To float, or to dig that deck’s foundation

There are two ways to support a backyard deck.

Either the deck, or more specifically the deck’s platform, can be supported by beams and columns that rest on deck blocks, or these beams and columns can sit on poured concrete piers.

Deck blocks, often accompanied by an 18”x18” patio stone underneath, placed there in order to lessen the chance of the deck block sinking by strategically spreading the working load of the deck, create what’s known as a floating deck.

Concrete piers, poured about 48-54 inches deep into the soil, require the homeowner to first dig a hole in order to accommodate the sono-tube (cardboard cylinder) and accompanying Bigfoot base the concrete gets poured into.

Why a homeowner would dig, as opposed to float a deck, depends entirely on circumstance.

A Bigfoot base, or footing tube unit (plastic base and cylinder in one) demands such a large hole, you’re going to require the services of a backhoe. Don’t attempt to dig this hole by hand, or bother hiring the manual labour to do so, unless of course you’ve happened upon a band of migrant workers from some third-world country.

You likely shouldn’t be getting your heart rate up to the level of horsepower necessary to effectively move this amount of earth, while the chances of getting a local young person to drop her or his cellphone in exchange for a spade shovel, separating them from the outside world for the few hours this task will require, is conservatively estimated at zero.

Backhoes require space to manoeuvre, which will be a challenge if you’ve cut off access to your backyard by means of a fence or stone walkway. Then you’ll be faced with having to ask your neighbours for permission to have the backhoe access your backyard through their property, which could be awkward if ties are somewhat strained, due to you allowing your Rottweiler to regularly poop and basically run amok through their gardens for the past six months.

Then you’ll have to hire a crane to lift the backhoe over your home, dropping it into your backyard. It’s a quite spectacular and doable feat indeed – and perhaps costly – with you certainly forfeiting a little anonymity, if your goal was to build this deck under the radar of the local building inspector.

The advantage of having concrete piers is stability, being that it allows the builder to secure the balance of the deck’s weight to the home’s foundation.

Decks supported by poured concrete piers and ledgers attached to the home don’t generally move.

Plus, poured piers can accept tons of weight, which along with the proper engineering, will permit the -homeowner to transform an existing deck into the floor of a future three- or four-season sun room.

If you’re not thinking sun room in the future, or at least a screened in porch, you ought to be, it’s often the natural progression of a deck if as the homeowners, you plan on sticking around for the foreseeable future.

Because floating decks are subject to sinking or heaving up at certain times of the year, although quite mildly in most cases, they should work independently, and not be attached to the home. As a result, and to ensure your floating deck remains stable and level, the beams supporting the joists should be constructed of three-ply 2x10s, spaced no more than eight feet apart. This triple beam should rest on 6×6 timbers (4x4s are no longer permitted) which will sit in the heavier 6×6 deck block.

If the floating deck is to be three or more feet off the ground, homeowners should consider using adjustable post brackets. Basically, the 6×6 posts get locked into the U-shaped, adjustable brackets, which in turn rest in the deck blocks.

The adjustable brackets are insurance against severe sinking or heaving, since they allow the homeowner to adjust the height of the supporting beam with the simple turn of a nut.

Good building.

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

In the hole

Adding to your deck? There are a few things you should know. Postmedia Network

Case #662, titled “Digger” has a Mr. Conrad W. Crete, his close buddies refer to him as “Con” or “CW”, looking to extend his existing backyard deck by another six feet.

His present deck spans the width of the home, but only extends out about 10 feet, which up to this point, has provided plenty of sitting and lounging space.

However, with a just purchased hot tub on the way, measuring about eigh ft. in diameter, the existing 10 foot depth allowance is going to be eaten up pretty quickly. Plus, C dub’ya wants to access his hot tub comfortably from all sides, which would require a new deck depth of at least 16 feet.

Mr. Crete’s present deck is of standard wood construction, complete with a ledger board attached to the home’s foundation, and four poured concrete piers, which support a beam and the balance of the joists system. At issue is the fact ‘Con’ wants to simply attach this deck extension to his existing deck, using deck blocks to support this new framework. In essence, he wants to attach a floating deck to a poured concrete pier deck.

