Not worth losing your head over

Might look nice, but is it up to code? Pinterest photo
Might look nice, but is it up to code? Pinterest photo

Negligence; the failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another.

Case #255, titled ‘Heads will roll’, has our Mr. Blimp inquiring as to the availability of aviation wire. Since his list of previously quoted items included 2×8 joists, 4×4 posts, and various other lumber materials, his request for aviation wire intrigued me. Was this Mr. Blimp to construct a rejuvenated version of the Howard Hughes ‘Spruce Goose’, with the aviation wire used to support a great wing expanse of golden brown plywood? And, will the balance of the aircraft equally benefit from the advancements of time, basking in the glory of our new age pressure treated lumber?

Unfortunately, no such plan was in the making. The aviation wire was to be used in replacement of the more traditional spindle, and be installed horizontally, perhaps every 8-10 inches apart, tautly stretched from post to post, on a proposed backyard deck. No doubt an attractive, nautical type of installation manner (being the preferred railing system of most cruise ships), offering the person on the deck a relatively unobstructed, clear view of whatever landscape formed their backyard, the horizontal line strategy unfortunately contravenes our local building code.

When Mr. Blimp was made aware of the fact this type of horizontal install, be it wire, rope, board, or spindle type of railing structure, would not only violate the four-inch spacing bylaw, but would further be non-compliant due to this system permitting a child to easily climb over the railing, he remained unfazed. “Well, I’m not getting a building permit” were his justifying words.

According to the household insurance people, negligence is certainly subjective. Being held financially or legally liable, as the result of somebody injuring themselves on your property, due to you, as the homeowner, inviting people onto a backyard deck that was not code compliant, is arguable, and like everything else, subject to interpretation.

If a homeowner, after having a guest, or neighborhood child, injure themselves on their property, were to be asked the question, “Were you intentionally negligent in the construction of your deck, and deliberately designed it in a manner to inflict injury?” Most of us would, I suspect, answer with a definite “no”, and moreso, be quite shocked by such a damning inquiry.\

However, in Mr. Blimp’s case, he was aware of the fact he required a permit for his deck construction, and was further aware of the fact his proposed railing system was not code compliant. So, would moving forward with this strategy make him careless, reckless, just plain negligent, or none of the above?

In this case, Mr. Blimp remained defiant, and built his deck and railing according to his plan. Days later, as fate would have it, a child broke their ankle after climbing over the railing. The following week, an invited guest, late Saturday evening, decapitated himself after attempting to squeeze in between the aviation wires in a hurried attempt to retrieve his fallen beer.

So, who pays for the damages? Again, it becomes subjective. In the lawsuit to come, will it be discovered that the little kid was left unsupervised by his babysitter, or that the decapitated guest was by his own doing, inebriated. With luck very much in Mr. Blimp’s corner, both suits were amicably settled. The small child was paid off with a year’s subscription to an ice cream of the month club. The girlfriend of the decapitated man, having been desensitized to the trauma by binge watching all six seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ over the previous weekend, and citing a strained relationship anyway, due to this fellow being a Leafs fan, accepted as fair compensation the same ice cream of the month club.

Case #255 closed.

Not all breaks and decapitations end up so rosy, or easily negotiated. My recommendation, avoid negligence. Build safe, and build to code.

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

Sway me over to a wider door

Over the last 10 years my elbows have been taking a beating. What seems to be the cause?

Well, I’m not a member of the army reserves, so it’s not due to me having to crawl on all fours during bi-weekly basic training. I don’t play tennis, and I don’t arm wrestle, after being soundly defeated by little Wendy Shulster in the quarterfinals of the 1972 primary school sports activity week. The problem, after further investigating the situation, and studying the effects of time on the human body, has been pinpointed to one specific affliction affecting most of us over the age of 40, that being “sway”.

Basically, if you’re under the age of 40, you probably walk a relatively straight line. Over 40, well, we’re facing two realities. One, we probably wouldn’t fit into our high school gym shorts. And two, with sports injuries, manual labor, or the weight of life having taken its toll, the head movement of the average middle ager as they perform the simple task of walking, is like following the crow’s nest of a sailing ship on a stormy night.

