Walk around the house

Winter is coming make sure the outside of your home is ready.
Winter is coming make sure the outside of your home is ready.

Today we’re going for a walk around the exterior of our home.

Required tools for the task? Pencil, notepad, and if time has taken its toll on your weary eyes, preventing you from distinguishing a caterpillar from a missing piece of mortar at 50 paces, binoculars.

What are we looking for? Cracks in the brick, stone work, or foundation. Buckled roof flashing, missing shingles, caulking that has separated from the siding, and anything else that could otherwise be defined as a gap.

Why are gaps and cracks an issue? Because we live in a climate zone where winter allows us to skate on our ponds and rivers. This, as opposed to living in Rio de Janeiro, home of the most recent summer Olympics, which I found somewhat confusing, since they were held during the Brazilian winter. A winter in Rio means rain, then a few days of sunshine, then rain again. As a result, mortar cracks in Rio will fill up with water, dry out, then fill up with water again.

In our part of the world, a late fall rain can turn into an early winter frost. When that happens, the water in our mortar cracks will freeze, causing the crack to expand. Now you’ve got a bigger crack, which will take in more water during the next thaw, then expand further once things freeze again. At some point in time, if left unpatched, this simple crack in the mortar, or foundation, or roof flashing, will compromise your house envelope.

In other words, the rain water or snow melt actually gets into the house this time. Worst case scenario when this happens is a flood. Best case scenario is stained drywall, mold, wood rot, and eventual structural damage. So, with those dismal options in the not so distant future, we fix the cracks and fill the gaps.

As you make your way around the home, make note of every deficiency, where they’re located, which parts are loose, and so on. As far as prioritizing or budgeting the fix-ups go, anything to do with the roof has got to be done first.

However, don’t wait too long to settle the remaining issues. Your window of repair opportunity is from now until the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius.

Once the temperatures are below this number, caulkings and mortar repair cements won’t seal and dry properly, likely having you repeating the repair process next year.

Next, divide the tasks into specific areas or jobs, such as roofing, siding, mortar repair, gutter replacement, etc. Then, call the appropriate professional, and hand him the list.

What about doing it yourself? That’s called being a do-it-yourselfer, and although commendable in theory, its status is overrated. Why? Because a reputable professional will do a better job, and in less time. Plus, by keeping your hands off the tools, and solely on the steering wheel as you perform the daily Tim’s run for the work crew, your chances of falling off the roof, or toppling down a ladder, drop to zero.

Safety is one of those things we often fail to think about until it’s too late. I’m sure a lot of homeowners can re-point a loose brick, caulk around a window, or replace a piece of siding, so long that effecting those repairs allows you to firmly stand on the ground, or your back deck. But what do you do when there are siding, window, or roof repairs to be done that are higher than six feet off the ground? The answer is having not only the proper scaffolding equipment, and the manpower to move it around, but the necessary safety harnesses and tie down straps as well, things most of us handy homeowners don’t have hanging around the pool shed. What we do have in our garages are light-gauge step and extension ladders, purchased when we were young men, 40 lbs. thinner, and better co-ordinated. So, stay off the ladders, call in the professional tradespeople, and get those cracks and gaps filled.

Good building.

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

Accessorizing your exterior siding

When a fellow’s out buying himself a new suit, there should be more on his mind besides purchasing the standard jacket and a matching pair of pants. He should be thinking accessorize.

If he’s to look like the real deal, he’ll probably need a dress shirt, perhaps a new tie, matching belt, and if you’re going all out, don’t forget the argyle socks and a little pouf for the side pocket.

Women, on the other hand, generally have accessorizing down to a science. They already know that the purchase of a dress would not be complete without the appropriate jewelry, purse, three pairs of shoes, light jacket, new microwave oven for the kitchen, and more cat toys for Fluffy.

However, and although versed on the concept of accessorizing, couples tend to forget the many trim options available to them once they’ve chosen their exterior siding. After deciding on either a vinyl, wood composite, or cement board type product, then having made the color choice, the next topic should be a discussion on the trim-board.

Why use a trim board around windows and doors? For the same reason PK Subban chose to accessorize his beaver pelt overcoat with a purple fedora at last season’s Winter Classic All Star game. Because it looks good.

