Buying an interior door

Putting in or replacing an interior door? Read our handyman. Postmedia Network

At some point in time, and as a homeowner, or landlord, you’re going to need a new interior door.

The reasons for such a purchase can vary. Mahogany, smooth faced doors, were popular in the 1970’s and 80’s. So, if you’ve recently purchased a home from that era, you may be looking to update that rather plain look to the more in vogue, smooth raised panel door. Other than that, basic roughhousing can also contribute to change. That’s why on those cold winter days, we in the retail building supply biz encourage those parents with small children to have them learn and participate in indoor games using real hockey pucks and baseballs, as opposed to some insulting ‘Nerf’ replica. How a child can hone his stickhandling and shooting skills, or learn how to throw a decent curve ball, using some similar shaped piece of foam, is beyond me. Or sometimes, like Oscar Pistorius, you fear an intruder has occupied your bathroom, providing you with just reason to blast through the door with four rounds of gunfire, only to discover it was actually your supermodel girlfriend brushing her teeth, oops! Hey, it happens.

So, for those reasons, and certainly others, replacing an interior door is sometimes necessary.

First, let’s review a few terms. You have a door “slab”, which refers to the panel that moves, the door “frame”, which holds the door in position, and the “pre-hung” door, which includes both the door, hinges, and the frame, all as one unit. So, if a door has been damaged, or is no longer in style, you have the option of replacing only the slab, or the slab and the frame, which would require you ordering a pre-hung door. Due to the work involved in having to cut out the hinges, drill for the door knob, fitting the door stop and cutting the frame, slabs and frames are rarely ordered separately, since this would require an assembly from scratch by the carpenter. Today, it’s economically more feasible to simply buy a door slab already hung in its frame, hence the term pre-hung. In most circumstances, it’s easier for your finishing carpenter, and certainly the ‘do it yourself’ homeowner, to replace a door slab with a pre-hung door, as opposed to replacing a slab for a slab.

Fitting a new slab door into an older, existing frame will be a painful exercise, due to the purchaser having to cut out the hinges, drill for the knob, then hand plane the door so that it fits into what is often a frame slightly out of square.

What about purchasing a pre-drilled slab that already has the hinges cut out? The chances of the hinge and door knob placement of this new, pre-machined door, matching your 50-year-old frame, is between none and zero. Then you’re left with having to modify either the hinge placement on the door or the frame, using wood fillers to patch up the differences, which will look horrible. Only in the case of the existing casing and frame having extreme, irreplaceable value, should a homeowner pay a finishing carpenter to replace a slab for a slab. Otherwise, order a pre-hung door every time.

When purchasing a pre-hung door, be sure to measure both the width and height of the existing door slab. The door slab sizes in a pre-hung unit range from 12-36 inches wide, in two inch increments, and are a standard 80 inches high. Measuring the height of the door slab you’re replacing is important because door slabs in the olden days were 78 inches high. Plus, and in the case of a basement, or under a stairwell installation, the original door could have been cut down even further to fit an opening.

Can a pre-hung door be cut down to size? It’s not easy, but yes. Best bet when faced with a door slab that’s shorter than 80 inches? Custom order it pre-hung to size.

Good building.

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

A great comeback

Paneling is making a comeback, and that’s a good thing according to our Handyman. Postmedia Network

“Fifty-five seconds left in the penalty, 1:27 left in regulation time, Boston 4, Montreal 3, Lafleur, coming out rather gingerly on the right side, he gets it up to Lemaire, back to Lafleur, he scores!!”

These were the immortal words of broadcasting great Danny Gallivan, as he called the tying goal in Game 7 of the Boston vs Montreal 1979 semifinal series. Yvon Lambert would go on to score in overtime, giving Montreal the series win, and a berth in the Stanley Cup final, which they won.

Lafleur’s tying goal followed by Lambert’s overtime score was one heck of a comeback. Although this decorating comeback may not stir your emotions, or cause you to leap out of your lazy-boy in the same manner so many Habs fans did back in 1979, this product’s comeback is nevertheless pretty big.

