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

Window cents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

A little respect for the underlay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Let ‘er slide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building!

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