That natural sway that we develop isn’t exactly a handicap, unless of course you’re attempting to move from one room of the home, to the other. Basically, I can’t manage to carry a basket of clothing, move even a light piece of furniture, or carry a burger in one hand, beer in the other, through a standard sized 30 inch doorway, without bumping at least one elbow. Give me more than 40 lbs. to carry, and I end up pin-balling my way through.

Solution? Widen the doorways. Now, I don’t expect those persons in existing homes to start taking a sledge hammer to perfectly good interior doors and frames, unless of course you’re totally fed up with bruised limbs. However, as we progress from those first starter type homes, and look to build for the first time, it might be a good idea to keep our aging lifestyle in mind as we design the floorplan. Or, if your middle-aged income will allow you to begin extensive renovations on an existing home that you’ve come to love, then it’s time to look past the weekly door crasher sale specials on 30 inch pre-hung doors.

Plus, some of our futures will involve walkers and wheelchairs, which for ease of movement, will of course require wider than average doorways.

Is aging all doom and gloom? For the most part, yes. Regardless, if you’re building or renovating at the age of 35-40, and you plan on staying in this home for the next 10-15 years or so, then know this. Even healthy older folk wake up sore in the morning, put on their slippers, then begin that gentle sway as they make their way to the washroom. So, make that passage more manageable by installing a 32-34 inch wide door slab in all bathrooms.

The balance of the home, including bedrooms and office areas, should have minimum 32 inch wide door slabs. Where will the 30 inch and skinnier slab sizes find a home? As linen closets, perhaps.

These wider door dimensions, along with the tendency towards people choosing larger casing moldings, will of course require 2-4 inches more of wall space in order to make it all conform. As a result, be sure to inform your architect, home planner, or whoever’s making the drawings for your new home or addition, of your desire for wider interior slabs.

Wider bedroom doors may not directly affect the structure, but bathroom doors, often found squeezed into a space at the end of a hallway, will certainly require some slight modifications to a general plan. No matter what the delay, it’s much easier, and cheaper, to make changes to a floor plan when it’s on paper, as opposed to after construction begins.

So, do yourself a favor when designing your next home, and widen those doorways.

Good building.

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

Do not be afraid of the light from above

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, why aren’t they more popular?

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

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

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

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

Where to put them?

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

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

Why do skylights leak?

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

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

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

Good building.

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

The solution to peeling paint

“Why is the paint on my deck peeling?” is a question asked by many a homeowner, and is an inquiry that ranks just below such queries as “why is the sky blue?” or “how do airplanes stay up in the air” and the always thought-provoking “what’s really wrong with Carey Price’s knee?”

The answer to each question can be unequivocally explained of course by the laws of science and physics. So, and due to various moisture related, atmospheric issues, we know why paint peels.

Knowing why something happens usually leads to a cure or means of prevention. This way the problem doesn’t persist, nor arises again. However, paints and stains are one of those procedural type products, with a relatively clear set of rules to follow, that for some reason, are rarely adhered to by the average homeowner. Therefore, if you don’t want your decking paint to peel, or wear excessively fast, you’re going to have to follow procedure. If you’re not the procedural type, or don’t enjoy reading fine print instructions, or simply don’t like being told what to do, then your solution to your paint peeling issue is going to be pretty straightforward.

Basically, trash your existing wood planks in exchange for composite decking. If this solution seems extreme, then let’s review what it’s going to take to get a paint or stain to stick.

In 99 per cent of paint peeling cases, the reason for paints or stains not sticking to the wood decking is because the decking planks are filled with moisture. The other one per cent of failures can be attributed to various unnatural phenomena, such as gremlins urinating on your freshly stained deck while you sleep, or the heat from a recently landed Martian spaceship.

In other words, it’s all about keeping the moisture out of the wood before you paint or stain.

First, we prepare the wood by sanding both faces of the decking plank. Sanding the wood opens the pores of the grain, which in turn allows the stain to penetrate more deeply.