Adding more challenge to the situation is the fact Mr. Crete is hoping to simply butt this new piece of framework up against the existing series of joists, enabling him to make a seamless transition from old surface decking to new.

In theory, and if all things could remain as dry and as warm as the day of assembly, then a floating deck attached to a permanent structure could possibly work. However, that’s not going to happen. Once the rain and snow melt seep through the floor boards, and/or the water runoff from the downspouts surround the deck blocks, with this dampening of the soil either causing the blocks to sink slightly, or heave up a little during the colder months, you’ll be able to sell tickets to school children by having them experience your crooked deck exhibition. Floating decks and permanent structures (such as a deck supported by piers, or your home) are like the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Stanley Cup. They’re fine apart, but never the two shall meet.

A floating deck can provide a good surface to live and play on, but because it’s susceptible to whatever ground forces lie underneath, it’s got to work independently. So, a floating deck can butt up to a home, or existing deck, which would allow you to make various adjustments to this deck if necessary, but it should never be attached.

C dub’ya really wanted to float this deck addition, since the thought of mixing cement was about as enticing as attending a 6 a.m. outdoor yoga class. The challenge would be in maintaining a seamless transition between existing deck structure and floating deck, since the floating deck is most likely to move a little bit, whereby even a one-quart to one-half inch of difference would create a dangerous trip hazard. It was then suggested to Con that he add 16 feet of floating deck, positioning it one step lower than his existing deck, creating a second tier (which would look quite attractive) while solving the issue of having to maintain a perfect seam, or transition, between the two surfaces.

This suggestion was quashed. Con and his wife Babette enjoy winter hot-tubbing, where C dub’ya felt the 10 ft. sprint between patio door and hot tub, dressed only in his bathrobe, at any point below 10 degrees Celsius, would result in shrinkage significant enough to affect the intimacy.

So, it looks like we’re digging. Because we’re elongating an existing deck, the support beams already in position were simply made about six feet longer, and would be supported by a second series of poured concrete piers. Additional lumber was then added to the existing piers, in order to help them support the connection between new and existing beams.

Case #662 closed. Good building.

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

Hardwood flooring

When it comes to hardwood flooring, know what you’re paying for. Postmedia Network

Case #502, tag name “Quick Draw” has a Mr. Bill ‘shorty’ Remington looking to purchase hardwood flooring for his newly constructed home. Shorty had seen some ‘Gunsmoke’ stained, pre-finished oak hardwood on special at the local Big Box outlet, and was wondering if we, the local family owned building supply center, could match their price by either procuring the same stuff, or finding something comparable in color and price.

The code on the product tag indicated this product was exclusive to the Big Box people, while the perspiration stains on the cardboard boxes were obviously those of exploited sweat shop workers and the under-aged, further evidence of product derived from the Orient. The advantage to having an exclusive product is that the consumer can’t really compare it, price or quality wise, with products from other retail outlets, since the “exclusive” supposedly represents, or signifies, a product only available through them. As a result, and without the information available to properly search this product’s grade ranking and origin, the buyer is left to make a decision based on this flooring’s general appearance. And, with a sales sticker overhead indicating some great, limited time offer, consumers may feel the urge to take advantage of this perceived special buy.

However, further examination of this exclusive product showed it had an uncanny resemblance to the ‘Buckshot’ series of pre-finished hardwoods, available nationally from Dodge City Distributors. So, the only thing exclusive about this hardwood flooring was the cardboard box, along with its almost undecipherable coding . . . almost. The Buckshot series of flooring is a mid-range product whose grade falls somewhere in between rustic grade flooring, which is recognizable by its color variated, knotty complexion, and select flooring, which is more uniform in color, has generally longer pieces, and no visible knots. So, this flooring could be what we call a natural grade, which is the usual tag name given to those floorings having a little bit of color variation, with only small, pin head sized knots.

