Batts in the attic will heat things up

One type of stone-wool insulation is this Canadian-made Roxul STEVE MAXWELL/OTTAWA CITIZEN/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Today we continue our examination of file No. 921, titled “Meltdown,’’ involving the relationship between our Mr. Jack ‘Frosty’ Snow and Barb ‘Ma’ Barker.

To recap, Jack owns an older home in dire need of improvements related to energy efficiency. Mr. Snow’s home is drafty and lacks the proper insulation levels, resulting in a home that is frightfully cold for six months of the year.

This of course has been of no concern to Jack, because as owner and operator of Jacks Frosty Treats, he spends half his day in a freezer anyway. Then, in comes his new housemate Barb, a lady who doesn’t like the cold, who doesn’t wear sweaters, refuses to layer, and who would never dream of stepping outdoors in January to build a snowman, no matter how perfectly sticky the snow is.

Essentially, when cold meets warm, warm wins. Or more succinctly, when the needs of the woman, or warm individual in a relationship, differ from those of the fellow, changes are likely to occur.

Because warm air rises, a key area to fortify against heat loss will be the attic. In typical 1970’s building mode, our Mr. Snow has about six inches of attic insulation, providing R-20 of heat loss resistance. This level of thermal value was fine when electricity and gas were a fraction of today’s cost, and the Montreal Canadiens were winning Stanley Cups, which at least provided us with a warm feeling in our hearts.

Unfortunately, things haven’t changed so much for Leaf fans since the 70’s, whereby life is as dreary now as it was then, only with present day energy costs lending to times that are even more miserable. Today’s attic standards require R-60 of thermal value, or about 18 inches of insulation. So, in order to be current with today’s standards, since they are minimum requirements, we’re going to need to add at least 12 inches of either a blowing wool, or fiberglass batt material, with this 12 inches of fiberglass offering an additional R-40 of insulation value.

Whether this is to be a do-it-yourself project, or not, relies entirely upon your willingness to squeeze through the 20”x30” attic hatch hole. Before adding insulation, the homeowner should make sure the soffit air space is properly protected with the use of attic vents, installed in between every truss.

Fiberglass batt insulation or fiberglass blowing wool? The advantage to using fiberglass pink insulation, which in this case would require two thicknesses of a six- inch R-20 batt, is that the batts can be fitted tightly together, then cross layered, creating a neatly arranged blanket of pink, along with the peace of mind that you’re indeed getting an extra R-40 of thermal value.

If desired, six-inch batts are also available in R-22 or R-24 formats, which will boost your home’s resistance to attic heat loss another 10-20%. Can a homeowner put too much insulation in their attics? No, provided they maintain a minimum two-inch air space between the insulation and the roofing plywood.

Challenges to layering your attic space with fiberglass batts? Only one, avoiding your scrotum being jammed up into your body cavity should you slip off one of the truss joists. As a result, and in order to avoid such mishaps, blowing wool is generally the preferred method of insulating an attic.

Challenges to blowing wool? Only one, which is that this method absolutely requires two people, one feeding the machine with wool from below, and a second person directing the placement of the wool while positioned up in the attic. Although the act of blowing wool requires minimal movement, since the power of the blower will allow wool to be blown a distance of about 12-16 feet, the installer will have to risk some venturing about the truss joists beforehand as they stake the area with paper rulers.

The paper rulers, hung from various truss positions, will help guide the installer in how deep to spread the wool. Next week, case No. 921 continues.

Good building.

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

Moving to keep the heat in

File No. 921, titled Meltdown, has us examining the case of a Mr. Jack Snow, aka ‘Frosty’ to the business community, due to Mr. Snow being the proprietor of Jack’s Cool Treats, a company that distributes snow-cones, ice cream sandwiches, and other freezer-type goodies.

A single man in his mid-40s, up until most recently that is, when a chancy meeting at a local fundraiser had him chatting with a Miss Barb Barker. Miss Barker, aka ‘Ma,’ a nickname she picked up as proprietor of Barb’s Bad Ass Bikinis and swimwear, along with Barb’s propensity to use camouflage type patterns, as well as dated photographs of badass gangsters Al Capone and Bugsy Malone, on all her custom garments.

