Always plan for your escape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

How to create and sustain basement life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Step No. 1 to finish your basement

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

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

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

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

However, and logistically, there may be challenges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week, basement planning.

Good building.

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

All hail the crown

Today we’re installing what’s most likely the nastiest, most ornery, and to say the least, most challenging type of molding found in a home, that being the crown molding.

Why is the crown molding so frustrating a product to install? Essentially, it’s in part due to gremlins, those mischievous, invisible little creatures that find pleasure in hanging off the ends of crown moldings as we attempt to place them in position, and who consistently kink an outstretched tape measure, making an accurate length reading almost impossible.

Then of course there are the more visible challenges, like walls that aren’t so square, and ceilings that droop in the middle, making the figuring of a proper miter angle about as likely as calculating the re-entry trajectory of NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

Inevitably, there will be gaps, but— that’s what paintable, white caulking is for.

Why put yourself through the hassle of installing such an appendage? Because crown moldings can be a room’s most-attractive feature, and will definitely transcend a very average-looking space into something special.

More formal or more elegant? Not necessarily, unless you choose it to be that way, having picked a more extravagant model of crown, or have added a series of moldings to help enhance the crown.

Minimally, crown moldings make a room better.

The four keys to successfully installing crown molding?

One, you’ll require a 10-inch miter saw with a new 80-tooth blade. Crown moldings have beveled edges, and attach to the wall and ceiling in a 45-degree manner, pieces must be held on the miter saw in this same 45-degree position. With a cut as intricate as this, while being somewhat risky to the fingers (since they’re inevitably a little closer to the cutting path than usual) you’re going to want a blade that’ll cut through the MDF product like butter.

Two, you’ll require an air-powered finishing tool. Nailing MDF moldings in the same manner you would regular pine, just doesn’t work. The MDF product is simply too dense, and will either crack, or the nail will bounce back at you.

Pre-drilling? Better, but still not nearly effective as an air gun.

Either borrow, rent, or better yet, say that Santa forgot it on his sled, and buy yourself an air finishing nailer.

Three, clear the room or area under renovation, lay down a few tarps, seal the room with a roll of clear plastic, and set up shop in the immediate vicinity to where you’re installing the trim. Because crown moldings are installed at ceiling height, where spacing seems unobstructed, the do-it-yourselfer might feel it only necessary to push the room’s furniture towards the centre and cover everything with a tarp, somewhat following the format of a painter.

Avoid this strategy.

The key to achieving a tight miter joint is to cut the crown miter about a quarter-inch longer than necessary, trimming a bit off the opposite, or square end, until the molding fits snugly with its partnered miter. As a result, every mitered corner is going to incur about three-to-four cuts before you’re satisfied with how the miters match up.

If these cuts are being made in the same room as where the crowns are being installed, and your only seconds between test fittings, your stress level will be kept to a minimum.

However, if you’ve set up a cutting zone in the garage, or on the back deck, with the logic being to control the dust issue, but in doing so are incurring an extra 20 steps, having to open a door, or slide open a patio-glass panel on every trip back to the miter saw, this going back and forth is going to drive you batty.

Four, to ease the installation, first install a baseboard molding (upside down) on the wall, tight up against the ceiling, following the perimeter of the room. The baseboard not only adds to the décor, but provides an effective nailing anchor for the crown.

Good building.

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

Choosing casing, and baseboards

First, some basic education.

The casing is the decorative trim, or molding, that gets installed around your interior doors and windows.

The baseboard is the molding that follows the base of the wall along the floor line.

If necessary, a shoe-molding, or quarter-round molding, is the small piece of trim that gets installed along the bottom of the baseboard, again, following the floor line.

Next, there are two general rules or essential practices to properly choosing these moldings.

One— the casing must always be thicker than the baseboard.

And two— the baseboard must always be wider than the casing.

Keep these two points in mind and you’ll never get yourself into a décor doo-doo.

Now, before going any further, how important, or how integral a decision, is the choice of a casing and baseboard to the overall functioning, well-being, and operational effectiveness of the home?

Essentially, zero.

However, the thing about casings and baseboard moldings is that they’re the type of home appendage that could be diminutive in size, and as a result go totally unnoticed in a home’s décor scheme, or, be a little more substantial, and have a very positive effect on the overall look of the home.

Value-wise, casings and baseboards deliver a better return on investment with every penny spent.