But it wasn’t quite that either. To further confuse the grading issue, the planks of this Gunsmoke oak were finished with a micro-v bevel on the edges only, and not the butt ends, while the knots (although small) were filled and somewhat camouflaged with a color matched paste. The micro-v edge is a crucial feature in pre-finished flooring because the planks aren’t sanded after they’re installed. Unfinished flooring must be sanded after installation in order to smoothen the transition from plank to plank, due to the always slight variation in plank height. Otherwise, as people shuffle over the floor, slide chairs, or move furniture over top, the flooring would be subjected to chipping. Because pre-finished flooring essentially skips the post installation sanding stage, it requires a micro-v edge to smoothen the slight difference in plank height that you still get with a pre-finished product. This micro-v edge should be on all four exposed edges.

So, why was the v-edge omitted from the butt edges of these pre-finished flooring planks? Not sure. Either the grade school aged children who were given the task of v-edging couldn’t reach the router’s table top, so the task was forgotten in exchange for milk and cookie time, or the elimination of the butt edge micro-v was simply heralded as a strategic cost saving measure.

Next, paste filled knots look fine enough, but with hardwood flooring in a constant state of flux, there’s the likelihood that these fillers will become loose, exposing the knot, thereby dropping  your floor down a grade.

“So Shorty, wha da ya think?” I inquired, “I can source you the same stuff, at the same price, or you can pay an extra buck per square foot and get something you’ll really be satisfied with”, I concluded. Shorty paused for a moment, weighed the options, thought about which flooring his wife would prefer, then loaded up the wagon with the better grade.

Case #502 closed. Good building.

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

Little things on the deck

A little deck lighting is a good thing. File photo.

Building a deck isn’t exactly rocket science.

You’ve got a triple 2×10 beam, supporting 2×8 lumber spaced at every 16 inches on center, with either 2×6 or 5/4 decking planks fastened over top. That’s basically all the background education you’re going to require. Worst case scenario is that it’s built a little crooked, or not so level, with the odd crack and splinter here and there.

In the rocket science biz, one loose valve has 100 people in white jackets scrambling to solve the issue. In deck building, you could have a shaky newel post, missing spindles, and a couple of loose floor boards, and all the attention that would generate from the homeowner is him pulling up his undershirt and scratching his belly as he leans back into his plastic deck chair, along with the comment, “yep, I’ve got to get to that someday” while raising his beer in preparation for another chug.

So, we’re talking about two completely different animals. Regardless, there’s no reason why your deck can’t be a beautiful thing. The key is giving special attention to the little things.

So, helpful little deck thing no. 1, the “Decktrack” or “Camo” system of installing your treated lumber or cedar decking planks. Composite decking’s biggest advantage over regular wood decking is the fact the planks are pre-grooved on their edges, allowing the boards to be installing using a side mounting clip. So, no surface screws, which makes for a significantly more attractive finish. Decktracks are 4 ft. long pieces of angled steel that get fastened to the joist system, and allow the installer to drill into the planks from below, pulling the decking planks down snugly against the joists. The Camo tool is basically a clamp with two angled insert holes, and allows the installer to fix the decking plank into position by driving a specially designed deck screw into each side of the plank.

Either way, the result is no surface screws. No surface screws in lumber means no splinters, less chance of cracking, while providing a surface that will not only look better, but will sand and clean more effectively, which translates into the better acceptance of a stain.

Next, and regarding the issue of privacy between neighbors, consider the “Deck Sunblind” louver kit. If you’re looking to spend a little time in your hot-tub, and are a little bashful about exposing the neighbors to your newly acquired mesh speedo swimwear, you may prefer the intimacy of a solid side wall. Those will be referred to as closed louver moments. Otherwise, if it’s an especially warm day, you may want to experience a little breeze as you lounge on your deck with a sandwich and cool beverage, a.k.a. open louver times. The Deck Sunblind kit offers the versatility of both, providing you with the hardware to transform regular decking planks into a very decorative, and obviously very useful, louvered wall that can serve a number of various applications.

