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

The forgotten 90 per cent

A window's design and look is very important, but so to is its efficiency. File photo
A window’s design and look is very important, but so to is its efficiency. File photo

While a window’s style, frame and parts only contribute to about 10 per cent of what you get in a window unit, these details usually receive most of the attention from potential buyers. And that’s fair. Looks, color, and means of operation, are key, to be sure.

However, when shopping for windows, don’t dismiss what can often be the make or break feature in a windows efficiency, a.k.a. the forgotten 90 per cent, with that factor being of course the glass.

It wasn’t so long ago that dual, or thermal pane glass, hit the market. Basically two single panes of glass bonded together with a half-inch air tight seal in between, dual pane glass allowed homeowners their first true glimpse of winter from the inside.

Before the thermal unit, single pane glass provided the perfect surface for condensation, where on a really cold day, this natural phenomenon would often cover the entire pane with a sheet of frost. Quite decorative, in a way, frosty glass would provide youngsters with hours of creative fun time. Pressing your nose up against the glass would of course create a spot, and if you made a fist, then pressed the side of your hand up against the glass, then dotted the top of this image with your thumb and finger tips, you could simulate little bare feet walking across the glass, hilarious stuff.

Unfortunately, dual pane glass, along with further advancements including argon gas and Low-e film, and perhaps the introduction of the in-home computer and X-Box, totally killed this once cherished pastime. A good, or necessary thing I suppose, since the frost would eventually melt and puddle on the window sill, causing the paint to peal, and if left totally uncared for, would lead to the ultimate demise of the sill due to rot.

So, where are we today? Well, the standard dual glass, argon filled, Low-e panes stay relatively clear, with there being the occasional few inches of condensation at the bottom of a thermal pane, should there be an excess of humidity in the home. However, just like the transition days of single pane glass to the dual pane thermal unit, if your plan is to renovate this spring, or build a new home, it’s time to bump things up the efficiency ladder again. Why? Because with the costs of heating and cooling a home forever on the rise, adding energy efficiency, or improving the efficiency of any particular element of the home, be it insulation levels, furnace systems, or in this case, almost doubling the R-factor of your window panes, just makes good financial sense.

Where’s the bar set for window glass now? Triple pane, double Low-e coating, with argon gas. This triple pane version delivers a thermal resistance value of R-7.51, basically crushing the R-3.8 value of today’s regular dual, Low-e/argon glass pane, and eclipsing the R-2 value of the original, but cutting-edge in its day, thermal pane glass. The triple pane glass essentially eliminates the condensation issue, and acts as an excellent sound barrier, which can be of great value to those persons whose homes are situated along the 401, or who are regularly awakened by the toot of the Via rail locomotives. The double Low-e option does what Low-e film is designed to do, only at twice the efficiency of course, and basically reflects your furnace heat back into the room. Further to the Low-e strategy is a system called ‘Sunstop’, which effectively modifies the reflective values of the Low-e film in order to keep solar heat out. Why keep solar heat out? In most cases, our homes should welcome all the solar heat we can get. However, some home or renovation plans call for a southern facing wall that is practically all glass. Neat concept, but on a typical summer day, this type of scenario will roast you quicker than the chicken you just put on the BBQ. So, in the case of massive southern facing windows, the Sunstop system certainly has its purpose.

Therefore, when window shopping, don’t forget it’s 90 per cent glass.

Good building.

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

Let’s not regress in our thinking

Basement windows should be easily accessible to get out of, in case of emergrency.
Basement windows should be easily accessible to get out of, in case of emergrency.

Continuing our talk on basement egress, what do we know so far?

One, a basement requires two points of exit in the case of emergency, such as a fire, or if you’re Alex Galchenyuk of the Montreal Canadians, and are placed in the awkward situation of having your girlfriend show up at your post-game party where a few young ladies are found lounging on your bed.

With the stairs blocked, or inaccessible during the chaos of a smoke filed room, or the heat of an enraged French lady with Prussian temperament, the egress window may undoubtedly be your only salvation.

And two, for a room to be considered a bedroom, the space must have a means of ventilation (either by the window having three sq. ft. of open screen area, or by a mechanical blower) and a source of natural light (minimum five per cent of the room’s sq. footage).

So, why not make the window egress compliant from the get go? When slid open, or tilted upward, an egress compliant window will need to provide a space that’s at least 15 inches wide, with a total opening of 548 sq. inches, or 3.8 sq. feet.

