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

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

How to stain in the great outdoors

Steve Maxwell applying deck stain as part of his ongoing deck trials. Many deck finishes don’t work, no matter how well you prepare the surface first. Photo credit: Robert Maxwell JPG, CO

Staining your treated lumber deck need not be so ominous a task, and can generally be accomplished in three steps.

One: pick up the necessary preparation and finishing materials.

Two: print out a clear list of instructions regarding the proper use and disposal of said products.

And three” load your golf clubs into the trunk, double check the cooler to confirm all sandwiches, snacks, and alcoholic beverages are in order, then kiss your wife goodbye and let her know the teenager you’ve hired to do the job should be arriving shortly.

Three easy steps, and that’s it.

Why hire a young person to do this task? Because when done properly, staining a deck doesn’t do an aging lower back, knees, and shoulders any favours. And two, the odds of failure, including/but not limited to, peeling, crackling, and early wear or product deterioration in our temperature zone, fall somewhere between likely and guaranteed.

So, you might as well get a decent game of golf out of the day, strategically positioning this kid as the fall guy.

Why don’t deck stains last as long as advertised? Because the homeowners fail to follow procedure.

Basic procedure No. 1: timing. Because exterior staining puts you at the mercy of the elements, you’ve got to choose your two- to three-hour staining window wisely. Basically, you’ll need to avoid early mornings (dew on the planks), too late in the evening (dew, cooler temperatures), full sun (stain will dry too quickly), too cold (stain will freeze before absorption), or eminent rain in the next 48 hours.

As a result, success will be had while staining on a semi-cloudy day, between the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with expected temperatures between 18 C and 26 C, with of course little chance of rain.

Unfortunately, achieving this sequence of temperature and climate would have you moving to Fayetteville, Tenn., or somewhere in the central U.S. With that being unlikely, we time our staining the best we can.

Basic procedure No. 2: clean the deck surface the week beforehand. Best results will come from either scrubbing the decking planks with a soap and water solution, or using a deck-cleaning product, which can be applied with a spray-type canister. The deck cleaner is a convenient choice because the solution need simply sit on the decking planks for about 15 minutes before rinsing. In both cases, the soap solutions should be rinsed off with a garden hose.

In an age where emotions relating to impatience and immediate satisfaction are as common as adding cream and sugar to a coffee, pressure washers are an attractive alternative to rinsing.

However, a pressure washer is simply too much tool, and would be akin to calling the SWAT team in to break up a disturbance between two toddlers at the Tots n’ Tubbies Daycare. A tool that was basically designed to clean barnacles off a ship’s hull should not be used on treated pine and spruce softwoods. Pressure washing will result in clean, but your decks surface will be permanently etched (which will attract dirt and mould), and be left saturated with water, requiring at least a week of dry weather to cure.

Besides a simple clear finish, stains come in either semi-transparent, or opaque finishes. A semi-transparent stain is like an interior stain, in that it highlights the wood grain as it provides colour. However, and like an interior piece of furniture about to receive a stain, the decking planks should be sanded. Sanding the decking planks beforehand opens the pores of the wood, and allows the stain to effectively penetrate the decking, creating a more beautiful and lasting finish.

Opaque stains are like a paint, in that they provide a solid colour that hides the wood grain. However, opaque stains differ from paints in that they aren’t as slippery to walk on, and can be applied directly to a clean deck without the need to sand.

Application tidbit: apply the stain with a roller, then back-brush the stain into the wood.

Good building.

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

Your options for exterior painting

When it comes time to sealing your treated lumber deck, you’re going to have four options.

They are; opaque stain, semi-transparent stain, exterior porch and floor paint, or a clear finish. A fifth alternative, the option to do absolutely nothing to the wood, alternatively leaving it turn to a weathered grey over time, wasn’t mentioned because doing nothing isn’t really an option.

Permitting a deck to go grey is a choice, or a lifestyle. Are grey, weathered decks the more natural way to go? Absolutely, in the same way pain, suffering, and ultimate death is natural. Can grey, weathered decks be endearing, adding charm and maturity to one’s backyard, while gently blending into the landscape?

No.

I’ve been greying over the past five years. It has made me neither endearing, nor charming, and certainly not any more mature. What the grey has done is make me look old, with people asking me if I feel OK, or commenting to me that I’ve gotten smaller.