Next, consider post cap and deck lighting. Maneuvering on a back deck that may have a number of levels, and most likely a few steps, while being occupied by a full crew of family and friends can be awkward enough under direct sunlight. Under the moonlight though, with vision down about 75 per cent, and with 100 per cent of the remaining family and friends now half in the bag, relating barely discernible stories to themselves, lack of lighting could prove hazardous. So, consider the very easy to install solar post cap, that conveniently fits over a standard 4×4 treated or cedar post.

Deck lighting, following the perimeter of the deck, and especially on your stair risers, is also a good thing. Deck lighting units are best wired into your homes electrical panel, or an available outlet. Providing a brighter, more durable light, these wired lights can be controlled by a very convenient hand held device. So, click-em on at dusk, and click-em off once you kick the last straggler out at 2 am.

Good building.

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

Some woods like paint, some just don’t

The only thing worse than having to paint something once, is having to paint this same item a second time, and then a third, should the finish not turn out quite as good as expected.

So, understanding that having to paint something twice is about as inspiring as watching Maple Leafs pre-season hockey; while also understanding some products simply receive paint a little better than others, let’s make our lives a little easier by choosing products to paint that are actually paint-friendly.

Other than walls and ceilings, things we tend to paint on the interior of a home include moldings, window sills and buildouts, shelving, bookcases, or any number of craft-type projects.

Products that don’t paint so well include fir, spruce, particle board, and mahogany plywood. Wood species that are somewhat unfriendly to paint include knotty pine, spruce, and oak.

Why some product species have difficulty with accepting paint is mostly due to their porosity. When a wood species or plywood is somewhat porous, regardless of its hardness, it tends to absorb paint in a haphazard manner.

As a result and once dry, a porous surface, once painted, will have often produce a raised grain, where the wood fibers rise up like little hairs, creating an uneven sheen, which will require sanding and subsequent coats. The results certainly aren’t disastrous by any means, just unsatisfying.

Now, you may question, if I included spruce in my list of those species not so friendly to paint, then why in last week’s article was it recommended to paint your treated decking planks, which in most cases are made of this same spruce species?

That would be a fair inquiry.

The simple answer is, sometimes it comes down to money. First, outdoor wood products should be painted or stained, regardless of species. So, even though spruce may not be the most suitable product for painting, the fact it’s a fraction of the price of cedar, or composite lumber, makes treated lumber definitely worth the paint risk.

What species of wood best suits the exterior, and paints or stains really well?

That would be cedar. It’s light in weight, easy to cut, drill, and sand, whether you’re looking to build a multi-tiered deck, pergola, or a couple of traditional Adirondack chairs for the backyard.

If we’re talking outdoors and if it’s in the budget, make it out of cedar.

Back in the house, preferred products to use when a painted finish is desired include finger-joint pine, medium density fiberboard (aka MDF), and birch plywood.

Finger-joint pine boards differ from knotty pine planks in that the knots have been cut out, with the board being re-glued back together using what’s known as a finger joint, since the seam resembles the fingers of two hands interwoven together. Finger joint planks represent the best compromise between regular knotty pine and clear pine.

Although knots in a pine plank can technically be sealed with a primer or shellac type solution, in reality, and in time, knots always tend to bleed through to the surface, ruining what was a good finish. Clear pine would be an option, but it’s prohibitively expensive, making finger-joint pine the best value when painting.

Finger joint pine is generally three-quarters of an inch in thickness and available in planks ranging from 2.5 inches to 7.25 inches wide.

If a wider plank is needed, in the case of a deep window buildout, shelving, or bookcase, ask for paint-grade birch plywood. It’s less expensive than stain-grade plywood, but every bit as durable. Paint-grade birch ply can be ripped to any width.

If you’re an artistic or crafty type and are looking to install a cutout of Santa and his eight little reindeer on your lawn this Christmas, then look for Russian (aka Baltic) birch plywood. Available in a variety of thicknesses, Russian birch plywood is the best choice for really any interior wood project or craft that will require paint.

