The little things are important

Today we paint the exterior of our home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

I’ll take a sprinkle of water please

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

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

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

With experience and practice comes near perfection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Ye old shed, and how to fix it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the suggested topic BB, and good building.

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

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