Comparatively, if we look at hardwood flooring, a homeowner might question whether spending $3-$4 more per square foot on an imported Brazilian mahogany flooring, rather than choosing a domestic hickory or oak floor of equal thickness and width, is really worth it. Because the extra costs of the imported wood are somewhat related to the fact it came from a protected forest, requiring the pay-off of local warlords, transport by elephant through mountainous terrain, followed by a coal-fueled barge chugging along the Atlantic Ocean. One might question the value of such an investment, and, whether paying almost twice the price for such a product provides you with that much better of a floor.

On the other hand, MDF (medium-density fibreboard), the product of choice in the molding biz, is basically purchased by the pound.

So, a casing molding that’s five-eighths-inch x 2.75 inches in thickness and width, costs about 59 cents a linear foot, whereby a three-quarter x 3.5-inch casing, being about 50 per cent heavier, retails for about 99 cents per linear foot. What this means is that you’re getting exactly what you pay for, which is the best value a homeowner can expect.

Step one— choose a molding profile, or molding series. Generally speaking, there are four styles, including Victorian, colonial, modern, and contemporary, which tend to follow the four most-common types of home décor.

Essentially, the Victorian moldings have the most going on regarding the amount of curves, bumps, and lines, with those features diminishing in the colonial series, and even less in the modern, basically ending up with what amounts to a smooth, square-edged trim in the contemporary lines.

Whatever the style, casings and baseboards generally come in sets, whereby a chosen casing should have one or two possible base choices.

Strategy?

Choose the casing first. Because the casing is what you see the most of, you have to like it best. Plus, the available spacing around each door frame will certainly guide you in your choice of casing. That’s why it’s really important for new home builders to verify the wall spacing while the home is being framed.

In most cases, interior doors that get framed too close to an adjoining wall, can simply be shifted a few inches towards the centre of the wall with the removal of a few 2×4’s.

Creating the necessary room for a very much in style 3.5-inch to four-inch casing is best done in these early stages, as opposed to you drawing the ire of your contractor once the area has been wired and drywalled.

Regardless, it’s never too late to make room for a larger casing— all it costs is money.

Good building.

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

Updating that 1970’s door

As we look forward to four months of cold weather, short days, and general dreariness, this might be a good time to pour yourself another spiked eggnog, grab a spot on the sofa, and evaluate your home’s décor.

Where to start will always be a challenge, so let’s begin with the interior doors, a home component that usually gets done once, then forgotten. Interior doors are also fixtures that were often done relatively cheaply, and even more so if your home was one of a series of cookie cutter-styled units built back in the big housing development years of the 1970s.

So, with your feet up, and already half in the bag by 11 a.m. during this blissful holiday week, what are we looking at?

Are the doors essentially plain mahogany slabs, either clear-coated, stained, or perhaps over time have been painted white, with that slight hint of woodgrain peering through?

Or, are they of the six-panel, white, woodgrain variety— a pattern that has been serving homebuilders for years, and a style I remember fondly from my years in the building supply business as a summer student (in other words, it’s been a while).

As you continue to scan the room, is the style and colour scheme of your living room somewhat reminiscent of the Brady Bunch TV series? Is there a bright orange beanbag chair in the corner? When you tumble out of the sofa, is your fall broken by shag carpeting? And, are you still kicking yourself for having lost money by having invested in sea monkeys? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then it’s time to have Scotty beam you out of the 70s.

Again, starting with the interior doors, you’ll essentially have two options. One, you can replace the door slabs only, or two, new slabs can be ordered pre-hung in their own frames. Only replacing the slab may seem like the simplest solution, and it might be, with this strategy causing less collateral damage, due to the wall, existing jamb, and casing, remaining basically untouched.

However, ‘door only’ replacement will in fact require a more heightened skillset. Fitting a perfectly new, rectangular door in a space that’s 50 years old, and probably not so square, will be a frustrating task, most likely requiring the use of an electric planer and belt-sander in order to form this door into the desired shape.

Plus, if it’s your goal to save the existing hinges, the task of having to mortise the hinge placement on your new slab is never an easy cut. Then there’s the job of having to cut the hole for the door knob, a relatively easy procedure, unless you screw it up of course, leaving you with another item to toss in next spring’s lawn sale.

Regarding the hinge placement on a new slab door, do-it-yourselfers will be pleased to know there now exists a no-mortise hinge, or no-space hinge, which saves the installer having to painstakingly cut out the required hinge depth on a new jamb. Instead, the no-mortise hinge allows the installer to simply flush-mount the hinge on both the door and the jamb, saving a lot of time and headache.

Pre-hung doors require four basic tools, them being a cordless drill, a chop saw (to miter the casings), a pneumatic nail gun (or simply a hammer), a level, and one pre-hung door installation hardware kit per unit.

With the old frame removed, the levelling of your pre-hung unit will be extremely straightforward, requiring the installer to simply confirm things are level before screwing the jamb in position.