Good building.

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

Why do we stain our decks?

Why cut your lawn? Why comb your hair?

Or, if you’re a fellow old enough to remember the last time the Montreal Canadians won the Stanley Cup, why stick to the more conservative boxer short if you’re purchasing swimwear?

Because, in general, things just looks better that way.

So, why stain a wood deck, knowing full well your efforts will only last a year or two before the stain begins to wear and peal, requiring a repeat of the whole process?

Again, because in general, wood looks better when it’s painted or stained.

The alternative to staining or painting, is sitting idle while your decking planks begin to crack, splinter, warp a little, then turn grey over the next few years. Otherwise stated, they get old-looking.

So, to keep your deck looking as new as possible, for as long as possible, there’s no other solution than having to regularly apply stain.

Does applying a stain mean having to sand the wood beforehand? Not necessarily.

There are three different types of finishes to choose from when considering how to protect your cedar or treated-lumber deck. These choices include a clear coat, semi-transparent, and solid (aka opaque) type stains.

Clear coats and semi-transparent stains are traditional favorites because they accentuate the wood grain. The only issue with clears and semis is that sanding will be required every time. That’s because clear coats and semi-transparent stains are practically as thin as water, and as a result, need to sink deeply into the pores of the wood if they’re to effectively grab hold of the surface.

Unfortunately, wood pores can only be opened up by the act of sanding. If you skip the sanding stage, and simply apply a clear or semi type finish over a pre-existing clear or semi-transparent stain, or even bare wood, the liquid will dry on the surface then most likely peel as the year wears on.

Solid stains are my favorite because they don’t require the homeowner having to sand beforehand. The wood surface will need to be washed, in order to eliminate any surface oils and dirt, and primed, if were talking a new wood surface, but not sanded. Solid stains resemble a paint, in that they completely hide the grain, and only highlight the general texture of the wood.

So, if you’ve been used to seeing grain, a solid-colour surface is going to take a little time to get used to. However, telling yourself you’ll never have to sand again is often all the transitional therapy you’ll require.

Regardless of which type of finish you choose, success in staining will require a little help from the weather gods. Deck stains are like fair-weather golfers and only feel truly comfortable when there are white fluffy clouds in the sky, it’s not too hot, or too cold, with absolutely no chance of rain.

As a result, late summer and fall often offer the best windows of staining opportunity.

When do I paint or stain my new treated lumber or cedar deck? Basically, when the wood is dry.

Testing for dry can be done by randomly sealing (on all four sides) a few 4”x4”pieces of saran wrap to the top of various decking planks that will be in the sunlight for at least the next 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes, you see condensation developing on the underside of the plastic, the lumber is still too wet to stain.

Other keys to successful staining?

Buy a good quality brush, wear gloves, and be sure to choose work clothing— if you don’t rinse a stain splatter within the first 10 seconds, that supposedly water-soluble droplet will be there for life.

Other than that, ease the stress on the knees by strapping on a good pair of knee pads (hockey shin pads are a good alternative), take an Advil for the inevitable lower pain to come, turn the radio on, and get at ‘er.

Good building.

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

Inevitable roof moss

Some things are inevitable.

Every time I watch a movie called Titanic, the ship always sinks. Just the other day, I caught the 1997 version of “Titanic” about midway through the movie. Even though I’ve watched this same film about five times, albeit in portions, I still held hope that maybe the ship wouldn’t sink this time. But it did. You would have thought Captain E.J. Smith could have avoided that darn iceberg, since it hadn’t moved in 20 years, while Leonardo DiCaprio still managed to slip into the frigid ocean waters and die, after once again failing to find a half decent floatation device to support both he and Kate Winslet.

Spring and fall in our part of the world means our local weather reporters need only to remember three words when describing what atmospheric conditions we all have to look forward to in the morning, them being “wet and cloudy”.

