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

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

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

Get it off the floor

A typical storage space at a client’s home in Lucan, Ont. on Thursday April 16, 2015. CRAIG GLOVER/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

So, how successful was your fall cleanup?

If you’re not sure how to grade your effort, the calculation is as follows. Measure the floor space of your garage, backyard shed, unfinished basement area, and/or those locations that would be defined as storage depots. Next, divide this number by the floor space occupied by items that are not furniture, riding mowers, or things weighing over 40 pounds.

If only 10 per cent of your storage square footage is covered by miscellaneous seasonal matter, or things weighing under what should be a manageable 40 pounds, then 90 per cent of your floor space was clear, essentially earning you an A grade, which is pretty good. The more things remain on the floor, the lower your grade, with anything lower than a B, representing the fact you’ve allowed 25 per cent of your available floor space to be covered with seasonal junk, earning you a failing grade.

Basically, the storage world has little sympathy for clutter.

So, if up to this point, you’ve been failing in junk management, there are two options. Either you invest in hooks and racking, or you eliminate the junk by means of a yard sale, donation, or dump.

Because humans love to collect and hoard goods, eventually developing a closeness with their stuff, the simple elimination of overstock is rarely possible. So, until death finally separates you from grandma’s wooden bowl collection, boxes of board games from the 1970s, and those priceless paint-by-number works of art, let’s get all this stuff on a shelf.

Because some things are better hung, while other stuff is more comfortable on a shelf, you should consider dedicating wall space to a combination of heavy duty hooks, shelves— and probably the best means of separating and displaying small tools and brackets: a pegboard. Also, we won’t be adding shelving, but in fact be building “racking.”

If you stop by your local building supply centre and ask for shelving, you’ll most likely be given the choice of either 12-, 16-, or 24-inch wide panels of 5/8-inch melamine finished particle board. Melamine shelving is fine for your closets or finished areas of the home, and does well to support towels and shoes.

However, you’re not going to be wanting to toss a car battery, place clay pots, or stack used gallons of paint on melamine shelving.

For racking, I suggest you use three-quarter-inch fir plywood. Fir plywood is more expensive than spruce sheeting (that would work also), but its smooth finish makes for the easier manipulation of goods, especially the heavier things, as you push and slide stuff off and onto the racking. Plus, the fir plywood won’t buckle, even under severe stress, and will take a pounding for the long term.

Support the shelving using 2×3 lumber, fastened along the front and back edges of each shelf.

Hooks for the purpose of hanging anything from extension cords to bicycles should be of the screw-in, vinyl-coated variety. Avoid choosing regular coat hooks. I find the shape of regular coat hooks dangerous, and when I see them, am always reminded of the final scene in the 1978 movie Midnight Express, where the fellow escapes after the guard’s head get skewered on a coat hook during a brief tussle.

You’ll never get skewered using vinyl-coated hooks. Plus, they won’t break like coat-hooks sometime do, and they’ll support significantly more weight.

Vinyl-coated hooks are best installed on a length of 2×4 spruce lumber, with the 2×4 then fastened onto the wall using lag screws. Again, and related to safety, although I can’t recall an improperly installed sheet of pegboard in a scene from Halloween 5, the revenge of Michael Myers, leading to somebody’s untimely death, your sheets of pegboard should be installed behind a shop table, or base shelving, and/or placed at least three feet off the floor.

Bending down to retrieve something off a hook is a recipe for getting skewered.

Good building.

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

Go wider and straighter on doors and passageways

This file photo from 2011 shows a home in London, Ont., with a 36-inch wide front door. MIKE HENSON/LONDON FREE PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Today we continue our efforts to offer insight and advice to those novice homeowners looking to build a new home in the spring.

Our qualifications? A lifetime of errors, miscalculations, and poor decisions.

Our goal? To enlighten first-time homebuilders with a “What Not To-Do” list of home and renovation faux pas, thereby avoiding the building of more multi-divided, multi-levelled, tiny-kitchen/big dining roomed homes by this next generation.

Which, brings us to building error No.12: Narrow doorways and passageways.

