Avoiding the shake down

REUTERS photo

It’s the same sensation of gut wrenching trauma the Montreal furriers’ felt when PK Subban was traded to Nashville.

What just happened? Well, due to your newly installed porch railing section having just failed the shake test, you, like the furrier shops, will be suffering a yet to be determined financial loss.

When a newel post, which is essentially the backbone of your spindle and rail system, fails the shake test, it brings two things into question.

One, is the newel post perhaps missing a few lag screws, and simply lacking the proper blocking (when extra pieces of 2×8 lumber are used to secure the post into the joist system)?

Or two, has the newel and subsequent railing system been installed in a manner that contradicts the stamped drawings regarding this product?

If it’s a case of adding a little lumber and a few screws, then the burden is one more trip to the lumber yard, and yet another opportunity to pick up a coffee and blueberry muffin at the local drive-thru.

If it’s a case of the railing not meeting code, or being improperly installed, the sense of nausea is your body’s reaction to the fact this deck is yet going to require more time, and money.

What is the shake test? The shake test is a battle between a fixed 4×4 newel post, made of either treated lumber, aluminum, or composite matter, and one motivated inspector. I’m not sure what amount of education and practice is required before an inspector attains his “shake ’em up” certification.

What we do know is that the training is intense. Once the inspector gets his or her hands on the newel, and the “shake” procedure begins, it would take a crow bar to pry their fingers off. Basically, the integrity of the post is challenged by clasping the top of the newel, and with subjective force, an attempt is made to move this post backwards and forwards.

If the degree of deflection (the measure to which the post can be forced off its 90 degree perch) is significant, the inspector will ask for the proper documentation regarding the manner of install.

This “documentation” element is going to be the make-or-break factor in how well the rest of your day is going to proceed. Either the next few hours will be spent in calm repose, once the documentation confirms your manner of install as being correct. Or alternatively, an error or omission is discovered in the strategy, leading to you performing donuts on your front lawn in therapeutic frustration.

As a homeowner about to build a deck, especially if a pool’s involved, it’s important to understand one key point. Your deck drawings may have been good enough to earn you a building permit, but this in no way signifies your deck and railing system is to code.

In other words, the building permit has simply OK’d your drawing. From this point on, it’s up to you to follow code, and have the proper engineered stamped drawings regarding your chosen components.

As an example, a deck plan with newel posts placed at every 8 ft. on center, will pass the permit stage.

However, not all railing systems are permitted to span 8 feet. Some composite railing systems are stamped acceptable for 6 ft. on center newels only.

Vinyl, composite, and aluminum railing systems, all have their specified manor of install, which will differ from wood, and even from manufacturer to manufacturer.

What happens is that 8 ft. composite railing sections get purchased and installed, and then it’s discovered the Ontario building code has only approved the 6 ft. long series of components.

Or, the newel posts get surfaced mounted to the deck, when the approved drawings indicate they should have been integrated into the joist system. So, avoid those big headaches by procuring the stamped drawings regarding your specific chosen line of products, first.

Then, proceed accordingly.

Good building.

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

Not worth losing your head over

Might look nice, but is it up to code? Pinterest photo
Might look nice, but is it up to code? Pinterest photo

Negligence; the failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another.

Case #255, titled ‘Heads will roll’, has our Mr. Blimp inquiring as to the availability of aviation wire. Since his list of previously quoted items included 2×8 joists, 4×4 posts, and various other lumber materials, his request for aviation wire intrigued me. Was this Mr. Blimp to construct a rejuvenated version of the Howard Hughes ‘Spruce Goose’, with the aviation wire used to support a great wing expanse of golden brown plywood? And, will the balance of the aircraft equally benefit from the advancements of time, basking in the glory of our new age pressure treated lumber?

Unfortunately, no such plan was in the making. The aviation wire was to be used in replacement of the more traditional spindle, and be installed horizontally, perhaps every 8-10 inches apart, tautly stretched from post to post, on a proposed backyard deck. No doubt an attractive, nautical type of installation manner (being the preferred railing system of most cruise ships), offering the person on the deck a relatively unobstructed, clear view of whatever landscape formed their backyard, the horizontal line strategy unfortunately contravenes our local building code.

