Building your storied mantel

A mantel, which was originally part of a series of architectural mouldings found at a restoration store, adds instant character to this brick fireplace. POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILES

Today we’re going to be deciding on how to build our mantel.

Essentially, a shelf becomes a mantel when it’s placed over a fireplace.

When a mantel is supported by two column-like moldings placed on either side of the fireplace, this three-piece unit adopts the more elegant designation of “mantel surround.”

In an effort to simplify things, avoid formality, or guide the style of one’s home towards that of open space contemporary, mantels, as opposed to mantel surrounds, are becoming the decorator’s choice for accessorizing the wall space occupied by a fireplace.

So, with your lonely mantel now expected to bear a large portion of the decorating weight, becoming one of the key components to this accent wall, ranking second only to the fireplace itself, your mantel will need to provide impact.

For this to happen, the mantel is going to require two elements: size and character.

Size can be achieved either by building the mantel to the desired dimensions, by special ordering a solid piece of lumber, or by revitalizing an old barn beam into service. Building a mantel is easy, or like they say, only requires money.

Basically, any mantel found on Houzz or in a decorator’s magazine, can most likely be duplicated by your local building supply dealer’s bath and kitchen cabinet division, or by a local carpenter familiar with this type of finishing artistry.

Custom-made mantels are beautiful, but they usually don’t have any extended value, and carry even less of a story. Unless of course the mantel was made by some aging artisan who recently passed away, which like a piece of art, could elevate the mantel’s value.

Or, ‘legendary story’ value could result if the cabinet maker should have suffered a gruesome beheading after he slipped while trimming the mantel with his radial arm saw. In such a case, the customer would certainly benefit from the added value of their mantel having a history, and a warm, gather-around-the-fireplace type of story to recount to the little tykes on Christmas Eve.

Otherwise, a custom mantel is a rather nondescript piece of work.

So, with aging cabinet makers on their deathbed not so easily found in the yellow pages, if your mantel is to impress, then the option of solid wood might be the next best choice.

Because B.C. fir is readily available in practically any length or dimension of lumber, the fir specie is an excellent choice for a mantel. Besides the freedom to order a mantel in the desired girth, choosing B.C. fir also allows the homeowner to match the colour and grain pattern of their mantel to that of any other wood beams and pillars in the home, enabling the decorator to establish a real continuity of style and texture.

B.C. fir can be ordered with either a rough-sawn or dressed finish.

A rough-sawn look is the resulting finish of the original log being pushed through the band saw at the mill, and offers the customer a straight, but “furry” type of texture that includes splintering and saw blade marks. Rough-sawn finishes fit right into a rustic type of décor, or serve well to contrast in a contemporary setting.

Dressed refers to the fact the lumber has gone through a planer, and has been rendered smooth to the touch.

Other than made-to-measure and solid B.C. fir options, old lumber can serve as the perfect mantel. Beams from one of the seaway locks, old industrial pillars from the cotton mills, or the posts used in the 1870 last community hanging of bad boy Alfonse “le méchant” Papineau, all carry yesteryear’s charm, and make for great storytelling.

Otherwise, the fun thing about using old lumber is that you become the story teller, which is considered fair game in the home décor biz.

Concerns regarding old lumber? Look for any embedded nails or bolts before cutting. And, the paint on these older beams likely contains lead. So, sanding will require using extreme precautions.

Good building.

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

What’s the mantel?

Today we’re going to be deciding on how to build our mantel.

Essentially, a shelf becomes a mantel when it’s placed over a fireplace.

When a mantel is supported by two column-like moldings placed on either side of the fireplace, this three-piece unit adopts the more elegant designation of “mantel surround.”

In an effort to simplify things, avoid formality, or guide the style of one’s home towards that of open space contemporary, mantels, as opposed to mantel surrounds, are becoming the decorator’s choice for accessorizing the wall space occupied by a fireplace.

So, with your lonely mantel now expected to bear a large portion of the decorating weight, becoming one of the key components to this accent wall, ranking second only to the fireplace itself, your mantel will need to provide impact.

For this to happen, the mantel is going to require two elements: size and character.

