Committing to painting

So, you’ve decided to pass on the calling of a professional, and have committed to painting the living room, dining area, and kitchen, yourself.

Very well then . . . hopefully this endeavor won’t come back to haunt you in the same manner as your last two decisions, where your choice to capture and raise park pigeons, in an effort to revitalize the medieval ‘bird transit business’, ended up in the crapper after confidential memos were randomly dropped off at whatever destination the creatures decided to stop and poop, followed by your personal attention given to the dismantling and replacing of the hot water tank in the basement, which inevitably garnished your home with the neighborhood’s first indoor heated swimming pool.

One of the biggest challenges to painting involves choosing and coordinating colors. If you find people are consistently complimenting you on your apparel, and the manner in which you happen to co-ordinate this particular scarf with that particular color of bonnet, and how the whole softness of your wool jacket and contrasting crocodile skinned boots creates a wondrous flow of color and texture, then you’re likely more than capable of choosing your own colors. If, on the other hand, you choose to wear black every day, because it’s easy, and have no problem wearing socks with your sandals, then style may be your handicap, dictating the real need to seek help with the matching and choosing of colors. Otherwise, you’ll end up picking a series of taupe, light greys, and slightly off-white colors for your walls and moldings that will look absolutely uninspiring.

If you don’t have a stylish friend that can help you make a few riskier color choices, then hiring an interior decorator for a few hours would be a wise investment. Another strategy related to the risk management of choosing colors, is to invest in a few litres of some of your preferred choices before going all in. Spending hundreds of dollars on a paint, based on a color chip the size of a Toonie, can be risky indeed, especially if the choice was made under the bright fluorescent lights of your local paint supply store. Colors will look different under a natural light, or even the lighting in your home. So, unless these colors have been chosen by the trained eye of a decorator, I would recommend investing in a litre or two of the colors you’re thinking of going with.

Once a few litres of colors have been chosen, paint a small section of the wall, maybe even in a few spots, then wait a day or two. If, after this time period has expired, you’re still okay with your color choices, then you’re safe to invest in the required gallons, or 20 litrr pails of product. If you don’t think you can spend the next few years living with your living room choice of hot pink, alongside a traditional sunshine yellow for the kitchen, give the painted spots a coat of primer and start the process over.

As far as sheen is concerned, use a semi-gloss paint for your doors and moldings, an eggshell or satin finish for the walls, and a flat or mat finish for the ceiling.
A coat of primer is always a good thing, but is most necessary when you’re painting new drywall, or if the wall is water, oil, or smoke stained. A coat of primer is also recommended when transitioning from what was an oil based paint, to an acrylic or water based paint, and if you’re looking to put a light shade of paint over an existing wall that is medium to dark in color.

Should the primer be tinted? If you’ve chosen a medium to deep tone color, tinting the primer is a good idea, and should save you from having to roll on a third coat. Color matching? Not a problem these days. Simply bring in a small sample of the color you like, and the computer eye will match it perfectly. Next week, more painting tips.

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

Before we paint

Do it yourself, or hire a painter?

Just like plumbing work should be done by plumbers, and electrical work performed by electricians, better painting results happen when you hire a painter.

So, before embarking on a project in which you’re no more qualified to paint, as you would be to change the oil in your car’s engine, perhaps a call to one of our local professional painters would be best.

Painting seems like an easy do-it-yourself project because it’s a surface thing. “After all”, as some people say, “you’re just covering one color of paint with another color of paint, it’s that simple”. Those are the same people who never play golf, but refer to it as a game where all you have to do is put the little white ball in a hole almost three times its diameter.

As anybody who’s performed a proper job of painting knows, the quality of the finished product is directly related to the effort put into preparing the wall. Holes and dents in the gyprock will need to be puttied, sanded, and primed. The gap above the baseboards will require a paint grade caulking in order to smoothen the transition between molding and wall. While this same caulking will be required to seal the miter joints of any casings and ceiling crowns.

Sure, you could avoid these steps and go straight to rolling on paint, just like you could skip putting snow tires on your vehicle come December, or not toss a cube of butter into the fry pan before cracking in a few eggs, but the results will be disappointing.

