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

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

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

Something for the birds

Lorenzo Sivilotti,left, hammers in a nail as Andrew Millson keeps an eye on the progress of the bird house they were building in a Grade 7 outdoor education program Thurs., Dec. 2, 2010 at King’s Town School on Rideau Street in Kingston, Ont. The class has been building birdhouses to be put around their school and on farm property north of Kingston. MICHAEL LEATHE WHIG STANDARD/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Today we’re going to be introducing a young person to the world of carpentry by constructing a bird house.

A bird house is an excellent first-time project because it’s carpentry 101, involving the assembly of four walls, a floor, the angling (or not) of a couple of panels to form the roof, along with a hole for an entry point. It’s essentially a simple process, involving a few concepts and some basic principles of assembly.

Plus, this first crack at carpentry carries with it a huge margin of error and forgiveness. You’ll never hear the birds complain the new condo you’ve provided for them is a little drafty, nor will passersby stop to comment on the workmanship.

“Did you happen to see the crappy looking birdhouse that little Jack fellow has hanging from the oak in his front lawn?” one neighbour asks the other.

“I know” the other neighbour replies, “the hole is off centre, and that perch couldn’t support a chickadee, let alone a nuthatch. Why that kid must have been on a Halloween sugar high when he put that thing together.”

That’s a conversation that’s not likely to occur.Plus, this first bird house may lead to other, more complicated assemblies, further honing their skills to the point where that addition or sunroom you’ve always wanted might get completed before they enter high school.

Or, this first litmus test of carpentry skill could demonstrate a serious lack of aptitude, whereby their inaugural attempt at nailing a few panels together ends up resembling some wooden contraption that’s been run over by an 18-wheeler. Or, the concept of a box is lost on them, with each angled assembly resulting in a series of bookends, a relatively obsolete item in our computer age.

If that’s the case, then it may be time to redirect the child to the less-stressful task of having to become a professional hockey player.

Regardless of how simple a birdhouse project is, it’s still going to require a shop filled with about $10,000 worth of equipment to effectively get this home for our feathered friends constructed within a few hours. So, if you’re existing shop isn’t so complete, consider borrowing, renting, or if this is something you hope to dabble in more yourself, buying the necessary tools for the job.

Please don’t attempt to make this project a teaching session based on the integrity and historical significance of the hand saw, performing the cutting tasks old school, with a few callouses the bonus to the child gaining this construction knowledge. Using a hand saw as a teaching tool would only make sense if next weekend’s parent/child life skills session was survivor related, and involved heading into the forest with a sling shot with the goal of bagging a few squirrels to cook for lunch.

Our computer and cellphone age have helped develop modern-day kids with attention spans that last about eight-to-10 seconds per moment. So, handing them a tool that’ll demand their precise attention for the 90 seconds required to saw through a plank of six-inch pine would be ludicrous.

Either they’ll end up cutting themselves 15-to-20 seconds into the procedure, or leave the cut half way through in order to check their cellphones for activity. If there’s a hand saw hanging in the shop, save it for arts and crafts day, whereby you and the young lad, or lass, could jointly paint a charming winter scene on the rusted blade, then hang this magnificent piece of folk art over the fireplace, or big-screen TV.

Very important— before any cutting or assembly begins, first review the function, proper use, and safe handling of each power tool. Novice woodworkers shouldn’t necessarily fear a power tool, but they must be taught that keeping their fingers long-term means showing the tool ultimate respect, and staying absolutely focused, for the duration of the cut.

So, draw or research a bird house plan with your young person and get building.

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

Improving your stairway (to heaven?)

Today we’re making the switch from carpeted stairways, to one of hardwood treads and risers.

Why remove the carpeting off your stairs? Well, presuming you’ve already replaced your once-carpeted floors with hardwood, this natural progression completes the project, enabling your stairs to have the same clean, good looking status of your hardwood flooring.

Step one, carefully tear back the carpeting off of “one” step. Don’t remove all the carpeting just yet. The removing of only one step of carpeting will allow you to do some measuring, followed by a bit of research, with the development of a strategy to come next.

This as opposed to creating a scenario where the carpeting has been completely removed, exposing your family members to a minefield of carpet staples until the point in time when you get yourself organized.

The most efficient way of replacing stairway carpeting with hardwood treads is by choosing the “simple tread” kit. These tread kits provide you with one hardwood tread and one riser, in either an oak or maple species of wood.

The wood grain patterns of oak and maple differ considerably, so be sure to inspect the grain patterns of your flooring to ensure compliancy with the treads.

If your hardwood treads are to be painted, choose maple, its smoother and harder finish will provide better results.

Basically, we’re installing new treads and risers over the existing treads and risers.

The advantage to re-treading, as opposed to buying regular stair treads and risers, is the kits’ tread is a thinner, laminated version of what’s standard, allowing you to more easily secure it to the existing spruce or particle board tread. The re-tread also comes with a wide, decorative nosing, which creates a ledge that will be strategic in hiding the edge of the existing tread.

The strategy to using the simple tread kit will involve removing the nose (portion of overhang) of the existing tread, creating a square or flush surface to which to mount your hardwood tread and riser. So, measure the overhang or nose portion of the existing tread (which should be about 1.25 to 1-3/8 inches) then subtract this figure from the total depth of the tread. Hopefully you’ll be left with a depth of 9-1/8 inches or less, with 9-1/8 inches being the total maximum depth that your re-tread will cover.

If for some reason, we’ll call it carpenter’s choice, the person who installed the treads 25 years ago chose to make the treads a little deeper than standard, then you’re going to have a situation where the re-tread’s depth is insufficient.

This is when you either pursue further re-treading strategies, or re-tack the carpeting back in position and get back to your basement beer-making venture. However, and in the interest of progress, since the odds of you causing an explosion, or creating a barely consumable sludge, likely outweigh that of you driving an air nail through your thumb, let’s stick with the stair project.

If the existing tread, once cut, exceeds 9-1/8 inches, then options to solving this spacing issue will include adding a cove or quarter-round molding where the re-tread meets the riser, alternatively using a standard tread, or if possible, trimming the nosing on the re-tread. Regardless, it’ll simply require a little bit of extra finishing carpentry.

If the existing tread, once cut, will be 9-1/8 inches or less, then we’re in business to go forward with the simple tread kit as is.

Keys to success?

One, pre-stain and clear-seal (three coats) your simple treads and risers, as well as any other necessary trim pieces or moldings, beforehand, letting them cure for at least a week before installing. Staining one day, clear coating the next, should you choose to install first, then finish, will undoubtedly leave footprints, which will be disastrous.

Two, put a new blade on your chop saw and table saw.

And three, limit chipping by first scoring the finished surface with a utility knife, then cut on this finished side.

Good building.

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