What style of door should homeowners be considering?

Look to choose a door with a smooth finish, having two-to-five raised panels, with simple bevelling.

What else?

Be sure to measure the width, height, and door thickness, of your existing slab before ordering. Back in the day, 78-inch doors, as opposed to today’s 80-inch high slabs, were quite common.

Good building.

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

Think of your everyday siding

Today we’re going to be talking about fibre cement, composite, and vinyl siding, discussing the big three in preferred home siding choices.

Why do these products occupy the top three positions? Because they all satisfy what most homeowners desire in a siding— that being relative good looks, low maintenance, and low cost, or somewhat coincidentally, the same qualities one might look for in a mate if you’re a balding, middle-aged fellow who’s had little luck cruising the dating sites.

Are these sidings to be viewed as somewhat lesser than? Absolutely not.

They may not carry the same prestige as stone or brick, but when you consider price and longevity, they’re definitely the homeowner’s best value.

What about real wood siding?

Choosing real wood siding is like dating a member of the Kardashian family— essentially, beauty with an extreme price tag, along with a tonne of maintenance.

Why choose a fibre cement siding?

The grain of a fibre cement plank has been designed to duplicate cedar, which results in a look and texture that is very familiar, and quite traditional. Plus, it’s a 90 per cent sand and concrete mix, which essentially makes it fireproof and extremely durable in extreme-weather conditions, carrying a 50-year warranty.

At three pounds per square foot of coverage, fibre cement is the heaviest of the big three, and just feels solid to the touch, which will be comforting for the homeowner.

Cons to fibre cement?

Although the homeowner will love the elements of weight and rigidity, your contractor is going to hate you for it, which may result in a few more complaints, a few more hired hands, and two extra Tims runs per day.

Fibre cement installs like a wood product, using trim planks (also made of concrete) around windows and doors, as well as for outside corners, instead of J-trims and other pre-bent support moldings.

Last thing to know about fibre cement, it’s a painted product (15-year warranty), which of course means you may have to paint it again one day.

Composite sidings are products such as Canexel or Goodstyle, and are a mixture of wood fibres and various bonding agents. The raison d’être, and/or selling feature of these two composites is they provide the homeowner with a product that looks and feels like wood, without all the headaches of a real wood siding, including warping, cracking, or rot.

Essentially, Kardashian looks without having to escort them through a day of shopping for makeup, getting their hair styled, and trying on yoga wear.

Available in a variety of both solid and stained colours, composite sidings come with a similar warranty to fibre cement— 15 years on the finish, and up to 50 years on the product itself.

Why choose a composite product?

It’s the closest thing to real wood in both texture and stain. Because composites are basically real wood products that have simply been shredded up and re-glued back together again, they cut, nail, and are an easy carry, just like wood. As a result, composites are a very install-friendly product.

Composite wood sidings can be installed in a manner similar to wood, using matching trim boards for around windows and for use on the corners, followed by a bead of caulking along the seams and joints, in true ‘old school’ wood-siding mode.

Or, for a cleaner look, and what would be my recommendation, is to forgo the caulking and instead use the appropriate J-trims and joiner clip-type moldings.

Next, vinyl siding.

Definitely the least expensive option of the three, except for the heavier shingle, accent type of profiles, vinyl siding wins hands down as the best value product in home building.

Essentially, for under a buck per square foot, you’ll be investing in a siding that’ll require basically zero maintenance, and will last forever, or until which time the olive-green colour you chose in the mid-80s drives you mad.

Vinyl siding foe? Only one: a back deck barbecue in close proximity.

Good building.

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

A siding we will go

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

Today we’re going to be reviewing the more popular home sidings, including fibre cement, composite wood, and of course vinyl siding.

Brick and stone sidings won’t be discussed because they’re permanent siding options, basically lasting forever, or until which time the home succumbs to some natural disaster, or due to its favourable location, gets bulldozed into the earth by an international buyer intent on building some modern monstrosity.

On the other hand, most non-structural residential sidings have lifespans, generally providing 20 to 40 years of protection.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned steel siding as being the future of siding, which it is, albeit at a somewhat premium price of $6 to $10 per square foot.

Otherwise, let’s just say we’re narrowing our siding choices down to those products that fall into the affordable, good value, Brendan Gallagher (Montreal Canadiens, crash the net and accept the consequences) type of category.

Next week we’ll feature foam and papier-mâché sidings, in our Mike Babcock (Leafs coach) series, covering overpriced, lousy return on investment types of products.