Jack owns an older home, which during the winter months displays all the charm of a Hallmark Christmas card, complete with icicles hanging from the roof edges, and windows panes so completely frosted up, it requires a heavy breath, followed by the persistent rubbing of the side of one’s fist, in order to create a porthole of sight.

With an average indoor temperature of about 15 C, our Mr. Snow was true to his name, and lived quite comfortably in his inefficiently cold house by simply adding a sweater, and tossing another log in the woodstove, should things get really chilly outside.

However, with Barb looking to move in with Jack, these frosty living conditions were all about to change.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Snow, tropical- or bathing suit-type individuals aren’t big on layering, and are somewhat unfamiliar with the habit of donning a sweater when temperatures drop outside. Conversely, when challenged by a cool draft, sun people are more likely to simply reach for the thermostat, where temperatures can be magically bumped up to a more agreeable climate range.

Understanding that earning and keeping Ma Barker’s love is going to require a little more than simply lavishing her with Eskimo pies, and if there’s to be any chance of a future Mrs. Snow, these present living conditions are going to ironically require more heat.

In an older, drafty home, keeping things toasty warm is like trying to preserve water in a colander.

So, how is Jack to transform a home that has all the heating efficiency of a 100-year-old barn, into a tropical climate zone, without dedicating 90 per cent of his present housing budget towards heating fuel?

One, Jack’s going to have to seal up the cracks and draft areas.

And two, this home is going to require some attic insulation.

As we approach the winter months, the opportunity to caulk around windows and doors becomes a little more challenging because caulkings and paints are best applied when temperatures are at least 10 C. So, when that 12 C to 15 C day pops up in October/November, have a case of caulking at the ready.

Where to caulk? Any crack or seam where one product, such as your window and door casings, meets another, such as your vinyl or brick siding.

Next, an area notorious for heat loss is the space around your exterior doors. So, check the flexible, rubber strips attached to the base of your steel slab. If these pliable fins are worn, or perhaps even non-existent if the door is 10 to 15 years old, then this is an easy fix to a real draft problem.

Best bet, remove the door sweep altogether, then bring it to your local building supply dealer in order to assure yourself that you’re buying a comparable sweep. The same strategy applies to the weather stripping around the door frame. If it’s worn, remove a small piece, then bring this sample with you to show the salesperson.

Next, seal your exterior wall outlets and ceiling fixtures. The exterior wall outlets can be sealed with pre-cut plug and switch foam gaskets, while any gaps around ceiling fixtures or pot lights can be filled with the appropriate-sized foam baker rod.

Next week, file No. 921 continues as we insulate the attic.

Good building.

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

Maximizing that attic breeze

Caulking a continuous ridge vent. TINABELLE / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

File No. 989 has us examining the case of a Mr. Victor MacLaren, aka “ventilation Vic,” due to Mr. MacLaren operating his own heating and cooling company.

What’s of interest to Vic, and a general rule of thumb that guides his professional manner and lifestyle, are the benefits of air flow. Vic drives a convertible in the summer, cranks down the windows when driving in the winter, always installs a supplementary fan or venting mechanism when installing his ductwork, and wears a kilt most days, in true Scottish fashion, having foregone the use of underwear since the turn of the century.

So, be it lifestyle, mechanics, or personal hygiene, the chances of condensation or moisture affecting the comfort levels in Mr. MacLaren’s life are truly minimal.

Which brings us to Victor’s latest challenge: putting a new asphalt roof on a recently purchased 100-year-old home. The home presently has two layers of shingles installed over a boarded roof.

So, the immediate strategy would be to remove both layers of shingles, replace any deteriorated planks, and then cover the entire roof with 3/8-inch plywood sheeting.

The next challenge will be how to solve the lack of attic ventilation.

Why worry about ventilation when roofing issues have seemingly been fine over the past 100 years?

Well, by looking a little closer, we find things with the home haven’t been so fine. First, the shingles have been in a curled-up state for almost a decade, which luckily up to this point hasn’t led to any severe leakage issues. Plus, the plaster on the ceiling is soft and cracked in several areas.

Upon inspection of the attic, signs of black mould and rot can be found on the underside of the roof planking.

The aged asphalt shingles might not be allowing any significant amounts of rain or snow melt to pass through, but the condensation resulting from warm attic air meeting a cold roof plank is creating a shower of water dripping down on the insulation, with this moisture further infiltrating the plastered ceiling.

