Always plan for your escape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

How to create and sustain basement life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good building.

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

Now, about those shingles…

Today’s asphalt shingles, aka Fiberglas shingles, due to the substrate having been changed from the original paper felt, to a Fiberglas mating some 20 years ago, offer the consumer the choice of a 25-year warranty for a basic three-tab shingle, to a 40-year/lifetime warranty for the architectural, or laminated shingle.

The “lifetime” appendage that accompanies the 40-year warranty label is supposed to signify that if by adding 40 years to your present status, your age approaches anything near three-digit territory, the longevity statistics suggest this is most likely the last roof you’ll ever have to pay for.

The up-front coverage period for these lifetime-warranty shingles is 15 years. This means that for the first 15 years of the life of the shingle, the homeowner will be financially reimbursed for both product and labour to install, should the shingles somehow fail.

The 25 years following, or years 16-40 of your laminated shingle life, will have you subject to the conditions of the term, “pro-rated.” Pro-rate; to divide, distribute, or assess proportionately, essentially lets you know that in year 15 of your shingles’ life, most of the costs related to the installation of new shingles will be covered by warranty, but that in years 16-plus, once a few numbers related to wear and depreciation are factored in, the remuneration dollars might buy you a bowl of soup and a coffee.

So, if you’re 50 years of age today, and hoped your newly installed laminated shingle might last you until the age of 90, which by then thoughts of replacing your shingles will likely rank a distant second to simply escaping the grips of the Grim Reaper, you could be facing disappointment.

Essentially, if you’re 50, you can expect to replace your shingles at age 65, 80, and if you’re really fortunate, be part of the colour-choosing process at 90-plus.

Can a Fiberglas shingle last 40 years? It’s possible, but not bloody likely.

However, there aren’t a lot of products in this world that’ll give you 15 years full coverage, then offer you a Tim Hortons gift card down the road should you really want to pursue a settlement in year 30 of your shingle contract.

Plus, it should be noted the upfront warranty is transferable once, should you sell your home within that first 15-year period, provided of course you register this transfer with the roofing company within 30 days of the sale. Otherwise, the warranty unfortunately becomes null and void.

With the list of those persons who I know who have actually gone through the process of warranty transfer, and the required $100 transfer fee, holding steady at zero, there are a lot of un-warrantied roofs out there.

So, my recommendation would be to avoid warranty issues altogether by following a pretty short list of asphalt roofing do’s and don’ts.

First, do hire a certified roofer to shingle your roof. Certified roofers have an in-depth knowledge of the product and required substrate materials, and are properly equipped, and insured, to be on your roof.

Don’t hire a fly-by-night, weekend warrior. They may be somewhat experienced, but they’re not certified, and are most likely not covered.

So, if there are issues after the installation, don’t bother calling. Weekend ‘hire-for-cash’ type carpenters tend to change their phone numbers monthly, and you’ll find yourself chasing a ghost. Plus, should one of these fellows should fall off your roof, roll em’ up in a tarp and bury him under the back deck with his hammer and pouch, otherwise the impending lawsuit is going to be a doozer.

How do you find an accredited roofer? By contacting your local building supply centre. We’ve seen the good, bad, and the ugly when it comes to home renovations, and can certainly steer you towards the area’s most capable and respected roofers.

When’s the best time to install shingles? With fall offering slightly cooler, more moderate temperatures, there’s no time like the present.

Good building.

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

Getting rid of that G-Mag

Due to our most favourable, welcoming, and extremely nurturing Canadian environment, we’ve all become familiar with Gloeocapsa Magma.

Is Gloeocapsa Magma, “G-Mag” for short, another one of our budding young tennis stars to hit the ATP circuit? Probably not.

Perhaps Gloeocapsa Magma is an international soccer star, who after fleeing persecution in his own country, became a Canadian citizen, and while looking to star as our leading striker, could also enlighten us hockey players into the how’s of playing a sport that doesn’t offer you the option of cross-checking your opponent with a piece of hickory?

Perhaps, but not yet to be confirmed.

Unfortunately, the Gloeocapsa Magma we’re most familiar with is an algae, commonly recognized as the black streaking type of stain we see on our asphalt shingle roofs. Where does the G-Mag come from?

Like most fungi and moulds, algae are airborne spores common to our ecosystem. When Gloeocapsa Magma lands on something, and this something happens to have a food source, along with moisture and some protection from the sun, it settles, sticks around for as long as the food source continues, and multiplies.

