Updating that 1970’s door

As we look forward to four months of cold weather, short days, and general dreariness, this might be a good time to pour yourself another spiked eggnog, grab a spot on the sofa, and evaluate your home’s décor.

Where to start will always be a challenge, so let’s begin with the interior doors, a home component that usually gets done once, then forgotten. Interior doors are also fixtures that were often done relatively cheaply, and even more so if your home was one of a series of cookie cutter-styled units built back in the big housing development years of the 1970s.

So, with your feet up, and already half in the bag by 11 a.m. during this blissful holiday week, what are we looking at?

Are the doors essentially plain mahogany slabs, either clear-coated, stained, or perhaps over time have been painted white, with that slight hint of woodgrain peering through?

Or, are they of the six-panel, white, woodgrain variety— a pattern that has been serving homebuilders for years, and a style I remember fondly from my years in the building supply business as a summer student (in other words, it’s been a while).

As you continue to scan the room, is the style and colour scheme of your living room somewhat reminiscent of the Brady Bunch TV series? Is there a bright orange beanbag chair in the corner? When you tumble out of the sofa, is your fall broken by shag carpeting? And, are you still kicking yourself for having lost money by having invested in sea monkeys? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then it’s time to have Scotty beam you out of the 70s.

Again, starting with the interior doors, you’ll essentially have two options. One, you can replace the door slabs only, or two, new slabs can be ordered pre-hung in their own frames. Only replacing the slab may seem like the simplest solution, and it might be, with this strategy causing less collateral damage, due to the wall, existing jamb, and casing, remaining basically untouched.

However, ‘door only’ replacement will in fact require a more heightened skillset. Fitting a perfectly new, rectangular door in a space that’s 50 years old, and probably not so square, will be a frustrating task, most likely requiring the use of an electric planer and belt-sander in order to form this door into the desired shape.

Plus, if it’s your goal to save the existing hinges, the task of having to mortise the hinge placement on your new slab is never an easy cut. Then there’s the job of having to cut the hole for the door knob, a relatively easy procedure, unless you screw it up of course, leaving you with another item to toss in next spring’s lawn sale.

Regarding the hinge placement on a new slab door, do-it-yourselfers will be pleased to know there now exists a no-mortise hinge, or no-space hinge, which saves the installer having to painstakingly cut out the required hinge depth on a new jamb. Instead, the no-mortise hinge allows the installer to simply flush-mount the hinge on both the door and the jamb, saving a lot of time and headache.

Pre-hung doors require four basic tools, them being a cordless drill, a chop saw (to miter the casings), a pneumatic nail gun (or simply a hammer), a level, and one pre-hung door installation hardware kit per unit.

With the old frame removed, the levelling of your pre-hung unit will be extremely straightforward, requiring the installer to simply confirm things are level before screwing the jamb in position.

What style of door should homeowners be considering?

Look to choose a door with a smooth finish, having two-to-five raised panels, with simple bevelling.

What else?

Be sure to measure the width, height, and door thickness, of your existing slab before ordering. Back in the day, 78-inch doors, as opposed to today’s 80-inch high slabs, were quite common.

Good building.

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

Items you could put in their nail pouch

The task of Christmas gifting doesn’t have to be such a challenge if you choose to follow one simple guideline: “make it a practical gift.”

Keep it simple, where the stress of Christmas shopping can effectively be avoided by sticking to a combination of three gift categories, them being beer, cheese, and hardware.

The handy-person combo, consisting of a leather nail pouch, along with a local craft beer (or Tims card) in the right-side pocket, new tape measure in the middle, and block of cheddar cheese in the left pocket, is always a winner, and a classic first option.

Or, consider the carpenters’ travel bucket, comprised of one utility pail, containing a six pack of domestic ale, Tims card, work gloves, safety glasses, and a bag of St. Albert cheese curds.

Essentially, duct-taping together a Heineken, multi-bit screwdriver, and a 500-gram container of cottage cheese, or any beverage, tool, and cheese combination thereof, will reward you with a twinkle in the recipient’s eyes, and a heartwarming smile that’ll stretch from ear to ear.

Two things to note.

