Go-bag is a worthwhile investment

A flooded basement can be a nightmare. (File photo)
A flooded basement can be a nightmare. (File photo)

“I just don’t get why our basement flooded.” Or, “our house is built up so high, so where’s the water coming from?” And, “we’ve never had this type of flooding before.”

These are some famous last words expressed by many an exasperated homeowner, standing in their basement, watching the house cat float by on a yoga mat, salvaged from an exercise room that is now four inches deep in water.

The how’s and why’s of water infiltration will be argued, strategized and brainstormed until we all reside on the planet Mars, or until a Canadian-based team makes it to the Stanley Cup finals, whichever comes first. What we know for sure is that flooding can happen in both new and older homes and is exponentially more likely to occur once you’ve finished the basement, or have used the term “never” to describe your basement flooding experiences.

So, assuming a basement flood, or water in the basement – since whatever pipe break upstairs will have water eventually showing up in the basement anyway – is part of every homeowner’s inevitable future, we all need to prepare a Go-Bag. Actually, considering the amount of supplies needed to efficiently rid a basement of water, realistically, you may need a Go-Closet.

Now you may question: “Why go through the time and expense of creating a Go-Bag, when a simple call to the insurance agent is usually all it takes?”

Two key points here.

One, the quicker you can get rid of the water, the better. Depending on a number of circumstances, including time of day and the availability or proximity of a restoration crew, it may be hours before the fellows start hauling equipment  down your basement stairs. If you can get a jump on the crisis and get things somewhat under control before the clean- up crew arrives, the less chance there will be for total loss.

Don’t get me wrong, the first call out in a flood situation has got to be to the restoration people. You’ll require their manpower, expertise, water-removal pumps, humidity control units and dryer fan machines in order to get the basement atmosphere back to normal. However, every bit helps, and if that means being able to keep the flood flow to a minimum, or even dropping the water level a bit, then that will pay dividends.

Which, brings us to Go-Bag reason number two. By taking early action, you may not want, or need, to file an insurance claim. Insurance claims regarding flood losses are a relatively easy process to complete the first time, not so easy the second, with there likely being no third dance.

So, we do what we can to avoid the first claim. Plus, there’s likely a deductible in your policy that will cost you hundreds, or thousands of dollars, depending on which program you’ve chosen.

As a result, if you can keep the damage to an affordable amount, it might be best to pay now, when the damage is  relatively minimal and file for compensation later, should your home suffer a full water disaster.

If the Go-Bag expense and strategy sounds a bit like having one insurance policy in order to guard against another, well, it kind of is. However, having a plan B is never a bad idea.

What goes in the Go-Bag?

Rubber boots, of course, rubber gloves, sump pump and the all-important and never too long sump-pump hose. Sump-pump hoses come in 25-foot sections and cannot be spliced together without the proper connecting flange and tie-clips, which don’t come in the bag with the hose. So, be sure to pre-attach the hoses to a length that’ll easily reach and go beyond, the nearest window.

Next, besides a few buckets, old towels and water scoops, you’ll need the indispensable shop-vac. Capable of drawing up water as well as dirt and practically indestructible under general use, no home should be without one of these guys.

Good building, and good luck avoiding any floods.

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

Never underestimate the resourcefulness of water

Yep, that's definitely water in your basement. Not usually this bad, but it happens. Steps can be taken to avoid it though. Just ask Handyman Hints. Postmedia Network file photo
Yep, that’s definitely water in your basement. Not usually this bad, but it happens. Steps can be taken to avoid it though. Just ask Handyman Hints. Postmedia Network file photo

In the home biz, if it’s wet where it shouldn’t be wet, we call that a flood.

Case #322, File name “kitty knew first”, has our homeowner victims quietly watching television on their sofa, when not so suddenly, the family cat jumps from the floor up onto the lap of the lady of the house. A regular occurrence at this late point in the evening, all except for the slightly wet paw prints left on the homeowner’s thighs.

“Where have you been?” the lady inquires. Unfortunately though, and at this same moment, Alana, a.k.a. ‘Honey Boo Boo’, is receiving her last few tidbits of instruction from ‘Mama’ June, moments before she prepares to hit the stage in yet another gripping episode of Toddlers in Tiaras. Alas, the distraction of reality television causes this first hint of trouble to get lost in the drama.