So, with the list of upsides of allowing a deck to naturally turn grey, equalling the many positive aspects of arthritis and impending knee surgery, let’s review these sealing options.

Clear sealers basically buy you time, similar to a reprieve from the governor if you’re on death row, and are fine if you need six-to-12 months to decide on a colour scheme. Because treated lumber has transitioned from the former green colour to brown, people will sometimes choose a clear finish in order to preserve this rather favourable, factory-brown tint.

The brown tint added to the treatment process is simply colouring, and not a true stain, so it’s time is limited. Clear sealers will help prevent your decking planks from absorbing water, but will eventually succumb to the elements, allowing your decking to begin the greying process by year three.

So, with clear finishes providing a two- to four-year timeline of colour protection, at some point you’re going to have to paint or stain.

‘Porch and Floor’ latex paint will be your paint option. Choosing a paint over a stain is generally due to past history, basically relating to what you, your father, or your grandfather might have used in the past. If you’ve had success with a paint, you’re more than likely to choose a paint again.

Paints came before stains, so there’s still a following who will choose to paint their decks.  Otherwise, choosing a stain, instead of a paint, has been the trend for several years now.

Paints vs. stains? Paints have a tougher, more resilient finish, and provide a more brilliant reflection of colour than a stain. However, paints (even the satin finishes) are significantly more slippery when wet, which is probably the leading reason for its general demise as an exterior deck finish.

So, if your deck or porch is covered, remaining mostly dry due to being sheltered from the rain, then a porch and floor paint can be a good choice. Otherwise, an open deck would best be served by a more slip-resistant semi-transparent or opaque stain.

Semi-transparent stains will require you first sanding your decking planks.

In lieu of sanding, a lot of people choose to pressure wash their decks, which gives the homeowner the immediate satisfaction of clean as this pressured water pulverizes the deck’s surface. Pressure washers are great for the homeowner because you get clean and quick results, without the back pain. However, these machines are lousy for your decking planks because they tear up the surface fibres of the wood, and effectively saturate the lumber with water, rendering it totally unsuitable for accepting a stain in the immediate future.

So, if you’re not up to the physical challenge of sanding your deck, or would rather a solid colour scheme, as opposed to seeing the wood grain, choose a solid stain. Solid stains are an easy choice because they allow you to re-coat every few years with little preparation.

Next week, giving Sylvester Stallone’s, midnight-black hair colour a shot.

Good building.

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

It’s not like clearing the bases

File No.327, titled “over-scrubbed,” has us examining the case regarding a Miss Sandra Scrub, aka the “scrubber,” due to her position of batting cleanup (fourth in the lineup) on her ladies’ ‘Suds and Duds Laundromat’ softball team.

With a slugging percentage (SLG) of .917, superior to Major League Baseball’s Babe Ruth and current SLG record holder Barry Bonds, the scrubber’s reputation of clearing the bases has become so renowned, the streets surrounding Suds and Duds field often lay vacant during the Tuesday night ladies’ league, due to local motorists fearing another home-run ball shattering their windshields.

Unfortunately, the scrubber’s proficiency in cleaning up whatever teammates were hanging around on the bases, has led to rather over exuberant behaviour regarding her kitchen and living room floors. Essentially, our Miss Scrub has been cleaning her ceramic and hardwoods with the same diligence used to clean runners off the bases.

Having a heavy stick when batting cleanup is no doubt a good thing. Using this same heavy manner to clean your floors, well— that’s not so good.

A most recent episode had Sandra becoming frustrated with a cooking oil stain on her recently purchased porcelain tile. When the yellowish blob refused to wipe up cleanly with a dry cloth, due in part to the tile having an anti-skid type of texture, the scrubber’s first thought was to solve this annoyance with a blow torch.

After a moment of reflection, she instead reached for the bottle of CLR cleaner under the sink. Miss Scrub, being a heavy hitter, doesn’t just wipe up a floor stain, she nails it out of the park.

Unfortunately, in the world of floor care, continued use of too aggressive a cleaner will often cause collateral damage to the floor. After a few weeks of general cleaning, Sandra noticed the finish on her porcelain tile becoming rather dull, and with this being a relatively new floor, called the supplier to issue a complaint.