Solving attic moisture issues means creating an atmosphere where the air temperature inside the attic matches that of the outside. This can be achieved by naturally encouraging air to draft in and out of the attic.

Where to start?

First we measure the attic space, which is basically the home’s width x the length, or in the case of this standard 30’x40’ stone home, about 1,200 square feet.

The exhaust venting in this case can be satisfied by two No. 303 Maxivents (the popular chimney-like structures), five No. 65 slant-back vents, or 30 feet of ridge-cap venting.

I like the Maxivent option for two reasons. One, it means fewer holes and less cutting for the roofer. With fewer holes, the chance of leakage is minimized. And two, of the three options, the Maxivent is the most efficient mechanism to draw air out of your attic.

Air intake is usually done through the soffit. However in Mr. MacLaren’s case, the soffit area on his century home is sealed with beautiful wood planking, with decorative corbels placed at every four feet along the perimeter of the roof.

Due to the lack of soffit, the previous owner had installed a series of three-inch-round vents in between the corbels, a poor substitute which clearly wasn’t performing the task of drawing outside air into the attic.

So, we know how air is moving out of the attic, but how are we to effectively draw air into the attic, without of course taking the drastic measure of removing those century old corbels and installing regular soffit panels?

The suggested solution will involve installing four Vmax intake vents (two per side) on the lower edge of the roofline. The Vmax vents effectively replace the need for soffit, and are part of the Maxivent series of products, working in perfect co-ordination with the two Maxi No. 303s situated near the peak of the roof.

With those options presented, file No. 989 was closed.

Good building.

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

Making your shingles last

What can a homeowner do to have their asphalt shingles last at least long enough to see their children through college, thereby avoiding the financial double whammy of tuition and having to pay for three pallets of roofing products?

Let’s start with the installer.

Besides getting references from their previous customers and your local building supply centre, look for a few minimum standards, like someone who has his own vehicle, and a trailer for handling scrapped materials. Plus, their pickup should have permanent lettering on the door, prominently displaying the company name or logo.

Avoid the guy whose accreditation required him properly levelling one of those 12”x18” magnetic mats on the driver’s side door. These guys are most easily recognized by a “Frank’s Roofing-free estimates” type of mat, stuck to the door panel of a vehicle that looks like it just escaped the wrecking yard cruncher.

Upon inspection of this fellow’s vehicle, it wouldn’t be surprising to find other magnetic-mat specialties, such as “Frank’s Pizza Delivery,”, or “Frank’s no-leak plumbing,” which to his credit, demonstrates a work ethic and versatility, but may be further proof of this fellow’s homeschooled level of accreditation.

Next, today’s Fiberglas shingles require stability, which means following a pretty straight forward set of directives regarding shingle installation, shingle underlayment, and attic ventilation.

Installation?

There are basically two ways or manner of pose, regarding asphalt shingles. One is the regular four-nail per tab installation, where four nails are placed at the top of the shingle tab, with the bottom of the tab being held down by means of a sticky glue-strip (found under each shingle) that gets engaged by heat generated from the sun. The second method is the six-nail-per-tab/plastic cement installation strategy, used in high wind areas, or during cold-weather (below 0 C) installations.

Windy areas generate dust, with this dust getting underneath the shingle tabs as they’re being installed, adhering to sticky glue-strips. When the sticky strips get covered with dust, the shingle tabs forfeit the bottom sticking mechanism that prevents them from lifting up. Other than dust, cold temperatures will also prevent the sticky strips from properly engaging. The six top nails, as opposed to four, and the dabs of plastic cement placed under each shingle tab, are just extra insurance against shingle lift.

So, if looking out your window has you seeing open field, or river. Or, the frost on the window is preventing you from seeing clearly outdoors regardless, you would be wise to request installation manner No. 2 from your roofer.

Next, shingle underlayment.

Although the installation procedures for Fiberglas shingles do permit you to install your shingles over an existing shingle roof (to a max of three layers) and/or over a boarded roof of 1×6 planks, these are not good ideas.

An average roof requires about 60 bundles of shingles, which weighs about 4,200 pounds, equivalent to one 1986 Pontiac Parisienne, or the combined weight of the Montreal Canadiens playing personnel.

