No basement subfloor only equals disappointment

Montreal Canadiens forward Phillip Danault (24) gets hit in the face by the puck in front of Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta (32) during the second period at the Bell Centre, on Feb. 10, 2020. ERIC BOLTE-USA TODAY SPORTS

With the subject on the table being basement floors, let’s continue with our discussion regarding basement subfloors.

A basement floor, regardless of your choice of finishing materials, will always be better with a subfloor underneath.

Basically, the basement subfloor serves three purposes. One, it adds thermal value, deflecting the dampness of the concrete, while creating a warmer walking surface. Two, subfloors cushion what is a totally unforgivable concrete floor, creating a more comfortable surface to walk or play on. And three, the dimpled or foam underlay membranes will negate the effects of a mild to medium water infiltration issue.

Essentially, the basement floor experience is similar to rooting for a Canadian-based hockey team as it jostles for a playoff position. Eventually, they will disappoint us.

If you’re a Habs fan, this means brooding through the month of February, waiting for that elusive blockbuster trade that’ll either boost us into contention, or bury us in the league’s basement, all while a team like the Arizona Coyotes – where the average citizen of Glendale couldn’t distinguish a hockey puck from a stale bagel – still manages to be blessed with a team in playoff contention.

If you’re the owner of a just-renovated basement space, disappointment will usually arrive during the spring thaw, where foundation walls with a perfectly dry history, somehow and by some ill fate, develop a few cracks, with this breach leading to a puddle in the games room just deep enough to bury the soles of your slippers.

However, if there’s an underlay in position, mild flooding will effectively stream through the dimpled underlay membrane, making its way to a floor drain or sump pump well located in the service room.

Last week we talked about the dimpled membrane/ridged foam/plywood strategy, or basically what is the ultimate in basement floor underlays, due to this system providing a deeper air space to accommodate any moisture issues, along with a superior thermal value, providing a warmer floor surface. Another bonus to this three-ply system is that the rolled dimpled membrane, and 4’x8’-sized foam and plywood sheeting, effectively conform to any slight dips or irregularities in the concrete floor.

If you’re considering the dimpled/foam/plywood option, be sure to choose Dorken’s Delta floor dimpled membrane, which is grey in colour, and avoid saving a few bucks by opting for a dimpled foundation membrane, which is usually black.

Besides the difference in colour, the floor and foundation membranes are identical, which may entice homeowners to go with the cheaper foundation product. However, the Delta floor product is made with virgin PVC material, with this pure material format eliminating the VOC (volatile organic compound) element.

Foundation dimpled membranes are meant to be buried in the soil, and as a result are the recycled by-products of anything from gas “jerry” cans to toxic waste containers.

So, and because suffering stomach or headache issues due to the off-gassing of such a product, especially after your basement’s finally completed, would certainly be lousy, with the $50 saved offering little comfort at this point, stick with a proper flooring membrane.

However terrific, the three-ply system may constrict your available headroom, eating up about two inches of floor-to-ceiling space. So, if a two-inch thick subfloor is going to bring the taller people in your home perilously close to the ceiling’s ductwork, you may want to consider an alternative subfloor system such as Barricade’s foam-based subfloor panel (R3.2 value), or Barricade’s Dricore air-plus, with a plastic dimpled bottom (R1.7 value).

The advantages to the Barricade products is they come in a one-inch thick, all-in-one (plywood and membrane combined) 2’x2’-sized sheet, which is certainly easier to carry down basement stairs than full-sized sheets of foam and plywood. Plus, these Barricade sheets require no nailing or screwing down into the concrete, and simply fit tight together (no glue required) with the aid of a mallet and tapping block.

Next week, more on basement flooring.

Good building.

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

A subfloor for your basement

Engineered flooring shown over a basement subfloor. STEVE MAXWELL/POSTMEDIA NETWORK
If you’re finishing your basement, whether it be for it to serve as an exercise room, play area for the kids, or simply as a means of getting the TV downstairs, all in an attempt to create a more peaceful living atmosphere on the main level, you’re going to need flooring.<

Options?

Other than basements, or essentially below-grade (ground-level) installments, being off limits to solid hardwood flooring and some engineered hardwoods, mostly any type of flooring can be installed in a basement. However, your first brainstorming efforts regarding the flooring should be dedicated to the underlay materials, or basically what’s going to be installed under your preferred flooring material.