One, the age of the recipient will need to be factored in when choosing the beverage/tool/cheese combo. Those persons not yet of legal drinking status will have to be satisfied with an age-appropriate beverage ranging anywhere from root beer to a Red Bull, while toddlers might be better served by the chocolate milk/large Lego block/Havarti cheese combo.

And two, although terms such as “a traveller,” and “one for the road,” have been used in reference to alcoholic beverages, driving or working while under the influence is definitely not recommended.

Next, although the term nail pouch basically describes what a handyperson would put around his or her waist before commencing a task, the more appropriate term these days is carpenter’s apron, essentially because the unit in question is no longer a simple pouch, and instead has a number of pouches, or storage divisions, and because it’s rarely filled with loose nails, due to the trade having moved to air tools, which use nails in either a strip or coil format.

Not to sway too far from tradition, but instead of hanging a sock, which doesn’t do so well to safely contain drill bits and circular saw blades, one might want to consider hanging a carpenter’s apron from the fireplace mantel, filling it every Christmas Eve with a few handyperson necessities.

What types of hardware items might be included in your handyperson gift apron?

Most handypersons waste time looking for the little things, like a decent pair of work gloves, sharp utility knife, or No. 2 driver bit that isn’t too badly worn and will still hold a screw.

Tight fitting, polyester-type work gloves have especially come a long way from the cowhide relics of years past. Available in both winter and summer styles, they’ll be a very welcomed relief for your handyperson.

Utility knives? Most handypersons buy themselves the snap-off blade models because they’re cheap and convenient. Regardless, do them the favour of gifting them a quality knife with a retractable blade. The blades on a retractable knife stay sharper longer, and are safer to use.

On the subject of safety, you can never have too many pairs of safety eye goggles hanging around, and, don’t forget the ears, where every handyperson should have a quality pair of earmuffs, or headphone-type ear protection, hanging close by the lawnmower and whipper snipper.

Next, jig-saw blades, drill bits, and circular saw blades, are regular-type items that get used well past their peak of sharpness. Check the existing shop blades for style, size, and tooth count, as a reference before purchasing.

Other good and always handy carpenter-apron stuffers?

Foam sanding blocks, paint brushes, roller refills, paintable caulking, pint of joint compound, all things the handyperson in your home might need in a pinch, and will be scrambling to find. Otherwise, stop by your local building supply dealer for more ideas.

Merry Christmas.

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

Think of your everyday siding

Today we’re going to be talking about fibre cement, composite, and vinyl siding, discussing the big three in preferred home siding choices.

Why do these products occupy the top three positions? Because they all satisfy what most homeowners desire in a siding— that being relative good looks, low maintenance, and low cost, or somewhat coincidentally, the same qualities one might look for in a mate if you’re a balding, middle-aged fellow who’s had little luck cruising the dating sites.

Are these sidings to be viewed as somewhat lesser than? Absolutely not.

They may not carry the same prestige as stone or brick, but when you consider price and longevity, they’re definitely the homeowner’s best value.

What about real wood siding?

Choosing real wood siding is like dating a member of the Kardashian family— essentially, beauty with an extreme price tag, along with a tonne of maintenance.

Why choose a fibre cement siding?

The grain of a fibre cement plank has been designed to duplicate cedar, which results in a look and texture that is very familiar, and quite traditional. Plus, it’s a 90 per cent sand and concrete mix, which essentially makes it fireproof and extremely durable in extreme-weather conditions, carrying a 50-year warranty.

At three pounds per square foot of coverage, fibre cement is the heaviest of the big three, and just feels solid to the touch, which will be comforting for the homeowner.

Cons to fibre cement?

Although the homeowner will love the elements of weight and rigidity, your contractor is going to hate you for it, which may result in a few more complaints, a few more hired hands, and two extra Tims runs per day.

Fibre cement installs like a wood product, using trim planks (also made of concrete) around windows and doors, as well as for outside corners, instead of J-trims and other pre-bent support moldings.

Last thing to know about fibre cement, it’s a painted product (15-year warranty), which of course means you may have to paint it again one day.

Composite sidings are products such as Canexel or Goodstyle, and are a mixture of wood fibres and various bonding agents. The raison d’être, and/or selling feature of these two composites is they provide the homeowner with a product that looks and feels like wood, without all the headaches of a real wood siding, including warping, cracking, or rot.