Your home requires one layer of shingles, with every layer underneath unnecessarily burdening your trusses with the equivalent of one automobile parked on your roof. So, removing your old shingles may cost you a few hundred bucks in dumping fees, but it’ll lessen the stress load on your trusses, allow you to fix or remedy any roof underlay issues, and make for a better install overall.

Boarded roofs were popular about 40-50 years ago when contractors were forming their own foundations with 1×6 spruce, then removing these planks once the cement dried and installing them on the roof, an efficient use of materials which worked fine as an underlay for the very flexible, organic (paper felt based) shingles of the day.
However, today’s fiberglass shingles are much more rigid, especially during the colder months, and will better survive the test of time if installed over plywood.

So, if you own a plank roof, be sure to install a 3/8-inch spruce plywood over the planking.

Next week: ventilating your attic.

Good Building.

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

Now, about those shingles…

Today’s asphalt shingles, aka Fiberglas shingles, due to the substrate having been changed from the original paper felt, to a Fiberglas mating some 20 years ago, offer the consumer the choice of a 25-year warranty for a basic three-tab shingle, to a 40-year/lifetime warranty for the architectural, or laminated shingle.

The “lifetime” appendage that accompanies the 40-year warranty label is supposed to signify that if by adding 40 years to your present status, your age approaches anything near three-digit territory, the longevity statistics suggest this is most likely the last roof you’ll ever have to pay for.

The up-front coverage period for these lifetime-warranty shingles is 15 years. This means that for the first 15 years of the life of the shingle, the homeowner will be financially reimbursed for both product and labour to install, should the shingles somehow fail.

The 25 years following, or years 16-40 of your laminated shingle life, will have you subject to the conditions of the term, “pro-rated.” Pro-rate; to divide, distribute, or assess proportionately, essentially lets you know that in year 15 of your shingles’ life, most of the costs related to the installation of new shingles will be covered by warranty, but that in years 16-plus, once a few numbers related to wear and depreciation are factored in, the remuneration dollars might buy you a bowl of soup and a coffee.

So, if you’re 50 years of age today, and hoped your newly installed laminated shingle might last you until the age of 90, which by then thoughts of replacing your shingles will likely rank a distant second to simply escaping the grips of the Grim Reaper, you could be facing disappointment.

Essentially, if you’re 50, you can expect to replace your shingles at age 65, 80, and if you’re really fortunate, be part of the colour-choosing process at 90-plus.

Can a Fiberglas shingle last 40 years? It’s possible, but not bloody likely.

However, there aren’t a lot of products in this world that’ll give you 15 years full coverage, then offer you a Tim Hortons gift card down the road should you really want to pursue a settlement in year 30 of your shingle contract.

Plus, it should be noted the upfront warranty is transferable once, should you sell your home within that first 15-year period, provided of course you register this transfer with the roofing company within 30 days of the sale. Otherwise, the warranty unfortunately becomes null and void.

With the list of those persons who I know who have actually gone through the process of warranty transfer, and the required $100 transfer fee, holding steady at zero, there are a lot of un-warrantied roofs out there.

So, my recommendation would be to avoid warranty issues altogether by following a pretty short list of asphalt roofing do’s and don’ts.

First, do hire a certified roofer to shingle your roof. Certified roofers have an in-depth knowledge of the product and required substrate materials, and are properly equipped, and insured, to be on your roof.

Don’t hire a fly-by-night, weekend warrior. They may be somewhat experienced, but they’re not certified, and are most likely not covered.

So, if there are issues after the installation, don’t bother calling. Weekend ‘hire-for-cash’ type carpenters tend to change their phone numbers monthly, and you’ll find yourself chasing a ghost. Plus, should one of these fellows should fall off your roof, roll em’ up in a tarp and bury him under the back deck with his hammer and pouch, otherwise the impending lawsuit is going to be a doozer.

How do you find an accredited roofer? By contacting your local building supply centre. We’ve seen the good, bad, and the ugly when it comes to home renovations, and can certainly steer you towards the area’s most capable and respected roofers.

When’s the best time to install shingles? With fall offering slightly cooler, more moderate temperatures, there’s no time like the present.

Good building.

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

Getting rid of that G-Mag

Due to our most favourable, welcoming, and extremely nurturing Canadian environment, we’ve all become familiar with Gloeocapsa Magma.