As far as the scrubber was concerned, she had purchased a ceramic tile of lesser quality, sealed with a finish that had simply worn off, with general stains or spillages now being more difficult to remove. In hindsight, Miss Scrub would have probably done less damage to her porcelain had she gone with her original thought of using a blow torch to clean up spills.

Pre-finished hardwood, ceramic, and vinyl floors are coated with several coats of sealer that are intended to provide the homeowner with 10-to-15 years of solid, reflective surface. In the case of PVC luxury vinyl floors and stone composite floorings, consumers can expect those finishes to last 25-plus years.

However, these potential years of finish can be reduced to a few months by using the wrong cleaning products.

CLR is a fine cleaner, but like the letters represent, is designed to clean off calcium, lime, or rust – some pretty stubborn components – and not chocolate, linguine, and red wine.

How do you know a cleaning product might be too harsh for your floor? When the fine print warns you against getting product on your skin or clothing, and failure to seek immediate medical attention after simply inhaling or ingesting the product may result in death.

When it comes to floor cleaners, I recommend people look for products with the GreenGuard symbol, along with the not-so-intimidating picture of baby feet walking on a floor. This, as opposed to those products with skull and cross bones, or exploding canister as their claim to fame.

As to floor cleaning strategies? One, purchase cleaners expressively designed to clean your specific floor. And two, when purchasing flooring, don’t go home without the cleaners and maintenance products as well. Otherwise, you’re likely to pull out the CLR, or Mr. Clean.

In Miss Scrub’s case, the finish on her porcelain tile has nearly been completely removed by non-flooring type cleaners, leaving her with two choices, either have the tiles re-glazed, or replaced in their entirety.

With that decision pending, case No. 327 was closed.

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

Get your newels tested in Newtons

Sculptured by Roublliac in 1755 this is a statue at Trinity College Cambridge University of Sir Isaac Newton 1643-1727 a famous English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and alchemist. TONY BAGGETT / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Today we’re talking newel posts and how they relate to Newtons, a measurement of force, and not Newton, Hercules’s centaur buddy.

Let your mind wander to thinking of English physicists.

Essentially, one Newton is the force needed to accelerate one kilogram of mass at the rate of one metre per second, squared. The KiloNewton is a unit of force where one KiloNewton is equal to one thousand Newtons.

Because the building code tosses around the term kN (KiloNewtons) like Santa’s elves do candy at a Christmas parade, familiarizing yourself with Newtons and KiloNewtons will get you well on your way to understanding how to fortify your deck in order to meet those resistance loads insisted upon us by the building code.

Conversely, if you happened to have skipped the six years required to secure a master’s degree in engineering, and perhaps lack the educational background to fully comprehend KiloNewtons, and the various other mechanical bibble-babble found in the building code, let’s put the element of KiloNewtons into layman’s terms.

Essentially, one Kilonewton equals about 225 pounds of pushing force. The building code demands your newel posts be able to withstand a vertical load of 1.5 KiloNewtons, about 338 pounds of force, which is akin to either being put in a headlock by your average professional wrestler, or surviving the tugging force of at least three members of the McCulloch dance troupe.

So, considering the push/pull power of Highland dancers – they may be slight, but they’re mighty – deck builders should give serious consideration to the proper installation of their newels. Plus, building inspectors may or may not jump up and down on your deck to test its worthiness, but they always shake the post, and on a combined diet of black coffee and the day’s roadkill, along with early morning viewings of Die Hard I and II, these people are motivated to induce movement.

No matter how secure you fasten a newel post, when vertical (push from the side) pressure is applied to the top of a post, essentially at its weakest point, it’s going to move. The degree to which your newel moves, and how quickly it rebounds back to its perpendicular state, will determine its worthiness as a post, and the resulting security level of your railing system.

All railing systems have engineered drawings which outline how exactly a newel post in their system is to be installed.

Railing systems without engineered drawings are not acceptable, will not pass code, and will have to be dismantled if ever installed. So, avoid bargain brand type rails, yard-sale junk, or bidding on some beautifully ornate rail system at an auction.

What passed code in the 1930s won’t meet today’s standards.

