The party is always in the kitchen

Every kitchen is unique and should be designed around your needs. (Alair Homes)
Every kitchen is unique and should be designed around your needs. (Alair Homes)

If you’re looking to build a new home, or looking to buy an existing home, or are thinking of renovating your kitchen, stop!

As sure as PK Subban has already come out with his own line of rhinestone cowboy hats and has likely recorded at least one duet with Nashville country pop star Carrie Underwood, the kitchen you’re planning on building, or renovating, is going to be too small.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, because I have no problem enjoying the comfort of a Lazy Boy recliner in the confirmed living room area of a home, when there’s a gathering of friends and family, people converge on the kitchen. If the kitchen happens to have a centre island, things get even worse.

Without provocation, the menfolk will surround the island, using it to prop themselves up like they were preparing to witness a cock fight. Then the golf stories and tales of past conquests begin. The remainder of the visiting crowd will either stand and talk in the archway leading into the kitchen, or grab a chair around the kitchen table.

Regardless, we’re all in the kitchen. Not that I have a problem with confined gatherings, but logistically, and if you’re the host, trying to get access to the fridge or utensil drawer once you’ve got this traffic jam of people can be a nightmare.

Why are people so attracted to an area that not only restricts movement, but in most cases, offers the least comfortable seating in the home? As far as I can deduce and regardless of the various discomforts, my research tells me the magnetic draw of the kitchen is directly correlated to its proximity to the booze and snacks.

So, with an “if you can’t beat them, join them” type of attitude, we enlarge the kitchen space.

Where to start?

Basically, the area once known as the living room has become redundant. The traditional dining room, which might see use a handful of times during the year, has become a total waste of space. So, we combine both these areas with the kitchen. We don’t want to cut down on bedroom space, nor storage area, while the main floor will require a bathroom and a small area for TV watching.

Every other bit of square footage needs to be dedicated to an expanse of space that in the future will be simply regarded as the kitchen.

How do we combine a series of rooms without having people feel they’re chatting in the old dining room or the former living room? After all, we don’t want our guests feeling alienated from the in-crowd of those persons standing in the original kitchen, where God forbid, they miss out on the 110th rendition of how my buddy Shooter Rockell managed to salvage par after driving his tee shot into the bunker on the 18th hole, maintaining his one-stroke advantage and eventual victory in the 1969 junior club championship.

Essentially, there are two key factors to designating your space as kitchen area – being the flooring, and, of course, an open concept.

Even if the floor tiles match, nobody will believe they’re in the kitchen if a wall is separating them from the cock fight gang around the centre island. So, and with your contractors’ and engineers’ stamped approval, we remove the wall once separating kitchen from dining area.

Next, we include the living room. If this means taking down a wall, or opening up an archway, then do what it takes to make this happen.

Basically, you should be able to flow freely along the entire space, engaging in a conversation about golf here, then about the PK Subban/Shea Webber trade there, all without risk of spilling your chardonnay by bumping into a sofa or tripping over an ottoman.

Where do the Leaf fans share their conversation? No change here, these persons are still restricted to the garage.

Make the best room in the home even better by creating a bigger kitchen.

Good building.

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

Practical kitchen flooring

A crisp white kitchen with Cambria quartz Summerhill countertops, vinyl plank flooring and stainless appliances. (Designer: Cassandra Nordell/Copyright William Standen Co. 2015)
A crisp white kitchen with Cambria quartz Summerhill countertops, vinyl plank flooring and stainless appliances. (Designer: Cassandra Nordell/Copyright William Standen Co. 2015)

When renovating a kitchen, one question always arises, “do we install the flooring first?”

A pretty straight forward question, indeed, and one that should come with a relatively straight forward answer.

However, nothing in the home construction biz is conveniently simple. Basically, there are two trains of thought when it comes to kitchen flooring.

From the contractor, or installer’s point of view, you install the flooring first.

Why? Because it’s easier. Installing hardwood or ceramic in a rectangular room is definitely preferable to having to cut and custom fit tiles around cabinets.

And logistically, it makes sense. The kitchen cabinets sit on the floor. So, why not install the flooring first. Plus, it’s absolutely essential that the cabinets not be buried inside the expanse of flooring.

When this happens, the dishwasher becomes practically irremovable for servicing, or replacement. And, the counter top height shortens by as much as an inch.

If you’re 5 ft. tall, then a shorter counter top is of little consequence. For a tall person, whose home life duties include having to chop up the vegetables for the weekly batch of spaghetti sauce, a shorter counter top will be the kiss of death for the lower back.

Finally, we don’t want the kitchen cabinets to sit directly on the subfloor, in their own type of moat, so to speak, because a leaky sink valve or faulty dishwasher connection could go unnoticed until the water makes its way well under the flooring, or into the basement below, creating all types of new problems.

So, we install the flooring first, right? Well . . . not so fast.

Logically and logistically, installing the flooring first might make sense.

However, when you examine the flooring issue from a more practical point of view, there are two reasons why I like installing the floor afterwards.

One, there’s far less chance of damaging a floor when it’s installed as the last piece of the puzzle. With finishing carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, all vying for elbow room within a standard 12×16 kitchen space, the trade traffic over the 3-4 week installation period is going to be busier than the front of a goalie’s crease come playoff time.