Is Gloeocapsa Magma, “G-Mag” for short, another one of our budding young tennis stars to hit the ATP circuit? Probably not.

Perhaps Gloeocapsa Magma is an international soccer star, who after fleeing persecution in his own country, became a Canadian citizen, and while looking to star as our leading striker, could also enlighten us hockey players into the how’s of playing a sport that doesn’t offer you the option of cross-checking your opponent with a piece of hickory?

Perhaps, but not yet to be confirmed.

Unfortunately, the Gloeocapsa Magma we’re most familiar with is an algae, commonly recognized as the black streaking type of stain we see on our asphalt shingle roofs. Where does the G-Mag come from?

Like most fungi and moulds, algae are airborne spores common to our ecosystem. When Gloeocapsa Magma lands on something, and this something happens to have a food source, along with moisture and some protection from the sun, it settles, sticks around for as long as the food source continues, and multiplies.

Essentially, Gloeocapsa Magma is like a party crasher who texts his buddies he’s found a home where the beer fridge is full, with the added bonus of pretzels and corn chips on the kitchen table.

Getting rid of Gloeocapsa Magma? Not so easy, kind of like these same party guests who at 1 a.m. are annoyingly sticking around, looking to begin another round of shots by cracking open a new bottle of tequila.

Although most laminated or lifetime-warranty shingles contain copper particles, which should provide a lethal remedy to mould, moss, and algae, the Gloeocapsa Magma is extremely stubborn, clinging to your roof like it was the last barstool available at a packed Oktoberfest celebration. Plus, today’s fiberglass shingles contain less tar, and more natural products, such as limestone, which have components in them that are attractive to algae.

So, regardless of the copper content of fiberglass shingles, the Gloeocapsa Magma seem to be sticking around.

What can be done about the G-Mag? Like any mould type of organism, algae can be effectively removed with various bleach-and-water solutions, or bottled, spray-on type, mould and algae cleaners. One source recommends a one cup of TSP (trisodium phosphate), a gallon of bleach, and five gallons of water mixture.

The only issue with using TSP and bleaches is that they are of course toxic, requiring the user being completely covered in protective clothing, hand, and eyewear. And, these solutions will be slippery until they’re rinsed off, which on a roof will be a serious handicap if the Gloeocapsa Magma is going to require a little soft scrubbing. Plus, whatever bleach gets sprayed on your roof, inevitably ends up on the plants and lawn below. So, plant life will have to be hosed down with water and covered beforehand.

What about pressure washing? Probably the only idea that is worse than a bleach/water solution.

A pressure washer will absolutely eliminate the G-Mag presence, but will unfortunately loosen and remove your shingles’ granular surface as well.

The challenge to eliminating the Gloeocapsa Magma yourself is that it’s on the roof, a place I don’t recommend any homeowner – without the roof-climbing experience and proper harnessing – ever visit. So, look to hire a reputable person to clean your roof, and be sure to ask them about the type of chemicals that will be used, and the cleaning procedure.

Stopping the G-Mag? Consider installing zinc strips along the roof’s ridge, fastened under the last row of capping, a relatively simple procedure for a professional roofer.

If a new shingled roof is in the future, and your former roof experienced algae, regardless of the algae inhibitors likely found in your new shingles, installing the zinc strips will be an effective second line of defence, saving you from the big disappointment of seeing stains on your beautiful new roof.

Good building.

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

Get it off the floor

A typical storage space at a client’s home in Lucan, Ont. on Thursday April 16, 2015. CRAIG GLOVER/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

So, how successful was your fall cleanup?

If you’re not sure how to grade your effort, the calculation is as follows. Measure the floor space of your garage, backyard shed, unfinished basement area, and/or those locations that would be defined as storage depots. Next, divide this number by the floor space occupied by items that are not furniture, riding mowers, or things weighing over 40 pounds.

If only 10 per cent of your storage square footage is covered by miscellaneous seasonal matter, or things weighing under what should be a manageable 40 pounds, then 90 per cent of your floor space was clear, essentially earning you an A grade, which is pretty good. The more things remain on the floor, the lower your grade, with anything lower than a B, representing the fact you’ve allowed 25 per cent of your available floor space to be covered with seasonal junk, earning you a failing grade.

