Anything but wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was, of course, one-touch dreaming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Touch-it-once siding options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Touch it once

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week, more on touching things once.

Good building.

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

Drop this LVT under your feet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is bigger better? Always.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

You go “nice and slow, see…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, familiarize yourself with the products.

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

What often intimidates the first time user is the cutting.

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

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

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

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

Well done.

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

Now onto how to burn

So, you’ve decided to start burning with wood.

Congratulations, the traditional atmosphere you’ll be providing for friends and family will rank second-to-none in warmth and comfort. However, this new role will require attention to detail and continued responsibility, starting with the ignition process.

Understanding the greatest potential for backdraft, a situation where chimney smoke is drawn back into the home, occurs at the start of a burn, let’s review a few good practices.

One, start the burn well before your guests arrive, and be sure your mind has not been altered by alcohol or a most recent purchase of legalized cannabis. Nothing kills a party like smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation.

If a backdraft is going to happen, let it occur while the living room is void of guests. It would also save you the hassle of explaining why a jammed patio door handle required you to use Aunt Tilly as a battering ram, with her walker providing an effective means to shattering the plate glass window in order to secure a quick escape route from a smoke-filled room.

Furthermore, starting a fire will require following a precise sequence of procedures. So, let not your memory, decision-making, and reflexes be handicapped by your early partaking of the drink, or plate of special brownies.

First, open the damper to the chimney, as well as any air intake ducts feeding directly into the firebox. Next, crack open a nearby window. This will provide a little extra oxygen, which will help boost the flame and drive the initial draft. Plus, an open window is a quick fix to a home’s negative air pressure, which can happen when mechanical devices such as the kitchen’s range hood, or bathroom fans, are operating at full capacity, further challenging the chimney’s capacity to draw air upwards.

Cool air sinks. When it’s really cold outside, it sinks even quicker, which will be a challenge to the person starting the fire, since success in avoiding a backdraft lies entirely on creating upward air movement, or reversing the natural course of this chimney air.

So, with a ball of crushed newsprint, jailed inside a tee pee of small, dry pieces of kindling (spruce or pine lumber), ignite the paper. The key is to build flame, not smoke, in order to quickly create an upward draft. Success in getting the smoke to move upwards might be slow, which may be evidenced by your eyes swelling with tears and a sudden shortness of breath during those first 30 seconds.

Regardless, stay calm, work through the combustion spillage, and stick to the plan, the sensation should pass provided you continue coaxing the flame with more bits of wood and newsprint. If you’re two minutes into the ignition process and the fire alarm’s blasting away, the budgie’s now breast feathers up at the bottom of the birdcage, and the eye-swelling has rendered you blind, then abort the process and review the open damper/air intake/open window/shutting off of mechanical systems checklist.

What to burn? Only dry, seasoned (evidenced by cracks and splits in the log’s ends) hardwood. Don’t burn softwoods, painted or treated lumber, general garbage, wet logs, or those paper documents you’d rather the Canada Revenue Agency not see.

Dry hardwoods burn hot, delivering maximum heat and minimal residue, which is exactly what you want out of your wood fuel. Softwoods and used pallet lumber will burn of course, but the heat output will be mediocre at best. So, save this stuff for campfire purposes.

Furthermore, when fires don’t burn hot, creosote is the result, with this tar-like residue coating your chimney liner. Creosote isn’t a good thing because it can re-ignite in your chimney at any time.

Unfortunately, the first person to realize there’s a potential crisis is the neighbour, who upon noticing the flames shooting out of your chimney, is forced to either act, or dismiss the occurrence as you having modified your home into an oil refinery.

Burn safe, and good building.

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

Now, onto getting a clean burn

A wood burning stove in a traditional country cottage. POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILES

Sensing a firm squeeze on your shoulders, a loud, stern voice asks “Sir, can you hear me?!”

As you begin to regain your wits and return to consciousness, the blurred face of a burley first responder in dire need of a shave eventually comes into focus.

“Can you tell me your name sir?” the fellow with the four-day beard and large hat questions further.

“Yes” you respond, “my name’s Jack, what’s happened?”

As you turn your head to the side, the flashing lights of a big red vehicle cause you to squint, reacting with a head turn to the opposite side, where you’re semi-delirious state questions why someone has rolled up a rug and tossed it on the snowbank.

But it’s not a rug, and as your mind regains clarity, you realize it’s Aunt Tilly in her favorite floral dress being attended to by another first responder with somewhat less facial hair.

“Son of a gun,” you say to yourself, “did I forget to open that damned fireplace damper again?”

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a real threat to those households not following a clean burn practice.

So, if you’re about to enter the terrific world of wood burning, let’s follow up on last week’s good burn strategies with what it takes to have consistent clean burns. Clean burning essentially means the only time you should be smelling smoke is if you’re outside the home.

Once in the comfort of your reclining chair, your woodstove or fireplace should be providing a heat that is basically odourless. So, if there’s a smoky scent in the air while you’re burning, don’t dismiss this odour as one of the sweet smells of the holiday season.