When Mr. Blimp was made aware of the fact this type of horizontal install, be it wire, rope, board, or spindle type of railing structure, would not only violate the four-inch spacing bylaw, but would further be non-compliant due to this system permitting a child to easily climb over the railing, he remained unfazed. “Well, I’m not getting a building permit” were his justifying words.

According to the household insurance people, negligence is certainly subjective. Being held financially or legally liable, as the result of somebody injuring themselves on your property, due to you, as the homeowner, inviting people onto a backyard deck that was not code compliant, is arguable, and like everything else, subject to interpretation.

If a homeowner, after having a guest, or neighborhood child, injure themselves on their property, were to be asked the question, “Were you intentionally negligent in the construction of your deck, and deliberately designed it in a manner to inflict injury?” Most of us would, I suspect, answer with a definite “no”, and moreso, be quite shocked by such a damning inquiry.\

However, in Mr. Blimp’s case, he was aware of the fact he required a permit for his deck construction, and was further aware of the fact his proposed railing system was not code compliant. So, would moving forward with this strategy make him careless, reckless, just plain negligent, or none of the above?

In this case, Mr. Blimp remained defiant, and built his deck and railing according to his plan. Days later, as fate would have it, a child broke their ankle after climbing over the railing. The following week, an invited guest, late Saturday evening, decapitated himself after attempting to squeeze in between the aviation wires in a hurried attempt to retrieve his fallen beer.

So, who pays for the damages? Again, it becomes subjective. In the lawsuit to come, will it be discovered that the little kid was left unsupervised by his babysitter, or that the decapitated guest was by his own doing, inebriated. With luck very much in Mr. Blimp’s corner, both suits were amicably settled. The small child was paid off with a year’s subscription to an ice cream of the month club. The girlfriend of the decapitated man, having been desensitized to the trauma by binge watching all six seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ over the previous weekend, and citing a strained relationship anyway, due to this fellow being a Leafs fan, accepted as fair compensation the same ice cream of the month club.

Case #255 closed.

Not all breaks and decapitations end up so rosy, or easily negotiated. My recommendation, avoid negligence. Build safe, and build to code.

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

The little things that can make a big difference

Taking care of the little things can add up to having a beautiful deck. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Taking care of the little things can add up to having a beautiful deck. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

Today we’re talking about the little things that are going to help make your cedar, or treated lumber deck, a thing of beauty.

Most backyard decks start out in the same manner. Plan, permit, list of materials, followed by the delivery of said materials. Those are the big things, or easy decisions.

Once these decking materials are sitting in your backyard, the deck enters into its “great potential” stage. At this point, your lumber, bolts, and screws, are like a clean canvas with a series of paint colours on standby.

As a result, is this deck that your about to construct going to be the Mona Lisa of treated decks, or at least a Monet? Or, will it rank up there with the finger painting works of Mrs. Latulipe’s advanced kindergarten class?

And, is your present strategy going to have this deck still looking great in 10 years? Or, will a series of poor decisions and cutting corners likely have your project scheduled for demolition?

Therefore, and in an effort to build a deck that will give us 25 years of faithful service, be relatively splinter free, relatively maintenance friendly, and avoid collapse while entertaining your buddies after Tuesday night, keg league softball, we’re going to focus on the little things that are going to make a big difference.

First strategic move? Protect the supporting joists and beams by covering them with a protective membrane. The narrower edge of your 2×8 or 2×10 joists can be covered with standard three inch lengths of waterproof strips, while the wider double or triple 2×8 beams can be covered with a Blueskin WB rubber membrane.

Why use the protective joist and beam strips? To avoid the rot caused by standing water, and mold resulting from the wet debris that always manages to get stuck in between the decking planks.

Key aesthetic point number one? Avoid face nailing or screwing the decking planks. Surface screws are to lumber what hockey pucks are to the average set of teeth owned by professional hockey players.

Keeping the decking planks looking pristine can be achieved by using the ‘Camo’ clamp, or deck-track system of joist brackets. The Camo strategy involves clamping the deck board in position, just for a few moments, while screws are inserted into both sides of the plank.

The deck-track system will have the installer nailing 40 inch strips of perforated steel along the entire length of the joists and perimeter board. The deck-track provides the means for a shorter screw to be inserted into the decking planks from underneath.