Essentially, Kardashian looks without having to escort them through a day of shopping for makeup, getting their hair styled, and trying on yoga wear.

Available in a variety of both solid and stained colours, composite sidings come with a similar warranty to fibre cement— 15 years on the finish, and up to 50 years on the product itself.

Why choose a composite product?

It’s the closest thing to real wood in both texture and stain. Because composites are basically real wood products that have simply been shredded up and re-glued back together again, they cut, nail, and are an easy carry, just like wood. As a result, composites are a very install-friendly product.

Composite wood sidings can be installed in a manner similar to wood, using matching trim boards for around windows and for use on the corners, followed by a bead of caulking along the seams and joints, in true ‘old school’ wood-siding mode.

Or, for a cleaner look, and what would be my recommendation, is to forgo the caulking and instead use the appropriate J-trims and joiner clip-type moldings.

Next, vinyl siding.

Definitely the least expensive option of the three, except for the heavier shingle, accent type of profiles, vinyl siding wins hands down as the best value product in home building.

Essentially, for under a buck per square foot, you’ll be investing in a siding that’ll require basically zero maintenance, and will last forever, or until which time the olive-green colour you chose in the mid-80s drives you mad.

Vinyl siding foe? Only one: a back deck barbecue in close proximity.

Good building.

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

A siding we will go

Conrad Hofmeister, a siding installer with Trend Home Improvement, uses a hammer to nail vinyl siding to a house while standing on a platform near 98 Street and 79 Avenue on Monday July 6, 2015 in Grande Prairie, Alta. ALEXA HUFFMAN/GRANDE PRAIRIE DAILY HERALD-TRIBUNE/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Today we’re going to be reviewing the more popular home sidings, including fibre cement, composite wood, and of course vinyl siding.

Brick and stone sidings won’t be discussed because they’re permanent siding options, basically lasting forever, or until which time the home succumbs to some natural disaster, or due to its favourable location, gets bulldozed into the earth by an international buyer intent on building some modern monstrosity.

On the other hand, most non-structural residential sidings have lifespans, generally providing 20 to 40 years of protection.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned steel siding as being the future of siding, which it is, albeit at a somewhat premium price of $6 to $10 per square foot.

Otherwise, let’s just say we’re narrowing our siding choices down to those products that fall into the affordable, good value, Brendan Gallagher (Montreal Canadiens, crash the net and accept the consequences) type of category.

Next week we’ll feature foam and papier-mâché sidings, in our Mike Babcock (Leafs coach) series, covering overpriced, lousy return on investment types of products.

Ranging in price from $1 to $3.50 per square foot, vinyl, fibre cement, and composite wood sidings are your best value because they are of a good enough quality to usually outlast their warranty periods, which can be anywhere from 25 to 50 years. Yet, they’re inexpensive enough to trash if after 20 years you’re simply bored with your home’s colour scheme, or need to remove the siding if your new strategy is to boost the insulation value of the home’s exterior walls.

As discussed a few weeks ago, if you’re looking to re-side your home, or are building a new home, wrapping the exterior of the home with a ridged insulation foam board is an excellent first step to greatly improving the home’s energy efficiency.

Modestly priced sidings, regardless of their great value, sometimes get a bad rap from the brick and stone people, who question why anybody would choose a siding that would theoretically allow the home to be penetrated by a sharp object, or even some mildly significant force. And, this would be a legitimate concern, if we lived our lives with the daily fear of being attacked by time-travelling troupes of barbarians from the 12th century, looking to pillage our homes of our copper wine goblets and gold candlestick holders.

But those occurrences are rare.

We’ve lived in an old stone home in the past. We essentially roasted in the summer, and froze in the winter, with the thought or our exterior walls being able to withstand the force of a cannon ball offering little peace of mind.

For most homeowners, choosing between a fibre cement plank, composite board, or vinyl siding, is mostly done on appearance, or colour selection, with each product having its own particular traits. On the one hand, they all look like wood, but then not quite; and, they all have their own series of support products to ensure a clean finish.

The support products, such as J-trims, starter strips, outside corners, and the various caps and venting mechanisms, are all key to your siding’s longevity. So, be sure to follow the exact installation procedures of your chosen siding.