Because concrete basement floors are naturally cold and damp (which is why solid wood products don’t do so well when installed overtop) homeowners with eight or more feet of floor-to-ceiling headroom may want to consider a dimpled membrane/ridged insulation/plywood combination of underlay products.

Essentially, everybody benefits from a warm floor.

If you’re not sure about the warmth benefits of ridged insulation, or question the power of its reflective energy, visit your local building supply centre and ask to see a sheet of ridged pink insulation, commonly referred to as code-board, or Johns Manville’s (JM) ridged polyiso panel, often called RX board. Request that the sales clerk lay the sheet down on the floor.

If for this test case the panel in question is the JM board (which has a slightly superior R-factor over its competition due to an aluminum coating on one side), ask the reflective aluminum side be facing up. Next, calmly remove your shoes, remain on what’s most likely a concrete or tile floor for a few moments, then, gently step onto the sheet. If your wearing socks on your feet, no problem, the fact that sock material does have some insulating properties will only slightly skew the test. For the purpose of demonstration, bare feet would actually serve best, but unless you’re wearing sandals, you may not want to be the designate of a call to security regarding a disrobing occurring in aisle three.

While in the act of stepping onto the sheet, the salesperson may motion towards you in a somewhat guarded manner, offering a hesitant, “I’m— I’m sorry ma’am, but we don’t really allow our customers to walk on…” However, the clerk’s urgency will be to no avail, because within seconds the reflective and insulating properties of the ridged foam will be warming the bottoms of your feet. Remain on the sheet for about 30 seconds.

By this point, the junior sales clerk will have most probably left the scene to seek the aid of management, or possibly the in-store security. Either way, you’ve now got about 45 seconds to complete the test, because in 60 seconds you’re likely to be escorted off the premises.

So, step back off the sheet and stand on the concrete floor (still in your socks or bare feet) for about 10 seconds, thereby experiencing that cool, damp feeling again, then, step back onto the sheet for another 10 seconds and, ahh— feel that warm, comfortable sensation of heat returning to your body.

With test trial “ridged warmth” now complete and proven successful, you’ll have about 25 seconds to pull on your socks and tie your shoes, then hastily make your way over to plumbing, or the nearest unrelated sales area.

This best scenario basement subfloor option would have you first laying out a roll of Dorken’s Delta basement floor barrier (or an equivalent) directly on your concrete floor, dimpled side facing the concrete. Next, place a layer of either three-quarter-inch (R-5) or one-inch (R6.5) JM ridged polyiso overtop, using a roll of red sheeting tape to hold the sheets together.

Then, install sheets of either five-eights-inch or three-quarter-inch tongue-and-groove plywood, or OSB (oriented strand board) overtop. Use tapered tapcon screws to secure the plywood, which must penetrate the concrete by at least three quarters of an inch.

Next week, more on basement floors.

Good building.

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

Always plan for your escape

Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network Vinylbuilt Window Co., provided this photo of a hopper style egress-compliant basement window. Handout Not For Resale SUPPLIED

Sometimes, you’ve just got to get yourself out of a situation in as expedient a manner as possible.

Say you’re a teen in a home where the house rules clearly oppose the sleeping over of friends in your finished basement, with said rules especially targeting the opposite sex due to the yearnings of young love not being truly appreciated by the parental hierarchy. Then a call for breakfast wakes you both up from a deep slumber; your little friend requires a quick exit.

Or, you’re the man of the house – with this designation being purely due to age, whereby the only thing you’re commanding is the home’s largest shoe size – and while in your third hour of watching professional football from the comfort of your designated man cave, a yell from the main floor above disturbs your solitude, wondering why you have yet to mow the lawn? You’re going to need an exit plan.

Or, God forbid, a real emergency occurs, with flames and smoke having engulfed the main floor. Those people in the basement are going to need a quick and safe manner of exiting the home.

Because bad things sometimes happen, today were going to be looking at how to make our basement living space egress compliant, or what is basically defined as being exit-friendly.

For those persons looking to buy a home, be sure to question the sales pitch that a potential homestead has seemingly added value due to its finished basement, or is a great buy because of an extra bedroom that exists in this basement area.