Basically, the storage world has little sympathy for clutter.

So, if up to this point, you’ve been failing in junk management, there are two options. Either you invest in hooks and racking, or you eliminate the junk by means of a yard sale, donation, or dump.

Because humans love to collect and hoard goods, eventually developing a closeness with their stuff, the simple elimination of overstock is rarely possible. So, until death finally separates you from grandma’s wooden bowl collection, boxes of board games from the 1970s, and those priceless paint-by-number works of art, let’s get all this stuff on a shelf.

Because some things are better hung, while other stuff is more comfortable on a shelf, you should consider dedicating wall space to a combination of heavy duty hooks, shelves— and probably the best means of separating and displaying small tools and brackets: a pegboard. Also, we won’t be adding shelving, but in fact be building “racking.”

If you stop by your local building supply centre and ask for shelving, you’ll most likely be given the choice of either 12-, 16-, or 24-inch wide panels of 5/8-inch melamine finished particle board. Melamine shelving is fine for your closets or finished areas of the home, and does well to support towels and shoes.

However, you’re not going to be wanting to toss a car battery, place clay pots, or stack used gallons of paint on melamine shelving.

For racking, I suggest you use three-quarter-inch fir plywood. Fir plywood is more expensive than spruce sheeting (that would work also), but its smooth finish makes for the easier manipulation of goods, especially the heavier things, as you push and slide stuff off and onto the racking. Plus, the fir plywood won’t buckle, even under severe stress, and will take a pounding for the long term.

Support the shelving using 2×3 lumber, fastened along the front and back edges of each shelf.

Hooks for the purpose of hanging anything from extension cords to bicycles should be of the screw-in, vinyl-coated variety. Avoid choosing regular coat hooks. I find the shape of regular coat hooks dangerous, and when I see them, am always reminded of the final scene in the 1978 movie Midnight Express, where the fellow escapes after the guard’s head get skewered on a coat hook during a brief tussle.

You’ll never get skewered using vinyl-coated hooks. Plus, they won’t break like coat-hooks sometime do, and they’ll support significantly more weight.

Vinyl-coated hooks are best installed on a length of 2×4 spruce lumber, with the 2×4 then fastened onto the wall using lag screws. Again, and related to safety, although I can’t recall an improperly installed sheet of pegboard in a scene from Halloween 5, the revenge of Michael Myers, leading to somebody’s untimely death, your sheets of pegboard should be installed behind a shop table, or base shelving, and/or placed at least three feet off the floor.

Bending down to retrieve something off a hook is a recipe for getting skewered.

Good building.

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

He’s here to become a pain with his cracks

The beige, cylindrical object towards the left of the furnace is the humidifier with its controls. CANSTOCK PHOTO

Arriving under the cover of darkness, usually around the time of our first snowfall, this little fellow will slip into your home.

While visions of sugarplums dance in your head, he’ll open up his bag of goods in your living room and begin his night’s work. The only problem is, this little fellow ain’t Santa Claus, and he’s no jolly elf.

The fact is your unexpected guest is an ogre by the name of Charles W. Cracks, with the W standing for willfully. His eyes don’t twinkle, and his dimples are about as merry as roadway potholes.

His cheeks are like roses, and his nose is like a cherry, although not so much coloured by participating in a healthy outdoor life, but more related to his six-pack-a-day smoking habit, and topped up flask of rot-gut brandy in his breast pocket.

Upon opening his sack, there are no presents to be found, but instead a large assortment of pry bars and chisels.

Alas, the Ogre of Cracks is not here to deliver cheer, but instead will get to work on separating miter joints from between moldings, and creating the heartbreaking and ultimately most disappointing drywall crack of all time— that being the separation of where ceiling meet walls. The thing about miter joints separating and cracks developing along your ceiling line, is that they’re the product of humidity, the physics of cold meeting hot, along with various atmospheric conditions.

Which, sorry to say, makes the homeowner’s ability to control these eyesores about as likely as hiding behind the big sofa into the wee hours of the night, and successfully catching the Crack Ogre as he descends the chimney.

Now, however bleak the reality of being able to prevent cracks, there are ways of lessening the extent of your casing and baseboards separating.

Crack preventing remedy No.1: control the humidity levels in the home by investing in a HRV (heat recovery ventilation) unit.

