.

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

Mysterious moisture

Do mysteries exist? Or, is there usually an explanation for everything?

Did the discoverers of King Tut’s tomb open themselves up to a deadly curse? Or, do people sometimes die in a strange, untimely manner? Are the mid-western crop circles proof of aliens visiting earth? Or, simply a case of what a few artistically inclined, Jack Daniels inspired rednecks can do with a couple of 4-wheel drive vehicles under a full moon? However, nobody has an answer surrounding the mystery of why Carey Price can’t stop anything less than a beach ball.

Today’s situation, file #742, titled “The Mystery Puddle”, has us examining the case where a homeowner, upon descending into his basement, discovers a small section of his carpet drenched in water. A visual inspection confirms that the sump pump is working, and there appears to be no type of rain water, or sewer type backup. Therefore, we’re not talking flood.

Furthermore, there’s no water trickling down due to a cracked pipe or leaky fitting from the kitchen above, while the gyprock on the finished basement wall adjacent to the puddle, is completely dry. So, where’s this water coming from? Again, we’re not talking about a ton of water, but still enough squishy dampness in the carpet to soaker you if you happen to be wearing socks or slippers.

As always, when something happens for the first time, we refer to problem solving question number one, that being, what changed? There are no apparent faults in the piping, wall, or concrete floor, and, with average temperatures well below zero, there’s no winter thaw that could have put added pressure on the foundation or weeping tile. So, what’s up?

This water couldn’t have just appeared out of thin air. Well, maybe not thin air, but just maybe, out of thick air. Getting back to the question concerning what changed? We discover that our subject is a good neighbor. With the person next door having water issues, as in no water, due to a broken main line, our fellow was helping out by feeding his neighbor’s home with water 24 hours a day, for about two days, until the situation was remedied. As a result, the copper line feeding into our subject’s home was continually being fed with water, very cold water, as it strived to serve two homes. So, what happened? And, where did the pooling water come from?

Water enters the home via a one inch copper pipe that feeds off the city’s main line. During the winter months, this water is very cold, sometimes just a few degrees above freezing. If the water enters the home, and just sits in the pipe, seeing occasional movement by means of clothes washing, showering, cooking, or whatever, then both the water and intake copper pipe will warm up to room temperature. However, if the water is always flowing, as in the case of supplying a few homes with several occupants, or if the person you’re supplying water to happens to be building a regulation sized hockey rink in their backyard, then the cold water entering your home will stay cold, as will the pipes. That’s the, what’s happening?

When a cold pipe is left in a warm environment, condensation occurs. That’s where the water came from. In this case, the intake copper pipe was buried behind the drywall. With the copper pipe in a constant state of cold, condensation resulted to the point where water droplets would run down the pipe, through the gaps in the framed wall, then hit the concrete floor, spreading underneath the carpet. Solution to pipes sweating or creating condensation? Wrap the cold pipes with lengths of foam insulation, reduce the moisture content of the basement air by means of a HRV unit or dehumidifier, run a few oscillating fans in order to help circulate the air, and keep those backyard rinks somewhat smaller than regulation. Case #742 closed.

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

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

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

Don’t forget the human being factor

Renovations are rarely done to 100 per cent completion.

Often referred to as the “half-assed syndrome”, basic repairs falling somewhat short of their logical conclusion, unfortunately happen when a human being, usually male in gender, and without proper supervision, is given the task.

Why does this standard shortcoming exist? Because it’s human nature to be satisfied by how things look, as opposed to checking out what’s under the hood.

The renovation biz is no different. Limited funds, or limited knowledge on the part of the installer, often result in the replacement of the fixture, while kind of forgetting, or dismissing, the guts of the issue.

Case in point; new homeowner has two questions concerning the ventilation in the attic of his recently purchased 40-year-old home.

First inquiry. My 1,600 sq. ft. bungalow has one Maxi-vent on the roof, along with a 16-in. octagon vent on both gable ends, so is this providing enough attic ventilation?

And, there are two lengths of 4 in. insulated pipe attached to a bucket just under the Maxi-vent, one leading to a vent in the hallway, with the other directed into the bathroom.

So, do I just leave the vents as is? Or, can I simply close the vents, detach the insulated pipe, and let the ductwork rest on the attic insulation?

Unless otherwise specified, most homes (whether they’re new or older) are being roof vented with the Maxi-301, square (chimney like) unit.