Without an egress compliant window, a finished basement is of limited value, due to the new owners having to foot the expense of bringing the area into compliance with the building code. So, be leery of spending an extra $15,000 on a home, due to its finished basement, when it’s going to cost you perhaps half that much to cut out and install a compliant window, while most likely needing outdoor landscaping modifications as well.

There are a few rules that must be followed in order for a window to be egress compliant.

First, the basement window must offer an exit space of at least 3.8 square feet, with 15 inches being the minimum opening dimension for either height or width. Unless you’re a member of this most recent Nutcracker dance troupe, the pull of a tape measure across your chest will quickly reveal that 15 inches doesn’t leave most of us with much wiggle room.

So, be sure to avoid the casement, slider, and certainly a regular awning type of window. Instead, look to choose what’s referred to as a ‘hopper’ window. The hopper is a kind of reverse awning, where the window pane is hinged at the top, like an awning, but instead swings inward, with the pane of glass swinging up, then locking in an open position for easy exiting.

The hopper window’s value is that it takes full advantage of the entire space provided by the concrete window opening. Plus, the hopper window satisfies the requirement an egress window be easy and uncomplicated to open.

Next, make sure there’s sufficient space to exit on the outside. Older homes are notorious for basement windows that are buried halfway deep into the soil, requiring a window well, or what’s essentially a steel corrugated casing that forms around the window.

Some windows wells are 12 inches deep, which means the only living creature escaping the fire that day will be the cat. Otherwise, window wells need to be at least 22 inches deep.

If possible, build your well deeper. This minimum spacing might prove challenging to those not enrolled in daily yoga classes.

Next, your egress hopper won’t save anyone if it’s placed too high off the floor, which of course can be an issue in basements. So, consider placing a cabinet, decorative type ladder, or some type of easily climbable unit underneath the window.

Good building.

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

How to create and sustain basement life

Last week, we discussed the importance of ensuring your basement space is capable of remaining dry, essentially step one in the creation of a new living area.

Basically, your concrete walls will need to be impermeable to water and moisture entry, or minimally have some type of system in place to deal with water penetration should your foundation be susceptible to such occurrences. Without a dry environment, your basement is best to remain as storage space, and an area to hone one’s slap shot.

With step one secured, let’s move on to step two, making this space livable.

Besides some of the obvious necessities of life (oxygen, nutrition, beer fridge, and the such), living in a basement will be a whole lot more pleasant with two key features— them being headroom, and natural light.

Headroom is especially important, and can present quite the challenge if the original builder had no foresight of this area accommodating life for anybody other than those under the age of eight, or cats. With furnace ductwork and plumbing pipes travelling under the joist system, and/or support beams being spaced at 12- to 14-foot intervals, trying to locate a pool table, or even a safe walking area for those with the option of careers in basketball, can be a problem.

If budgetary constraints are nonexistent, then the answer to mechanical height issues can be simple, either dig the basement down two feet deeper, or raise the home two feet. However, this could cost you in the neighborhood of $100,000, which might be a little much if you’re simply looking for a spot to accommodate your stairmaster and a few dumbbells.

So, let’s look at re-routing the ductwork and plumbing. Our goal will be to remove it completely from the common living area, or minimally push these mechanical systems out towards the walls, creating ample headroom in the middle of the room.

These changes will require the insight of a professional heating/cooling specialist, and a plumber. Air can be pushed up, down, and around, so the re-routing of ductwork is usually possible. Poop and water, on the other hand, rely on gravity, and have to flow downward, at a specific slope, which might make the re-routing of your plumbing pipes a little more challenging.

Regardless, show the mechanical professionals where you’d like your living space to be, and have them work on a strategy.

Next, basements always seem a little less like basements when you have natural light. Plus, if people are going to be hanging out in your basement, or if you have teenagers in the home, who might be having friends over, maybe staying up past your 9:30 p.m. bedtime, and maybe sleeping over, then for all these reasons, and certainly if there’s a planned bedroom in the basement, you’re going to want a basement space that’s egress compliant.

Egress means ‘exit’, which in the case of a finished basement, is explained in the building code as an easy means of exiting a space in the case of emergency.

Most stairways leading up to the homes main floor inevitably direct you towards the kitchen, which unfortunately is the place where most home fires start. After first being awakened by a smoke alarm, then a whole lot of shouting, and while in a state of panic, the basement dweller’s first thoughts of survival should not involve covering themselves with a blanket, climbing up the stairs, making their way through smoke and fire, basically following a route to which only a trained firefighter could survive, until they reach the front door.