Now, I’m not suggesting the use of trim-boards around your windows and doors will have an impact equal to such a fashion statement. However, the reasoning behind trim-boards is simple. Homes with trim-boards look more attractive than those without.

What is trim-board and what’s its purpose? Trim-board is a 1-inch thick piece of either lumber, composite, PVC material, or cement fiber product, depending on which siding you’ve chosen. Generally, when you chose a composite or fiber cement type siding, you would stick with the matching composite or fiber cement trim-board. Trim-boards are available in board widths anywhere from 3-1/2 to 11-1/2 inches wide. The 3-1/2 and 5-1/2 inch wide trim-board planks are the sizes chosen most often for around windows and doors. The wider boards are the preferred choice for skirting along the base of the siding, and for use as a fascia board. Trim-boards, along with the appropriate trim-molding, can also be installed just under the soffit, creating a beautiful crown molding type of accent that follows the roofline. Depending on your tastes, trim board planks are available with either a smooth, or woodgrain type finish.

Color? Trim board color is of course subjective. Painting the trim boards the same color as the siding will provide a much more subtle touch or impression. When the trim boards are color matched to the window frames and soffit material, presuming these two components are of a different color than the siding, the effect has considerably more impact.

The purpose, or raison d’être of trim-board, is to enhance. Today, most window units are made of vinyl, or combinations of vinyl and aluminum. And, with more emphasis being placed on window operation, and on getting more glass for the buck, the frames have become much narrower than the wooden framed windows of the past. With less window frame, comes less window, and as a result, less impression. So, we offset this loss of window frame by adding a matching trim board around the windows and doors. Wide, outside corners, are another way trim-boards can add a more stately impression to any home. Most sidings come with standard 3 inch wide outside corners.

New home builders, or those renovating, should consider 5-1/2 inch trim-board planks for the corners instead. For a few bucks more, this easy modification will deliver more than its weight in value and good looks. Key to successful trim-boarding? Don’t make them an afterthought. Use the thicker, 1 to 1-1/4 inch planks, and install them before the siding. After the fact means using a thinner board, delivering less impact, while also creating gaps (otherwise known as homes for wasps and spiders) along the siding ridges.

Good building.

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

Looking for roofing information? Class is in!

With all the class action suits being directed towards the asphalt roofing industry, one might wonder what the heck is going on.

Now, is there a real concern regarding the future of asphalt shingles? In a nutshell, no, there is no concern. And, before we all fall into despair, since 90 ;ercent of the homes in Cornwall and area have roofs covered with asphalt shingles, know this. There are presently class action suits against Crayola, whose washable colored bubble mix is apparently about as washer friendly as lead paint, and Reebok, whose easy tone shoes don’t actually tone the body, unless you run in them like any other fitness shoe, and Vita Coco, the makers of a coconut water sports drink, as well as a slew of others.

I was quite shocked by the Vita Coco accusation, since for the longest time I’ve been depending on the magical, revitalization powers of the coconut, keeping a few of them in my hockey bag, cracking them open with my skate, then drinking that god awful liquid before hitting the ice with the oldtimers. Apparently, the Vita Coco people were somewhat overstating the rejuvenating contents of its drink.

Needless to say, in this world of communication and legal networking, class action suits are as common as popcorn at the local theatre. However, we can’t dismiss the fact that a lot of asphalt roofs have worn and failed prematurely. When that happens, compensation from the manufacturer is certainly deserved.

The present day class action suit deals primarily with roof failures relating to organic asphalt shingles, which were a felt backed product that ceased being produced in 2010. Today’s asphalt shingles are referred to as fiberglass shingles, because of the fiberglass weave that’s since replaced the felt. What we do know is that asphalt shingles, when properly installed under the right conditions, are the best value, and offer the best protection against our harsh, four-season climate.

When I travel, I look at roofs, and get quite envious of the ceramic, slate, and clay tile roofs found in those warmer parts of the world. And, there’s no doubt those products would look spectacular on our homes. But, they wouldn’t last two seasons without crumbling. Cedar shakes? Beautiful, but extremely costly, while being very prone to developing algae and mold. And, with cedar’s irregular surface, good luck finding, or repairing, a leak. Steel roofing? Great option, but with labor included, becomes three to five times the cost of asphalt shingles. Plus, steel roofs don’t last forever, and are subject to the same poor performance issues as asphalt if the substrate materials aren’t adequate, or the installation is performed by someone other than a professional.