So, unless you plan on using such a rail to decorate the area surrounding your lawn or garden area, or you’ve secured the engineering paperwork with a 2019 re-evaluation, keep it off your deck.

The key to a solid newel post is the blocking, or basically the mass of wood product that will accept the necessary lag screws or bolts that secure the post base. PVC (vinyl) and aluminum railing systems generally have newel posts that come with their own type of steel sleeve or base, which makes the surface mounting of these posts relatively straight forward.

Now, however good or engineered a post system is, failure is certain should you simply fasten these posts into the 5/4-inch decking. Effective blocking will mean placing 2×6 (for bolts) or 2×8 lumber (for accepting six-inch lag screws) underneath your decking planks.

Be sure to laminate the blocking with the help of a PL Premium glue, and secure the blocking into the joist system.

For composite and certain PVC systems, a 4×4 treated post will form the bulk of the post, with a decorative PVC or composite sleeve sliding overtop. In cases such as these, the 4×4 post will need to be buried into the joist system, and not surface mounted. Again, 2×8 blocking will be necessary in order to firmly secure the 4×4 on all four sides.

Good building.

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

The best choice of rail is clear

Around the perimeter of a cedar deck, Colin and Justin opted for glass and metal railings built by the team at Nortech.

Today we’re choosing a railing system for our backyard deck.

As stated last week, there are rules to follow regarding railing height and style. Plus, you’ll require stamped drawings in order for your railing system to pass code, and the inspection process.

So, be absolutely sure of your railing height, style, and available stamped drawings, before placing your railing system on order. It’ll feel like a punch in the gut when you discover your custom railing order didn’t account for the length of decking that butts up against your pool, thereby requiring a 60-inch high rail, instead of the 42-inch high railing you just sank $1,500 in.

Although railing systems come in a variety of manufactured species, including aluminum, PVC vinyl, and composite materials, our local building code limits us to basically two styles of railing systems, them being vertical spindles and balusters, or individual glass panels.

If your deck is elevated to the point where you’ll be having to look through the railing system in order to see what’s happening in your backyard, or if your deck happens to look out upon a garden area, river bank, or some equally desirable landscape, then you’re going to have a hard time beating clear glass panels as your choice of railing system.

Pros to going with glass panels? A completely unobstructed view— especially with those systems that have eliminated the top rail, protection from the wind, and arguably the best-looking system on the market.

Cons to glass panels? Until the local bird population modifies its flight patterns, you can expect a few casualties, which will be unfortunate. So, once the glass panels are installed, be sure to move the bird feeder if there’s one close by. Also, consider installing a few strings of reflective bird tape, hang a few ‘hawk eyes’, or perch a plastic falcon in some conspicuous spot, in order to dissuade the chickadees from the surrounding air space.

Maintenance of glass panels? We owned a glass-topped table once, once! Eventually, the constant finger prints and beverage circles left on this glass table top had us doubling up on our medication. However, today’s exterior glass panels are of such a high quality, they clean up easily with the spray of a garden hose.

So, investing in glass doesn’t mean having to start buying Windex and paper towels by the caseload. A worst-case scenario might have you passing the squeegee once in a while, until you eventually tire of that, and just accept the glass as being 99 per cent perfect.

Other than glass panels, the choices will be a railing system which includes either PVC, composite, or aluminum vertical spindling.

Often, homeowners will choose a PVC or composite spindle for their front porch because it’s beefier, or slightly more massive construction is more in line with the traditional porch spindling of long ago. Aluminum spindles are far more slender than their PVC and composite counterparts, and are a favorite in backyards, allowing those persons seated on a back deck to more easily view the back lawn area.

When discussing the advantages of a glass panel rail versus an aluminum spindled system, I remember one individual telling me the aluminum spindles were the better choice because they’re less expensive, and a better value, because in time you don’t even see them, or realize the thin aluminum balustrades are still there, and essentially look right through them.

Ironically, this fellow was a member of our local court system, and our conversation always had me wondering if this same line was used to console a criminal during sentencing. “I know we’re talking 15 years Rocco, but don’t worry, in time you won’t even notice those bars.”

Personally, I see the bars, just like I notice the safety netting if we happen to be sitting in an area behind the net at a professional hockey game, even though that’s supposed to be invisible also.

So, clear in my view, is only possible with glass.

Good building.

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