It should be noted that some horizontal sliders offer in-swinging type of sashes, or a lift and remove option for both the fixed and sliding window panes. Although this would effectively create the required opening for egress compliancy, and allow the homeowner to install a smaller, perhaps more convenient sized window, these conditions aren’t egress worthy.

In order to be egress compliant, a window must not require any special tools, or educated knowhow, to open. In other words, opening a window to its full exit potential can’t require a person, teary eyed, panicked, and suffering from smoke inhalation, having to follow a co-ordinated series of window movements in order to save their butts.

Basically, without any prior knowledge as to how a window operates, the egress friendly window will simply slide open, or tilt up, with minimal effort by the first time user. How does a person, or child, reach the egress window in a basement?

On any other floor in the home, an egress compliant window must be no more than 39 inches off the floor. However, due to the in-ground condition of our basements, where windows are installed 5-6 feet off the finished floor, no such rules apply in Ontario. On the other hand, international egress rules state that even a basement egress window should be no more than 44 inches off the floor.

My recommendation? Modify the room environment in order to minimally adhere to the international requirement.

This view is based on the fact I’ve seen somebody pull themselves up, tuck their knees in, and slip through an opening as narrow as 15 inches, with any type of fluidity, only twice.

Tony Curtis did it in his 1953 portrayal of Harry Houdini, and there was a Romanian gymnast who accomplished the feat during a most recent performance of Cirque de Soleil.

Tony Curtis, God bless ‘im, and a great actor, is no longer with us, and assuming this readership doesn’t include that particular troop of circus performers, I suggest a bench, desk, or some type of furniture arrangement underneath the window, in order to facilitate exiting.

Now, once you’ve made it out the window, are there any other obstructions that may hamper your egress compliancy? Solid earth might pose a problem.

Window wells are a common solution to basement windows that, due to the grade of the surrounding soil, get buried to about half their height.

Unfortunately, the 12 inch deep window well has historically been a common solution. And, if squeezing through the 15 inch window opening took all you could muster, further funneling yourself through a 12 inch space will most likely lead to your ultimate demise. That’s why egress code compliancy demands you install the new standard of a 22 inch deep (distance between window opening and corrugated wall) type of window well.

Build safe, and build to code.

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

Basement egress compatability

Not to be mistaken for the long legged, white feathered, s-necked bird that somewhat resembles our local Heron, because that would be the basement Egret, basement egress means satisfying the building code regarding the safe exiting of a living space during an emergency.

In a finished basement, the Ontario building code will require the homeowner having at least one egress window within the immediate living space.

What if when finishing a basement, the homeowner wishes to add a bedroom or two, in order to create more living space, add value to the home, or to serve as a rental space?

Renovating a basement into living space is a popular do-it-yourself project. Unfortunately, it’s also one of those projects that tends to fly under the radar of our local inspection department.

For whatever reason, why the nosy Mrs. Tuddlemeyer’s, otherwise known as those who head our neighborhood spy and rumor committees, tend to jump on the hot line as soon as someone invests 2,500 bucks on a backyard deck, yet fail to notice the delivery trucks feeding $20,000 worth of material into a basement, is not understood.

What’s at risk to not having proper basement renovation permits? Building code non-compliance.

Does not following the rules have a consequence? Not until the poo-poo hits the fan, and you receive a hand delivered, registered letter from the firm of Goldberg, Eckstein, and Wertheimer.

These letters usually request your explanation as to why, during your most recent house fire, their client, and your renter, couldn’t manage to squeeze his butt through your non-compliant bedroom window, and due to his subsequent loss of life, wanted to begin the compensation package negotiation at a conservative 20 million bucks.

That’s when you realize the extra costs of installing a proper egress window in this basement bedroom, would have been a relatively reasonable investment. Until then, of course, non-compliance is a piece of cake.

So, if a basement renovation is in mind, let’s get on board with the permit process.

If you’re looking to buy a home which happens to have a finished basement, be sure to check out its code compliancy before signing on the dotted line. There’s no bonus to a home with a finished basement if it fails code.

What may be advertised as a three-bedroom home with an extra bedroom downstairs, may only legally qualify as a three-bedroom home with a large downstairs shoe closet. Even though the Ontario building code only requires one egress window somewhere in the basement space (provided it’s within 80 feet of the bedroom), because a room cannot be considered a “bedroom” without ventilation and at least five sq. ft. of natural light (based on a 10×10 room), a bedroom will require a window of some sort.

So, for the sake of a few inches of extra height or width, why not make it egress compatible, giving you the peace of mind that family or guests are sleeping in a safe area, right from the start.