As a result, the chances of somebody dropping something, be it a drill battery, copper coupling, or piece of crown molding, on the floor, is conservatively estimated at 100%.

So, with most floors getting covered by a scattering of painter’s drop cloths, will the floor suffer a dent or scratch? Maybe, maybe not.

Alternatively, if the kitchen flooring is safely acclimatizing in the adjoining living room, carefully stacked in perfect, pre-packaged form, the odds of it being dented or scratched drop somewhere close to Carey Price’s GAA. And, once the floor is scratched, that’s it.

With 6-8 possible culprits, it might be difficult to pinpoint the guilty party. Then comes the awkward conversation regarding payback for floor repair or replacement which, of course, means this tradesperson has just worked the week for no pay.

Two, kitchen cabinets usually outlast their floors. If the original flooring goes underneath the cabinets, and prematurely needs to be replaced due to water damage or several cracked tiles, the cost of replacement, due to having to move the lower cabinet units, has just doubled.

Plus, with granite and quartz counter tops becoming the norm, along with ceramic tile backsplashes, everything is connected, which means touching a lower cabinet will inevitably affect the whole system. When the flooring simply butts up against the cabinet’s kick-plate, all these variables become a non-issue.

Key to the practical floor strategy is cabinet height, whereby the cabinet bases must be of equal height, or higher, to the finished floor. This will require the homeowner installing a three/quarter-inch fir plywood, and sheet of 1/4 inch mahogany, if necessary, underneath all cabinetry and islands. Treating the cabinetry and flooring as separate entities, in my opinion, is just practical.

Good building.

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

Know when to use a nail, or a screw

Often for outside work with lumber, nails are used. In this instance though, a June 4, 2016 file photo, volunteeers are using screws in the fascia board of the rafters for a new pavilion. The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network
Often for outside work with lumber, nails are used. In this instance though, a June 4, 2016 file photo, volunteeers are using screws in the fascia board of the rafters for a new pavilion. The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network

Before we begin our discussion on screws and nails, let’s be clear on one thing. The key to successful building, whether it be a backyard deck, or pair of book ends, is not only related to the proper nail or screw holding things together, but whether it was glued or not.

Wood studs, joists, and to a lesser extent plywood, will generally shrink over the first few months after installation, due to moisture loss. Then, as we create humidity in the home by cooking, showering, and just plain breathing, these wood products start to re-absorb some of that lost moisture.

This give and take scenario is a natural process that won’t affect the strength of a product, but it might compromise the joint, leading to popped nails and screws, and certainly the odd squeak. So, unless the plan is to dismantle your project at some point in the future, make that wood to wood, wood to plywood, or wood to composite connection (be it cement board or MDF molding and paneling), as solid as possible by adding the appropriate glue.

Most gluing jobs can be handled by keeping two types of glue in the shop cupboard. That being a bottle of yellow, all-purpose glue, and a few tubes of PL premium, for all exterior, or heavier duty type connections.

Generally, we nail for one of three reasons. Because the shear strength (force required to bend, tear, or break) of a nail, is superior to that of a screw, nails are often required by code when fastening joists to a ledger board, as in the case of a deck, or when laminating lumber together to form a beam. Nails also, on average, have a smaller head than screws, making them less visible, and more easily hidden when performing finishing work.

Finally, nails don’t require electrical power, but only a swift swing of the hammer, keen focus on the nail, and a thumb that knows when to get out of the way, in order to effectively insert.

For everything else, we use screws.

Now, there are hundreds of types of screws. However, choosing the right screw for the job has been made easy due to the fact the name of the screw usually corresponds with the product you’re working with. As a result, if you’re hanging drywall, you’d request drywall screws. If you’re finishing around your shower with a cement board underlayment, you’ll require cement board screws. Regular lumber and plywood will require wood screws. Treated lumber? Either green or brown treated screws of course, depending on what color of decking material you’ve chosen.

The only other information the salesperson serving you will require is the desired length, which if you’re not sure, has equally become a pretty standard thing. So, there’s no more asking for a Robertson or Philips type of screw, with a specific diameter, and desired length. Screws have become so product specific that we automatically suggest to you a 1-1/4 inch, #6, Philips screw if you’re hanging 1/2 inch drywall, and a 2-1/2 inch, #8, Robertson screw if you’re to be fastening down deck boards.

Can screws be mixed? Or in other words, is there great risk in using a decking screw to fasten drywall, and vice versa. Worst case scenario is that the sky thunders, clouds separate, then bolts of lightning descend, turning your pathetic, mortal being into nothing more than a heap of ashes. Best case scenario is that the screw tears the finished surface, or rusts, and eventually fails.

Basically, we don’t mix screws. Screws used for treated lumber have a ceramic coated finish, in order to avoid corrosion from the chemicals in the wood, and rust from the elements. Concrete screws (a.k.a. Tapcons) have a finer, double-thread that effectively holds in the hard, brittle type of conditions found in cement, while drywall screws have a thinly tapered head that best suits the paper surface of drywall.

A screw or nail for every task.

Good building.

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

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