What you’ve got is a combustion spillage, which indicates residue gases and particulates are somehow evading the chimney, and making their way into your living room.

Included in these particulates will be carbon monoxide, a poisonous, odourless gas that can be deadly.

Steps to clean burning?

No.1, invest in a CSA-certified stove and stove pipe system, reviewing the chimney design and stove output with a qualified wood burning salesperson.

Next, have your wood burning unit and chimney installed by a certified WETT (wood energy technical transfer) contractor.

Things to consider?

Wood stoves operate most efficiently when they’re delivering close to maximum heat. So, invest in a unit that will heat the immediate area, and maybe a bit more. Avoid the large, 80,000 BTU unit simply because it’s the most impressive looking stove on the showroom floor, with the intention of operating it at half capacity because it would otherwise heat you out of your home.

Combustion spillage will occur at the start of a burn, as you attempt to create an upward draft, and end of a burn, as the air in the chimney cools and sinks down, allowing particulates to drop into the room’s atmosphere.

However, when a stove is operating at full capacity, there’s little chance of combustion spillage. So, for safe, clean heating, keep your fireplace or woodstove burning hot and steady.

Next, and for optimum efficiency, install what’s regarded as a warm chimney. A warm chimney simply means the chimney is kept inside the home, exiting through the roof at a high spot.

You notice exterior chimneys on older homes, where even the fireplace itself is housed in its own little enclosure, with the chimney running along the siding, upwards through the soffit.

When the chimney is kept inside the home, the air in the chimney remains warm, which means it’s continually rising, creating that all important draft, while eliminating the chances of combustion spillage by backdraft.

Which is best: a wood stove or a fireplace? If its heat you’re after, buy a woodstove. If it’s a more traditional stone wall, hang your Christmas stockings and roast your chestnuts by the open fire type of setting you’re looking for, then you’ll have to sacrifice a little efficiency by choosing a fireplace.

Next week, how to burn.

Good building.

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

Getting that good burn

The F2400 wood-burning stove at My Fireplace in London, Ont. on Friday December 16, 2016. DEREK RUTTAN/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

In the home wood burning biz, we refer to it as a ‘good burn.’

Achieving good burn status essentially requires two things:

One, the homeowner have a wood-fueled fire contained by either a woodstove or fireplace.

And two, the same number of people who enter the home on any festive evening, safely exit the premises without the aid of paramedics, firefighters, or representatives of the local morgue, barring of course any unscheduled exits due to inebriation or substance abuse deemed unrelated to the burn.

That’s basically it.

If you can create a fire in your home, thereby providing heat and an ambiance unequaled by any other fuel, without family members or guests dying or suffering the adverse effects of smoke inhalation, then you’ve succeeded as a wood burner.

Where to start?

If you’re new to the world of burning wood, then the suggested strategy regarding the acquisition of a wood-burning unit is as follows.

Tip No. 1: Yard sales and auctions are great sources for a variety of household items, none of which include wood stoves. So, avoid buying used, especially if the unit is older than you are.

Although wood stoves have no moving parts, the gaskets around the doors, fire bricks, and ceramic catalytic parts, all wear down and eventually fail over time. Plus, 300- to 400-pound woodstoves aren’t so easily carried about. So, the chances that such a unit was consistently handled in a delicate manner over the past 30 years is doubtful, which simply means the frame could have suffered a few line cracks.

In other words, the air tightness of this unit has most likely been compromised in a number of areas. When that happens, a portion of the gases released through combustion, such as carbon monoxide, will divert from going up the chimney and spill into the room. If the room happens to be an uninsulated and drafty hunting cabin, or fishing hut, where death by any means would likely be a welcome relief to the boredom and the freezing of one’s butt, then the collateral damage is limited.

If we’re talking about a room filled with innocent women and children, then this combustion spillage would be unacceptable.

We have an old coal stove in our home, a family heirloom that was used to make candy in the day, dating back to the early 1900’s. It sits in the corner of our kitchen, set in a working position with a non-operational stove pipe leading to a wall that possesses no chimney. During the Christmas season we’ll fill the copper cauldron that rests on the stove with decorative balls and lights. That’s how old wood stoves are to be honoured.

Either that or dishonorably discharged as scrap steel.

Regardless, don’t start an old stove up again. Besides being truly airtight, and likely far more efficient in keeping heat in the room, new wood stoves also carry with them updated information regarding the proper spacing between the unit and combustible walls, which is key to safe operation.

The same buy new recommendation extends to chimneys as well. I shudder when I encounter persons looking for parts relating to a series of insulated chimney lengths they found online, or at the side of the road during anything goes garbage night.

However, if again we’re talking about heating a shack that would serve the world better by burning to the ice, with any and all contents sinking to the river bed, then a mishmash system of chimney pipe may work in the short term.

On a new home, the interior stove pipe should be of the double-wall variety, with a two-inch insulated pipe used when piercing through a wall or ceiling, with this same insulated pipe continuing up into the outdoors.

Who should install your chimney and stove? Somebody who is WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) certified, thereby ensuring your heating unit is code compliant, and adheres to all safety rules and regulations.

Next week— lighting the fire. Safe burning.

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