Both systems add a little time, maybe a little more back ache, and a couple of hundred bucks to the average deck project. But, the seamless, splinter-less results are spectacular.

Next, picture frame the decking with a perimeter board. Basically, we don’t want to see or expose the end cuts. This goes for the planks on the stairs as well.

Creating a picture frame type of installation will mean beefing up the framing with two extra joists along the perimeter, spaced an inch or so away from the main perimeter board.

Install the picture framing planks first, mitering the corners, then fasten the center portion of the deck.

Start the decking plank installation on the outer edge, working your way towards the house.

Which face of the plank goes up? Look at the edge grain. Essentially, there will be less cupping and better plank stability if the curves of the wood grain face downward.

Next, use the plastic rail connectors (see the ‘Deckorator‘ series of products) when fastening your 2×4 or 2×6 handrail to the 4×4 newel posts. Toe nailing looks lousy, creates splinters, and generally creates a weak joint.

Finally, don’t forget the Deck Drawer. We were so happy with our deck drawer on our deck, we had a second one installed. The deck drawer is a great space saver that keeps your backyard stuff safe and dry.

Good building.

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

The little things are important

Today we paint the exterior of our home.

And, whether the challenge at hand be your wood siding or backyard deck, it’s the little things relating to this task that are going to maintain your optimism.

Outdoor painting or staining isn’t easy. Optimally, and under the right conditions, this job can be relatively bearable. In most cases, we spend these hours of labour hating ourselves.

Keys to painting bliss? Get the little things right, starting with your choice of clothing.

Acrylic paints, which supposedly clean up with soap and water, are actually about as water soluble as a hockey puck. If you happen to sprinkle a blotch on your pant leg, you’ll have two choices.

Either disrobe immediately, then soak the area under warm water. Or, two, realize that disrobing on your back deck could initiate a reaction by the neighbourhood watch committee, and simply accept the fact you’ve just devalued your designer pants by about 90 per cent.

When it’s time to paint, I go to my closet, get out my painting jeans, paint stained T-shirt, paint stained windbreaker, if it’s a little breezy, and paint stained running shoes.

All these items were, at one time, perfectly good pieces of clothing I thought I could get away with wearing, while painting, if I was really careful. In other words, clothes worn during painting, inevitably become permanent paint wear.

Next, invest in an official paint lid pry-tool, rubber mallet, and have a roll of Saran wrap handy. I couldn’t find my lid prying tool the other day, and instead used the closest thing within reach, that being a flat headed screwdriver.

The lid, of course, opened, but not after somewhat damaging the rim. No big deal once, or twice, but by the third non-regulation opening, you might as well consider the balance of the paint a loss, and either give whatever you’re painting a third coat, paint something else, or save it for the hazardous waste day, weekend drop-off.

So, with the paint lid prying tool probably the handiest thing you’ll have in the toolbox for under a buck, you’re best to invest in a few of them.

Rubber mallet? Used for closing the lid of course, offering a firm, but soft touch. A regular nailing hammer is overkill, and will permanently dent the lid, making a good seal impossible once that happens.

Saran wrap is key to you having a well-deserved coffee break without risking the brush and top skin of the paint drying up. Simply tear off about a forearm length of plastic, place all but the handle of the brush down on the wrap, then dexterize the bristles by folding the brush over and over again until you’ve reached the end of the plastic. Finally, fold any excess plastic over the top of the brush. To temporarily seal the paint, tear off about a foot of saran wrap, lay it over the open can, then gently press the lid back on the can.

Use just enough force to hold the lid in place. Place the brush and paint in a cool, shady spot, fire up the coffee maker, and enjoy your toast and jam.

Next, wear gloves. I like the heavy duty, plastic type gloves that practically reach up to your elbow, instead of the tight surgeon style. The heavier gloves won’t provide the same dexterity, but can be removed more easily, just in case the phone rings, or you require another sip of coffee. And, they won’t tear, allowing you to handle those heavier chairs and tables while you’re painting.

Last, but definitely not least, plug in the radio, blasting away your favourite tunes, or set on sports talk, where once again, the debate regarding Montreal’s demise will be rehashed and attributed to Carey Price’s injury, and the fact GM Marc Bergevin couldn’t manage toddler ball hockey at the local day care.