Size can be achieved either by building the mantel to the desired dimensions, by special ordering a solid piece of lumber, or by revitalizing an old barn beam into service. Building a mantel is easy, or like they say, only requires money.

Basically, any mantel found on Houzz or in a decorator’s magazine, can most likely be duplicated by your local building supply dealer’s bath and kitchen cabinet division, or by a local carpenter familiar with this type of finishing artistry.

Custom-made mantels are beautiful, but they usually don’t have any extended value, and carry even less of a story. Unless of course the mantel was made by some aging artisan who recently passed away, which like a piece of art, could elevate the mantel’s value.

Or, ‘legendary story’ value could result if the cabinet maker should have suffered a gruesome beheading after he slipped while trimming the mantel with his radial arm saw. In such a case, the customer would certainly benefit from the added value of their mantel having a history, and a warm, gather-around-the-fireplace type of story to recount to the little tykes on Christmas Eve.

Otherwise, a custom mantel is a rather nondescript piece of work.

So, with aging cabinet makers on their deathbed not so easily found in the yellow pages, if your mantel is to impress, then the option of solid wood might be the next best choice.

Because B.C. fir is readily available in practically any length or dimension of lumber, the fir specie is an excellent choice for a mantel. Besides the freedom to order a mantel in the desired girth, choosing B.C. fir also allows the homeowner to match the colour and grain pattern of their mantel to that of any other wood beams and pillars in the home, enabling the decorator to establish a real continuity of style and texture.

B.C. fir can be ordered with either a rough-sawn or dressed finish.

A rough-sawn look is the resulting finish of the original log being pushed through the band saw at the mill, and offers the customer a straight, but “furry” type of texture that includes splintering and saw blade marks. Rough-sawn finishes fit right into a rustic type of décor, or serve well to contrast in a contemporary setting.

Dressed refers to the fact the lumber has gone through a planer, and has been rendered smooth to the touch.

Other than made-to-measure and solid B.C. fir options, old lumber can serve as the perfect mantel. Beams from one of the seaway locks, old industrial pillars from the cotton mills, or the posts used in the 1870 last community hanging of bad boy Alfonse “le méchant” Papineau, all carry yesteryear’s charm, and make for great storytelling.

Otherwise, the fun thing about using old lumber is that you become the story teller, which is considered fair game in the home décor biz.

Concerns regarding old lumber? Look for any embedded nails or bolts before cutting. And, the paint on these older beams likely contains lead. So, sanding will require using extreme precautions.

Good building.

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

Working with real wood for your deck

In this new world of composite decking, why is pressure-treated lumber or cedar still a good choice for a porch floor or backyard deck?

Because painting or staining a horizontal surface isn’t such a pain in the butt. As a result, and until the solid PVC and composite companies render their products a little less expensive – and somehow manage to design a decking that doesn’t retain heat so effectively – real wood surfaces are going to continue to win the marketing battle by default.

As previously mentioned, real wood surfaces will absolutely require maintenance if their appearance is to keep up with the balance of your ‘touch-it-once,’ maintenance-free home.

Choices of decking lumber commonly available in most local markets include pressure-treated spruce, or western red cedar.

Brazilian decking lumber such as IPE (eeh-pay) is also available, usually under the status of a special order (which may require waiting a week or two), but I hesitate to recommend its purchase. Definitely a beautiful species of lumber, IPE can be as costly as composite decking. Furthermore, there’s one colour choice, which is basically a mahogany red type of tone.

Due to IPE’s wood grain being so tight, the surface pores won’t accept a regular semi-transparent or opaque stain, and must be sealed with a clear oil specifically designed for the IPE product. Left untreated, IPE, like everything else, will turn grey. Although a delight to the end purchaser, IPE (aka ironwood) can be a nightmare for the installer, due to its stubbornness in accepting a nail, screw, and even a drill bit.

With a core density and burn resistance equal to concrete, IPE is one of the few wood products that won’t float. Although a popular wood product to be used on the decks of many a luxury cruise liner, building a diving platform or raft out of IPE would fundamentally be a disaster for the uninitiated cottager.