Ranging in price from $1 to $3.50 per square foot, vinyl, fibre cement, and composite wood sidings are your best value because they are of a good enough quality to usually outlast their warranty periods, which can be anywhere from 25 to 50 years. Yet, they’re inexpensive enough to trash if after 20 years you’re simply bored with your home’s colour scheme, or need to remove the siding if your new strategy is to boost the insulation value of the home’s exterior walls.

As discussed a few weeks ago, if you’re looking to re-side your home, or are building a new home, wrapping the exterior of the home with a ridged insulation foam board is an excellent first step to greatly improving the home’s energy efficiency.

Modestly priced sidings, regardless of their great value, sometimes get a bad rap from the brick and stone people, who question why anybody would choose a siding that would theoretically allow the home to be penetrated by a sharp object, or even some mildly significant force. And, this would be a legitimate concern, if we lived our lives with the daily fear of being attacked by time-travelling troupes of barbarians from the 12th century, looking to pillage our homes of our copper wine goblets and gold candlestick holders.

But those occurrences are rare.

We’ve lived in an old stone home in the past. We essentially roasted in the summer, and froze in the winter, with the thought or our exterior walls being able to withstand the force of a cannon ball offering little peace of mind.

For most homeowners, choosing between a fibre cement plank, composite board, or vinyl siding, is mostly done on appearance, or colour selection, with each product having its own particular traits. On the one hand, they all look like wood, but then not quite; and, they all have their own series of support products to ensure a clean finish.

The support products, such as J-trims, starter strips, outside corners, and the various caps and venting mechanisms, are all key to your siding’s longevity. So, be sure to follow the exact installation procedures of your chosen siding.

The connectors used between the planks of a composite siding may not be the first choice of an installer who prides themselves on being an expert with a caulking gun.

Regardless, caulking changes colour within a year and might last five or six years. The appropriate connector molding may cost a buck per piece, but will last 25 years. So, make the enlightened choice.

Fibre cement differs from vinyl and composite in that it’s fireproof, abuse resistant, and can handle extremely high winds and inclement weather. However, fibre cement is not a coastline siding, and will decay in salty air.

Does this mean we can’t have a cement siding if we own a hot tub, or salt-based pool cleaner? No, it takes an ocean of salt to cause issues.

Next week, more on sidings.

Good building.

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

Looking into the future of residential siding

Taking a look at steel siding. Photo on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, in Cornwall, Ont. Todd Hambleton/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network TODD HAMBLETON / TODD HAMBLETON/STANDARD-FREEHOLDER

I have seen the future of residential siding, and it is variegated steel.

Variegated simply means the panels display a series of mixed, streaked colors, meant to duplicate the natural grain patterns of stained wood.

The steel part of the deal represents absolute quality, and a standard of precision that provides for a siding that is as perfect as it gets. Essentially, the siding people have combined two things most home owners appreciate, the warmth and look of stained wood, along with a maintenance free, precisely machined product that is steel.

Installed horizontally, the ‘Distinction’ steel siding (manufactured by the Gentek Co.) is available in a variety of colors, and carries a distinguished, somewhat formal look that resembles the look of cedar, or perhaps a Brazilian hardwood.

Pattern and texture? Unlike some of today’s vinyl or steel sidings that have a raised woodgrain pattern, and traditional lap siding design, the ‘Distinction’ has a smooth finish, and relatively plain shiplap design which style dates back to the days when Toronto last won the Stanley Cup.

How long ago was that? Well, the team was then owned by Harold Ballard (deceased), the coach of the day was Punch Imlach (again…deceased), and the team’s budding young star was Dave Keon (not deceased, but  age 79, and hopeful  to see another Stanley Cup parade down Yonge Street).

So, we’re talking an old, dated siding profile. As a result, combining the look of old, along with the perfect lines and texture of steel, makes for a very unique and beautiful siding.

What style of home is best served by variegated steel siding? Because steel siding is somewhat becoming the go-to product for architects and home designers, contemporary and modern styles of homes are seeing a lot of this product.

However, a home doesn’t need to be a collection of geometric shapes in order to merit steel siding, with any style from a bungalow to a country farm house having the potential to be greatly enhanced by this stained wood look.

Decorating, or product combination limitations? Only one, gingerbread moldings. So, if you’re hopes are to build a fairy tale type home that replicates a roof made of cakes and candy, with window panes of clear sugar, and enough gingerbread type moldings and ornate spindling to attract every Hansel and Gretel in the neighborhood, then I might avoid adding steel siding to the mix.

Otherwise, variegated steel siding will work great on its own, or look especially impressive when combined with a brick or a natural stone siding.