What about paints that contain no VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) or are low in VOC’s, are these a better choice than regular paints?  Volatile Organic Compounds are the chemical fumes you smell when you open up a gallon of paint. Some people react to these fumes by getting a headache, or by suffering an irritated throat, or itchiness in the eyes and nose. So, if you’re the type of person who’s sensitive to smells, or this type of chemical off-gassing, then choosing a Zero-VOC, or Low-VOC paint, likely makes sense. The only issue with choosing a No-VOC or Low-VOC (less than 50 grams of volatile organic compound per liter of product) is that you’ve limited yourself to the contractor level and mid-range quality paints, along with a color choice of white, white, or white, since the VOC content is graded on a base white paint before any coloring is added. Contractor and mid-range quality paints are fine, and are the preferred choice in new homes since there exists the very strong chance of the homeowner wanting to change color schemes after a year or two.

So, there’s no need to spend $45 per gallon for the best of quality, instead of $22 bucks for a generally good series of paint, until people have lived in the home for a while, with the final color scheme yet to be decided. The top quality paints are thicker, provide a better color base, offer a tougher, more cleanable surface, and they apply nicer and more evenly.

Therefore, there are several good reasons why a homeowner would invest in a high quality paint, or for the sake of accent or decorum, use bright and vibrant colors on the walls of their home. However, the VOC content will undoubtedly go up a bit. That’s why spring is such a good time to paint, because the VOC content of some of those deeper colors or quality paints can be largely subdued by opening a couple of windows and placing a few oscillating fans in the rooms under renovation. Or, as suggested earlier, hire professionals, and let them deal with the fumes while you enjoy the sunny outdoors.

Picking your own home’s colors? Can be risky. Some have the background to do this well, while others have difficulty matching their shoes with their socks. Next week, good color choices.

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

The crooked kitchen

Crooked kitchen? Handyman Hints will straighten this out. Postmedia Network

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile. He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked style. He bought a crooked cat, who caught a crooked mouse, and they all lived together in a little crooked house.

What does this 1840, James Orchard Halliwell poem have to do with renovating a home? Well, it reminds us that in most renovation cases, the floors, walls, and ceilings are rarely level. Why, and especially in older homes, they might even be described as crooked. Now, is crooked bad? Absolutely not. Crooked, as long as the area of concern is structurally sound, means only crooked. “Falling over” is what we call something that’s crooked and experiencing structural failure. The difference between the two is that when something’s falling over, we call the bulldozer. When something’s crooked, we pick up an extra bundle of shims.

This week on the docket, case #333, has our Mr. and Mrs. Straight looking to replace the kitchen in a most recently purchased older home. The Straights are professional people, very level, not a hair out of place, by the book perfectionists. Unfortunately, they were charmed by an older stone house, which they recently purchased. Now Mr. and Mrs. Straight are owners of a beautiful, charming old stone home, that’s of course, a little crooked.

First renovation task on the to-do list, replace the crooked kitchen. The challenge facing the people measuring and installing the cabinetry, is that the upper and lower cabinet units are of course perfectly square. So, how do we fit perfectly square things into a space where not only the floor is slanted, but the walls are somewhat off level as well? Plus, the counter top the Straights have chosen will be made of granite, a versatile product in many ways that nevertheless doesn’t include the term pliable in its list of characteristics. Therefore, it appears we’re being asked to fit a flat, rectangular top, and a bunch of square pegs, into what appears to be a space more fit to receive a trapezoid.

Considering the Straights demand and general expectations of perfection, how can we possibly make these square things fit nice and snug into a not so square space? In most cases, when faced with installing cabinets into an area where the floors and walls are not level, the homeowner will have to face one of two choices. Either you level the floor and re-address the walls, or you increase the ordered height of the toe boards (a.k.a. kick-plates) that run along the floor, have a few filler pieces on hand, and add to the length of any cabinet panels that will see use as a finished end. The reason these finishing pieces will need to be slightly exaggerated in size, is so that they can be cut down and custom fitted on site, once the main cabinetry units have been shimmed and leveled to the appropriate height.

In the case of an older stone home, where 100 years of settling have left you with an old dog that really doesn’t want to be moved, you would usually work within the parameters of whatever the space provides. In a newer home or apartment, floor leveling compounds can bring a floor back to level, provided your plan is to refinish the floor. There’s also the engineering option, where existing beams and posts can be replaced or fortified, after hydraulic jacks have lifted a sagging floor structure back to level. Because Mr. and Mrs. Straight didn’t want to risk the integrity and charm of the slanted, older pine floor, and hand finished lath and plaster walls, those items were left and accepted as crooked. With the cabinetry and counter top installed at a perfectly level working height, along with a new sink, new taps, and improved lighting, the fact that the toe plates were slightly narrower at one end was only noticeable to those who knew. With the world of level fitting into a world of crooked, along with two happy Straights, case #333 was closed.