Don’t pressure-wash. Pressure washing certainly opens up the pores of the wood, but at the same time will drive moisture deep into the grain. Again, the reason paints or stains don’t stick is because the wood is wet. Wood saturated with water will be incapable of further absorbing a stain. Furthermore, water pressurized into the wood may take weeks, even months, to evaporate. If, during that time, you choose to stain the wood, it’ll be a ticking time bomb as to when those first signs of peeling will appear.

Why then, is pressure washing so popular? Because it’s easy, and like a slice of pecan pie with ice cream, provides immediate satisfaction. But, it’s not good for the wood.

Next, seal the underside of your decking boards with a clear sealer. For those existing decks, this will either mean crawling underneath, or removing the deck planks and sealing the underside in a more comfortable manner. Removing the decking planks is the better strategy, but is usually only possible if they’ve been screwed into position. A decking board that’s been nailed down may be too difficult to pry up, without damaging the edges, leaving you with no other choice but to join the spiders in the underneath deck world.

Sealing the underneath of the plank provides protection against one half of the moisture element, that being ground water. Then, we seal the top. Clear sealers offer fair protection, semi-transparent stains are better, with opaque stains providing the best, long term results. I recommend first sealing the decking with an exterior primer, followed by two coats of opaque stain. “Do we really need a primer?” or “I’ve heard of those two in one, primer/paint products, is this available?” are questions we field often.

First, yes, there isn’t a stain or paint application that wouldn’t benefit from first being primed. Secondly, two in one’s are effective marketing for the lazy. For best results, follow the program.

Good building.

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

Don’t be the guppy

The ‘Piranha’ is an omnivorous (eating both animal and plant foods) freshwater fish that inhabits South American rivers. Fortunately, we as Canadians have little to fear from Piranha, the fish. Unless of course you’ve just booked your family a discounted trip at some unrated beach front resort along the Amazon River.

However, we do have Piranhas in our midst, and they look nothing like the intimidating creatures made famous by the reality documentary ‘Piranha 3D’. The Piranhas in our society generally source their prey by phone, and with a voice as soft and elegant as any member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, will begin their conversation with, “Hello! I represent Willy’s Window Replacements, or Ralph’s Roofing Restauration, we have a sales rep in your area, and we’re looking to . . .”.

That’s when you say, “I’m sorry, we’re not interested”, and hang up. I know, it’s difficult as a polite society to cut somebody off in mid-sentence, especially a potential member in good standing of a church choir. But, for your own safety, and best interest, you’ve got to do so. And, you’ve got to be firm in your follow through, because the Piranha on the other end of the line will keep talking, regardless of what you say, and never loosen its bite on you.

To make hanging up easier, visualize the person on the phone for what they are, a horrible, large-headed, jagged-teethed creature that is genetically driven to devour you. Or, watch the entire Piranha, Piranha3D, Piranha3DD, triple set series.

What’s the danger in allowing further contact, or inviting these out of town contractors into your home? First and foremost, your home was not chosen because you’re special, are deserving, or are so revered by the home improvement sector that you alone merit special pricing on replacement windows. You were called because either your name and number are for purchase on a telemarketing list, your home is situated in an area of affluence, or you reside in an older neighbourhood where renovations are likely required. In other words, you’re a guppy.

Local retailers rarely use telemarketers to generate business. So, you can pretty well be assured this company is an out of town force that has one thing in mind, to get a deposit out of you, lock you into a high-priced contract, then have you at their mercy when it comes to installment and further payment.

What about simply listening to what these guys have to say, or even getting an estimate, so you can compare them with some of our local retail people? If you think these people are hard to shake off the phone, try shaking them out of your home, or out of your office. The thing is you’re inviting a trained negotiator into your space. You may think yourself mentally tough enough to stay firm, and be focused, and not get suckered into signing their one time only, 20% off, all taxes in special, but it will be difficult.

I know, I’ve made the mistake of agreeing to listen to several of their 15 minute presentations. Only 15 minutes. Doesn’t sound like a lot of time to give a fellow human being, but then again, these guys are only part human. The introduction person on the phone is a genetically modified Piranha, while the sales person trained to entice and seduce you into signing a contract, is a Cyborg.