The most effective way of realizing most home entrance and doorways are too narrow is by attempting to move something through them. As a father, husband, and owner of a pickup truck, I sometimes get asked to help move things. Which is no problem, because I like picking things up, along with the simple sense of accomplishment one incurs by successfully moving a fridge from point A to point B.

The sensation I don’t so much cherish is the feeling of three layers of skin slowly being shredded off my knuckles by the door jamb, as I attempt to move a 31.5-inch piece of furniture through a 32-inch wide opening.

So, in order to make things a little easier on all those dads, buddies, and certainly the professional movers, let’s add at least two inches to the average door opening.

Plus, you have to consider that people aren’t moving into homes with 1950s- and 1960s-sized fridges and stoves. Today’s kitchen appliances, sofas, and cabinetry, are often huge entities. So, it stands to reason the average 32- to 34-inch front door, and standard 30-inch bedroom doors, are going to have to be widened up a bit.

Start by ensuring the slabs of your exterior doors, including the front entrance door, side entrance doors, and door leading in from the garage, are all 36 inches in diameter.

Next, consider ordering your front entrance door with a handicap sill plate. Other than being a friendlier type of sill for walkers and wheelchairs to navigate over, and very convenient for dollies wheeling heavy appliances, the low profile of a handicap sill simply eliminates the trip ledge created by a standard sill plate.

Next, make your bedroom doors a minimum of 32 inches wide. Thirty inch-wide slabs are the standard, and the reason why I either dent a wall, or bump an elbow, every time I move a cabinet or walk through the doorway with a hamper of clothing.

Although young people tend to walk a little straighter than older folks, having 32-inch + sized interior door slabs will make your moving around a whole lot easier regardless.

Next, if your home is going to have a second storey, thereby requiring stairs, be sure to review the stairway strategy. Some architects and home designers love to incorporate curved stairways, or stairways that have multi-rest stations, having the homeowner climbing up a few steps to a platform, then turning 90 degrees, up another four or five steps, platform, turn, then another four or five steps to the second-floor finish line. The nice thing about curved or tiered stairways is that they’re visually beautiful.

The not so great thing about stairways that are anything other than straight, is you’ll find yourself cutting, then folding your queen-sized box spring in half in order to squeeze it up the stairs.

Non-straight stairways also present a challenge for those taller and wider pieces of furniture, where damage to the drywall is almost guaranteed, and that’s every time you carry it up, or move it down. Plus, every curve or change of direction in a stairway is going to stress the lower backs of the movers.

So, when it comes to stairs, keep ‘em plain, straight, and simple.

Next, wider door slabs will mean less wall space, which may cramp the size of your door casings. So, confer with your architect to ensure he or she allows for at least four or five inches around each finished door opening.

Good building.

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

Natural lighting is a kitchen’s best friend

Laurysen Kitchens was a finalist in the 2016 Housing Design Awards and uses the bay window for a lot of natural light With story by Anita Murray. Ottawa Citizen Photo Email CO

With our goal being to build a new home in the spring, let’s continue our kitchen talk. What do we know so far? Two things: One, keep everything off the counter. Although counters inevitably attract various things, make it your goal to keep it clear. So, know the sizes and shapes of the various coffee maker, toaster, and other appliances that have generally cluttered up your counter surfaces in the past, then have your kitchen designer incorporate them into the cabinetry.

And two, because kitchen cabinets last 20 years, while fridges and stoves tend to die after 8-10 years, order your big appliances locally, and, be sure to stick to standard (easily replaceable) sizing.

Next, make room for a center island. Kitchen islands give the cook plenty of elbow space and are great for getting people involved in meal preparation. Plus, islands simply look attractive, while providing some key lower cabinet space. What about a peninsula, or U-shaped type of cabinetry? They’re OK, but can easily trap the occupants if there’s a flurry of activity, which will be frustrating for the head chef. On the other hand, a center island provides for an efficient flow, where rarely is anybody stalled in kitchen traffic by being caught between an open dishwasher and a cabinet, or some slow hand chopping up the onions.

Not enough space for an Island in the new house plans? Bull feathers! Change things up a bit by having your architect move a wall or two. It’s the kitchen that’ll drive up a home’s value, not the large and spacious TV room.