Cost? Variegated steel sidings sell for about $6.50 per square foot, which is well below the cost of stone, and about equal to the price of brick.

However, it is double the price of a composite wood or cement board siding. But, with a 30-year warranty on the finish, which is double that of a painted composite or cement board, and 40-year warranty on the galvanized substrate, what might seem as an elevated price at first glance is indeed a good value.

If a variegated steel siding, regardless of value, still seems higher in price than what you were hoping to spend on the re-siding of your home, there’s always variegated vinyl siding.

Why “variegated”? Because most people like the look of real stained wood, but until most recently, have had to accept what was being offered in the composite or PVC siding industry, which was a solid color series of sidings.

However, now you’ll find a variegated PVC vinyl product like Mitten’s Sentry Rustic Panel series, which offers a terrific mixed color panel in both a horizontal Dutchlap, and board n’ batten type of pattern.

Cost? About $2.50 per square foot. Warranty? 50 years. Wind resistance? 290 km/h, which makes it capable of surviving a category 5 Hurricane. The variegated PVC product may not have the rigidity or formal look of steel siding, but for overall value, it’s a tough product to beat.

Good building.

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

Thinking of a steel roof?

DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /Postmedia Network

Upon being asked to relay my thoughts on whether investing in a steel roof is a good thing, I decided to secure an opinion straight from the horse’s mouth, well, actually, Jim Hoarce’s mouth, one of our longtime local professional steel roofers.

“So Jim” I inquired, “after installing steel roofs for the last 30 years, would you recommend steel roofing to the average homeowner?” To which Jim answered, “If the customer is prepared to pay for the proper underlay materials, follow the recommended installation procedures, and use only approved flashings, gaskets, and snow stop brackets, then steel can make for an excellent roof”.

OK, sounds pretty simple, all a homeowner has to do is ensure his roofer follows the installation instructions.

Unfortunately, its human nature not to follow instructions. We purchased a high chair for my grandson recently, and it was my goal to not have to read the instructions, after all, I was looking at maybe 20 parts.

Now, I understand there’s a reason why my chosen profession is in retail, and not engineering, but 20 parts?

Regardless, after 2-3 minutes of assembly frustration, I searched and found the instruction sheets at the bottom of the box. Thankfully, they came with pictured diagrams, which were essential in successfully assembling this unit in under 15 minutes.

Conversely, when an amateur, or your cousin’s buddy, is on your roof, and there’s a cool wind, and it’s getting late, or almost time for a Tim’s run, what are the chances this fellow’s going to take the time to read the instructions should he be faced with an installation dilemma?

Or, might he just plant a few more screws around the issue, and be done with it? According to Jim, the number of calls he receives each year from homeowners asking him to come over and repair, or find the leak, on a roof that was installed by somebody else, indicates how often steel roofs are not installed as per instruction.

A steel roof is great, until it leaks.

Therefore, choose only an accredited steel roofing professional. Next, start with a 5/8” plywood sheeting underlay. Because steel roof sheeting is screwed in position, Jim strongly suggests the heavier 5/8” plywood, as opposed to ½” sheeting, commonly used for asphalt shingles.

A 5/8” plywood offers superior rigidity, and better accepts a screw. Should steel roofing be installed over existing asphalt shingles, thereby saving the dumping fees? Or, can steel be installed over a boarded roof that’s been stripped of its shingles? What about strapping an existing asphalt roof with 1×4 spruce?

No, no, and no.

People regard steel roofing as being relatively lightweight, which it is if you’re handling one 10 ft. sheet at a time. However, stack ten of these sheets together, and steel gets heavy real fast.

So, steel is relatively lightweight when compared to asphalt, but it’s not that light, and if layered upon existing roofing, will provide an unnecessary burden on your trusses.

Plus, an asphalt shingle base is too spongy, which may cause the steel screws to loosen over time. When screws loosen, water gets in.

Boarded roofs and 1×4 strapping underlays are strategies of the past. Why? Because they lack the stability of plywood, with these planks shrinking and warping over time, loosening the screws.

On top of the 5/8” plywood Jim recommends either a UDL50 Titanium underlay, or Lastobond, high heat rubber membrane (similar to an ice and water shield), offering an essential second line of defense.

Next, Jim’s two final recommendations are simple.

One, buy heavy. Heavier gages of steel lay straighter, dent less easily, and just look better.

Two, decapitation is real. Not that the heads of unsuspecting homeowners are found in our snowbanks every February, but snow and ice sliding down a steel roof can be a very destructive weapon. So, invest in heavy duty snow stop brackets. The little polar blocks will do little to stop a weighted avalanche of snow and ice.

Thanks Jim. Good building.

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