The sales person’s mission is simple. Read the script, wow the customer with a video, and don’t leave the meeting space without a signature. If the customer seems hesitant, pursue harder, push the fact your company is a multi-million dollar firm with thousands of satisfied customers (nobody that you will know, of course), and if all else fails, request to speak with someone of higher signing authority.

Again, don’t be the guppy. Shop and deal with the people who care, and who will go out of their way to make things right. Those are your local retailers and contractors.

Good building.

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

Don’t settle when answer is clear and easy

This week has us examining case #231, titled “In Search of the Skinny Casing”, a tragic story involving a young couple in finishing turmoil.

What’s the problem? Three out of their 10 interior doors, in their newly constructed home, have been framed in a manner that restricts the width of the casing (finish molding surrounding the door).

In each case, the pre-hung doors in question, had been framed about three inches away from the corner of an adjoining wall, leaving barely enough room to fit a standard 2-3/4″ inch wide casing, or at best, a three inch wide casing.

Issue at hand? The young bride had chosen a somewhat higher than average 6-1/2 inch Victorian style baseboard molding. The matching Victorian casing to this baseboard molding is 3-1/2 inches wide.

So, how do you squeeze a 3-1/2 inch casing molding into a 3 inch space, without compromising the look by having to rip the molding down to size? The quick answer is, you can’t.

Plus, a casing molding never looks attractive tight up against a corner wall, and requires at least an inch or two of wall space to look even somewhat presentable. Therefore, in order to properly accommodate this 3-1/2 Victorian casing, we would require at least five inches of wall space.

But we’ve got only three inches. Solution? You shift the doors over the appropriate amount of inches. “But we can’t do that!” was their response.

“The drywall’s just been completed, the first coat of primer is about to be applied, this could mean having to move a light switch or two, so no way, it would cause just too much upheaval” they further stated.

Then, choose a shorter, standard sized baseboard to match the 2-3/4 casing you were forcing yourself to accept, was my suggestion. However, the young lady was adamant she wanted the higher Victorian base.

Then we move the doors, was again my suggestion. It may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s not.

We’re not asking your carpentry crew to raise the roof or dig the basement deeper. The solution to this problem will require three hours of labor and a couple of hundred bucks in material. But, the resulting wider margin will look spectacular.

However, being young people, maybe a little impatient, and perhaps blind to the big picture, they couldn’t get around the notion of sometimes needing to take two steps back, and fix the real issue, in order to get things right and move forward.

So, the search began for a skinny, 2-3/4 or 3 inch casing that would adequately match their extra-large, 6-1/2 inch Victorian base.

On an unrelated note, this couple also confided in me their upcoming vacation plans to search out the Loch Ness monster, visit Santa Claus in the North Pole, and research the mating habits of the Easter Bunny.

The challenge of matching a wide baseboard, with a narrow casing, is that the wider base moldings are often thicker than the standard casings.

When the two moldings meet at the floor, the baseboard ends up protruding past the casing, or being shaved back even to the casing, in order to salvage this non-conforming joint.

Rule #1 in finishing is that the casing must always be thicker than the baseboard. Unfortunately, there’s no salvaging this picture when the opposite happens.

It would be like a mature man tossing on a tank top, tucking it in his cut-off jeans, securing this classical professional midget wrestling look with a belt, then hoping he could save the ensemble by pulling on a pair of knee high socks, then slip into a pair of sandals.

Undaunted by the facts, and determined to keep their 6-1/2 inch baseboard, the couple settled on a 3 inch casing that looked like, with a little imagination, and at a quick glance, just OK.

I hate settling when the answer is clear and easy.

Good building.

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

The little things that can make a big difference

Taking care of the little things can add up to having a beautiful deck. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Taking care of the little things can add up to having a beautiful deck. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

Today we’re talking about the little things that are going to help make your cedar, or treated lumber deck, a thing of beauty.

Most backyard decks start out in the same manner. Plan, permit, list of materials, followed by the delivery of said materials. Those are the big things, or easy decisions.

Once these decking materials are sitting in your backyard, the deck enters into its “great potential” stage. At this point, your lumber, bolts, and screws, are like a clean canvas with a series of paint colours on standby.