What qualifies a widow to be egress acceptable? When slid open, the space created shall be no less than 15 inches in height or width, and not less than 542 sq. inches, or 3.8 sq. ft. total.

So, if we’re talking about a standard sliding window, of which only half qualifies (because the non-sliding sash is considered fixed) your basement bedroom window would have to be about 24″x68″ or 30″x55″ overall. Another option would be to consider an official basement window, or hopper style series, whereby the sash tilts inward towards the ceiling, locking in position once it’s fully extended.

Because of the full access quality of a hopper operator, this style of basement window would allow a smaller, more common 24″x36″ size of unit.

Next, can you reach your egress window?

Or, or should you be working on your upper back strength. And, once you’ve opened the sash, is there still room to manouevre out?

More on egress compatibility next week.

Good building.

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

Window cents

“I just had new windows installed, and on that first really windy day, we could feel the air coming in even worse than our old panes, so what’s up with that”, or “when I hold a candle up to my new windows, the flame is flickering, so there’s got to be a leak somewhere, right”, are some of the comments we occasionally hear in the retail window biz.

Are these people delirious? Other than those who believe the Maple Leafs will not be playing golf in April, probably not.

However, getting what you requested, or what you paid for, may not have been exactly what you needed, based on location and/or on the direction to which the house faces.

In the case of a high wind, trees lose their branches, shingles fly off the roof, and anything that isn’t bolted into concrete is pretty well in danger of being toppled, or like a window, having its normally air tight seal compromised.

If an older window was better than its newer replacement at deflecting the force of a direct wind, it was either painted or swelled shut, or was of a different construction. Otherwise, today’s PVC or aluminum windows are definitely superior to those units of 15-20 years past.

Again, however, if the home you purchased had the best of casement (crank out) wood windows, and you’ve replaced them with the least expensive double hung (vertical slider) available on the market, then there could very well be a difference in certain areas of performance. In most cases, and unless the window frame is rotting, people replace the windows on their home because of operational difficulties.

Basically, if it won’t open properly, it’s time for a change. When buying new windows, it’s important to examine the various criterions regarding window performance, as well as price.

For example, you may like the look, general operation, and easy to clean ‘tilt-in’ features of a double hung window, but when it comes to wind resistance, it’s going to rank well below that of a casement.

In order for a window sash to be slid upwards without the homeowner dislocating a vertebrae, there’s a fine line between constructing a window sash that’s relatively air tight, but at the same time easily movable.

When ease of motion, looks, and cleaning options become primary requests, then performance against the elements can suffer. Because casement windows can be cranked shut, then further locked into position by a mechanism that tugs the sash even more tightly into the frame, equaling the wind resistance grade of a casement style window is going to be tough.

There are two formats that allow the consumer to compare window performance. They are the CSA-A440 test, and the Canadian ER (energy rating) system.

The CSA-A440 test grades a window on its air infiltration, water penetration, wind load resistance, and even its capability of resisting forced entry. So, be sure to compare the results of these tests between window types, and manufacturers, in order to get a true picture of the amount of bang you’re getting for the buck.

The ER system rates overall performance based on solar heat gain, heat loss through the frame, spacers, and glass, and air leakage in relation to heat loss.

ER is basically the plus/minus of the window world, whereby a plus number indicates that this specific window keeps more heat in, than it lets out.

The ER rating can often be boosted by investing in the superior triple-pane and double Low-E glazing systems. So, look at the ER rating before making your purchase.

That double hung or horizontal sliding unit may seem like a good deal, but if it’s a Dion Phaneuf (currently at -4) series window, with all the efficiency of a bus with two flat tires, you may want to consider spending a few more bucks on a Drew Doughty (plus 16) type model, which will at least give you the peace of mind that you’re getting full value for your purchase.

Good building.

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

A little respect for the underlay

“My wife used to be afraid of the dark . . . then she saw me naked, and now she’s afraid of the light.”

And, “I drink too much, the last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it”,  are a couple of classic one-liners by the man who never got respect, Rodney Dangerfield.

So, how does today’s ‘lack of respect’ theme have anything to do with building products, and specifically underlays?

Well, in the residential building biz, homeowners tend to place the utmost of importance on what you see, as opposed to what’s underneath. What you see, or the finished product, is of course important because that’s what you’re going to be waking up to, coming home to, and entertaining guests on, so you want it to look good.

As a result, homeowners tend to splurge the bulk of their budgets on the finished product, while kind of forgetting, or paying little attention to, the seemingly irrelevant underlay, simply because it’s buried.