In the olden days, we had to rely on signals such as a dry throat and nosebleeds to let us know the air in the home was a little dry, or frost on the windows to remind us that it’s time to ease up on the pasta making. Which, would have us either opening windows or setting pots of water about the home to counteract dry or wet atmospheric conditions.

So, you can stick with that rather unscientific strategy, or invest in the mechanics of a HRV. Not only will your HRV regulate indoor humidity levels, which will vary throughout the year due to changing outdoor temperatures, but the HRV will also circulate and clean your household air 24/7.

Further to a HRV is a humidifier, which like the HRV, will work in conjunction with your furnace to efficiently distribute quality air into every room of the home.

Crack remedy No.2: fill the miter gaps with a paintable/flexible quality caulking. When cracks develop where the walls meet the ceiling, you’ve got a situation referred to as truss lift.

The good news about truss lift is that it’s a non-structural situation, so it’s not really affecting the home in any type of supportive, or building, manner— other than being simply unattractive. The bad news about truss lift is that once your home develops it, it tends to come back every winter.

Truss lift occurs when the trusses pry themselves off the partition walls in a home. Why trusses move in this way can be attributed to moisture conditions in the attic, whereby some trusses fall victim to condensation, and swell up in the cold, while the trusses buried in the insulation stay dry, and shrink slightly in the cold. Where shrink meets swell you get movement.

Solution? None that aren’t excessively intrusive or costly.

Remedy? Install a crown molding, or large cove molding to the ceiling only (not the wall), along the perimeter of the room. This way, when the ceiling lifts, the decorative molding moves with it, and nothing cracks.

Good building.

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

Making that room even quieter

Today we improve our home comfort with more strategic ways of eliminating room-to-room sound transmissions.

As mentioned last week, the most opportune time to do so is when renovating your kitchen, bathroom, or really any room in the home. Essentially, if you’re going to be moving or opening up a wall in order to redirect wiring, plumbing, or ductwork, then you might as well be taking advantage of this opportunity to create a little more privacy.

Why the need to block the transfer of sound? Because silence is golden, and after your 12-year-old has returned home with a set of bagpipes as his musical instrument of choice, silence will maintain your sanity.

What decreases sound from transmitting from point A to point B? Distance and obstacles. With the average residential building lot being anywhere from 50 to 60 feet wide, increasing the distance between the theatre room and your desktop computer is going to be a challenge.

So, we’re left with the alternative of obstacles.

Disclaimer: The following sound-blocking procedures will effectively muffle general sounds created in the home, however, the enactment of said procedures should not be used in falsehood, or as a crutch, for a person’s habit of selectively hearing.

Yes, we can reduce the sounds being transmitted by the loud operation of a television (producing about 60 decibels) being operated in room A, from entering room B, to little more than a whisper. However, a human cry for attention (producing about 80 decibels) should the lady of the home see a mouse, or be attempting to get a long-overdue chore completed, will indeed transmit through, albeit not quite in its entirety.

Regardless, if there’s no movement on the part of the person on the receiving end of this cry, know that it’s not so much the sound blanket doing its job, but the fact you are indeed being ignored.

With a regular, hollow-core wall assembly having a STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of about 32, it would be nice to boost this wall assembly up to a STC 55, thereby muffling out most loud noises.

Step one: Fill the space in between the studs with Roxul’s Safe n’ Sound insulation, immediately boosting our wall assembly from a STC 32 to a STC 42.

Next, and before installing the drywall, fasten a sheet of 0.75”x4’x8’ Sonopan to your wood studs. Sonopan, recognized by its green colour and dimpled texture, is a lightweight fibre board that adds another 10 STC points to your wall assembly.

With both the Roxul Safe n’ Sound and Sonopan fiber sheets, our wall assembly now stands at an impressive STC 52.

Getting to our goal of STC 55 is going to require the help of a slight air space, along with a bit of solid mass. The air space will create a drum effect, further dissipating the transmission of noise, and will be provided by the addition of steel moldings, referred to as resilient channel. Installed horizontally at every 16 inches on centre, and placed directly over the Sonopan panels, the resilient channels will be fastened with 2.5-inch screws, reaching through the Sonopan, penetrating into the wood studs.