The choice between treated lumber and cedar lies primarily with the user’s experience. Essentially, both species will require a pre-sanding, followed by the same install strategy using either the Camo (edge screw), or deck bracket (fasten from underneath) strategy of non-surface screw insertion.

Both species are coniferous, or evergreen types of trees. What makes cedar the premium product, or preferred choice over treated lumber, is cedar has a tighter grain than spruce, and contains natural oils, which causes cedar to be more stable over the long-term, meaning less chance of splits and cracks under the stress of our fluctuating temperatures.

Plus, as anybody who’s ever worked with cedar knows, the lightweight planks are a pleasure to handle, with its soft grain cutting and drilling with ease (essentially the exact opposite of IPE). Like any wood product, having a paint or stain properly adhere to the wood’s surface means first sanding the wood with an 80-grit paper.

Because cedar lumber is usually kept indoors, and therefore dry, it can be stained immediately after installation.

Treated lumber, due to it being stocked on a much larger scale, is usually kept outdoors. Although wrapped in protective tarps at least for a portion of the year, wind and general inefficiencies can definitely affect the consistent use of these tarps, so treated lumber is bound to absorb a little moisture. As a result, treated lumber will usually benefit from at least a few weeks of dry weather before attempting the sanding and staining process.

Protecting your wooden deck surface can be done using either a clear sealer (yearly application), semi-transparent (lasting two-to-three years), or opaque (solid colour) stain (generally applied every four-to-six years).

I love wood, so the option of a clear or semi-transparent finish is attractive to me because it accentuates the natural grain patterns of each plank. However, because I love my boat more, and cherish every summer weekend, the solid colour stain, which lasts longer and applies without having to sand between coats, is my go-to, outdoor stain product of choice.

Good building.

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

When choosing real wood

With all the terrific choices of composite decking available in today’s market, why would any homeowner install treated lumber or cedar on their decks?

Although it’s been suggested to avoid using uncovered wood products outside, especially relating to porch posts and railing systems, real wood decking still holds some advantages over the solid PVC or composite decking alternatives.

However, the “holds some advantages” statement will have to be qualified by referencing the fact composites still have some challenges, or product glitches that will need to be ironed out, in order for the choice of composite decking over real wood to eventually be considered a no-brainer.

Challenge No. 1: price.

Although aluminum and vinyl railing systems have fallen in price, due to improvements in manufacturing and larger-scale production, the costs of composite decking have steadily increased. Unlike aluminum and vinyl railing components, which have been around for decades, composite decking is relatively new, and has seen lots of improvements from those early generation composites that often swelled and developed mould.

Today’s solid PVC, or composite/PVC-wrapped products have evolved considerably from those early years, with swelling, shrinking, expansion, and mould being non-issues. However, this road to composite decking success has of course come at a price for the manufacturer, with these research and development costs filtering down to the eventual consumer.

Is composite decking done evolving? Not quite yet.

Although the recipe for making a composite or solid PVC decking product is pretty well understood, with developments in sheen, texture, and colour variation, every manufacturer’s goal is to make their composite as realistic looking as possible. The cost to purchasing composite decking is not likely to fall anytime soon.

So, although aluminum and vinyl railing systems stand at an affordable two-to-three times the price of real wood, composite decking remains two-to-four times the price of cedar, and four-to-eight times the price of treated lumber. As a result, there’s still hesitancy on the part of the consumer in purchasing such a premium deck product, with further improvements regarding the costs of production to be made on the manufacturing end.

Challenge No. 2: temperature.

Essentially, in severe heat and/or direct sunlight, composite decking, regardless of colour or texture, gets too hot to walk on in bare feet. Real wood decking, under the duress of heat or direct sunlight, remains relatively comfortable to bare feet. So, regardless of composite decking’s many attributes, on some levels it may never outperform Mother Nature.

So, how does the homeowner deal with wood decking’s biggest challenge, which is of course maintenance? Is doing nothing to your wood deck an option? Yes, but a really lousy one.

Without some type of protection, a wood surface will warp, crack, develop slivers, and essentially look horrible.