Good building.

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

About MDF moldings

The focal point of this master bedroom is neither the stunning bed nor the separate sitting area. Rather the eye is drawn to the trayed ceiling with a dazzling uplighting that washes it with light and color. The romance of the mood lighting becomes obtainable by the dial of a dimmer. Decorative crown molding hides the wires and bulbs, leaving only clean lines and light. Postmedia Network

Next to giving your interior walls a fresh coat of paint, investing in new casings, baseboards, and crown moldings is one of the best value added ways of improving your home.

That being so, there are some basic finishing rules to follow, along with a few installation strategies, that’ll help make working with MDF moldings all the more easier.

If you haven’t shopped for finishing trims in the last 15 years or so, the market has almost totally gone MDF (medium density fiberboard). You can still buy the finger-joint, clear pine, oak, and poplar species of casings and baseboards, but with the fashion trend still leaning towards painted moldings, as opposed to staining, MDF delivers the biggest bang for the buck.

Simply put, MDF is far cheaper in price, and is available in far more profiles, than traditional paint grade moldings such as finger-joint pine or poplar. Because the MDF product consists of sawdust and various glues, some home builders, fearing the off-gassing or VOC (volatile organic compound) element of a manufactured product, choose solid wood.

Actually, all wood species omit small doses of formaldehyde in their natural state. However, today’s MDF moldings are purchased factory sealed with a primer, which basically eliminates the off-gassing or VOC factor. As a result, the off-gassing or VOC concern regarding MDF moldings is old news, dating back about 20 years.

If you’ve worked with real wood moldings in the past, and are looking to install your own MDF casings and baseboards today, there’s one major factor that separates MDF from the popular finger–joint pine moldings of the 70’s and 80’s, and that’s the fact MDF moldings accept a nail the same way a cat accepts being tossed into a pool of water.

MDF moldings don’t like regular finishing nails, or being hammered, or being pre-drilled, and due to being so hard and somewhat brittle a product, the moldings’ edges can dent easily if over-handled.

Therefore, if you’re about to take on the task of installing MDF, be sure to buy, rent, or borrow, a pneumatic finishing nailer. What about pre-drilling the MDF, then tapping in a finishing nail, you may ask? Although a useful technique with hardwoods, a finishing nail tapped into MDF (even if pre-drilled) will cause the surface material to puff out once the nail head embeds the surface, creating a bump, which will essentially look lousy. MDF moldings absolutely need to be air nailed, and there’s no getting around that.

Rules to follow when choosing a casing and baseboard? One, they should match each other, of course, and two, the casing always needs to be thicker than the base. The baseboard molding will in most cases be wider than the casing, but it should never be thicker.

Some folks choose a thicker baseboard, with the strategy that it will hide the expansion spacing required between a wall and the hardwood or laminate flooring, thereby saving on the need for a shoe molding. Please don’t commit this finishing faux pas. Too thin a casing, or even a casing that is the same thickness of the base, looks horrible. When these two moldings meet, the shadow line created by having the casing thicker than the base, is key to proper finishing.

If you absolutely can’t live with a shoe mold following the perimeter of the floor, or have fallen in love with a particularly thick baseboard molding, and as a result, are left with too thin a casing, consider using a back-band molding to beef up the thickness of the casing.

Next, pre-paint your casings and baseboards before installing them. This strategy simply takes advantage of gravity, given that it’s easier to paint a molding while it’s lying flat, than sitting up on a wall.

Finally, caulk the seam where the casing or baseboard meets the wall, but never the miter joint. Gaps in a miter or butt joint can’t be saved with caulking. If the joint’s not tight, accept the loss and cut it over again.

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

What to dew

Properly insulating your home can reduce the amount of energy you use and save you money. Postmedia Network

Back in the olden days, when energy was cheap, the Habs were winning Stanley Cups, and our knee joints were well-oiled and pain-free, batt insulation was all we needed to keep our homes relatively cozy inside.