What they should be doing is racing towards the egress window, located only seconds away, flipping it up, and safely exiting the home.

Because older homes often have the sliding type of basement window, and are buried in window wells on the exterior that further impede the escape process, the minimum spacing for safe exiting is often not met.

Next week, creating a safe basement environment with proper egress windows.

Good building.

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

Step No. 1 to finish your basement

At some point in the life of homeowners the idea of turning an existing basement, which up to this point has served the home as little more than a giant closet for junk and seasonal apparel, into real living space, will cross the kitchen table.

Strategically, the finishing of a basement makes sense. You’re heating and cooling 1,200 square feet of area that’s presently housing maybe three key elements to the home: them being the furnace, freezer, and beer fridge, and not necessarily in that order.

Which leaves about 1,100 square feet dedicated to mostly junk, so we’re talking a pretty lousy return on your home investment.

As a result, it would make sense to turn such an existing storage space, or a portion thereof, into something of real living value, like an exercise area, big-screen TV room, an extra bedroom or two, or simply a play area for the kiddies.

However, and logistically, there may be challenges.

So, before ordering your Peloton exercise bike and investing in series five of the buns of steel fitness videos, let’s make sure your basement is ready to be finished.

First, has water ever infiltrated your basement in the form of moisture spots or pools of water on the floor, or even minor flooding? If the answer to this question is either sometimes, only in the spring or fall, or simply well, it’s happened once, then officially list this project as a non-starter.

Those persons finishing their basements must understand of all the frustrations you’re bound to face regarding the finishing of this basement, be it mechanical systems, the permit process, arguments regarding the location of your free-standing popcorn machine, and discussions as to whether or not your chaise-lounger should include the hot dog-warming option; none of these stresses will compare to the heartbreak of water infiltration, or worse, a flooding.

Until you do what it takes to ensure the status of your basement is officially regarded as bone dry, moving forward with this project would be extremely risky. Therefore, check the concrete basement walls for cracks, and any areas of previous water infiltration.

Do-it-yourself, crack-injection kits are available to solve minor fissure issues, while moisture-sealing paints, such as Zinser’s Watertight product, do well to solve concrete walls that feel moist, or that tend to condensate during certain periods of the year. Try these first-aid type products first, then wait a few weeks to gauge their success.

If you achieve dry, congratulations, you might be ready to move on.

If, on the other hand, there’s anything more serious than this going on, such as a very obvious wall crack, water infiltration at the point where the wall meets your concrete floor, or sump pump issues, then the hiring of an experienced professional will need to be your next call.

After having succeeded in creating a dry basement, the next step will involve strategizing the use of space. Invite a favourite contractor or home designer over to help you with this challenge. And, it will be a challenge.

Essentially, you’ll be attempting to compartmentalize your basement into four sections: them being living space, mechanical/furnace room, workshop area, and storage.

Getting rid of some of the junk, moving boxes and shelving out of the way, and a general clean-up, all in an effort to create floor space, will be helpful start to this evaluation. However, the real issues often lie in what’s above.

Some homes have the luxury of what’s referred to as an open-web joist design, which allows the plumbing, electrical, and furnace ductwork to travel basically unimpeded throughout the basement, while not affecting the headroom— now that’s smart building. Or, you can have a home similar to ours, where the original owner had all the foresight of a fruit fly, having all the mechanical and plumbing fixtures fly under the 2×10 joists, providing a basement space where I have to duck every 10 steps in order to avoid concussion.

Next week, basement planning.

Good building.

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

Dig into the reasons for excavating

London home builder Doug Wastell shows off foundation wrap on a partially built home in a new residential area on Sunningdale Road in London, Ontario on Tuesday June 3, 2014. CRAIG GLOVER/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the verb excavate as; to dig out and remove.

The homeowners’ manual is a little more descriptive, describing excavate as; the opportunity to create an enormous mess, where one can expect incredible collateral damage affecting one’s lawn and perimeter fixtures, hourly fees that rival those of Manhattan lawyers, along with a general disturbance to the immediate neighborhood.