Now, if your backyard is littered with dog poop, a 1970 Pontiac Parisienne on blocks, and a few garden gnomes scattered about, then a greying, decaying deck would provide the perfect centerpiece to such a backyard world of death and misery.

Luckily, success in owning a great looking wood deck that’ll demand only minimal maintenance, will require invoking these procedures.

One, sand both sides and the two edges of each plank with an 80-grit sandpaper.

Next, seal the underside of the planks with a clear waterproofing product.

Three, and most importantly, refrain from surface screwing the decking planks. Choose either the ‘Camo’ installation tool, which is a procedure that strategically guides the camo screw into the edges of the decking plank, or fasten the decking planks from underneath by first installing deck brackets, which are perforated steel strips that get fixed along the edge of each joist. Surface screws are to be avoided because they provide a direct route for water and moisture to enter into the core of the lumber. When this core water freezes, cracks, splitting, and splintering are the results.

Conversely, a sanded wood surface, when sealed, should last for years before needing a further coat. Next week, more on real wood decking.

Good building.

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

Decked out in composite

Composite deck lumber is a blend of reclaimed plastic and recycled wood fibers. There’s no need for finishing composites. Just keep them clean. STEVE MAXWELL/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

In this, our last segment on “touch it once,” the strategy of choosing building products based on the likelihood of these products not requiring a second touch, or further maintenance once they’re installed, has us examining what will probably be wood’s last stand— that being wood decking.

So far, the touch-it-once strategy has us choosing 50-year warrantied sidings, such as vinyl or fibre cement, or such mainstays as brick and stone, which can last several generations.

Touch it once means extending the warranty on your asphalt shingles by following a directed manner of install.

And, touch it once essentially means eliminating all that is wood on the exterior of the home, opting for aluminum or vinyl railing systems, PVC trim-boards around windows and doors, using PVC posts wraps to protect those 4×4 or 6x6treated columns, and vinyl lattice or vertical siding to skirt the raised portion of your deck.

However, when it comes to decking material, is composite or PVC decking not the obvious choice if we’re to stick with our touch-it-once home maintenance strategy?

Or, has treated wood or cedar decking suddenly become a one-touch product?

Without a doubt, composite or PVC decking is the best way to finish your deck. Composite decking is beautiful year after year, has a perfectly uniform colouration and grain pattern, doesn’t warp, crack, or sliver, and cleans up with a spray from the garden hose and sweep of a broom. So yes, composite and PVC decking is the obvious choice for any deck surface.

Conversely, wood decking products will definitely need maintenance if their appearance is to remain constant, so that inevitability hasn’t changed.

As a result, there’s no reason to choose anything other than composite decking, unless of course any of the following reasons pose an issue.

Challenge No. 1, price. Treated lumber costs about $2 per square foot, and cedar decking about $4 per square foot, which seems costly enough, until you compare it with the ticket price of composites, which due to the vast array of finishes and colouration choices, will range in price from $8 to $15 per square foot of decking product.

Now, in all fairness to composite decking, consideration must be given to the fact most composite and PVC decking products come with 25-year warranties, which should entitle the owner to 25 years of weekends spent doing something other than painting or staining a deck. So, if we consider the costs of time and material related to maintaining a wood deck, the pricing gets a little closer.

Regardless, composite decking still remains considerably more expensive than wood.

Besides the price, it’s important for the future composite decking buyer to realize three further points.

One, composite decking isn’t the perfect product, yet. Its surface is tough, but not indestructible, so it will scratch and dent if people are careless in the way they move decking furniture about.

Two, being composed of mostly recycled plastics – a great thing because it reduces stuff otherwise going into our landfills – composites do move a bit under the stress of extreme heat or cold. So, those miter joints that were so tight and perfect in the spring, may not look so good in the heat of the summer or fall, which can be disappointing to the perfectionist carpenter.

And three, the surface of your composite or PVC decking will heat up to a slightly uncomfortable level in direct heat and sunlight. I love our composite deck, but on a hot sunny day, stepping out onto the deck from the patio door without my sandals on has seen me do a not-so-coordinated tippy toe dance back into the kitchen.