Then came the term “thermal bridging”, which enlightened us to the fact that lumber isn’t all that good an insulator. And, considering wall designs featured a stud at every 16 inches on center, the overall R-value of the wall was reduced significantly. A typical wall assembly would have contained either an R-12 or R-20 batt of insulation, depending on whether the wall had been framed with 2×4 or 2×6 lumber. The weakness in this system, energy wise, is the solid lumber, which accounts for about 10 per cent of the wall’s mass overall. With a thermal resistance value of about R-1 per inch, between every 15-1/2 inch span of warm, protective insulation, you had 1-1/2 inches of solid wood that would effectively allow the cold to migrate through to the inside, hence the term “thermal bridge”.

So, how can we as homeowners, and home builders, reduce the cold thermal bridge inadvertently created by the wood studding? The answer is Johns Manville’s polyiso ridged insulation board. With a thermal value of R-6 per inch, polyiso ridged sheeting can be installed directly over the wall studs, or over the OSB (oriented strand board) or plywood sheeting. The JM polyiso board is not a structural sheeting, therefore, a stud wall would have to be re-enforced with steel bracing if it were to be nailed directly to the lumber.

How thick should a homeowner consider going with their JM polyiso? Minimally 1 inch, with a 1-1/2 inch sheeting being better, and a 2 inch ridged board better yet.
Essentially, with the cost of heating being what it is, there’s no such thing as over-insulating an exterior wall. Therefore, a standard wall assembly in 2017 would begin with drywall on the inside, then a 6 mil. vapour barrier, wood studding with batt insulation in between, then a plywood sheeting, followed by JM polyiso, then a house wrap, ending with the customer’s choice of siding overtop. The 6 mil polyethylene vapour barrier is always installed on the warm side of a wall assembly, and effectively stops heat and moisture from entering the wall system.

Many people question why a plastic vapour barrier couldn’t be installed on the outside of an exterior wall as well. Or, be installed on the outside only, since that’s the side that faces the elements, and is the most likely side to let water in. Two elements dictate why we install a plastic vapour barrier on the inside wall only — our colder weather conditions, and the resulting dew point. In a perfect world, with a dry and air tight exterior wall cavity, having a vapour barrier on both sides would be the perfect scenario. Unfortunately, we can’t build a home in the same way we build a fridge, or beer cooler, at least not yet anyway. So, moisture already in the wall assembly, or entering the wall cavity by some other means, has got to be able to escape somewhere. In our Canadian climate, that’s best accomplished by having moisture dissipate towards the exterior.

Without a vapour barrier on the inside wall, heat and moisture would get into the insulation, then hit the dew point (the line where warm meets cold) somewhere in between the studs. An ice mass would then develop in the insulation, killing it’s thermal value, while creating all kinds of mold issues once things thawed out in the spring.

Installing a JM polyiso creates a band of continual insulation, and moves the dew point to about half way into its foam core, well out of the wall cavity. As a result, the thicker the JM ridged foam board, the further cold is kept from the home, and that’s a good thing.

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

The hammer is in heaven

Did you hear that?” said Al. “No, I didn’t hear anything,” replied Hank.

It sounded like a crack, are you sure you didn’t hear anything Hank?” says Al.

Listen Al,” says Hank, “the sound you heard was probably my old knee acting up again. So stop your worrying and give that last 2×4 wall stud a good shot with the sledgehammer.

Moments later, the boys find themselves seated in a rather crowded little room.

Gee Hank, you don’t look so good,” says Al. “Really,” says Hank, “other than the fact I seem to have crushed my lower body, I feel pretty good, and as a matter of fact, the knee pain is gone.

But I gotta tell you Al,” says Hank, “your head’s about as flat as a pancake.” “And hey Al,” says Hank, “look at that moron seated over there.

Who?” says Al. “The guy with the crowbar passing through one ear to the other? What a maroon, they’ll be calling him ol’ crowbar head from now on,” and the boys share a laugh.

Unfortunately, the boys, along with ol’ crowbar head, have found themselves in the Unfortunate Home Repair Tragedies Department of what they’re about to discover is Do it Yourself Heaven.

The mistake was taking down a load bearing wall in a just-purchased older home without having studied the original plan, or having consulted a professional engineer. What a home purchaser has to realize is that every previous owner has in some manner, altered the home.

This home modification could have been limited to drywall repair and a subsequent coat of paint. Or, buyer #3 could have attempted his own bit of household engineering, with the former owner and a buddy having shocked the obituary pages decades before.

So, if you’re buying an older home, it would be useful to know the number of previous owners. Homes that are 80+ years old can be spectacular with their solid wood doors, large casings and baseboards. However, with six to eight previous owners, it’s pretty well a given that somebody has fiddled around, or removed something, from somewhere. Or, even with fewer owners, homes tend to see a major renovation, especially to kitchens and bathrooms, every 12-15 years.