Good building.

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

Ye old shed, and how to fix it

Just a guess, but we're thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Just a guess, but we’re thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

“How do you fix up an old shed?” This was the question posed to me by a lovely, 20-something young lady, who just recently purchased an older home with a handsome, 20-something young man.

I mention the ages of the participants because timing is significant, and will certainly affect the strategy in addressing the crooked shed issue. If this were an elderly couple, I’d say forget about the shed, concentrate on booking your next tee-off date and getting your meds straightened out, then let the next guy worry about it.

If you’re middle-aged then I’d recommend taking a flamethrower to this mess, or plowing it into the ground with a bulldozer, depending on which ‘over the top’ method of ultimate doom you prefer. Then I’d recommend building something brand new in its place, at least three times bigger (because by this age we all collect too much stuff) along with the real possibility of adding a finished loft area over top.

But, if you’re young, full of dreams, with the weight of the world having yet to have you cry out in pain as you attempt to pull your socks on in the morning, this old shed project will provide an excellent learning experience in basic framing, siding, and roofing.

First, are we talking an old wood shed, or banged up steel shed? Wood we can possibly work with, whereby a steel (or tin) shed, in poor condition, has the approximate value of a couple of Bell Center playoff tickets in Montreal.

What to do with the pile of dented, steel panels, once you’ve completed disassembly? Toss them in the back of a borrowed pick-up truck (make sure all the participants are wearing gloves) and drive this mess over to the local metal scrap yard dealer. At between 100-130 bucks per ton in reimbursement value, this procedure, whereby 200 lbs. of scrap metal might cover the breakfast special at the local diner, is far from a get rich quick scheme. However, it’s recycling, helps fill your tummies for a few hours, and certainly beats the ‘toss it in the bush’ method used by previous generations.

So, what’s the procedure regarding our decrepit wood shed? First, assess the damage. Crooked we can work with, rot or decay we can’t. And, we definitely don’t want to take the risk of this shed collapsing. Therefore, if once the shed’s contents have been removed, you discover that the sill plates and wood flooring are soft due to decay, secure a chain from the shed to the aforementioned pick-up truck, and pull this baby down.

In most cases, the siding (be it wood paneling, plywood, cedar shake, or vinyl) as well as the roofing shingles, will have been severely neglected, and will need to be removed. Once that task is complete, re-assess the floor and stick framework. Wet’s not a problem, soft and splintering into pieces is. So, if all is good, or a few problem pieces can be safely replaced, get the shed back to square and level by adding a few wall studs, and steel cross bracing if necessary. Building permits aren’t required for sheds of 100 sq. ft. or less. Therefore, if your shed is of the popular 8×8 configuration, I suggest extending the floor and framework to the more spacious 8×12 size. What makes a shed more easily usable, while effectively keeping out the varmints, is the entry door. So, spend a few extra dollars on a more reliable double steel door, or roll-up garage door type of system.

Windows or skylights? Natural light is always a good idea.

Type of siding? Choose something that will either match or complement the home. Vinyl siding is a popular choice, due to it’s easy to maintain good value. However, a painted wood siding, such as a board n’ batten, or channel siding, will look quite charming, and definitely enhance the look of one’s backyard.

Thanks for the suggested topic BB, and good building.

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

Really, ya gotta be kidding me

Really! There’s no Santa Claus. Ya gotta be kidding me… was my surprised response upon learning this unfortunate fact.

But, even as a child, I accepted the storyline as being well intentioned.

Then, I was told professional wrestling wasn’t real. Ya gotta be kidding me, I stated once again. This time, however, I was totally devastated, and to this day, still suffer from the trauma of that enlightenment.

Today, in the world of retail biz, we use the phrase “Ya gotta be kidding me” all the time, although mostly in thought, and usually due to misconceptions or poor decisions made by homeowners regarding house improvements and maintenance.

Case in point, and docket #322 on the customer file, male Caucasian, somewhat passed middle age, looking to resurface, or possibly rebuild, his multi-tiered deck and walkway platform.

Issue, existing treated lumber surface is looking quite worn, having succumbed to 25 years of weathering and repeated attempts to paint or stain.