So, with composite decking comes the need for shade, sandals always at the ready, and a hose nearby to help cool things off.

Otherwise, you’ve got wood decking, which when really analyzed, isn’t such a formidable challenge.

Next week: the one-to-two, OK, maybe three-touch wooden deck.

Good building.

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

Anything but wood

The staircase in the Mackenzie model by Minto at Arcadia splits on the second level to provide separation between the master suite and other bedrooms. Railings are simple metal spindles in urban black with a modern handrail profile. GORDON KING, FOR POSTMEDIA NETWORK

If our goal is only wanting to touch things once, inevitably freeing ourselves from the bondage of home maintenance by eliminating those products requiring a second touch or further care once installed, then the 42-inch beveled-edge baluster is doomed to become the loneliest product in the lumber yard.

Essentially, it’s made of wood, it’s going to require a second touch.

Depending on how long you keep your home, there could very well be third and fourth touches, which all fall under the dubious term of maintenance.

Saying goodbye to wood appendages will be difficult for some, since the wood spindle’s contribution to residential history has been significant. Formed on a lathe, turned Victorian-style spindles were often the showcase items on those grand, century townhomes that featured exquisite wraparound balconies.

From the post-Second World War years to the end of the 20th century, turned spindles were the look of middle-class prosperity, similar to the white picket fence of the previous generation.

So, are we to forfeit the cultural significance of the turned spindle and dismiss its contribution by eliminating its future use?

Well, understanding that painting a turned spindle ranks right up there with having to change a flat tire or manually dig a post hole on the satisfaction spectrum of household jobs we hold most dear, there’s little chance the next generation of homeowner is going to put up with this type of yearly monotony.

Following the turned spindle, the exterior railing trend switched towards the smooth look of the beveled edge baluster. Though the balusters plain finish would reduce maintenance times rather significantly in most cases, one coat of finish is all most balusters were going to see.

Eventually, with brown-coloured treated wood entering the market, balusters and their handrails would most often be left unfinished. With no paint or stain to protect the finish, the thought was these balusters would keep their brown colour for a few years, then gently turn to a lovely grey hue.

This was, of course, one-touch dreaming.

Unfortunately, time does exposed wood favours in the same way it improves our hairlines, and benefits our ageing knees and lower backs.

So, with exterior wood railings and wood trims being the type of products that will need constant revisiting or replacement within six-to-eight years should you totally ignore them, the only solution to not having to maintain wood spindles is essentially avoiding wood spindles or balusters in the first place.

What one-touch type railing systems will the homeowner have to choose from? Well, there are several, with the more popular choices being aluminum, steel, and PVC (vinyl).

Essentially, the steel and aluminum series of railings offer spindles and newel posts that are thin and sleek, with colour choices that include the popular deep brown and black tones of the day. The PVC railing systems offer a slightly heavier looking baluster and newel post, and are a good choice if a traditional white spindled railing is what you’re after.

One-touch porch posts will need to follow a similar rule, although not quite so stringent, to your deck spindles. In other words, wood columns or posts are fine during the construction phase, but will need to be covered with a PVC wrap at the finishing stage.

Similar to the wood joists and general wood structure, there’s no questioning a piece of wood’s integrity or longevity if it’s kept dry.

Are there any conditions which would allow exposed wood to be used on an exterior deck, and still fall under the one-touch philosophy? If any portion of your deck crosses into the State of Arizona, where temperatures vary between dry and very dry, then perhaps. Otherwise, no.

The task of choosing alternative products to wood may seem daunting at first, but don’t fear the challenge.

There are PVC trim-boards, fascia planks, moldings and lattices available to cover any decking challenge.

Next week, does ‘touch it once’ mean saying no to wood decking?

Good building.

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

Touch-it-once siding options

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

Last week, we talked about the “touch it once” theory, and how the discipline of touching notes and other paperwork only once will prove a useful strategy in clearing up your desk area.

A de-cluttered desk reduces stress, increases your energy and workplace efficiency, and will create more free time to complete other tasks or move on to other things.

So, how can we relate the practice of touch it once to the home renovation or building biz? And, most importantly, how can we benefit from it?