What product are we referring to? Paneling! Yes, that’s right, paneling. Popular in the 70’s, and basically the go-to product for anybody finishing their basement walls in those days, paneling is not only back, but it’s back in style.

Will consumers be seeing some of the birch and walnut woodgrain patterns that so faithfully adorned our basement and bedroom walls growing up? Mercifully, no. We expect that soft, woodgrain look to come back into play sometime around the year 2070, or when Montreal wins their next Stanley Cup. Today’s preferred paneling is made of 100 per cent recycled wood, and is referred to as HDF (high density fiberboard). Available in the standard 4’x8’ sizing, the advantage of a high density panel is that it can be grooved in any manner possible. This versatility allows the manufacturers to not only offer a series of standard V-groove, or beaded patterns, but also a stone looking, and more formal, raised panel type of wainscotings as well.

Further to these grooved HDF panels, that come painted white, but can be repainted by the homeowner in the color of their choice, is a series of HDF prefinished panels. This new series of prefinished paneling is much like the paneling of old, in that the wood finished surface was essentially a picture of wood, and not actual wood. The only difference is of course the guys and gals in the product development department these days have thought of a lot more fun surfaces and textures to copy, other than birch and walnut. Furthermore, the picture quality and definition of these portrait type paneling is absolutely excellent, creating a remarkable trompe l’oeil, embossed pattern, out of what is otherwise a flat surface. So, and like touching a trompe l’oeil painting to see if it’s really a portrait, and not an actual shelf, these panelings will definitely have you touching them to test their authenticity.

That being said, at about 50 bucks per 4’x8’ sheet, these panelings aren’t cheap, however, it’s a fraction of the price of a real brick or stone wall, and is something the relatively handy homeowner can install themselves, since one panel simply butts up against the other, with no special moldings or brackets needed.

What are some of the favorite patterns? Remarkably enough, and maybe it’s due to the old factory loft, or industrial type of living theme that has become somewhat popular, the look of concrete is now in vogue. So, we have engineers and architects telling us homeowners to cover up our concrete basement walls with insulating products, because that’s the environmentally responsible thing to do, with the décor people suggesting we cover this insulation with something that appears like concrete, because that’s the stylish thing to do.

To further that industrial theme, concrete looking panels are also available in 2’x4’ sheets, designed to fit into existing suspended ceiling grid systems. Other than the look of concrete, wall images of slate, marble, a variety of barn-woods, and even copper, are some of the terrific panels that are also available.

So folks, look to go with paneling, it’s made an impressive comeback.

Good building.

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

Big Gulp moldings

Unusual and elaborate crown molding is kind of old school, and that can be a good thing. Postmedia Network

Because door and window casings, as well as baseboards, account for about 90 per cent of the finishing trims in a typical home, let’s look at how to effectively choose a casing and baseboard.

First, and not so much a rule, but more of a general recommendation, don’t be shy to go big. In fact, buying casings and baseboards is kind of like ordering popcorn and pop before taking your seat at the movie theatre. A small drink and medium sized bag of popcorn may seem sufficient when presented to you, but once in your seat, the drink’s gone in moments, while the popcorn inevitably gets eaten during the movie prelims, leaving you with nothing but a dry mouth, and un-popped kernels to munch on during the feature film.

Back in the olden days of home building, generally referred to as the frugal 1970’s and 80’s, where disposable incomes were put towards the purchase of polyester leisure suits in anticipation of hitting the discotheque Saturday night, a standard casing of 2-1/8 inches in width, was paired with a very modest 3-1/8 inch tall baseboard. Today, casings are a standard 2-3/4 inches wide, and get combined with a 3-7/8 to 4-1/8 inch baseboard, which seems heavy enough, especially if you’re renovating a 1970’s styled home, or grew up surrounded by those somewhat diminutive 70’s moldings.