The Maxi-301 is an exhaust vent that’ll handle 1,200 square feet of attic floor space. Therefore, in this gentleman’s case, his existing unit is going to be a little overwhelmed.

What about the two octagon gable vents, don’t they help out a bit? Not really. Gable vents work relatively well to let air into an attic, but because they’re placed on a wall, do little to effectively extricate attic air.

As a result, and in this fellow’s case, he’s got sufficient soffit and gable venting allowing fresh air into the attic, with an undersized amount of roof venting. Solution, add a second Maxi-vent.

Now, Maxi-vents come in a number of sizes, including the aforementioned #301 model, handling 1,200 sq. ft. of attic space, the #302 model (500 sq. ft.), and the #303 Maxi (800 sq. ft.). In this case, and needing only another 400 sq. ft. of air drawing capacity, the fellow could add a #302 Maxi to satisfy the attic’s needs.

However, Maxi’s differ in height between models. Therefore, since it would no doubt look a little odd to have two different size of Maxi units on a roof, even if they were separated by a reasonable spacing along the ridge, I suggested he either add a second #301 model, or forfeit his existing unit for two #303 models.

Can an attic have too much ventilation? No, only too little.

Next, what are those two lengths of insulated ductwork doing there? They were part of what would now be considered an antiquated, and inefficient air withdrawal system, known in those days (and we’re going back 20 years or so, as a Venmar).

Basically, a turbine (located where the Maxi vent is now) would (based on wind velocity) draw air out of the home.

Flaws to the Venmar strategy? The system had no brain, drawing air out at an arbitrary rate, with no fresh air intake.

Plan of action, and what should have been done in the first place? Eliminate the bucket and two lengths of ductwork. Next, remove the two Venmar ceiling vents (blocking or closing them is not good enough), repair the drywall, then on the attic side, cover the repair with a clear 6 mil. poly, adding insulation overtop.

Sealing the attic’s air space from any type of warm air infiltration is key to avoiding condensation and mold. Next, invest in a HRV (heat recovery ventilation) unit.

In this case, the gentleman already had a forced air furnace, making the investment in a humidity controlling, air quality unit such as a HRV, an easy partnership.

Good building.

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

Make good venting decisions

Always make sure to vent to the outdoors.
Always make sure to vent to the outdoors.

A friend and neighbor organizes a boot hockey tournament every year, played on his outdoor rink, to which I kindly decline the invitation to play. Nothing personal, it’s just that I believe participating in a sport on ice, while wearing what’s probably the least effective form of footwear, is a bad idea. And, since he refused my request to pre-salt the ice, at least in my defensive zone, or let me wear my bear claw boot enhancers, or pay for a manned ambulance on standby, this event was beyond my level of comfort.

As anyone who’s ever run on ice knows, once you pick up a little speed, veering off track becomes impossible. In the case of boot hockey, once you’re in motion, your immediate future will either be flopping onto your back, crashing into the end boards, or colliding into the 250-pound fellow with the sly grin on his face.

So, in the spirit of bad ideas, and specifically relating to ventilation, let’s look at some poor renovation decisions. Bad idea Number One, not having an outside vent to feed fresh air to your wood stove or fireplace. The touching scene of Grandpa asleep in his favorite chair by a roaring fire is somewhat less heartwarming when you understand that he is not sleeping off a good meal, but has been rendered unconscious due to a lack of oxygen and possible carbon poisoning, and, may indeed, like they say in the morgue biz, be ‘resting peacefully’.

Bad idea Number Two, corrugated plastic or metal dryer ducts. Corrugated (accordion type) ductwork is a popular choice for venting a dryer because it’s so easy to manipulate. However, the ripples in the duct will cause air turbulence, resulting in a lint buildup at some point in the line. I remember looking into our dryer vent once and thinking a rabbit had somehow crawled into the duct and died. Scared the crap out of me. Actually, it was a collection of lint the size of a nerf football. So, out with the corrugated ductwork (the plastic stuff is particularly bad) and in with the solid elbows and lengths of galvanized tubing.

Other key points to effective dryer venting? Vent the dryer air outdoors. Indoor kits are available, but they’re lousy, and only fill the home with fine lint particles.

Next, keep the length from machine to exterior wall as short as possible. And finally, seal the duct lengths and elbows with an aluminum tape, not screws (screws will act as a lint catcher).