Well, there are certain likes and dislikes to owning a home.

What we homeowners dislike is having to do a job twice, or consistently maintain a product. What we tend to like is free time, enabling us to enjoy all the fun things we’ve purchased for ourselves.

So, it stands to reason, if your goal is to do less home maintenance and gain more free time, then choosing home products that need only be touched once should be your guide to future purchases.

Last week we mentioned the value of extending the warranty on your asphalt roofing shingles another five years by opting for the Weather-Tite roofing system, which is an installation program that has a certified roofer following a specific series of shingle-application procedures. For a few hundred dollars more, an extra five years of not having to deal with roofing issues will be a welcome return on that investment.

When it comes to choosing an exterior siding for your home, any little piggy will suggest you stick with brick or stone. Lasting several generations, the chances of a homeowner needing to touch their brick or stone siding a second time are between zero and none.

Should a home settle over the years, hairline cracks could develop in the mortar, which will be an easy fix for your local mason. Otherwise, a brick home signifies absolute stability, delivering the best in long term home value.

If future home renovations include replacing your existing wood siding, installing regular brick and stone, and the aforementioned mortar, could prove challenging (but not impossible) if your present home has a foundation whose ledge is not wide enough to support the depth and weight of a brick or stone product.

However, there are dry-stack (no mortar required) stone alternatives, such as the Fusion Stone product, whose system of clips allows the installer to fasten this man-made stone onto a regular exterior plywood wall. No mortar required, and no foundation modifications or engineering feats need be blueprinted.

Fusion Stone offers a lifetime warranty on a siding product that like the brick and stone originals, will last for generations.

Other long-term siding investments include Hardie Board, which is a fibre cement product, and vinyl siding, with both products having 50-year warranties.

Hardie Board is a painted product, so although the fibre cement will never rot or deteriorate, its painted finish may require attention in 15 to 20 years.

Vinyl siding, on the other hand, should have its substrate and colour last the full 50 years, which makes it most likely the second-best value to brick or stone. Regardless of vinyl being this great value, with basically zero maintenance – unless of course some little punk fires a puck into it, or dad sets the barbecue at 600 F then parks it a couple of inches away from the wall – some home renovators or builders may dismiss vinyl siding as too cheap an alternative.

True, the regular horizontal vinyl siding line of products is relatively inexpensive, while having little fortitude or product integrity to defend against even mid-range product shock. However, that’s what you get for $0.65 per square foot.

But, if you take the time to look at some of the slightly heavier vinyl sidings, with a slightly higher cost of course, most homeowners would be quite impressed with the texture, vivid colour, and structural integrity of these premium products.

Next week: touching things once means saying “bye-bye” to wood.

Good building.

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

Touch it once

I attended a seminar some many years ago titled “Thinking Outside the Box,” given by a fellow who had worked with Walt Disney back in the days when Mickey Mouse was simply a sketch on a used napkin, and the idea on the breakfast table at Sally’s Diner was whether or not it made economic sense to transform about 100 acres of Florida swampland into a theme park.

A popular term in the 1970’s and 1980’s, thinking outside the box was basically management’s way of challenging their employees to become more creative, or better problem solvers, by dismissing self-imposed limits and conventional barriers.

The thinking outside the box strategy was symbolized by the infamous 1914 conundrum known as the nine-dot puzzle (three rows of three dots, forming a square). The challenge was to contact all nine dots with four straight lines, without lifting your pencil off the paper, or doubling up on a line. Limiting yourself to the perceived parameters of the box, which most of us would naturally do, would make solving the puzzle impossible.

However, by having your first straight line pass beyond the visual constraints of the box, the puzzle can be solved, hence the strategy of thinking outside the box in order to solve a problem.

So, are your thoughts and ideas handicapped by perceived limits and boundaries? Give the nine-dot challenge a try.

Besides that quirky little test of one’s imagination, I remembered two things from the seminar.

One was this fellow’s recounted habit of questioning Mercedes Benz owners with a, “Hey, nice car, and by the way, have you purchased your child a telescope?” which could be a reference to any number of things.