As a result, is this deck that your about to construct going to be the Mona Lisa of treated decks, or at least a Monet? Or, will it rank up there with the finger painting works of Mrs. Latulipe’s advanced kindergarten class?

And, is your present strategy going to have this deck still looking great in 10 years? Or, will a series of poor decisions and cutting corners likely have your project scheduled for demolition?

Therefore, and in an effort to build a deck that will give us 25 years of faithful service, be relatively splinter free, relatively maintenance friendly, and avoid collapse while entertaining your buddies after Tuesday night, keg league softball, we’re going to focus on the little things that are going to make a big difference.

First strategic move? Protect the supporting joists and beams by covering them with a protective membrane. The narrower edge of your 2×8 or 2×10 joists can be covered with standard three inch lengths of waterproof strips, while the wider double or triple 2×8 beams can be covered with a Blueskin WB rubber membrane.

Why use the protective joist and beam strips? To avoid the rot caused by standing water, and mold resulting from the wet debris that always manages to get stuck in between the decking planks.

Key aesthetic point number one? Avoid face nailing or screwing the decking planks. Surface screws are to lumber what hockey pucks are to the average set of teeth owned by professional hockey players.

Keeping the decking planks looking pristine can be achieved by using the ‘Camo’ clamp, or deck-track system of joist brackets. The Camo strategy involves clamping the deck board in position, just for a few moments, while screws are inserted into both sides of the plank.

The deck-track system will have the installer nailing 40 inch strips of perforated steel along the entire length of the joists and perimeter board. The deck-track provides the means for a shorter screw to be inserted into the decking planks from underneath.

Both systems add a little time, maybe a little more back ache, and a couple of hundred bucks to the average deck project. But, the seamless, splinter-less results are spectacular.

Next, picture frame the decking with a perimeter board. Basically, we don’t want to see or expose the end cuts. This goes for the planks on the stairs as well.

Creating a picture frame type of installation will mean beefing up the framing with two extra joists along the perimeter, spaced an inch or so away from the main perimeter board.

Install the picture framing planks first, mitering the corners, then fasten the center portion of the deck.

Start the decking plank installation on the outer edge, working your way towards the house.

Which face of the plank goes up? Look at the edge grain. Essentially, there will be less cupping and better plank stability if the curves of the wood grain face downward.

Next, use the plastic rail connectors (see the ‘Deckorator‘ series of products) when fastening your 2×4 or 2×6 handrail to the 4×4 newel posts. Toe nailing looks lousy, creates splinters, and generally creates a weak joint.

Finally, don’t forget the Deck Drawer. We were so happy with our deck drawer on our deck, we had a second one installed. The deck drawer is a great space saver that keeps your backyard stuff safe and dry.

Good building.

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

The little things are important

Today we paint the exterior of our home.

And, whether the challenge at hand be your wood siding or backyard deck, it’s the little things relating to this task that are going to maintain your optimism.

Outdoor painting or staining isn’t easy. Optimally, and under the right conditions, this job can be relatively bearable. In most cases, we spend these hours of labour hating ourselves.

Keys to painting bliss? Get the little things right, starting with your choice of clothing.

Acrylic paints, which supposedly clean up with soap and water, are actually about as water soluble as a hockey puck. If you happen to sprinkle a blotch on your pant leg, you’ll have two choices.

Either disrobe immediately, then soak the area under warm water. Or, two, realize that disrobing on your back deck could initiate a reaction by the neighbourhood watch committee, and simply accept the fact you’ve just devalued your designer pants by about 90 per cent.

When it’s time to paint, I go to my closet, get out my painting jeans, paint stained T-shirt, paint stained windbreaker, if it’s a little breezy, and paint stained running shoes.

All these items were, at one time, perfectly good pieces of clothing I thought I could get away with wearing, while painting, if I was really careful. In other words, clothes worn during painting, inevitably become permanent paint wear.

Next, invest in an official paint lid pry-tool, rubber mallet, and have a roll of Saran wrap handy. I couldn’t find my lid prying tool the other day, and instead used the closest thing within reach, that being a flat headed screwdriver.