Avoid using regular 1×3 spruce strapping for the creation of an air space. The spruce’s mass will allow sound to reverberate through the wall, whereby the resilient channel’s mass is minimal, offering no route for the sound to follow.

Next, we follow up with two layers of 5/8” inch drywall, as opposed to a single layer of half-inch drywall. The 5/8” drywall provides the mass we’ll need to reach our goal of building an STC 55 wall structure. The first sheet of 5/8” drywall will be fastened to the resilient channel, but won’t penetrate the Sonopan board, while the second sheet of 5/8” drywall gets fastened to the first sheet, effectively creating a break in sound transmission.

Bonus to the 5/8” drywall is the double layer of fire-resistant product.

That’s how we keep things quiet.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder

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

Thar she blows

Postmedia Network Blowing insulation into an attic is fairly easy, especially if you follow the advice of our handyman.

Today we’re going to be adding insulation to an existing attic.

The home in question was built in the mid 1970’s, and presently has about six inches of fiberglass insulation on the attic floor, providing about R-20 of thermal value. With today’s attic insulation standards set at R-60, the homeowner will need to add about 14 inches of Atticat blowing wool.

Why add insulation to an attic that’s already insulated? Because this attic is insulated to 1970’s standards. In the 70’s, energy and electrical costs were relatively low, the economy was strong, and the Montreal Canadiens were winning Stanley Cups. So, it was no big deal having to put on a sweater before curling up under the covers, because hey, the Habs were winning hockey games. Today, the Canadiens wouldn’t recognize the Stanley Cup if it walked up and bit them on the butt, so there’s no celebratory mood to help warm your cockles.  Furthermore, home heating costs are atrocious, while Justin Trudeau’s focus is on getting fitted for his dragon embroidered Changsha (traditional ceremonial robe) in preparation for his trip to China, because that’s what Chinese men wear every day, apparently, with the deficit issue far down his list of concerns.

So, we’re left to fend for ourselves, which means reducing our heating bills by bumping up our insulation levels. Why choose a blowing wool, as opposed to fiberglass batting, to insulate an attic? Because the blowing wool strategy provides the homeowner with longer arms, allowing them to distribute the insulation matter from a series of vantage points, thereby eliminating the risk of having to gingerly step across the truss joists. The suggestion to use the Atticat strategy is based on the element of P&P, prudence and probability. The safety relevance of the P&P is based on what’s referred to as ‘balance beam heartbreak’, which simply refers to the fact 40 per cent of gymnastic injuries are balance beam related. Considering this beam measures four inches wide, and is stepped upon by trained athletes, what are the chances of the average do-it-yourselfer making it safely across a series of truss joists that are only 1-1/2 inches in diameter? Unfortunately, official documentation regarding this action is limited. However, ‘prudence’ tells us the average non-gymnast homeowner should be avoiding the strategy of straddling joists as they place batts individually over the attic floor, because ‘probability’ tells us the resulting fall will drive one’s scrotum up into their body cavity.
So, with this vision in mind, cut yourself a couple of 16”x48” sheets of 5/8” plywood, or pick up a couple of 2×10 pieces of lumber, and toss them up into the attic beforehand. These will provide a safe walkway as you slowly manœuvre over the floor joists.

Step one to this project, ensure the attic space will be adequately vented. For this job, you’ll need to staple vent baffles, aka rafter mates, in between each truss. The vent baffles prevent the insulation and blowing wool from blocking air from entering the attic through the soffit. Then, make sure there’s adequate roof venting to create this necessary draft of fresh, outdoor air. The roof venting requirement can be satisfied by having an accredited roofer install a Maxivent type of product near the peak of the roof.  Next, create an extended attic hatch tunnel by stacking 2×8 lumber edgewise along the perimeter of the hatch. This extended tunnel will prevent the blowing wool from falling through the attic hatch door. Since we’ll be requiring about 14 inches of Atticat blowing wool, use a tape measure to mark the 14 inch necessary depth along the truss webbing, or staple a series of Atticat paper rulers to the joists at 10 ft. intervals. In order to add R-40 of thermal value to this attic space, the amount of Atticat required will be based on the calculation that one bag of Atticat blowing wool will provide 49 sq. ft. of coverage. Be sure to watch the Atticat install video, and follow all instructions.

Good building.

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