So, we’re left with good ol’ asphalt, a product that’s been protecting Canadian homes for over 100 years.

Three key points to remember about today’s fiberglass asphalt shingle. One, they have to be installed on spruce plywood, or an approved OSB roofing product, along with a layer of synthetic underlay underneath. Therefore, if you’ve got a boarded roof, cover it with a 3/8″ spruce plywood. Installing fiberglass shingles directly on a boarded roof will eventually have you joining the class action people. Two, if your roofer is suggesting you save on dumping charges by installing your new shingles over the existing ones, kick him in the nail pouch. Today’s fiberglass shingles require an absolutely smooth and solid surface, something only plywood, not 1X8  planking, and certainly not an existing 20 year old shingle, can provide. Furthermore, leaving the old shingles in place adds about 4,300 pounds to the truss load, basically equivalent to parking a 1970 Pontiac Bonneville on the roof once the job’s done. Finally, choose a Maxivent unit as your roof’s means of exhausting air, with continual soffit venting as the intake. In order for an attic to be effectively vented, which in turn will provide a consistent environment for your plywood underlay, you need adequate intake and exhaust venting.

Good roofing.

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

Up on the roof and get ready to shingle

What’s the first thing a homeowner should do upon receiving his load of asphalt shingles, felt paper, and various other roofing materials? Take the receipt, place it in a shoe box labelled ‘House expenses’ and set this box high upon a shelf in the bedroom closet for the next 30 years.

Even if roofing shingles are poorly installed, or get nailed to an unsuitable surface, or are otherwise forced to suffer through conditions that would in no way permit proper tab adhesion, they’ll probably do the job for at least six-eight years. By year nine the granular surface will begin to loosen, rolling down the roof into the eavestroughing. Then the shingle tabs will start to curl and buckle. Years 10 through 12 will show further deterioration, and as the shingles begin to detach from the nails, the next big wind will have the tabs flying off so fast you would have thought a flock of crows had just been disturbed off their perch.

Then the roof leaks. Then the customer questions why their 30 year asphalt shingles lasted barely half that long. That seems to be the pattern for most consumers who fail to keep their roofing receipts. Perhaps it’s just fate, but those persons who keep their receipts, rarely run into issues. So, keep your receipts. Without them, the claim or warranty process will be nothing but frustration.

Which brings to question, what’s with all the class-action lawsuits against the asphalt shingle industry? Because Canadians simply lay blame and brood, while Americans tend to skip this emotional state and move directly into the game of suits and litigation, most of the issues are State side.

With a home’s roof taking the brunt of all weather conditions, while receiving the least care upkeep wise, it’s easy to find a lot of unsatisfied consumers. Basically, most of the claim issues are directed towards what is referred to as an organic shingle. Organic shingles were the original specie, and had a felt base that was dipped in tar, then covered with ceramic coated granules. Production of organic shingles ceased in 2010, and were replaced by what the industry now calls a fiberglass shingle, because the substrate is a sheet of woven fiberglass, as opposed to a heavy paper felt.

However, the process of shingle making remained the same. Impregnate the substrate with tar, then cover with granules. So, an asphalt shingle is basically the same as it ever was, and of course looks the same as before, since the only modification to the new version is the hidden fiberglass base. Why the change to fiberglass? Because it proved to have a higher resistance to heat and wind, which really meant little to the Canadian market, since we lack the necessary trailer parks to attract tornadoes, and might get two days in July with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. However, it was cheaper to manufacture, and that’s all that counted.

Why did the organics fail? Could have been the product, or installation, or any number of factors. What we do know is that to ensure your new fiberglass shingles last as long as possible, we’ll need to change our traditional way of installation. Because all new homes use plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) on the roof, having a smooth, clean, reliable substrate, isn’t an issue. Older homes, whose foundations were framed with 1×8 spruce planks, with these planks salvaged and subsequently installed on the roof, are going to have a problem. Plus, it was also common practice to layer shingles, burying two generations of shingles under a brand new third layer. With the organic shingle of the day being so malleable, and quite adaptable to the inconsistent surface created by the 1×8 lumber and layers of shingles, it wasn’t uncommon to get 20 years out of a shingle. With fiberglass shingles, the practice of layering will need to stop.

Next week, installing the modern asphalt shingle.

Good building.

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