And two, in order to save on time, limit work stress, and create better workplace efficiency, touch a piece of paper only once. Or, in other words, once you’ve got something in your hands, either do something with it, or file away, but don’t leave it dragging around.

I’ve never used the “Hey, nice car, and by the way…” line, mostly because I do drive a nice car – not a Mercedes, but still a nice car – and have myself failed to purchase my children a telescope, having steered their youthful energy towards sports and sleeping in crappy hotels every second weekend during the tournament season instead of exploring the sciences.

I do practise the touch something once concept regarding everything from office stuff to the tool shed at home— and I can tell you, it works.

So, how does the touch it once relate to the business of owning a home?

Well, wouldn’t it be nice to repair the deck, replace a railing, or fix a rotting window sill only once? If so, then you’re going to have to start thinking outside the box, choosing home building techniques and finishing products that may not be quite the norm, or what you’ve purchased in the past, but hopefully are products that need be installed only once in your lifetime.

Starting with the roof, consider paying a little extra for an extended warranty on your asphalt shingles. I was never a big believer in extended warranties, but times have changed, and with things tending to break down once a standard one-to-five-year warranty is up, spending a few more hundred bucks in order to stretch the warranty period a few more years is probably a good insurance risk.

So, when it comes to asphalt shingles, consider upgrading from the regular limited warranty, to the next level of coverage. A warranty upgrade will provide the homeowner with 20 years of full coverage (parts and labour) as opposed to the standard 15 years, before things get pro-rated. This warranty upgrade does have a few stipulations, such as using certified roofers, a specific install procedure, and a list of acceptable underlay and capping products – all good things of course – which should ensure you never having to touch your roof again.

Next week, more on touching things once.

Good building.

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

Drop this LVT under your feet

You know you’ve developed a flooring product that’s pretty special when the installation video requires about 30 seconds of your attention, and carries a retention and comprehension value of at least 95 per cent.

In other words, by the time the 30-second instructional video has run its course, you’re going to have a full understanding of how this flooring product works.

It’s like the first time you saw the commercial introducing the public to the plastic milk bag as a cheaper and more convenient alternative to buying milk in cardboard cartons.

Required tools for using this new plastic bag option? Scissors.

From that point, it basically took me one view to understand that the process of retrieving milk from this container would begin with me dropping the bag into a decanter, then snipping a chunk of plastic off the appropriate corner. Although some of those initial snips may have created too minimal, or too heavy, a flow of milk. Or, had the user mistakenly cutting the plastic corner closest to the handle, creating the somewhat awkward and potentially messy situation requiring the delicate 180-degree turning of the bag, I think most home dwellers experienced relative success on the first shot.

So, what is this innovative product that we speak of?

‘Smart Drop Elite’, by the Fuzion Company. Smart Drop Elite is essentially a luxury vinyl tile (LVT), and is one of several types and styles of premium floor products available on the market today. However, what separates the Fuzion series of Smart Drop products from other luxury vinyl planks is its new format of sizes.

Most luxury vinyl floor products are available in either six- or seven-inch wide planks that measure between 36 to 48 inches long, resembling wood flooring; and, 12×24-inch tiles, which duplicate the look of a marble or ceramic product. The Smart Drop Elite series offers a beautiful selection of wood styled planks that are nine inches wide by 60 inches long, and a marble series where the vinyl tiles are a very impressive 18×36 inches in size.

Is bigger better? Always.

Actually, the larger format of planks and tiles speaks more to what the fashion or décor market is trending towards. At one time, residential hardwood flooring was limited to either 2.25-inch or 3.25-inch sized planks, with ceramic tiles being an easy to figure out 12×12 inch in size.

Today, if you were to walk into a retail establishment and ask for 2.25-inch hardwood flooring, or 12×12 inch ceramic tiles, the sales clerk would certainly question how you had managed to get yourself trapped in a 1970s time warp, or be ready to offer their condolences, since it’s more likely you just inherited grandma’s place, and are faced with having to complete a few repairs.