So, why put yourself through the stress of an excavation, which essentially means creating a moat around the perimeter of your home? Because if you’ve got persistent or regular water infiltration issues, and family members are no longer believing the three-to-four inches of water found in the basement every spring are your attempts at a cistern – a system of harvesting rainwater that dates back to the Neolithic age, or about 5,000 before Christ – then excavation may be your only salvation.

Plus, water issues eventually lead to mould issues. If thoughts are to eventually sell your home, this could be a deal breaker, because prospective buyers will definitely be leery of investing in a house with water-infiltration issues.

Furthermore, you can never underestimate the value of simply being dry.

Whether the basement’s future involves being transferred into added living area, or simply kept as storage space, dry will be a welcomed luxury if you’ve ever had water issues in the past.

Finally, don’t underestimate the familiar adage “location, location, location.” If you love your home, and if your home’s in a preferred neighborhood, then putting money into your foundation, what’s essentially a key element to a home’s comfort and stability, is always a good value investment.

How will excavating a foundation solve a home’s water issues? By transcending your home’s foundation into the 21st century, enabling it to be cleaned, repaired of any cracks or fissures, and re-sealed with any number of synthetic foundation membranes.

Once the foundation wall is sealed, a new length of weeping tile with a crushed gravel bed would be positioned at the footing, following the perimeter of the foundation, effectively directing rain and snow melt away from the home.

Most often, it’s the fear of total upheaval that stops homeowners from performing this big task. And, it’s understandable. Homes requiring this type of renovation are often 30-to-100 years old, and have longstanding driveways, decks, and garden areas that would be a shame to destroy.

Regardless, the long-term viability of a foundation far outweighs the loss of what are basically appendages. Basically, flowers and shrubs can be replanted, decks rebuilt, and driveways repaved.

What about excavating your foundation from the inside? I don’t like this idea for two reasons.

One, you’re basically creating a mess of dust and debris that will be extremely disruptive, with concrete waste materials being transferred to the outside of the home, then placed in garbage bins regardless. And two, creating the required trench along the inside of your foundation wall will require the use of a jackhammer, a tool designed by the devil himself. Besides delivering a rumble that’ll shake the home and have your canned goods toppling out of your cupboards, unless you’ve rented a room at the local Inn, the jackhammer’s reverberating sound may very well drive you to the brink of insanity.

So, how’s that compare to losing a few shrubs, or replacing a deck that more than likely could use some enhancements anyway?

The best time of year to perform an excavation? Spring and fall, while the temperatures are most favorable for everything from the installation of rubber membranes, to the driving of the backhoe and spreading of the gravel.

Where to start? Familiarize yourself with some of the various foundation wraps and membranes by visiting your local building supply centre. Because this is the last time you’re ever going to have to perform this task, choosing the best of materials will be important.

The building supply people will also be able to suggest to you a few reputable, local homebuilders and contractors familiar with this type of project.

Good building.

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

Solving the water mystery in your basement

This is were water from the weeping tile comes in and were the sump pump is submerged. It’s good practice to have a backup pump installed as well POSTMEDIA FILES

Today we continue our discussion regarding the mystery of basement water, basically asking the questions, where does it come from? And, how do we possibly control it?

Our case study will examine the finished living space of retired crushed-ice salesman, Sam “Slushy” Slushworth, who unfortunately has been spending most of his hours filling the clothes hamper with wet socks due to a number of repeated soakers.

Flooding is lousy, and when it occurs, is best handled by property restoration professionals. They have the pumps, hoses, and drying equipment to return your basement area back to dry in as little time as possible. Getting to dry within a day or two of a flooding is key to avoiding severe damage and mould. Flooding similar to Mr. Slushworth’s case is more of a pain in the butt, but still costly, although most would view the loss of Sam’s 1970s-era orange carpeting as divine intervention to a decorating choice long overdue for renewal.

Because basement floods will often lead to a total loss of flooring, furniture, drywall, and essentially everything except the suspended ceiling tiles and light fixtures, there are strategies to help avoid catastrophe.

One, if you’re dependent on a sump pump to keep things dry, have your local plumber install a second (or back-up pump) in the well. This second pump will be water-driven, as opposed to relying on electrical power. So, if there’s ever a power outage, or the primary pump simply jams due to an influx of granular matter, your basement investment isn’t lost to a malfunctioning $199 pump.