Status? Person is well groomed, pulls into our parking driving a 7 series BMW sedan, and has a deep tan. Not the peeling nose, five day, discounted air fare trip to Cuba type colouring, but a real, several weeks or months spent in Florida kind of pigment.

If I had to guess, this guy has most probably not seen a winter in years, and obviously moisturizes. Location of home in question? Waterfront, as in St. Lawrence River, real big ship water, as opposed to Mulberry Creek, all you need is a pair of rubber boots to cross, or large puddle in the backyard, type of stuff.

With this information, we can further conclude that this fellow is neither the head patty flipper at Bob’s Burger Bonanza, or has recently pulled a sidewalk camp out, in order to secure his spot on the front line of Walmart’s last midnight madness, door crasher event.

Nope, and as far as I can see, we’re talking pure executive status. “So”, I begin with this fine gentleman, “what type of decking material were you thinking of resurfacing your deck and walkway with?”

“I’m thinking treated lumber”, the fellow said, “but instead of the green stuff, I think we’d like to consider the new brown coloured decking, that, with a coat of sealer every other year, ought to look pretty good, don’t you think?”

Ya gotta be kidding me, was my only thought. Executive fellow, living in an executive home, and his thoughts are to replace his existing, crappy deck boards, decking planks he’s toiled with for the past 25 years, sometimes sanding, always either painting or staining, with nothing better than an updated version of the same stuff.

Ya gotta be kidding me. Now, there’s obviously nothing wrong with building a deck using treated lumber, whether it be green or brown. And, if you’re a 20, or 30, or 40 something year old, building your first deck, or budget wise, require the simple pleasure of a modest backyard platform and railing system, then treated lumber is most likely your best choice and value.

However, if this isn’t your first deck, or you have the financial capacity to go with something better, and due to your mature stage in life, have fewer weekends ahead of you, than what you have already under your belt, then you’ve got to treat yourself to spending your golden years on a composite deck.

Composite or solid PVC decking is expensive, ranging anywhere from 8-10 dollars per square foot for the premium products and colours.

However, when it comes to finish, even wood enthusiasts, and I’m one of them, admit composites look several times better than even a stained cedar.

“If I had a small deck, I’d go composite, but with such a large surface to cover, I thought treated lumber would be the best option” was his thinking.

Wrong. The bigger the deck, the more work regarding maintenance, and all the more reason to go composite. Next week, why composites make cents.

Good building

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

Suiting up your home with siding

Conrad Hofmeister, installs siding in this July 6, 2015 file photo in Grande Prairie, Alta. Alexa Huffman/Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune/Postmedia Network
Conrad Hofmeister, installs siding in this July 6, 2015 file photo in Grande Prairie, Alta. Alexa Huffman/Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune/Postmedia Network

Whether you’re building a new home, addition, garage, or storage shed, one of the big decisions is going to be choosing the kind of siding that will best suit your investment.

Key to success? Don’t fret over which siding will be the easiest to install, or conceivably last the longest, resist dents or scratches, require painting, or cost you more or less money.

If you’re going all brick, or all stone, then there’s nothing to worry about. But, if you’re going to require a siding other than brick or stone, whether it be to accent the home, or completely cover it, then siding your home with the proper product, or one that best “suits” the home, is key.

Basically, siding choices can be slotted into four categories, vinyl, composites, cement board, and real wood.

Vinyl siding can be the least expensive of the three, if you’re considering the standard horizontal lap pattern, or the most expensive, if you happen to like one of the heavier stone or simulated cedar shake sidings.

One thing to keep in mind about vinyl siding, it doesn’t play well with others, and tends to look best on its own. So, if vinyl siding is what you’re leaning towards, then go vinyl all the way.

It’s often been the strategy, when building a modest sized new home, to install brick on the facade, with the three remaining walls relegated to regular vinyl.

This “looks good from the street, because the sides and back don’t matter so much” mentality only cheapens the structure, and let’s everyone know your house plan is fresh out of the 70’s.

So, if you can stretch the budget in order to have four brick walls, then terrific, you’ll end up with the classic “wolf will never blow me down” Ontario type home.

If the budget is fixed, then consider putting your brick facade money towards a higher quality, deeper tone, more refreshing and updated vinyl colour scheme on the entire house.