Essentially, Gloeocapsa Magma is like a party crasher who texts his buddies he’s found a home where the beer fridge is full, with the added bonus of pretzels and corn chips on the kitchen table.

Getting rid of Gloeocapsa Magma? Not so easy, kind of like these same party guests who at 1 a.m. are annoyingly sticking around, looking to begin another round of shots by cracking open a new bottle of tequila.

Although most laminated or lifetime-warranty shingles contain copper particles, which should provide a lethal remedy to mould, moss, and algae, the Gloeocapsa Magma is extremely stubborn, clinging to your roof like it was the last barstool available at a packed Oktoberfest celebration. Plus, today’s fiberglass shingles contain less tar, and more natural products, such as limestone, which have components in them that are attractive to algae.

So, regardless of the copper content of fiberglass shingles, the Gloeocapsa Magma seem to be sticking around.

What can be done about the G-Mag? Like any mould type of organism, algae can be effectively removed with various bleach-and-water solutions, or bottled, spray-on type, mould and algae cleaners. One source recommends a one cup of TSP (trisodium phosphate), a gallon of bleach, and five gallons of water mixture.

The only issue with using TSP and bleaches is that they are of course toxic, requiring the user being completely covered in protective clothing, hand, and eyewear. And, these solutions will be slippery until they’re rinsed off, which on a roof will be a serious handicap if the Gloeocapsa Magma is going to require a little soft scrubbing. Plus, whatever bleach gets sprayed on your roof, inevitably ends up on the plants and lawn below. So, plant life will have to be hosed down with water and covered beforehand.

What about pressure washing? Probably the only idea that is worse than a bleach/water solution.

A pressure washer will absolutely eliminate the G-Mag presence, but will unfortunately loosen and remove your shingles’ granular surface as well.

The challenge to eliminating the Gloeocapsa Magma yourself is that it’s on the roof, a place I don’t recommend any homeowner – without the roof-climbing experience and proper harnessing – ever visit. So, look to hire a reputable person to clean your roof, and be sure to ask them about the type of chemicals that will be used, and the cleaning procedure.

Stopping the G-Mag? Consider installing zinc strips along the roof’s ridge, fastened under the last row of capping, a relatively simple procedure for a professional roofer.

If a new shingled roof is in the future, and your former roof experienced algae, regardless of the algae inhibitors likely found in your new shingles, installing the zinc strips will be an effective second line of defence, saving you from the big disappointment of seeing stains on your beautiful new roof.

Good building.

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

Dig into the reasons for excavating

London home builder Doug Wastell shows off foundation wrap on a partially built home in a new residential area on Sunningdale Road in London, Ontario on Tuesday June 3, 2014. CRAIG GLOVER/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the verb excavate as; to dig out and remove.

The homeowners’ manual is a little more descriptive, describing excavate as; the opportunity to create an enormous mess, where one can expect incredible collateral damage affecting one’s lawn and perimeter fixtures, hourly fees that rival those of Manhattan lawyers, along with a general disturbance to the immediate neighborhood.

So, why put yourself through the stress of an excavation, which essentially means creating a moat around the perimeter of your home? Because if you’ve got persistent or regular water infiltration issues, and family members are no longer believing the three-to-four inches of water found in the basement every spring are your attempts at a cistern – a system of harvesting rainwater that dates back to the Neolithic age, or about 5,000 before Christ – then excavation may be your only salvation.

Plus, water issues eventually lead to mould issues. If thoughts are to eventually sell your home, this could be a deal breaker, because prospective buyers will definitely be leery of investing in a house with water-infiltration issues.

Furthermore, you can never underestimate the value of simply being dry.

Whether the basement’s future involves being transferred into added living area, or simply kept as storage space, dry will be a welcomed luxury if you’ve ever had water issues in the past.

Finally, don’t underestimate the familiar adage “location, location, location.” If you love your home, and if your home’s in a preferred neighborhood, then putting money into your foundation, what’s essentially a key element to a home’s comfort and stability, is always a good value investment.

How will excavating a foundation solve a home’s water issues? By transcending your home’s foundation into the 21st century, enabling it to be cleaned, repaired of any cracks or fissures, and re-sealed with any number of synthetic foundation membranes.

Once the foundation wall is sealed, a new length of weeping tile with a crushed gravel bed would be positioned at the footing, following the perimeter of the foundation, effectively directing rain and snow melt away from the home.