What could be the issue? Well, the cat could have fallen into the toilet, or, could have just come in from the rain. But, with only its paws dampened, and the cat being in the house for the last few hours, the evidence was suggesting something else. In fact, water was trickling into the sump pump well quicker than the flow of Honey Boo Boo’s tears after a heartbreaking second-place finish to her archrival Anastasia a.k.a. ‘pumpkin’, following a horrific drop of her cheerleader’s baton during the talent segment of the competition.

The following morning, the real world had our homeowners discovering their basement floor two inches deep in water. Fortunately, the basement wasn’t finished. However, every boxed item on the floor was lost, and the perimeter drywall ruined.

So, what happened? Well, water trickles into sump pump wells all the time. In fact, the sign of a healthy, unplugged, uncrushed, and otherwise efficient weeping tile system, is confirmed by this collection of rain and snow melt draining into the well. If water isn’t being effectively diverted into the weeping tile, it will be making its way into the basement through whatever cracks or compromised areas in the concrete floor or walls.

In this case, the homeowners didn’t have a working sump pump in the well. Where was the pump? Collecting dust on one of several basement shelves, of course. Reason? There was never a need for a sump pump. The home sits atop a hill, has a proper gutter system along the entire roofline, and is surrounded by a favorably sloping landscape. Plus, in the 10 years these people have owned the home, and in the 20 years experienced by the previous owners, never was there a flood, or ever the need for a working sump pump.

Which, brings us to lesson #1 in the world of being a homeowner. Wind, sleet, snow, rain, and especially ‘water’, have little regard for precedence. So, if your home has a sump pump well, and, regardless if it’s as dry as a bone, make sure it’s equipped with a working sump pump and hose line directing the water outside, well away from the foundation.

Lesson #2, sump pumps enjoy company. So, if you’ve got only one sump pump in the well, add a second pump. Reason? A basement flood will totally disrupt your home and lifestyle. So, we do everything we can to avoid them. The second ‘backup’ pump should be powered by either a separate, trickle charged battery, or better yet, a pressure water system that can be supplied from your existing water line, or a permanent generator.

Lesson #3, if you disturb the landscape, then you’ll have to accommodate the certain change in water run-off. In this case, the homeowners added an above ground pool and surrounding deck, which in theory, shouldn’t have changed the landscape so drastically. Regardless, water knows only one direction, and that’s downhill. In hindsight, the pool and deck construction should have been followed up with a series of weeping lines installed in between the house and pool, providing an outlet for the dam of water created by the pool and deck pillars.

Never underestimate the resourcefulness of water.

Good building.

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

Really, ya gotta be kidding me

Really! There’s no Santa Claus. Ya gotta be kidding me… was my surprised response upon learning this unfortunate fact.

But, even as a child, I accepted the storyline as being well intentioned.

Then, I was told professional wrestling wasn’t real. Ya gotta be kidding me, I stated once again. This time, however, I was totally devastated, and to this day, still suffer from the trauma of that enlightenment.

Today, in the world of retail biz, we use the phrase “Ya gotta be kidding me” all the time, although mostly in thought, and usually due to misconceptions or poor decisions made by homeowners regarding house improvements and maintenance.

Case in point, and docket #322 on the customer file, male Caucasian, somewhat passed middle age, looking to resurface, or possibly rebuild, his multi-tiered deck and walkway platform.

Issue, existing treated lumber surface is looking quite worn, having succumbed to 25 years of weathering and repeated attempts to paint or stain.

Status? Person is well groomed, pulls into our parking driving a 7 series BMW sedan, and has a deep tan. Not the peeling nose, five day, discounted air fare trip to Cuba type colouring, but a real, several weeks or months spent in Florida kind of pigment.

If I had to guess, this guy has most probably not seen a winter in years, and obviously moisturizes. Location of home in question? Waterfront, as in St. Lawrence River, real big ship water, as opposed to Mulberry Creek, all you need is a pair of rubber boots to cross, or large puddle in the backyard, type of stuff.

With this information, we can further conclude that this fellow is neither the head patty flipper at Bob’s Burger Bonanza, or has recently pulled a sidewalk camp out, in order to secure his spot on the front line of Walmart’s last midnight madness, door crasher event.