“Doesn’t vinyl siding fade, or break easy should it get struck by a hockey puck in the winter” is a question we field often.

Fade? Yes, and like everything else exposed to the sun, perhaps a little over time. And break easy? Well, things break easy when hit by hard, fast moving objects, just ask Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadians.

The convenient thing about vinyl siding is that it’s probably the easiest type of product to replace, even if the damaged panel is in the middle of a wall.

Solution to the puck issue? Build your kid a decent perimeter of rink boards. Otherwise, vinyl siding is a respected, harsh weather product.

Matter of fact, vinyl siding is the preferred product in the Maritime provinces and along the east coast, which arguably endures Canada’s toughest weather conditions.

Although style and affluence minimally affect the numbers, where cement-based products have failed, due to the constant moisture and corrosiveness of the sea air, and where wood and composite sidings require constant paint touch-ups and general upkeep, vinyl sidings do very well.

Composite sidings include such brand names as Canexel (wood fiber base) and Goodstyle (wood chip base). Composites are the closest thing to looking like real wood, and have the advantage of being significantly more stable than wood, which means they don’t warp or crack like wood.

Like real wood sidings, composites are a good accent product for stone and brick homes. Cement-based sidings, such as James Hardie board, work extremely well in our weather zone, and a super tough, fire proof, good looking siding that can work on its own, or act as an excellent complement to your brick or stone home.

Like wood, composite and cement products will require painting every 10-12 years, but don’t let this fact discourage you from the many great features of both these sidings.

Good building

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

It’s what’s underneath that matters

Which is the best roofing product for a new home, steel roofing or asphalt/fiberglass shingles?

Actually, I dislike ’em both, especially during the winter thaw season. Why? Because they leak, and nothing in the home renovation biz is as frustrating as a leaky roof.

Therefore, if I had to consult a homeowner as to what type of product to choose in order to best protect their homes, year round, regardless of seasonal timeframe, I’d say cover your home with one of those vinyl roofed mega-domes.

So far, the only roofs that haven’t leaked at our lumber yard are the mega-domes. North, steel covered warehouse roof, leaks. Flat, rubberized roof over main store, leaks. Asphalt roof on main residence, leaks.

Very frustrating. So, for a mere $100,000, I say go mega-dome. If you’ve got two hundred grand to blow, I’d recommend doming the entire property, basically eliminating winter altogether.

If either scenario seems somewhat beyond budget, or practicality, and if changing the roof structure and general truss engineering of your home is equally as unlikely, then what can we do to make our roofs more dome-like?

Dome roofs have the advantage of being made of a tightly fitted, one piece, waterproof membrane. Unfortunately, roof dormers, chimneys, plumbing vents, skylights, or an attached garage, make the possibility of a one piece roof application in residential home construction, basically impossible.

That being the case, the best alternative is to follow some of the successful strategies of a dome type roof.

Step one, keep it tight. In our residential case, this means keep it solid. This can be achieved by ensuring your contractor uses minimally a 1/2 inch plywood, or 15/32 OSB (oriented strand board) roof-deck, as sheeting material over the trusses.

Bad things happen when roofing plywood sags due to the weight of a snow load. Steel roofing (being so thin) and asphalt shingles, have no structural strength.

As a result, the integrity of every seam between the sheets of tin, and the tar bond between shingle tabs, will be compromised should the plywood bend.

With “compromised” in the roofing biz meaning a leak is in the near future, we avoid the thinner (yet code compliant) plywood’s.

Note, in the past, steel roofing could be supported by 1×4 rough lumber. Because lumber is more unstable than plywood, causing screws to pop loose and mild warpage to occur, the better choice for steel roofing is a plywood underlay.

Next, we need an impermeable membrane. Roofing paper (again, code compliant) is a poor choice.

There are a number of quality synthetic membranes available, such as the Titanium UDL50 and UDL30 products, followed by the somewhat lesser weight, but still synthetic, Rhino and Deckgard products.

The better synthetic membranes are thicker, more tear resistant, and actually hug the nail (or screw) once it’s been perforated, providing optimum resistance to leaks.

What about installing an ice and water shield over the entire roof?