Therefore, if the century home you’re about to purchase has an open staircase, and a couple of eight-foot patio doors leading to an interlocking brick terrace, along with an open loft area above, with the whole picture conspicuously resembling last August’s cover of Modern Country Home Monthly, then something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Not to say that there’s cause for concern. Hopefully, the proper engineering strategies would have been put into play. Creating an open concept from a space historically carved up into smaller rooms requires a sound strategy. If however, you wanted to see how the home might have looked, and been divided up originally, a visit to our local Upper Canada Village might be in order.

Can a bearing wall be removed? Absolutely. Basically, the weight of the roof trusses, plywood, and shingles, now being supported by a wall, must be transferred to a beam. This beam would then be supported by a post at each end, with the weight on these posts being passed on to two posts directly beneath them.

Essentially, weight needs to be transferred from one key point to another, with the last spot of contact being the concrete floor, a.k.a. terra firma.

How large a beam will be needed? Should it be constructed of composite lumber or steel? And, how thick a concrete pad will be required in order to handle this immense weight? These are all questions that will need to be addressed by an architect or structural engineer, not Hammering Hank and Al’s Renos, may they rest in peace.

Good building

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

Don’t move that wall

Would you go to a zoo, take out your pair of pocket bolt cutters, and free a tiger of its cage?

Would you venture out onto a pond, the day after minus degree weather created an ever so thin sheet of ice over top, to organize a game of shinny for the local seniors club?

Would you try to re-position the cheese on a rat trap after it’s been set? The mechanism, after all, is designed to snap the neck of a relatively tough rodent.

Therefore, is it really necessary to find out whether pain will result if you should happen to trigger the spring?

Participating in any one of these scenarios would seem unlikely. Then again, why do people, coffee in hand and sitting comfortably at their kitchen table, and after feeling an overwhelming urge for more open space, delay refilling their cup, and take a sledgehammer to the nearest wall?

It’s what was documented as “sudden claustrophobia syndrome” by the renowned psychologist Fred Sigmund, who not so surprisingly, authored the followup, and timely homeowner’s renovation manual titled, “Our roof collapsed on my mother-in-law, and other related fix ups.”

Most homeowners want more space and more natural light, with existing walls the obvious culprit in preventing this from happening. There can be several interior walls in a home, falling into one of two categories, those being “dividing” or “load bearing”. Dividing walls are usually recognized by their 2×3 or 2×4 construction framework, and by the fact they’re normally shorter in length, whereby if we’re talking the 8 ft. wall used to separate a bedroom from the bathroom, it’s most likely a dividing wall. Load bearing walls will span the width or length of the home, and are normally constructed with 2×6 lumber, so they’re usually recognizable by their thicker appearance.

Now, a load bearing wall isn’t necessarily continuous wall, it could be broken up to allow for a hallway or archway. That being said, and even though there’s an open space underneath, the load bearing wall will have some type of continuous beam overhead, with the weight of this beam supported by extra framing in the walls. The difference between a dividing wall and a load bearing wall is that one simply divides, while the other keeps the roof and floor structure from collapsing.
Besides a load bearing wall usually being a couple of inches thicker than a dividing wall, load bearing walls can normally be confirmed by the fact they’re supported by a wall, or beam, directly underneath. The point of one load bearing wall being directly under a load bearing wall from the floor above, is to allow for the transfer of weight from the trusses and snow load, all the way down to the concrete footing in the basement.

Load bearing walls are structurally engineered to keep the home solid, and free from sag and compromise. So, as a homeowner, or person about to buy a home, you never touch a wall before having an engineer, architect, or accredited home builder, have a look at things. Plus, be aware of the term “usually”, as in load bearing walls are usually thicker, or usually run the full span of the home, or are usually supported by jack posts and a beam in the basement. Home designs aren’t all alike, with some engineering strategies not following traditional means of load bearing support.

Plus, if you’re the fourth or fifth owner of a home, particularly if its 50-100 years old, previous owners may have changed things. Older, larger homes were often designed with small rooms for energy preserving reasons. With the desire for more open space, walls were often removed without the consideration of whether they were load bearing or not. Which, would account for why many older homes have squeaky floors and slanted ceilings. It’s not necessarily that they’re old, they may very well be missing a leg to stand on.

Good building and safe renovating.

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