Nope, and as far as I can see, we’re talking pure executive status. “So”, I begin with this fine gentleman, “what type of decking material were you thinking of resurfacing your deck and walkway with?”

“I’m thinking treated lumber”, the fellow said, “but instead of the green stuff, I think we’d like to consider the new brown coloured decking, that, with a coat of sealer every other year, ought to look pretty good, don’t you think?”

Ya gotta be kidding me, was my only thought. Executive fellow, living in an executive home, and his thoughts are to replace his existing, crappy deck boards, decking planks he’s toiled with for the past 25 years, sometimes sanding, always either painting or staining, with nothing better than an updated version of the same stuff.

Ya gotta be kidding me. Now, there’s obviously nothing wrong with building a deck using treated lumber, whether it be green or brown. And, if you’re a 20, or 30, or 40 something year old, building your first deck, or budget wise, require the simple pleasure of a modest backyard platform and railing system, then treated lumber is most likely your best choice and value.

However, if this isn’t your first deck, or you have the financial capacity to go with something better, and due to your mature stage in life, have fewer weekends ahead of you, than what you have already under your belt, then you’ve got to treat yourself to spending your golden years on a composite deck.

Composite or solid PVC decking is expensive, ranging anywhere from 8-10 dollars per square foot for the premium products and colours.

However, when it comes to finish, even wood enthusiasts, and I’m one of them, admit composites look several times better than even a stained cedar.

“If I had a small deck, I’d go composite, but with such a large surface to cover, I thought treated lumber would be the best option” was his thinking.

Wrong. The bigger the deck, the more work regarding maintenance, and all the more reason to go composite. Next week, why composites make cents.

Good building

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

Suiting up your home with siding

Conrad Hofmeister, installs siding in this July 6, 2015 file photo in Grande Prairie, Alta. Alexa Huffman/Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune/Postmedia Network
Conrad Hofmeister, installs siding in this July 6, 2015 file photo in Grande Prairie, Alta. Alexa Huffman/Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune/Postmedia Network

Whether you’re building a new home, addition, garage, or storage shed, one of the big decisions is going to be choosing the kind of siding that will best suit your investment.

Key to success? Don’t fret over which siding will be the easiest to install, or conceivably last the longest, resist dents or scratches, require painting, or cost you more or less money.

If you’re going all brick, or all stone, then there’s nothing to worry about. But, if you’re going to require a siding other than brick or stone, whether it be to accent the home, or completely cover it, then siding your home with the proper product, or one that best “suits” the home, is key.

Basically, siding choices can be slotted into four categories, vinyl, composites, cement board, and real wood.

Vinyl siding can be the least expensive of the three, if you’re considering the standard horizontal lap pattern, or the most expensive, if you happen to like one of the heavier stone or simulated cedar shake sidings.

One thing to keep in mind about vinyl siding, it doesn’t play well with others, and tends to look best on its own. So, if vinyl siding is what you’re leaning towards, then go vinyl all the way.

It’s often been the strategy, when building a modest sized new home, to install brick on the facade, with the three remaining walls relegated to regular vinyl.

This “looks good from the street, because the sides and back don’t matter so much” mentality only cheapens the structure, and let’s everyone know your house plan is fresh out of the 70’s.

So, if you can stretch the budget in order to have four brick walls, then terrific, you’ll end up with the classic “wolf will never blow me down” Ontario type home.

If the budget is fixed, then consider putting your brick facade money towards a higher quality, deeper tone, more refreshing and updated vinyl colour scheme on the entire house.

“Doesn’t vinyl siding fade, or break easy should it get struck by a hockey puck in the winter” is a question we field often.

Fade? Yes, and like everything else exposed to the sun, perhaps a little over time. And break easy? Well, things break easy when hit by hard, fast moving objects, just ask Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadians.

The convenient thing about vinyl siding is that it’s probably the easiest type of product to replace, even if the damaged panel is in the middle of a wall.

Solution to the puck issue? Build your kid a decent perimeter of rink boards. Otherwise, vinyl siding is a respected, harsh weather product.

Matter of fact, vinyl siding is the preferred product in the Maritime provinces and along the east coast, which arguably endures Canada’s toughest weather conditions.