The lid, of course, opened, but not after somewhat damaging the rim. No big deal once, or twice, but by the third non-regulation opening, you might as well consider the balance of the paint a loss, and either give whatever you’re painting a third coat, paint something else, or save it for the hazardous waste day, weekend drop-off.

So, with the paint lid prying tool probably the handiest thing you’ll have in the toolbox for under a buck, you’re best to invest in a few of them.

Rubber mallet? Used for closing the lid of course, offering a firm, but soft touch. A regular nailing hammer is overkill, and will permanently dent the lid, making a good seal impossible once that happens.

Saran wrap is key to you having a well-deserved coffee break without risking the brush and top skin of the paint drying up. Simply tear off about a forearm length of plastic, place all but the handle of the brush down on the wrap, then dexterize the bristles by folding the brush over and over again until you’ve reached the end of the plastic. Finally, fold any excess plastic over the top of the brush. To temporarily seal the paint, tear off about a foot of saran wrap, lay it over the open can, then gently press the lid back on the can.

Use just enough force to hold the lid in place. Place the brush and paint in a cool, shady spot, fire up the coffee maker, and enjoy your toast and jam.

Next, wear gloves. I like the heavy duty, plastic type gloves that practically reach up to your elbow, instead of the tight surgeon style. The heavier gloves won’t provide the same dexterity, but can be removed more easily, just in case the phone rings, or you require another sip of coffee. And, they won’t tear, allowing you to handle those heavier chairs and tables while you’re painting.

Last, but definitely not least, plug in the radio, blasting away your favourite tunes, or set on sports talk, where once again, the debate regarding Montreal’s demise will be rehashed and attributed to Carey Price’s injury, and the fact GM Marc Bergevin couldn’t manage toddler ball hockey at the local day care.

Good building.

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

I’ll take a sprinkle of water please

The art of spreading cement is similar to that of icing a cake.

Easy stuff, provided you have 1,000 cake icings under your belt. Not so easy if you’re last cooking experience was with Hasbro’s easy bake oven.

However, and regardless of the surface being a little thick on one edge, and slanted to your weak side, the cake usually tastes good just the same. The same goes when it comes to resurfacing a chipped or deteriorated concrete surface with new cement.

With experience and practice comes near perfection.

Until then, well . . . you’ll have to live with a not so level, and perhaps even a little wavy, newly surfaced walkway. But hey! It’ll be crack free, and hardly noticeable to the undiscerned and visually impaired.

The convenient thing about doing cement repairs these days is that the homeowner has only one major factor to keep in mind, and that’s water.

Plus, attempt to read the mixing instructions. I know, the writing on these containers is incredibly small, which if unreadable with your aging eyes, is perhaps fate letting you know you may be too old to be mixing concrete.

If this is the case, relish the fact that you’ve been around long enough to have witnessed Montreal’s last Stanley cup win, and hire someone who, unfortunately, hasn’t experienced this euphoria.

But, be sure to maintain your supervisory role, because there’s still a difference between young and older person standards. In the olden days, mixing cement was a chemical art, requiring the mixer to add varying amounts of Portland cement, sand, gravel, various bonding agents, and, of course, water to form the correct density for the task at hand.

Today, specific formulas have been pre-mixed and bagged for us. So, if you’re walkway or concrete steps have deteriorated due to any number of factors, then you would choose a resurfacing product such as Spread n’ Bond.

If the thin layer of cement covering your foundation wall has begun to crack and fall off (which happens to 99 per cent of all homes, due to the home settling, or moisture making its way up into the concrete) then there are parging mixes available.

Cracks in the foundation? Again, no problem with hydraulic cement compounds such as Poly-Plug.

I mention these three products because they cover the most common concrete issues facing today’s homeowner. Other than cracks in the foundation, a chipping foundation wall, or rough concrete steps, pre-mixed cements and/or caulking, are available to re-mortar in between brick and stone, repair cracks in cement surfaces, and level off sunken concrete slabs.

Key tools for mixing these specific cement formulas? Depending on the size of the job, have both standard two and five gal. pails on hand.