If you own an asphalt or cedar shake roof, then persistent wet and cloudy conditions will lead to moss and algae growth, it’s inevitable. Moss and algae are basically plants. As a result, they require everything a plant needs to survive, including plenty of water, relative shade, a sprinkle of sunshine, and a reliable food source, or basically, the exact environment provided by the average roof in any one of our three united counties. Moss and algae differ from regular plant life in that they have no roots. However, they stick really well to practically any non-metallic surface, and once established, will do what plants and all living organisms do, and that’s multiply. Moss and algae are basically esthetic issues, whereby in mild cases, their appearance is worse than their bite. However, if allowed to persist, moss will grow in between the shingle tabs, loosening the necessary bond between these tabs, creating a path in which water could infiltrate into the plywood below.

When that happens, you get a roof leak, with the only solution to this problem being total roof shingle replacement. Unfortunately, knowing why moss exists on our roofs, doesn’t make avoiding or preventing it from happening any easier. The problem is the huge iceberg, which in this case represents our very accommodating environment. Temporary solutions to eliminating moss are those related to either cleaning or scrubbing the moss off the roof. The same type of bleach, ammonia, or regular home cleaning soaps that would be effective in cleaning mold, would be effective in removing moss. Roof, siding, and deck cleaners are also available on the shelves of your local building supply centers. The only issue of course is that your moss problem is situated on a roof, which is not only sloped, but has a granular surface that could become loose with basic foot traffic. Slope plus loose granular surface plus a 16-24 foot drop that leads to a sudden stop equals not having to worry about your moss problem anymore.

So, unless you own the same type of roof harness worn by professional roofers, I recommend avoiding that climb up the extension ladder. Besides, cleansers can be a little harsh on your plant and garden beds below.

What about pressure washing? Bad idea. Pressure washing from ground level will separate your shingle tabs and drive water underneath, basically achieving in minutes what will take your moss years to accomplish. Pressure washing from above is also not recommended because you’ll loosen the granular surface, again, aging your roof unnecessarily. Essentially, you’ve got to melt the iceberg, which means changing the environment. This can be accomplished by installing a strip of zinc banding just under the roof capping, or first row of shingles near the peak of the roof. Perform this task in warm weather, enabling you to more easily bend back the shingle tab. When it rains, tiny particles of zinc get washed down over the shingles. Zinc is poisonous to moss and algae, so in time, the moss will loosen up and fall off. Good moss fighting.

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

Find the source of those white stains

Efflorescence, a fibre-like mineral deposit — mostly salts — that indicates small, persistent moisture inflow. Before getting fluffy like this photo, it starts as white-coloured stains. Steve Maxwell/Postmedia Network

Got a tough laundry stain to get out? No problem.

Rinse the garment with cold water, then scrub in a little laundry detergent, let sit for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse once again.

Still not clean? OK, if were talking a piece of white apparel, try a little bleach, then rinse and scrub once again. Continue this process for 15 minutes, or until the next period of the hockey game commences.

If after giving this stain issue its due attention, the unsightly blotch consisting of a mélange of Molson Ex, chili sauce, and Dijon mustard, still persists, well, you’re going to have to live with the fact that balancing a meal on your stomach, the size of which could have fed a small village in Tanzania for two weeks, while watching the game, was probably a bad idea.

As a result, you can either live with the blotch, since a belly stain of this sort on a white t-shirt isn’t such an uncommon fashion statement for a man of your age, or toss the fine garment into a container in the garage containing various other undershirt apparel, that being the box simply labelled “rags.” Problem solved.

Now, what about house stains, and specifically, those relating to the white, powdery stuff on your brick or stone work— how does a homeowner deal with that relatively common stain issue?

Well, water, soap, and a little scrubbing will help, but it won’t solve the problem. The white residue often seen on cement floors, concrete foundations, as well as various cement sidings, including brick or man-made stone concrete products, is called efflorescence.

Taken from the French “to flower out,” efflorescence describes the action of salt in the cement product, or mortar, migrating to the surface of the concrete by moisture that has infiltrated the concrete.

Where does the salt come from? Salt exists in the ground, in the air, and can be found in just about every type of food and living organism.