Regardless, even though the standard casing and baseboard sizes have gotten larger, people should really be looking to duplicate what was put in the grander homes of the early 1900’s. With casings measuring anywhere from 4-6 inches wide, along with 8-10 inch baseboards, this generation definitely new how to finish a home, and how to dress up for the weekend. Recommendation, go with the ‘Jumbo’ sized bag of popcorn, and two-litre ‘Big Gulp’ every time.

Translated into moldings, custom home builders, as opposed to those building rental units, should consider using at least a 3-1/2 inch casing, along with a 5-1/2 base. Again, when comparing moldings in your local building supply centre, these casings and baseboards may look a little big at first glance, but don’t despair, the hesitancy you’re experiencing is due to your familiarity of being handed a medium bag of corn and small pop since infancy, when you really merited the Jumbo and Big Gulp.

How do you pick a casing and baseboard? These types of moldings form part of a series of either Colonial, Victorian, modern, or Contemporary styles, with casings generally having a matching base to partner up with. So, depending on the home and interior door style, a person would be directed towards one of these particular series of moldings.

Once a style or series of casings and baseboards has been decided on, it’s then time to experiment. Because each series of casings and baseboards will have a number of profiles to choose from, the most effective way of picking one over the other is to have a few chosen baseboards butt up against their matching casings, while both moldings lay on the store’s floor. This way, you can stand back and better evaluate all the pairings. Try to avoid comparing moldings by standing or leaning them up against whatever wall, or racking is available. It’s our experience that when a bunch of casings and trims get leaned up against something, either the moldings or the something gets bumped, with the whole mix toppling over. When things are laid out on the floor, they’ve got nowhere to fall. Laying the casings and baseboards out in this manner also allows you to add a back-band trim (casing enhancing molding), various quarter round moldings, or to mix and match the various styles and sizes, in a much more effective manner.

The only one rule to keep in mind when matching moldings is that the casing must always be thicker than the base, and the base always wider than the casing. Enjoy choosing your Jumbo and Big Gulp moldings.

Good building.

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

Start planning now

Too cold outside? Get planning. Postmedia Network

So, what’s a homeowner to do over the course of the next few, cold winter weekends, where stepping outside, let alone participating in some god forbidden, snowshoe or cross-country skiing type activity, would just be too damned unpleasant an experience?

Well, find a sheet of graph paper, ruler, pencil and an eraser, then pour yourself a hot cup of cocoa, and get to work on a plan. What are we planning? Doesn’t really matter. Your home is most probably in need of some type of improvement or modification, so your plan could involve pretty much anything.

The thing is, home renovations can fail, or be a disappointing experience for the homeowner, due to any number of reasons. However, 99 per cent of the time, a lousy ending is the direct result of poor planning. So, if that spring or summer home addition, garage, deck, or fence project is going to roll along smoothly with as few hitches as possible, the time to start planning is while the snow is still on the ground.

Why so soon? Because things take time, mostly due to the human factor. Humans are flawed, in case you didn’t know. So, considering the fact a human will be designing, collecting the material, then building this contraption, with no other superior being or alien form available to review this process, the possibility of error is as certain as Ottawa’s Dion Phaneuf coughing up the puck in his defensive zone.

So, we start early, taking whatever time is required in order to get this project right. Once you’ve made a sketch of what you plan on building, the next step is crucial, and will inevitably be the make or break part of this project. Best case scenario would have you setting up a meeting with your preferred licensed contractor or carpenter, whereby you would place your sketches, pictures, and drawings in their capable hands, further discuss the build, then let him or her carry the load from this point on.

A poor decision would be to fold this paper up, toss it into the to-do drawer, and take it out sometime next spring, with the full intention of building this yourself, without a permit. The DIY (do it yourself) culture gained prominence in the 1990’s, whereby every manufacturer had a user friendly, lightweight tool designed for those amateurs looking to build things themselves. Twenty five years later, we now realize that the DIY phenomena should have been more appropriately promoted as the SIUY (screw it up yourself) initiative, since many a home brew project led to poor, costly results that inevitably had to be re-constructed.