The connectors used between the planks of a composite siding may not be the first choice of an installer who prides themselves on being an expert with a caulking gun.

Regardless, caulking changes colour within a year and might last five or six years. The appropriate connector molding may cost a buck per piece, but will last 25 years. So, make the enlightened choice.

Fibre cement differs from vinyl and composite in that it’s fireproof, abuse resistant, and can handle extremely high winds and inclement weather. However, fibre cement is not a coastline siding, and will decay in salty air.

Does this mean we can’t have a cement siding if we own a hot tub, or salt-based pool cleaner? No, it takes an ocean of salt to cause issues.

Next week, more on sidings.

Good building.

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

Looking into the future of residential siding

Taking a look at steel siding. Photo on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, in Cornwall, Ont. Todd Hambleton/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network TODD HAMBLETON / TODD HAMBLETON/STANDARD-FREEHOLDER

I have seen the future of residential siding, and it is variegated steel.

Variegated simply means the panels display a series of mixed, streaked colors, meant to duplicate the natural grain patterns of stained wood.

The steel part of the deal represents absolute quality, and a standard of precision that provides for a siding that is as perfect as it gets. Essentially, the siding people have combined two things most home owners appreciate, the warmth and look of stained wood, along with a maintenance free, precisely machined product that is steel.

Installed horizontally, the ‘Distinction’ steel siding (manufactured by the Gentek Co.) is available in a variety of colors, and carries a distinguished, somewhat formal look that resembles the look of cedar, or perhaps a Brazilian hardwood.

Pattern and texture? Unlike some of today’s vinyl or steel sidings that have a raised woodgrain pattern, and traditional lap siding design, the ‘Distinction’ has a smooth finish, and relatively plain shiplap design which style dates back to the days when Toronto last won the Stanley Cup.

How long ago was that? Well, the team was then owned by Harold Ballard (deceased), the coach of the day was Punch Imlach (again…deceased), and the team’s budding young star was Dave Keon (not deceased, but  age 79, and hopeful  to see another Stanley Cup parade down Yonge Street).

So, we’re talking an old, dated siding profile. As a result, combining the look of old, along with the perfect lines and texture of steel, makes for a very unique and beautiful siding.

What style of home is best served by variegated steel siding? Because steel siding is somewhat becoming the go-to product for architects and home designers, contemporary and modern styles of homes are seeing a lot of this product.

However, a home doesn’t need to be a collection of geometric shapes in order to merit steel siding, with any style from a bungalow to a country farm house having the potential to be greatly enhanced by this stained wood look.

Decorating, or product combination limitations? Only one, gingerbread moldings. So, if you’re hopes are to build a fairy tale type home that replicates a roof made of cakes and candy, with window panes of clear sugar, and enough gingerbread type moldings and ornate spindling to attract every Hansel and Gretel in the neighborhood, then I might avoid adding steel siding to the mix.

Otherwise, variegated steel siding will work great on its own, or look especially impressive when combined with a brick or a natural stone siding.

Cost? Variegated steel sidings sell for about $6.50 per square foot, which is well below the cost of stone, and about equal to the price of brick.

However, it is double the price of a composite wood or cement board siding. But, with a 30-year warranty on the finish, which is double that of a painted composite or cement board, and 40-year warranty on the galvanized substrate, what might seem as an elevated price at first glance is indeed a good value.

If a variegated steel siding, regardless of value, still seems higher in price than what you were hoping to spend on the re-siding of your home, there’s always variegated vinyl siding.

Why “variegated”? Because most people like the look of real stained wood, but until most recently, have had to accept what was being offered in the composite or PVC siding industry, which was a solid color series of sidings.

However, now you’ll find a variegated PVC vinyl product like Mitten’s Sentry Rustic Panel series, which offers a terrific mixed color panel in both a horizontal Dutchlap, and board n’ batten type of pattern.

Cost? About $2.50 per square foot. Warranty? 50 years. Wind resistance? 290 km/h, which makes it capable of surviving a category 5 Hurricane. The variegated PVC product may not have the rigidity or formal look of steel siding, but for overall value, it’s a tough product to beat.

Good building.

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