If you’ve ever worn a ball cap on a scorching summer afternoon, where you likely perspired off a few pounds, then left your cap on the coat hook to dry at the end of the day, only to find a white residue having stained its surface by morning, that, in a nutshell, defines the action resulting in efflorescence.

Salt in the brick or stone gets liquefied by rain water or moisture that has infiltrated the brick. This salt infused moisture then makes its way to the surface of the brick through various pores in the product, then dries when it hits the open air, leaving a salt residue.

How do we clean off the efflorescence? First, scrub with a stiff bristled brush, then rinse with water. If the efflorescence contains calcium deposits, as well as salt, this is going to be a much more stubborn removal.

As a result, you may have to revert to using muriatic acid (diluted 1 to 20 in water). Muriatic acid is extremely corrosive. Therefore, you’re best to hire a professional cleaner for this task. They will have the proper clothing, ladders, and harnesses to safely work with this product.

The only issue with cleaning is that it’s likely a temporary solution. Efflorescence is unattractive, but not harmful to you or your brick. However, it is a sign of moisture entering the brick wall, or foundation, in some way.

So, avoiding further efflorescence issues means eliminating the cause. Basically, you’ll need to check your water management systems. This includes verifying the manner in which your landscape slopes away from your foundation, ensuring the roof valleys and flashings are effectively directing water to the roof’s edge, and everything in between. The in between stuff includes window sills, caulking around windows and doors, and making sure your roof edge properly deposits water into the eavestroughing.

If you’ve got efflorescence on your siding or foundation, moisture is somehow making its way in.

Next week, roof stains. Good building.

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

Once upon a roof

Roofing has changed quite a bit over the years. Postmedia Network

Home builders once used 1×8 spruce planking to cover the roof trusses of a new home under construction. That was once.

The strategy basically involved the following. Build the retaining walls for the poured concrete foundation using 1×8 spruce lumber. Then, once the cement was dry, the spruce planking would be removed and used as sheeting material over the roof trusses. One product, serving two purposes, and although a little labor intensive, produced hardly any clean-up or waste to speak of. In those days we also put chains on our summer tires for better winter traction, used rotary phones, and thought lawn darts to be a great summer game for the whole family.

Times have changed. Winter tires have become the standard, rotary phones are about as common as a Stanley cup parade down Yonge Street, while lawn darts have been taken off the retail consumer shelves completely, having been remarketed as the preferred weapon of choice for those low-budget mercenary types.

Was the use of 1×8 spruce planking as a roof sheeting a bad idea? In retrospect, no. Back then we were roofing homes with what was known as an organic shingle, due to its base consisting of a mixture of asphalt and wood fibers. Organic shingles were flexible, and molded themselves easily over the not so perfect 1×8 planking. Plus, warranties back then were in the 10-15 year range. So, if a roof lasted 10-12 years or so, people were generally satisfied. If tearing off these old shingles and replacing them with new ones seemed excessive, people would simply re-roof, adding a second, or even third layer of asphalt shingles. If the homeowner chose to go with steel roofing, as opposed to asphalt, then the steel would either get screwed directly to the planking, or the installer would first install 1×4 rough spruce, spaced every 16-24 inches, over the existing 1×8 planking. Either way, emphasis concerning the protection of one’s home was placed on the surface product, not so much on the substrate.

Today, roofs occasionally leak. In the olden days, they leaked a lot. Why roofs leak less today has everything to do with the substrate, along with better education and information relating to proper venting, and attic insulation. So, what have we learned over the years? 1×8 spruce lumber will expand, shrink, and with prolonged exposure to water, will of course rot. However, the main knock against the old plank system is the issue of movement. You can’t install something that doesn’t want to move, like fiberglass shingles, or steel roofing, over something that naturally, due to our varying climate and atmospheric conditions, can’t stay still. That would be like wrapping a puppy in gift paper, setting it under the tree Christmas Eve, and expecting it to stay still, without wrinkling or tearing the wrapping paper, until the surprised recipient picks it up the next morning.