Those homeowners without sump pumps should consider using a dimpled membrane or 2’x2’ dimpled subfloor panel, as opposed to a simple six-millimeter plastic, underneath their chosen flooring.

A dimpled membrane creates a half-inch air space between the concrete floor and the flooring, allowing any water seepage to flow under the floor, depositing in a drain placed in an adjoining storage area or furnace room.

With the carpet removed, and the water stain clearly visible on the concrete floor, Slushy was able to trace back the water infiltration to a spot near the base of the finished wall.

So, is the mystery solved? Are we to simply cut out a narrow strip of drywall, pull back the insulation, and repair what should be a clearly visible crack in the concrete?

Oh, if Slushy could only be so lucky.

Although there exists a one per cent chance the water on the concrete floor is being fed by a crack in the foundation wall directly above it, 99 per cent of the time, water ends up travelling a distance, led by gravity and steered by obstructions, until it presents itself through a gap in the 2×4 framing.

So, if there’s no crack to be found directly above the point at which water is entering the room, is Mr. Slushworth to completely dismantle his drywall and framing in a frantic attempt to find the leak?

Perhaps, but, if this is a first-time occurrence, let’s avoid gutting the basement for now, and instead look at remedying any possible weaknesses in the water-management system outside.

If there’s a crack in your basement’s concrete wall, the repairing and patching of this issue is best done from the exterior.

There are certainly injection-type materials and hydraulic cement compounds that strategically allow the homeowner to attack water infiltration from the inside, but stopping water before it breaches the concrete is best.

Unfortunately, with our propensity to attach decks to our homes, install garden beds, lay interlocking paving stones and pour asphalt driveways directly against our foundation walls, essentially making our concrete foundations as inaccessible as possible, we’re left with either having to destroy our outdoor efforts, or make a mess of our beloved finished basement, in order to find that illusive crack.

Hence the importance of properly sealing a foundation, whether it be new or old, before any serious landscaping action happens.

Next week, managing the water runoff.

Good building.

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

Avoiding a Foolish Decision

29 BM? C Parker3 Nancy cc-cataloged cc-cataloged SUE REEVE / LONDON FREE PRESS

Spring can be a time for foolish behaviour.

We can foolishly fall in love. We can foolishly root for one of our Canadian based hockey teams to make it into the second round of the NHL playoffs. And, we can foolishly buy a home.

Time will soften a heartbreak, and even though the nights and hours invested in watching your team crash during the playoffs essentially forfeited your viewing of “Game of Thrones” finale season, the re-runs will still be pretty good. But, invest in a home that soon proves to be nothing more than a money pit?

Well, not only will you experience continued heartbreak, and time wasted searching for home remedies, but you’ll likely come face to face with financial disaster, successfully completing the foolish behaviour trifecta.

There are many factors and emotions that can sway people into buying a home, making it almost impossible to compile a list of do’s and don’ts regarding what makes for a good home, or a solid investment. Basically, the bottom line is, “know what you’re getting into”. This can only be accomplished by gathering information.

If your search for home details reveal a basement that floods every March 21st, plumbing that flows well enough in June, but not so good in January, and a roof that only leaks when the rains blow in from the east, but you’re still sold on the joint because the pond in the backyard reminds you of summers spent feeding the ducks at Gramma’s house, then your signing was at least based on the fact you were well informed.

Basically, ‘location’ is what most often drives the value of a home, almost regardless of the home’s condition. So, if you had to follow one real estate ‘safety net’ rule of thumb that would limit your financial risk, you can rarely go wrong buying the worst house on the best street.

Any deviation from this general rule and all bets are off. First and foremost, if there’s a home that’s of interest to you, be sure to either have it checked by a certified home inspector or be sure to specify in the home buyer’s contract that agreeing to purchase the home will be dependent on the home inspection meeting your expectations as the buyer.

Home inspections may vary in price due to the size of the home, but whatever the cost, it’ll be far less than the surprise investment of remedying moisture issues and mold in your child’s bedroom, or a crack in the sunroom’s concrete floor, that all went unnoticed until three months into your purchase.

Regardless of a home inspectors experience and familiarity with the home construction biz, all they can judge and comment on is what is visible. Unfortunately, home inspectors aren’t permitted to pull back the carpet to verify for rot or remove a piece of window casing to confirm the existence of foam insulation around the frame. So, as the buyer, your third or fourth set of eyes will be key to gathering intelligence.