Most often, it’s the fear of total upheaval that stops homeowners from performing this big task. And, it’s understandable. Homes requiring this type of renovation are often 30-to-100 years old, and have longstanding driveways, decks, and garden areas that would be a shame to destroy.

Regardless, the long-term viability of a foundation far outweighs the loss of what are basically appendages. Basically, flowers and shrubs can be replanted, decks rebuilt, and driveways repaved.

What about excavating your foundation from the inside? I don’t like this idea for two reasons.

One, you’re basically creating a mess of dust and debris that will be extremely disruptive, with concrete waste materials being transferred to the outside of the home, then placed in garbage bins regardless. And two, creating the required trench along the inside of your foundation wall will require the use of a jackhammer, a tool designed by the devil himself. Besides delivering a rumble that’ll shake the home and have your canned goods toppling out of your cupboards, unless you’ve rented a room at the local Inn, the jackhammer’s reverberating sound may very well drive you to the brink of insanity.

So, how’s that compare to losing a few shrubs, or replacing a deck that more than likely could use some enhancements anyway?

The best time of year to perform an excavation? Spring and fall, while the temperatures are most favorable for everything from the installation of rubber membranes, to the driving of the backhoe and spreading of the gravel.

Where to start? Familiarize yourself with some of the various foundation wraps and membranes by visiting your local building supply centre. Because this is the last time you’re ever going to have to perform this task, choosing the best of materials will be important.

The building supply people will also be able to suggest to you a few reputable, local homebuilders and contractors familiar with this type of project.

Good building.

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

Getting ready to play with fire

A backyard fire pit burns in Edmonton, Alta., on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. FILE PHOTO

Today we investigate the possibility of operating an open backyard fire pit.

Now, you’re probably wondering, why put all this thought into what’s essentially going to be a campfire in the backyard for the kiddies to enjoy roasting marshmallows, and a hub where the adults can dismiss their supervisory roles while solving life’s issues over a few light ales?

Because, just like we need signs that say, “Speed Limit 100 km/h,” “Don’t Walk on the Grass,” or “Don’t reach into cage to touch gorillas,” relying on the element of common sense when it comes to human behaviour has proven to be unsuccessful.

So, like everything else, including the operation of a backyard fire pit, you’re going to have to get a permit, and follow the rules.

What’s the consequence to not wanting to follow what is basically a pretty lenient set of restrictions? Well— nobody’s going to tear your arm out of its socket and hand it back to you after gnawing on the forearm proves distasteful, but the monetary fine will certainly put a damper on your evening. Plus, restrictions and regulations may vary from city to county.

So, be sure to check with your local fire department regarding the safe operation of an open fire pit, and its bylaws.

The first step to backyard burning, other than operating a simple gas or charcoal barbecue, is to contact your local fire services office, and to request an open air burn permit application. The permit (for Cornwall and area) is going to cost you $100, which will be valid for three years. So, a pretty cheap application fee considering the fine for hosting an illegal burn is about $200 per infraction.

Essentially, the permit application is going to insist on a few conditions.

First, your fire pit will have to be located somewhere on your property that’s at least 20 feet from the property line, and any combustible structure. Trees and bushes, although obviously combustible, that encroach the 20-foot barrier, won’t necessarily sink this project. Unless of course, and upon inspection, the fire inspector deems you’re locating of the fire pit under an overhanging tree limb, is a site choice that needs reconsideration.

However, if you can’t strategize a fire pit location that keeps your flame at least 20 feet from your neighbour, or 20 feet from your home, or the extension you added to the deck, then you might as well shelve this initiative.

Next condition, your fire pit cannot be something that by definition, or sight, is homemade. So, the collecting or rocks to form a circle, a longtime tradition that created many a fond memory of outdoor camp adventures, which unfortunately and conversely led to even more forest fires, is not permitted.

Nor is the always classy, oil drum cut in half, which within a year usually rusts out at the bottom, then topples over, spilling hot embers onto the shoes of those unsuspecting marshmallow roasters not prepared for a quick retreat.

As a result, getting permit approval will require you procuring an official steel fire bowl, or approved stone type of outdoor fire pit or cooking grill.

Once you’ve solved the location issue and chosen an approved fire-pit unit, it’s pretty well clear sailing from this point.

Other conditions to burning will include having a readily available means to extinguish the fire in case of emergency. A simple garden hose will qualify as an extinguisher, providing that when Uncle Fred’s pant leg becomes engulfed in flames, and people are panicking, engaging the hose doesn’t mean having to first search for it in the darkness of the back shed.