Many of us homeowners are handy, which is the consolation of course to not being so handsome. Regardless, being handy is a good thing when it comes to repairing a crack in the drywall, painting touch ups, or assembling a few storage shelves in the basement, but when it comes to building something that’ll be attached to your home, the expertise that a professional will bring to your future porch, or backyard deck, will be the real key to your success.

Building projects require permits. In most cases, the permit will require the contractor having to submit engineered stamped drawings relating to the construction, and a possible site plan detailing any surrounding buildings or laneways. Formulating these drawings, along with changes to the plan required by law, or by the homeowner, since people do change their minds on occasion, can all delay the eventual granting of a permit. These delays are tedious for a contractor, but will be exhausting and demoralizing for the uninitiated homeowner. My advice, let the contractor handle the permit process, it’s ‘save your sanity’ money well spent.

All this to say, some things take time, with the building permit process definitely being one of these things. So, save yourself some grief, and start planning your spring renovation project today, because delays will happen.

Good building.

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

Here are some more wish list tips

Postmedia Network

As you contemplate your next renovation or upcoming new home build over the winter months, let’s review some of the various home “wish list” features you should be discussing with your architect or home builder while this whole process is still in the drawing stage.

Having to scrap a few blueprint drawings will only draw the ire of your contractor, or minimally throw them into a pout.

Conversely, waiting to make a change or voicing your opinion only after the concrete in the foundation has dried will certainly have your builder self-medicating.

So, if there are changes to be made in your future home or addition, be sure to speak up before the heavy equipment arrives. Plus, avoid the, “all I want out of this new home is a kitchen with an island, and a soaker type tub in the master bathroom, and nothing else matters,” type of thinking.

Submerging yourself in a bubble bath is indeed pleasurable, while kitchens with islands are great— although in my experience during general gatherings, they tend to attract storytellers so full of the drink you will indeed feel like you’re trapped on some secluded isle.

If you’re splitting the reno between rooms, be sure to divide your energy and attention over the entire project. If not, you may get the kitchen you want, but you risk bumping your head on the furnace ductwork in the basement for the next 20 years because you failed to follow up on the mechanical portion of the project.

Last week we talked about the added value of a walk-out basement, second-story balcony, and what the natural light bonus of a few skylights can provide to a new home. Today, we’ll be adding to our wish list of home features, which essentially means getting things right the first time, starting with the aforementioned full-ceiling height basement.

Built in the 1970s, the construction of our present home unfortunately corresponded with the making of the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder, whereby our furnace ductwork was evidently installed by a team of Oompa Loompas on furlough.

Mechanically we’re good. Everything works. The only issue is with some of the ductwork and heating vents strategically installed slightly below the six-foot level at various intervals, only my wife and our cats can safely navigate the basement. As a result, our basement area serves the home well enough as a storage space, but due to a lack of foresight on behalf of the original builder, the chance of this relatively large area providing comfortable living space has basically been forfeited.

So, be sure to discuss the basement’s ceiling height with your contractor. Basically, the supporting beams, joists, and everything mechanical (furnace ductwork, electrical, and plumbing) should be at least 8’6” to nine feet off your finished concrete floor. This way, a drop ceiling and any future lighting or electrical work can be comfortably installed below the existing floor joists and beams.

You may never finish your basement, but maybe the next homebuyer will, making a full-height basement ceiling nothing but engineering dollars well spent.

Next item on the wish list, keeping your washer and dryer on the same level as your bedrooms— or your best bet, one-level living. Basically, we’re trying to eliminate having to climb stairs, especially while having to carry a hamper full of clothes, or even a vacuum.

This step-saving, more efficient type of living not only will make things easier for young people, with young families, but will of course serve you better in your senior years.

Next, and staying on the home efficiency theme, eliminate a few walls, especially those between kitchen and dining room, or kitchen and living room.

Segregating people at gatherings involving friends and family is passé. Have your living space as open and free flowing as possible. This will allow the home to handle the crowds better, with the rooms being better and more evenly used as a result.

Good building.

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