First, know the age of the home your buying, or if it’s been renovated, the age of the components. Walking into a time-warp of a house that contains a different colour of carpet in every room, and re-runs of the Brady Bunch playing on the 26” Sony Trinitron, could be a sign that nothing much has changed in 25-30 years. In this case, the home’s cabinetry, light fixtures, as well as the furnace and cooling systems, will all be due for replacement. Next, ask for an ownership history of the house.

If the home has had several 1-3 year tenants, this could be a sign that this home has several issues. So, inspect this place thoroughly.

Finally, if there have been renovations, where are the work permits? People complain about the permit process, but I tell ya, there’s no better, or more powerful proof that you’ve renovated your place right, than by showing a potential buyer you’ve followed the building code.

Good home shopping.

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

Dealing with water’s mysterious appearance

Dimpled plastic membrane that can be applied to help direct water away from your foundation and into your weeping tile. VITALIY HALENOV / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

On Nov. 22, 1963, former marine sharpshooter Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at a motorcade from a sixth floor window in Dallas, Texas.

Regardless of the fact his target was moving, and possessing a mail-order rifle procured only months earlier, two out of the three shots are direct hits, instantly killing then-President John F. Kennedy. The degree of difficulty and circumstances relating to the assassination bring forth theories of a conspiracy, with even the possibility of a second shooter.

On June 3, 1934, the drilling and blasting relating to the construction of Highway A82 along the coast of Loch Ness, disturb a sleeping water monster from the depths of the loch, enabling London surgeon R. K. Wilson to take a silhouette type photograph, confirming the existence of Nessie, a creature whose sightings date back to 565 AD.

On March 14, Sam Slushworth descends the stairway towards his finished basement. As he makes his way towards the beer fridge located at the far end of a room not so fashionably decorated in 70s-styled wood paneled walls, a Mickey Mouse clock, and bright orange-carpeting, he experiences the uncomfortable sensation one gets when moisture quickly makes its way into your socks, the dreaded soaker.

Examining the room, Slushy notices a few other areas where water has seemingly infiltrated the carpet.

Was there a conspiracy to kill the president? Does an ancient sea dinosaur inhabit the depths of Loch Ness? And, where did Mr. Slushworth’s basement water come from?

Unfortunately, all are yet to be solved mysteries.

However, we will qualify ourselves to explore a few hypotheses regarding basement water, dismissing the two other mysteries until another day.

A basement is kind of like the hull of a ship, and is essentially a concrete tub surrounded by groundwater. However, and unlike the hull of a boat, which can be made of such impermeable products as steel, fiberglass, or some type of plastic, basement walls (including the ICF foam block systems) are largely made of concrete— a solid, but still very porous, type of material.

Basement floors are also made of concrete, solid but again, in no way impervious to water.

So, how’s a homeowner to defend against water infiltrating the basement, when the basement walls and floors inherently allow moisture to pass through?

Until somebody comes up with a suitable alternative to concrete, the homeowner is left with little choice but to seal their concrete walls and floors by the best means possible.

If you’re having a home built for you this spring, or will be buying a home presently under construction, then the answer to having a dry basement for the next 30 years – dismissing any natural disasters of course – is simple. Take the $5,000 to $6,000 you’ve budgeted for a big screen TV, dual chaise loungers equipped with cup holders and cooler, along with voice-activated lighting, or any other non-essential expense, and steer these funds directly into the concrete foundation fund.

If you plan on finishing your basement, then avoiding water infiltration will be absolutely essential. If a finished basement flood is something you’ve experienced in the past, then the frustration and trauma of surviving that issue is no doubt fresh in your mind.

So, be sure to demand nothing short of the best in foundation-sealing techniques this time around.

Basement floors should have a 10-millimetre plastic vapour barrier and two-inch thick rigid foam directly under the concrete slab.

Your basement’s concrete wall should be sealed with a rubber membrane, followed by a one-inch thick layer of comfortboard (rock fibre matting), then draped with a continuous roll of plastic dimpled membrane.

As a result, how the contractor plans on sealing your foundation is a conversation every homeowner should be a part of.

Due to Mr. Slushworth’s water issues happening after the concrete membrane had been installed, and the foundation backfilled, this foundation breach could be a very costly fix.

Next week, we investigate the possibilities.

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