When it comes to flooring, in basically any format, be it wood, ceramic, or vinyl, big is certainly in, and big is definitely beautiful. Although the wider, nine-inch wood style vinyl planks are quite attractive, it’s the large 18×36 inch marble replica tiles, previously seen in only those grandiose type home or hotel entrances that are really impressive.

Tools for installing the Smart Drop Elite include a utility knife, measuring tape, and a carpenter’s square. Pretty simple stuff— no drills, chop saws, or power tools of any kind needed. If you can read a measuring tape, and carefully pull a utility knife along a straight edge without creating bloodshed, then the Smart Drop product is definitely something you could install.

With no “tip n’ click” or “tongue-in-groove” mechanism to deal with, the Smart Drop Elite, like most LVT tiles, has a square edge, which requires the installer simply butting one edge up against the other.

In commercial applications, the LVT planks or tiles should be glued down, but for residential purposes, the tiles simply lay directly on the floor, with only a two-way tape required along the perimeter of the room.

Need flooring? Be sure to consider the LVT line of products.

Good building.

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

You go “nice and slow, see…”

“Nice and slow see— dat’s the way to do it— nice and slow,” was the phrase told to Fred by an armed robber, warning him and the others to count slowly as this villain backed out of the room, in a gripping moment occurring during a scene from a classic 1963 Flintstones episode.

Now, what’s so special about the “nice and slow, see” phrase, and what does it have to do with home construction and renovation?

Even though a firearm in the Flintstones era was basically a small rock loaded in a sling shot set on a stick shaped like the gun, and considering you could get flattened by a steamroller in those days and not die, those dramatic few moments are still, and will be forever engrained in the minds of those of us who watched the Flintstones cartoons in the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, I’ve been passing on the ‘nice and slow, see’ strategy to those persons getting into home renovations for as long as I’ve been in retail.

That, along with the words of wisdom ‘never bite off more than you can chew,’ after a failed attempt to finish the whole hog, a ridiculous amount of sugar-infused ribs, at the Bar-B-Barn in Montreal some years ago.

So, if you’re a novice to the world of finished carpentry, or are intimidated by the risk of failure, and would otherwise like to try installing a particular type of product, then let’s start with a small sample room, taking things nice and slow.

Popular wall decorating items these days include stone and slate, which can create stunningly beautiful, naturally textured walls, especially around fireplaces or as accent walls behind bedroom headboards. However, if you’ve never experienced anything other than installing regular, wood-grained panelling, or traditional wainscoting around the dining room, then having to work with real stone might be out of your comfort zone.

So, break the chains of intimidation by attempting an area that’s relatively small, and free of corners and obstacles. Excellent beginner areas include the spare bathroom, spare bedroom, spare or rear entrance way, or basically any non-essential space where if a total disaster should occur, the general public need not know about it, and your family need not be reminded about it on a daily basis.

First, familiarize yourself with the products.

Some stone products can simply be screwed onto a wall with small hidden brackets. As a result, the only preparation required is to install a half-inch sheet of plywood over the existing drywall. Other stone or slate products will need to be glued, which again is a relatively simple procedure using any number of today’s all-purpose premium glues, available in easy, caulking type dispensable tubes.

What often intimidates the first time user is the cutting.

However, the cutting of stone or slate no longer requires a chisel and small sledge hammer.

Essentially, if you own a table saw, circular saw, or a grinder, there’s a stone and slate cutting blade that’ll fit any one of these tools. Note, the dust created by dry cutting natural tiles can be horrendous, so be sure to find a spot outdoors, preferably downwind from the entrance way. If the weather outdoors is going to make outdoor cutting just too unpleasant an experience, then you may have to consider renting or investing in a wet saw, which is basically a small table saw with a water trough fixed underneath that consistently moistens the blade, keeping the dust to a minimum.

So, on one of the bathroom walls, not all of them, just one, and preferably, one free of any towel bars or toilet roll dispensaries, try your hand at installing the stonework. With cutting limited to strictly 90 degree angles, and with no corners or moldings to circumvent, you’ll be able to cover a small bathroom wall by the end of the afternoon.

A successful home renovation, satisfactorily performed and area cleaned up well before the start of the hockey game.

Well done.

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