Although style and affluence minimally affect the numbers, where cement-based products have failed, due to the constant moisture and corrosiveness of the sea air, and where wood and composite sidings require constant paint touch-ups and general upkeep, vinyl sidings do very well.

Composite sidings include such brand names as Canexel (wood fiber base) and Goodstyle (wood chip base). Composites are the closest thing to looking like real wood, and have the advantage of being significantly more stable than wood, which means they don’t warp or crack like wood.

Like real wood sidings, composites are a good accent product for stone and brick homes. Cement-based sidings, such as James Hardie board, work extremely well in our weather zone, and a super tough, fire proof, good looking siding that can work on its own, or act as an excellent complement to your brick or stone home.

Like wood, composite and cement products will require painting every 10-12 years, but don’t let this fact discourage you from the many great features of both these sidings.

Good building

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

It’s what’s underneath that matters

Which is the best roofing product for a new home, steel roofing or asphalt/fiberglass shingles?

Actually, I dislike ’em both, especially during the winter thaw season. Why? Because they leak, and nothing in the home renovation biz is as frustrating as a leaky roof.

Therefore, if I had to consult a homeowner as to what type of product to choose in order to best protect their homes, year round, regardless of seasonal timeframe, I’d say cover your home with one of those vinyl roofed mega-domes.

So far, the only roofs that haven’t leaked at our lumber yard are the mega-domes. North, steel covered warehouse roof, leaks. Flat, rubberized roof over main store, leaks. Asphalt roof on main residence, leaks.

Very frustrating. So, for a mere $100,000, I say go mega-dome. If you’ve got two hundred grand to blow, I’d recommend doming the entire property, basically eliminating winter altogether.

If either scenario seems somewhat beyond budget, or practicality, and if changing the roof structure and general truss engineering of your home is equally as unlikely, then what can we do to make our roofs more dome-like?

Dome roofs have the advantage of being made of a tightly fitted, one piece, waterproof membrane. Unfortunately, roof dormers, chimneys, plumbing vents, skylights, or an attached garage, make the possibility of a one piece roof application in residential home construction, basically impossible.

That being the case, the best alternative is to follow some of the successful strategies of a dome type roof.

Step one, keep it tight. In our residential case, this means keep it solid. This can be achieved by ensuring your contractor uses minimally a 1/2 inch plywood, or 15/32 OSB (oriented strand board) roof-deck, as sheeting material over the trusses.

Bad things happen when roofing plywood sags due to the weight of a snow load. Steel roofing (being so thin) and asphalt shingles, have no structural strength.

As a result, the integrity of every seam between the sheets of tin, and the tar bond between shingle tabs, will be compromised should the plywood bend.

With “compromised” in the roofing biz meaning a leak is in the near future, we avoid the thinner (yet code compliant) plywood’s.

Note, in the past, steel roofing could be supported by 1×4 rough lumber. Because lumber is more unstable than plywood, causing screws to pop loose and mild warpage to occur, the better choice for steel roofing is a plywood underlay.

Next, we need an impermeable membrane. Roofing paper (again, code compliant) is a poor choice.

There are a number of quality synthetic membranes available, such as the Titanium UDL50 and UDL30 products, followed by the somewhat lesser weight, but still synthetic, Rhino and Deckgard products.

The better synthetic membranes are thicker, more tear resistant, and actually hug the nail (or screw) once it’s been perforated, providing optimum resistance to leaks.

What about installing an ice and water shield over the entire roof?

Ice and water shield is a heavy, rubberized peal and stick membrane that’s usually installed on the area of the roof that extends past the edge of the house. Ice and water’s main task is to guard against ice dams, so, installing it over the entire roof would certainly be overkill.

However, you could do it with a steel roof, but it would be aesthetically risky with asphalt shingles. The reason is the overlap, which with this thicker membrane, may cause a horizontal ripple in the shingles every 3 feet up the roof.

What about doubling up on the shingles, or installing steel roofing over existing asphalt shingles? This practice is no longer recommended.

Two reasons. One, its extra weight your roof trusses don’t need. And two, the spongy surface of an older shingle wouldn’t provide a good base for our new roofing. Best bet, remove the old shingles, assess the underlay, then remove or repair accordingly.

Good building

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

Don’t forget the human being factor

Renovations are rarely done to 100 per cent completion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Make good venting decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

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