Finally, part of the fire pit requirement is to notify your neighbours of your intention to openly burn, which can be a delicate subject to broach if existing relationships aren’t so great. So, be sure to get along with your neighbours, don’t ever blow smoke their way, and as a foolproof method to keeping the peace, invite them over for the first burning.

Good building.

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

Panelling success for your fence

Today we’re building a great fence, a beautiful fence, a most powerful fence panel that’ll rank second only to U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall in its effectiveness in deterring invaders and neighbourhood undesirables.

However, instead of concrete, our fence panels will be constructed of treated lumber and wrought iron. Plus, armed security personnel, drone surveillance, and video monitoring will remain optional considerations.

The bulk of the fence panel will be formed with 1×6 fence boards, along with a combination of 2×4 and 2×6 framing lumber, while a wrought-iron, 12-inch high, picketed-lattice type of crown will provide the panel its décor, ultimate intimidation, and definitely its “wow” factor.

Wood on its own is nice, but essentially lacks something. Steel or wrought iron on its own is beautiful, but maybe a little too correctional or institutional. By combining the two, you get a fence that states we’re not necessarily keeping anybody in, or anybody out, but we enjoy our privacy.

Besides simply being attractive, a fence panel must have two other qualities.

One, that it be serviceable.

And two, that it be removable.

Fence brackets, the U-shaped hardware that connects the 2×4 or 2×6 horizontal framing to the fence posts, might not be the carpenter’s way of creating a butt joint, but it’s got to be the fence-builder’s way. That’s because stuff happens in the life of a fence that may require you having to remove or replace a panel.

If a backyard pool is in your future, backhoes are rarely successful in squeezing themselves through 36-inch wide gate openings. Or, the building of a utility or storage shed would certainly be facilitated by the delivery people being able to access your backyard.

And, with the teen next door most recently having acquired their driving licence, the odds of your neighbours’ Ford Windstar making its way through your fence and into your backyard at 3 a.m. on an early Sunday morning has now increased tenfold.

So, for these reasons, we make fence panels removable. Fence panels need to be serviceable in order for them to have any type of longevity. Non serviceable fence panels are those where the 1×6 fencing planks have been fastened to the 2×4 cross members using nails, in a board over board, or good-neighbour type of pattern. Nails make removing a fencing plank without destroying the board almost impossible, while a board on board, offsetting type of plank placement is extremely awkward to paint or stain.

As a result, the crooked or cracked planks that need replacement are rarely removed, and the fencing lumber never gets protected with either a clear sealer or coat of stain.

In order to make a fence panel serviceable, the installer will need to make the 1×6 fencing planks easily removable, which means simply using the appropriate length decking screws.

The fencing planks will also need to be easily stainable, which is best achieved by installing the 1×6 planks vertically, placing one plank up tightly against the next, as you move laterally across the horizontal framing members.

The horizontal framing members should be comprised of two 2×6 treated studs (with one placed at the top of the panel, and one at the bottom) along with a 2×4 horizontal stud going across the middle of the panel, in order to prevent warping. The top of the fence panel should then be capped with a 2×4 stud, which will prevent water from entering the soft end grain, or Achilles heel of any fence plank.

Instead of crowning the fence panel with a traditional wood lattice, the enlightened fence designer would choose from a series of wrought-iron lattice designs.

Fence gate? Go with either a wood/iron frame combo, which would offer privacy, or a wrought iron gate, with its iron bars and curved, pointed spindling, adding a medieval touch.

Post caps? Choose the matching iron caps, they’ll look great, and best protect the post’s end grain.

Good building.

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

Posting a good start

Shane Harris and Travis Bright work on installing new resin and galvanized fence posts into position on Wonderland Road north of Fanshawe Park.in London, Ont. on Thursday July 9, 2015. Mike Hensen/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network MIKE HENSEN/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

With our permit secured, the property line clearly established, and the gas/electrical/cable lines effectively flagged across the lawn, we can begin digging our post holes.

How does a person dig a post hole? Preferably with the help of an auger, driven by mechanized heavy equipment.

What about digging a post hole manually, perhaps engaging your son or nephew in a male bonding type of experience? Not a good idea.

This might have been possible about 100 years ago, when real men waged war during the day, then played hockey at night. Unfortunately, time and the computer age have modified the average male physique to the point where the shoulder and lower back development required to perform the task of repeatedly digging a four-foot hole has been genetically eliminated.