When the substrate moves, screws loosen, nails pop, and when the shingle tiles separate from each other, or in the case of steel roofing, the overlap on the ridge develops a gap, your roof will no longer be water impermeable.

The first sign of a breach in the roofing system is the decorative sunburst that develops on your ceiling, or a domed ceiling fixture filled with water, enabling you to create the very unique ceiling fish bowl (just don’t turn on the power).

The key to a roof’s long term success in shedding water is stability, and that can only be achieved by nailing or screwing it into plywood. So, if you own a home with a boarded roof, be sure to remove all existing shingles, then fasten a layer of 3/8” spruce plywood directly to the 1×8 lumber. Next, cover this plywood with a quality synthetic felt, then install the required roof venting. Your roof is now ready to receive the finished product.

Good building.

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

The camper

Case no.424, titled ‘The Not so Happy Camper’ has us examining the case involving a Mr. Lee K. Tent a.k.a. “the camper” and his frustrations with a building supply center that inadvertently burnt his marshmallows.

As the story goes, the camper ordered a bathroom vanity and sink combination, and was told the unit would take approximately two to three weeks to arrive. A few days into week two, the camper inquired as to the exact timing of the delivery, and was given a tentative date of Wednesday, the usual delivery day for this Toronto based manufacturer, in the week that was to follow. The camper was then cautioned that due to this particular week having a long weekend, with Monday being a holiday, the vanity unit could, and most likely would, be delayed until Thursday, or maybe even Friday of that same week.

Furthermore, the camper was also instructed that as soon as the vanity arrived, he would be called, and an arranged time for said delivery established.

With that knowledge tucked safely into his zippered chest pocket, the camper threw caution into the campfire, hedged the likelihood of a timely delivery with the prayer that a long weekend in Ontario wouldn’t have the 401 backed up from Belleville to Burlington, and in anticipation of a Wednesday delivery, instructed his plumber to arrive first thing Thursday morning.

Thursday morning arrives, along with the sun, chirping birds, a plumber with a full coffee thermos, but no vanity. Camper waits until noon to call, tells the salesperson he’s been paying a plumber to twiddle his thumbs for the last four hours, wants to know when he will be receiving his vanity, and further wants to know who’s going to compensate him for the time loss and money owed to his plumber.

With the answer to this request somewhat beyond the responsibility scale of the salesperson in question, it’s recommended to camper that he speak directly with management. Upon meeting the manager, our disgruntled soul simply states, “Hello, my name is Lee K. Tent, and just so you know, I’m not a happy camper.”

Why do people camp? What’s the attraction to leaving the safe confines of your home, your couch, your fridge, and especially a bathroom only 15 paces away, to live in a ghetto of tents and trailers, where the only hint of running water is the charming sound of your intoxicated neighbor urinating against the bumper of your pick-up truck?

Although sympathetic to the emotional stress and non-substantiated financial loss of this unhappy camper, the manager unfortunately had to school Mr. Tent on the fact his high risk renovation strategy was pretty well doomed from the moment he dialed 1-800-plumber.

The strategy to ordering cabinetry, appliances, or any type of product that requires installation, should be as follows. Once the product is ordered, and an approximate timeline of delivery is established, check the availability of your preferred licensed tradesperson. Don’t book a date, simply establish a week where this installer could be available. If the product you’ve ordered is going to require several weeks to arrive, have your supplier keep you updated on its progress. When you’re told of your product’s impending delivery to your home, notify, but don’t book your installer. There are too many variables, gremlins, and unknown forces out there that could still rain on your campfire.

Next, be home when the delivery crew arrives with your cabinet, making sure to having cleared the walkway. Installing a roll of protective cardboard felt on your floor, should this unit need to be carried to a specific area, is also a good idea.

Finally, inspect the unit. If there are no dents and scratches, if it’s of the right size and color, and if there are no reasons to demand its return, call your installer.

With the camper having failed to follow any of these precautions, he was left holding his uncooked sausage, with no further compensation provided. Case #424 closed.

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