Next, invest in a paint mixing tool, which fits into a standard drill, and somewhat resembles the beater component of a cooking mixer (again, the cake baking people are going to have the advantage here).

Because these repair cements are made of such a fine powder, the mixing tool is 15 bucks worth of efficiency and time saving.

Pour water into the bucket, then add the cement compound as you’re power mixing.

Basically, there are three water related issues regarding successful cementing. One, soak the area you’re about to repair, then brush off any excess water or puddled areas. Two, no matter what the job, use as little water as necessary to create a workable batch of concrete.

And three, once the concrete has been troweled into position, sprinkle it with water for the next three days. The components of concrete will bond more effectively if the surface is kept wet for the 72 hours following.

Some concrete people say keep it wet for a week. What’s at risk to not following the rules of water and mixing? Cracks, and a weaker concrete surface that would be susceptible to crumbling.

So, follow the water procedures, and avoid having to repeat the task.

Good building.

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

Ye old shed, and how to fix it

Just a guess, but we're thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Just a guess, but we’re thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

“How do you fix up an old shed?” This was the question posed to me by a lovely, 20-something young lady, who just recently purchased an older home with a handsome, 20-something young man.

I mention the ages of the participants because timing is significant, and will certainly affect the strategy in addressing the crooked shed issue. If this were an elderly couple, I’d say forget about the shed, concentrate on booking your next tee-off date and getting your meds straightened out, then let the next guy worry about it.

If you’re middle-aged then I’d recommend taking a flamethrower to this mess, or plowing it into the ground with a bulldozer, depending on which ‘over the top’ method of ultimate doom you prefer. Then I’d recommend building something brand new in its place, at least three times bigger (because by this age we all collect too much stuff) along with the real possibility of adding a finished loft area over top.

But, if you’re young, full of dreams, with the weight of the world having yet to have you cry out in pain as you attempt to pull your socks on in the morning, this old shed project will provide an excellent learning experience in basic framing, siding, and roofing.

First, are we talking an old wood shed, or banged up steel shed? Wood we can possibly work with, whereby a steel (or tin) shed, in poor condition, has the approximate value of a couple of Bell Center playoff tickets in Montreal.

What to do with the pile of dented, steel panels, once you’ve completed disassembly? Toss them in the back of a borrowed pick-up truck (make sure all the participants are wearing gloves) and drive this mess over to the local metal scrap yard dealer. At between 100-130 bucks per ton in reimbursement value, this procedure, whereby 200 lbs. of scrap metal might cover the breakfast special at the local diner, is far from a get rich quick scheme. However, it’s recycling, helps fill your tummies for a few hours, and certainly beats the ‘toss it in the bush’ method used by previous generations.

So, what’s the procedure regarding our decrepit wood shed? First, assess the damage. Crooked we can work with, rot or decay we can’t. And, we definitely don’t want to take the risk of this shed collapsing. Therefore, if once the shed’s contents have been removed, you discover that the sill plates and wood flooring are soft due to decay, secure a chain from the shed to the aforementioned pick-up truck, and pull this baby down.

In most cases, the siding (be it wood paneling, plywood, cedar shake, or vinyl) as well as the roofing shingles, will have been severely neglected, and will need to be removed. Once that task is complete, re-assess the floor and stick framework. Wet’s not a problem, soft and splintering into pieces is. So, if all is good, or a few problem pieces can be safely replaced, get the shed back to square and level by adding a few wall studs, and steel cross bracing if necessary. Building permits aren’t required for sheds of 100 sq. ft. or less. Therefore, if your shed is of the popular 8×8 configuration, I suggest extending the floor and framework to the more spacious 8×12 size. What makes a shed more easily usable, while effectively keeping out the varmints, is the entry door. So, spend a few extra dollars on a more reliable double steel door, or roll-up garage door type of system.

Windows or skylights? Natural light is always a good idea.

Type of siding? Choose something that will either match or complement the home. Vinyl siding is a popular choice, due to it’s easy to maintain good value. However, a painted wood siding, such as a board n’ batten, or channel siding, will look quite charming, and definitely enhance the look of one’s backyard.

Thanks for the suggested topic BB, and good building.

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