That being said, if missing the hockey game, or CNN’s breaking news regarding Donald Trump’s latest words of wisdom, is causing you stress, due to you being posted on the spaghetti sauce stir stick every weekend, have a small TV screen installed in the cabinetry. Anything’s possible in the design stages.

Next, make lighting a priority. Other than a lack of counter workspace, where homeowners tend to drop the ball next in their kitchen designs is in the lighting, or lack thereof.

Step one, incorporate all the natural lighting you can. If your kitchen is like most installations and will run along the back exterior wall of the home, don’t sacrifice natural light for a few extra inches of cabinet space. Make that window over the kitchen sink area at least 1-1/2 times the width of your sink. If there’s to be no second story or room above the kitchen, then definitely consider incorporating a cathedral type ceiling into the truss plan, and be sure to add a few skylights. Cathedral ceilings are beautiful, with the warmth and early morning glow of natural light provided by skylights being absolutely spectacular.

So, if there’s room in the budget, then make this happen. If the budget is a little tight, then shrink the living room down a little more and be satisfied with a more modest TV screen size.

Essentially, a home is all about the kitchen, and the bathrooms of course, but that’s to come. Now, don’t skylights have the reputation of leaking? In the olden days, where skylights were installed with little more than a gallon of roofing tar, then left unattended for the next 20 years, then yes, they could have leaked. Or, in the days before HRV’s (heat recovery ventilation) where condensation would sometimes collect on the skylights after a serious session of boiling spaghetti, then yes, there could have been a few drips. However, in today’s modern world, with skylights having specific roof flashings for every roof application, along with procedures in installation and the use of roofing membranes having greatly improved, leaks are a rarity.

Now, regardless of all this potential for natural light, you’re still going to need supplementary lighting in the kitchen. Best bet, have round LED lights following the perimeter of the kitchen at every 3-4 feet, with an extra light placed over the kitchen sink.

Good building.

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

Think before you build, part one

If you’ve got plans to build a new home next spring, or are thinking about major renovations involving your existing home, let’s go over a few of the do’s and the don’ts regarding your building strategy.

Home building strategy No. 1: Avoid bumps, stair splits, or varying levels of any kind. Essentially, once you, your family members, or your guests, have climbed the three or four steps leading up to the front door, the challenge of further obstacles and light cardio activity should be minimal.

Known as the split level, some home designers have seen it useful to have the homeowners, once comfortably in the home’s entrance and after having placed their shoes and jacket in the closet, climb another four or five steps in order to get themselves into the parlour or lounging area of the home.

Then, after this short climb, designers have often further challenged the home’s occupants with a third, lower tier, in the form of a sunken living room.

If this were an industrial or commercial type of setting, such rises and drops would require a line of yellow caution tape forewarning occupants about the change in floor-scape. Cautioning people to the varying floor heights of a home would be a good idea, but incorporating these yellow caution lines into the colour scheme might be a challenge for your decorator.

On the other hand, there’s no quicker way to sending grandma hurtling to the floor than with the installation of a few strategically placed speed bumps, referred to as ‘thresholds’ in the home biz.

Thresholds can be strips of wood, composite material, or metal, and are used to transition one type of flooring into another when two floorings either differ in thickness, or when floors continue from one room into another.

Regardless of their convenience in joining two floors of varying heights, the inconspicuous quarter-inch bump is often just high enough to catch a passing sole, which is hilarious for everybody except the victim.

Generally, thresholds can be avoided by either adding a layer of subfloor to the thinner flooring, or in the case of ceramic tile, which often finishes to a thicker-than-average height, choosing a cement board or dimpled plastic type of substrate, which is a thinner alternative to the often used spruce plywood sheeting.

Home building strategy No. 2: Avoid stairs. There are a few things in this world that are best left to the young, such as playing contact sports, letting your hair grow long, and climbing stairs.

So, if you’re 30- or 40-something in age and are looking to build a home, incorporate all the various levels and build all the stairs you want. Don’t stop at two stories, but perhaps even go for three, real old-school stuff, with your workout room and stair-master machine located at the top of these two flights of stairs, allowing the homeowner endless opportunities to climb.