Ice and water shield is a heavy, rubberized peal and stick membrane that’s usually installed on the area of the roof that extends past the edge of the house. Ice and water’s main task is to guard against ice dams, so, installing it over the entire roof would certainly be overkill.

However, you could do it with a steel roof, but it would be aesthetically risky with asphalt shingles. The reason is the overlap, which with this thicker membrane, may cause a horizontal ripple in the shingles every 3 feet up the roof.

What about doubling up on the shingles, or installing steel roofing over existing asphalt shingles? This practice is no longer recommended.

Two reasons. One, its extra weight your roof trusses don’t need. And two, the spongy surface of an older shingle wouldn’t provide a good base for our new roofing. Best bet, remove the old shingles, assess the underlay, then remove or repair accordingly.

Good building

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

Accepting your stone foundation

Old stone homes are beautiful. They're also pretty cold, especially in the basement. Our Handyman Hint solution? Accept it for what it is, unless you're willing to pour a lot of money into it.
Old stone homes are beautiful. They’re also pretty cold, especially in the basement. Our Handyman Hint solution? Accept it for what it is, unless you’re willing to pour a lot of money into it.

We owned a century home with a stone foundation once. Once!

As a result, when it comes to giving advice to those persons looking to invest in a home built before the invention of the automobile, and who have further ideas of transforming this stone foundation into useable storage space, I can only offer the following, “may the strength and courage of your faith guide you accordingly”.

My faith guided me right back up the stairs to our kitchen table, where within 45 minutes I had completed a drawing and structural details to our future garden shed. That’s my recommendation to those persons looking to use a stone basement for anything other than keeping a few bottles of wine slightly chilled — build the more convenient and certainly more practical alternative, that being a shed.

Should all stone foundations be judged so harshly? Absolutely.

However, the guidelines as to how user friendly a stone basement is, lies entirely on the reparation work done by the previous owner. In our case, the previous tenants were farmers and retired crafters.

So, the basement was left relatively unchanged since its modest beginnings in 1825. Which, meant whitewashed stone walls, an uneven ground floor, along with the standard “be prepared to duck” floor to ceiling beam height of about 5-1/2 feet.

Plus, two inches of floodwater would appear like clockwork every first day of spring. As a result, considering this basement area for storage space (provided it was off the floor) was slim, with any thoughts of potential living area being created out of this dungeon about as likely as a Stanley Cup parade down Yonge Street.

Needless to say, we continued the trend of ignoring the basement issue, and chose to instead direct our home renewal funds towards a new kitchen and subsequent pool.

However, what an engineer, or more structurally inclined fellow would have done, is address the basement.

How? By steadying the home with a new series of joists and strategically placed hydraulic jacks, the basement floor would be dug down a further three feet.

Next, with a new footing installed, and poured concrete knee-wall supporting the existing stone structure, we would lay the lines to our internal weeping tile system and sump pump well.

Finally, a concrete floor would be spread and levelled overtop. That’s a previous owner who would have done us one heck of a favor, regardless of the cost.

Moral of the story, for best results, buy a home formerly owned by an engineer. Otherwise, most stone foundations are caught somewhere in between their original state and complete renewal, having been subject to the usual piecemeal grout repairs.
Should a future home buyer be concerned about investing in a home with a stone foundation? Absolutely not.

We loved our stone home, and could we have logistically moved it to our new property without the aid of four Sea King helicopters, we probably would have.

Like everything else in this world, if you love most of what you see, you’re going to accept some of the weaknesses.

Is a stone foundation a concern? Stone foundations are energy losers. Solid rock is a poor insulator, while the mortar joints are responsible for continual air and moisture infiltration.

Now, combine that scenario with a ground floor, or concrete floor that may be cracked or in disrepair, and we’re talking one heck of an influx of dampness.

Remedy? If you’ve got 200 thousand bucks to spend, you re-do the basement in the aforementioned manner. Otherwise, your goal will be controlling the water, which can be accomplished by addressing the sloping landscape and eavestrough systems outside, with the possible help of a weeping tile line and sump pump unit inside.

With a strategy in place to handle the rain and ground water, a proper concrete floor, complete with ridged foam board and vapor barrier, would be the next step, solving most of the moisture issues, while at least providing you with a somewhat useable storage space.

Good building.

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