Underlays are what you place in between the finished floor, and the existing subfloor.

Subfloors may consist of concrete, if we’re dealing with a basement renovation, or plywood, if we’re focusing on any other room in the house. The amount of attention, or money, a homeowner puts towards an underlay, will coincide directly with the basic requirements of the chosen finished floor, and/or on how you expect this finished floor to perform.

Because the subfloor is tied into the structure or framework of the home, you’re basically going to have to accept whatever’s there as your starting point.

So, whether the subfloor consists of concrete, plywood, or in the case of an older home, 1×6 spruce planks, unless you’re prepared to open up the entire joist system, changing or tampering with the subfloor is unlikely.

Therefore, with the subfloor a fixed asset, and the finished floor decided on, it’s important to realize the value of, and give a little respect to, the product that’s going to make or break the long term performance of your finished floor, and that’s the underlay.

Why do we have underlay products? Because in most cases, finished floors aren’t directly compatible with the existing subfloor.

Laminate or engineered floorings, for example, are popular choices for the basement because they’re a good value and easy to care for. However, due to possible moisture issues, wood composites and concrete aren’t good partners.

As a result, laminate floors placed over concrete will minimally require the buffer of a poly (vapor barrier)/ foam underlay. A poly/foam underlay is all you need, and at pennies per square foot, is certainly an affordable must have.

However, there are better choices out there.
Does better cost more? Always.

Poly foams solve any potential moisture issues, but unfortunately will do little to negate the cool dampness one feels when walking on a basement floor. This ‘coolness on the feet’ can be resolved by first installing 2’x2’ Barricade, or DRIcore, underlay panels.

Referred to as sub-floor panels, these floating underlay sheets take the chill out of a basement floor, making life in the basement a whole lot more comfortable.

Barricade is an OSB (oriented strand board) underlay panel with a ridged foam backing, while DRIcore has a plastic dimpled backing. Both do the job, whereby choosing one over the other is entirely based on whether extra R-value, or moisture control, is of greater importance.

Ceramic tile? Même chose, whether it be installed on the wall, or on the floor, you’re going to need an underlay. Tiles being installed in a shower area will absolutely require an impermeable membrane such as Schluter’s Kerdi matting, or Hydraflex sealant, installed over the plywood or mold resistant drywall.

Because floor ceramics require absolute rigidity, cement board or Schluter’s Ditra membrane are your best choices.

Moral to the story? Don’t skimp on the underlay, it’s the key to a long-lasting finish.

Good building.

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

Let ‘er slide

We had garden, or regular in-swinging doors, leading onto our back deck once. Once!

Now we have sliding patio doors, and they’re a welcome change.

Generally purchased in either a five or six foot width, the standard white vinyl sliding door has been a staple in new home construction for the past 50 years.

Basically, if you were building a new home or addition, and there was to be a deck attached, in all likelihood there was going to be a sliding patio door involved.

Why was the choice of a patio door such a popular one? Value.

For about half the price of a double door system with full length glass, the standard patio door delivered a full view, clean look, with a simple operating mechanism. Plus, you had the bonus of a sliding screen, making the decision of choosing a patio door over conventional doors a no-brainer.

Downside to these original series patio doors? Unimpressive locking system, with a limited colour selection that included white, white and white.

Then came the garden door, basically a double door, hinged either at the side, or stylishly hinged at the center mullion, with of course the newly designed sliding screen option.

Now home builders were able to have the somewhat classier look of a double door, due to its wider style and rail, with the convenience of a screen to let in that welcomed summer breeze. Further bonuses to choosing a garden door included a basically unlimited choice of door colours, along with a frame colour that would match the windows, should the choice be other than white.

Plus, garden doors could be accessorized with the same type of lockset and deadbolt as the other exterior doors, so there was a consistency factor that made choosing the garden door, even at its elevated price, the better decision.

The downside of a garden door is that it swings inwards. Not a big deal if you’ve got the living room, bedroom, or kitchen space to spare.

However, if things are already a little tight, the person seated closest to the door is certainly in peril of having their afternoon tea tossed onto their lap every time somebody bumps their chair in an attempt to get in or out of the home.

That hasn’t changed, and until the standard butt hinge is replaced, or sees some major metamorphosis in its structure, doors will continue to require space as they swing inward.

What about swinging a door towards the outside? Although possible, it’s not a recommended option. Out-swinging doors take up valuable deck space regardless, and require a deck platform equal in height to the door sill, otherwise they can be a real tripping hazard.