However, know that by doing so you’ll be limiting the re-sale potential of your home to a very small demographic.

So, do we avoid stairs and stick to one-storey homes? If possible, and if your lot size will allow it, then absolutely.

There are a number of challenges, like general home maintenance and upkeep, that aging homeowners are going to have to face, so avoid adding climbing stairs to the list.

Home elevators? They exist and they’re costly, but if you’re determined to own a two-storey home well into your 70s and 80s, definitely explore this option. If your budget will allow for an in-home Otis, but you feel you’re a little too young for the elevator option at this point in your life, don’t worry, you’ll eventually get there.

In the interim, if your plans involve staying in your new build for as long as you can stay healthy, then have your architect design the stairway in a manner that will allow for an easy transition to such an option.

Next week, more building options to ponder.

Good building.

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

Making that room even quieter

Today we improve our home comfort with more strategic ways of eliminating room-to-room sound transmissions.

As mentioned last week, the most opportune time to do so is when renovating your kitchen, bathroom, or really any room in the home. Essentially, if you’re going to be moving or opening up a wall in order to redirect wiring, plumbing, or ductwork, then you might as well be taking advantage of this opportunity to create a little more privacy.

Why the need to block the transfer of sound? Because silence is golden, and after your 12-year-old has returned home with a set of bagpipes as his musical instrument of choice, silence will maintain your sanity.

What decreases sound from transmitting from point A to point B? Distance and obstacles. With the average residential building lot being anywhere from 50 to 60 feet wide, increasing the distance between the theatre room and your desktop computer is going to be a challenge.

So, we’re left with the alternative of obstacles.

Disclaimer: The following sound-blocking procedures will effectively muffle general sounds created in the home, however, the enactment of said procedures should not be used in falsehood, or as a crutch, for a person’s habit of selectively hearing.

Yes, we can reduce the sounds being transmitted by the loud operation of a television (producing about 60 decibels) being operated in room A, from entering room B, to little more than a whisper. However, a human cry for attention (producing about 80 decibels) should the lady of the home see a mouse, or be attempting to get a long-overdue chore completed, will indeed transmit through, albeit not quite in its entirety.

Regardless, if there’s no movement on the part of the person on the receiving end of this cry, know that it’s not so much the sound blanket doing its job, but the fact you are indeed being ignored.

With a regular, hollow-core wall assembly having a STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of about 32, it would be nice to boost this wall assembly up to a STC 55, thereby muffling out most loud noises.

Step one: Fill the space in between the studs with Roxul’s Safe n’ Sound insulation, immediately boosting our wall assembly from a STC 32 to a STC 42.

Next, and before installing the drywall, fasten a sheet of 0.75”x4’x8’ Sonopan to your wood studs. Sonopan, recognized by its green colour and dimpled texture, is a lightweight fibre board that adds another 10 STC points to your wall assembly.

With both the Roxul Safe n’ Sound and Sonopan fiber sheets, our wall assembly now stands at an impressive STC 52.

Getting to our goal of STC 55 is going to require the help of a slight air space, along with a bit of solid mass. The air space will create a drum effect, further dissipating the transmission of noise, and will be provided by the addition of steel moldings, referred to as resilient channel. Installed horizontally at every 16 inches on centre, and placed directly over the Sonopan panels, the resilient channels will be fastened with 2.5-inch screws, reaching through the Sonopan, penetrating into the wood studs.

Avoid using regular 1×3 spruce strapping for the creation of an air space. The spruce’s mass will allow sound to reverberate through the wall, whereby the resilient channel’s mass is minimal, offering no route for the sound to follow.

Next, we follow up with two layers of 5/8” inch drywall, as opposed to a single layer of half-inch drywall. The 5/8” drywall provides the mass we’ll need to reach our goal of building an STC 55 wall structure. The first sheet of 5/8” drywall will be fastened to the resilient channel, but won’t penetrate the Sonopan board, while the second sheet of 5/8” drywall gets fastened to the first sheet, effectively creating a break in sound transmission.

Bonus to the 5/8” drywall is the double layer of fire-resistant product.

That’s how we keep things quiet.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder

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