Bad idea Number Three, exhausting your bathroom ceiling fan into the attic. In order for your roofing plywood to remain rot free, and to avoid warranty issues with your roofing shingles, your attic needs to be a secure environment. Disturbing this sensitive atmosphere with warm, humidity filled bathroom air, will cause condensation. Once this condensation pools and eventually leaks through a seam in the vapor barrier, you’ll be looking up to a sunburst stained ceiling, and light fixtures that could house a couple of goldfish. Bathroom exhaust fans (and every bathroom needs one) must exit through the roof, or side wall. If you’re exiting through the roof, make sure to use insulated ductwork.

Avoid soffit vents. Like the inside dryer vent, they’re available. However, soffits work with the roof vents in order to draw outside air in. So, the logic of feeding warm air into an area where this moisture will simply be pulled back into the attic, is obviously flawed.

Plus, choose a steel exhaust vent for your exterior wall or roof. The steel units may be five times the price of the plastic jobs, but they’re practically indestructible, while their rodent screens and damper systems are far superior.

Finally, range hood vents work best when they, like bathroom vents, exhaust to the outside. Charcoal filters may capture the various cooking smells, but they’ll do little to solve the excess moisture created. So, if you’ve got a fan, vent it straight out.

Good building.

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

JM in and out

In an effort to make our newly purchased, older home, a little cozier, we’re going to be adding ridged John Mansville polyiso insulation board (made right here in Cornwall, by the way) to both sides of our exterior walls.

Why insulate both sides? Because our dated walls have too many holes, or weaknesses in its construction. Weaknesses that may not have been a concern 50 years ago, when gas was cheap and chopping wood was still in vogue. However, with the price of energy today, this barn is really going to be a heating money pit.

Holes do as poor a job keeping the cold out, as they do keeping the heat in. So, we address the comfort issue by insulating both sides of the wall. Basically, if we could replace the exterior walls, we would. But assuming our budget doesn’t include removing the roof with the same crane that was commissioned to lift and lower the lengths of International Bridge one section at a time, the next best solution is to bolster the insulation value of the exterior frame.

Further bonuses to choosing the John Mansville board solution. One, it won’t disturb an often delicate wall structure that may contain anything from lead paint to asbestos filled insulation. And two, wrapping both sides of the exterior wall will make things absolutely air tight. So, that cool draft you feel up the wazoo every time you step out of the shower will soon be a forgotten morning ritual.

Step one, remove the existing wood, vinyl, or composite siding. Brick homes can be covered directly with John Mansville board, while covering a stone house (for aesthetic reasons) should be avoided. Step two, install the John Mansville polyiso board to the wall studs, with the reflective side facing the interior. Next, cover the John Mansville board with a house wrap. If the John Mansville polyiso board serves as a heavy sweater, the house wrap is its light windbreaker jacket over top. Although the ridged insulation board will basically seal the home, house wrap is a good idea because it effectively protects the John Mansville product from the elements during the construction phase, and against any moisture that infiltrates the siding in the future.

Next, install 1×3 spruce strapping vertically over the house wrap, fastening it through the John Mansville board and into the exterior wall studs. The 1×3 strapping provides a can’t-miss target for installing your siding. Plus, it provides a key, ¾ inch air space for wood and composite sidings, which require this type of drying zone behind the product in order to avoid rot or paint peeling issues. Now, with 1-1/2 inches of JM insulation board, along with the ¾ inch strapping, and considering the thickness of the siding, won’t all these exterior coverings cause a challenge to finishing around the windows? Very likely, but nothing a roll of aluminum flashing in the hands of a qualified installer can’t correct.

Is it a good strategy to install an insulation board and siding before replacing the windows? Or, shouldn’t the windows be replaced before replacing the siding? There’s no doubt that in a perfect renovation world, and with the budget to do so, replacing the windows along with the siding is as good a 1-2 punch as you can get when it comes to turning around a home’s curb appeal and value. However, if budget constraints will allow you one renovation per year, insulation and siding, in most cases, is cheaper than window replacement, and the better value.

New windows are terrific, but you’re still replacing glass with glass. So, start with the furnace, then the siding, and put the money saved on heating towards new windows the following year.

Inside the home’s exterior walls and ceilings? Basically the same procedure as we did outside. John Mansville board (3/4 inch) glued directly to the existing drywall or plaster, 1×3 strapping overtop, followed by a 6 mil. vapour barrier, then regular drywall to finish. As is common practice, be sure to start with the ceiling insulation panels and drywall first, then the walls.

Good building.

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