Plus, a strong wind will tear an out-swinging door right out of your fingers, which can certainly damage the slab, and minimally surprise the bejesus out of the first time victim.

Finally, an out swinging door would require an inside sliding screen, which would look odd.

So, why the switch back to the seemingly antiquated, sliding patio door?

Colour, of course. Combo PVC (coloured exterior, white interior) sliding doors have become the new go-to product for home owners requesting their doors match the exterior windows, which have made the switch from white sash and frame, to the more decorative grey and pebble colours.

Black (aluminum) coloured sliding doors are also becoming very popular, due perhaps to the sliding patios narrow style and frame, which appears quite elegant when these thinner lines are inserted into a stone or brick veneer.

Are wood sliding doors available? Absolutely. Aluminum cladding will finish the exterior, with the customer having a variety of choices regarding wood specie and stain colour for the interior.

What if a person fears missing the look of their garden door? Go with the wider style and rail option, which combines the prestige of a garden door with the convenience of a sliding unit.

Good building!

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

Accepting your stone foundation

Old stone homes are beautiful. They're also pretty cold, especially in the basement. Our Handyman Hint solution? Accept it for what it is, unless you're willing to pour a lot of money into it.
Old stone homes are beautiful. They’re also pretty cold, especially in the basement. Our Handyman Hint solution? Accept it for what it is, unless you’re willing to pour a lot of money into it.

We owned a century home with a stone foundation once. Once!

As a result, when it comes to giving advice to those persons looking to invest in a home built before the invention of the automobile, and who have further ideas of transforming this stone foundation into useable storage space, I can only offer the following, “may the strength and courage of your faith guide you accordingly”.

My faith guided me right back up the stairs to our kitchen table, where within 45 minutes I had completed a drawing and structural details to our future garden shed. That’s my recommendation to those persons looking to use a stone basement for anything other than keeping a few bottles of wine slightly chilled — build the more convenient and certainly more practical alternative, that being a shed.

Should all stone foundations be judged so harshly? Absolutely.

However, the guidelines as to how user friendly a stone basement is, lies entirely on the reparation work done by the previous owner. In our case, the previous tenants were farmers and retired crafters.

So, the basement was left relatively unchanged since its modest beginnings in 1825. Which, meant whitewashed stone walls, an uneven ground floor, along with the standard “be prepared to duck” floor to ceiling beam height of about 5-1/2 feet.

Plus, two inches of floodwater would appear like clockwork every first day of spring. As a result, considering this basement area for storage space (provided it was off the floor) was slim, with any thoughts of potential living area being created out of this dungeon about as likely as a Stanley Cup parade down Yonge Street.

Needless to say, we continued the trend of ignoring the basement issue, and chose to instead direct our home renewal funds towards a new kitchen and subsequent pool.

However, what an engineer, or more structurally inclined fellow would have done, is address the basement.

How? By steadying the home with a new series of joists and strategically placed hydraulic jacks, the basement floor would be dug down a further three feet.

Next, with a new footing installed, and poured concrete knee-wall supporting the existing stone structure, we would lay the lines to our internal weeping tile system and sump pump well.

Finally, a concrete floor would be spread and levelled overtop. That’s a previous owner who would have done us one heck of a favor, regardless of the cost.

Moral of the story, for best results, buy a home formerly owned by an engineer. Otherwise, most stone foundations are caught somewhere in between their original state and complete renewal, having been subject to the usual piecemeal grout repairs.
Should a future home buyer be concerned about investing in a home with a stone foundation? Absolutely not.

We loved our stone home, and could we have logistically moved it to our new property without the aid of four Sea King helicopters, we probably would have.

Like everything else in this world, if you love most of what you see, you’re going to accept some of the weaknesses.

Is a stone foundation a concern? Stone foundations are energy losers. Solid rock is a poor insulator, while the mortar joints are responsible for continual air and moisture infiltration.

Now, combine that scenario with a ground floor, or concrete floor that may be cracked or in disrepair, and we’re talking one heck of an influx of dampness.

Remedy? If you’ve got 200 thousand bucks to spend, you re-do the basement in the aforementioned manner. Otherwise, your goal will be controlling the water, which can be accomplished by addressing the sloping landscape and eavestrough systems outside, with the possible help of a weeping tile line and sump pump unit inside.

With a strategy in place to handle the rain and ground water, a proper concrete floor, complete with ridged foam board and vapor barrier, would be the next step, solving most of the moisture issues, while at least providing you with a somewhat useable storage space.

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