Strangely enough, manual post-hole diggers are still available, but with the design not having changed since the days where men could actually perform this task, your backyard soil would have to have the consistency of butter in order to make this task even somewhat conceivable.

As with all fence projects, the key to success will be the posts’ placement.

The best-case scenario will have your posts buried 48 to 54 inches into the soil, and spaced at every eight feet on centre. Use a mason’s cord to ensure a straight fence line. Pull the mason’s cord tightly along the future fence line, then drop the cord to grass level. Using a tape measure, or preferably a 150-foot open-reel fiberglass tape, mark an “X” on your lawn with a florescent spray paint to designate the post holes, and where the backhoe will drop his auger.

Don’t stake the lawn with pickets, keeping the mason’s line a foot or so above the lawn, using strips of ribbon to designate post placement. You’ll never trip over an X, and it’ll never move.

In order to allow for the three-to-four inches of spacing underneath your fence panels, and at least a few inches of fence post extending above the fence panel, along with the possibility of some variance in soil height, a five-foot fence will require you using 10-foot fence posts, while a six-foor fence will require 12-foot fence posts. Your posts can be made of 4×4 or 6×6 treated lumber.

The 6x6s look better, stay straighter, and are significantly stronger, so they’re definitely the preferred choice.

Securing the fence posts? With the post hole drilled into the soil, insert a sono-tube (cardboard cylinder) into the hole. A 4×4 post will require an eight-inch diameter sono-tube, while a 6×6 post will require a 10-inch cylinder. The sono-tubes are key to containing the concrete and gravel matter that will surround and secure the posts, and help prevent ground moisture from infiltrating this same area around the posts.

Be sure to toss a shovel-full of gravel into the sono-tube before inserting the post. This will help keep the bottom of the post somewhat dry.

If a fence post (regardless of it being a 4×4 or 6×6) is going to have a gate secured to it, with this gate presumably seeing regular swinging use, you’ll be wanting to first toss three-to-four bags of pre-mixed, just add water, concrete into the hole before filling the balance of the space with gravel.

All the other posts will not require cement, and can be secured using a 1/2 to 5/8 gravel mix, or stone dust.

Installing fence posts is minimally a two-person, brawn/brain joint co-ordinated effort. The brawn gently shovels and packs the gravel into the space surrounding the post, while the brain surveys the post leveler, making any necessary adjustments to post lean in an attempt to keep the post perfectly straight and in line with the mason’s cord.

Fence gates? Wooden gate panels can be made to size, but the more decorative wrought-iron type gates will require specific spacing between posts.

So, choose a gate pattern or style before starting the post-hole drilling process.

Next week, creating a great fence panel.

Good building.

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

Good fence vs. bad ones

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, is not only the title of probably the greatest western movie ever made, but also describes the three types of wood fencing a homeowner has the choice of building.

With the market already saturated with a combination of bad and ugly fences, it’s my recommendation we look to differentiate ourselves by building a good, or even what would be considered a great, wooden fence.

Now, to be fair with the bad and ugly fence builders, their fences didn’t necessarily start out that way. As a matter of fact, bad and ugly fences could have very well been quite attractive in their early years, and simply declined into their present state of battered, grey crookedness over time.

So, our goal will be to build a fence that will look good, and keep looking good at least until the middle of the century, or until which time a Canadian-based team wins the Stanley Cup, whichever comes first.

As mentioned last week, fences fall under the building code, and therefore require permits. Not only are permits key to making sure you follow the basic rules pertaining to fence height and acceptable product mix, but the permit process will initiate the “locate” process. Locates are those little yellow flags you occasionally see darting across persons lawns, and are placed there by the cable, electric, and gas-line people, indicating where these service lines run across your property.

Essentially, there are two reasons why the service people don’t want you hitting, or cutting off their lines in your attempt to dig a post hole.

One, if you happen to break a line, you’ve automatically ruined their mood by adding another three hours of emergency service time into what is already a fully scheduled workday. And two, sometimes the coroner isn’t always immediately available, which in the case of a severing a gas or electrical cable, could have the service guy having to re-connect a line while your corpse lies rotting in the sun only metres away, which can totally ruin a fellow’s appetite come lunch hour.

For a wood fence to be great, all four components, them being the post holes, fence posts, fence panels, and fence maintenance program, all have to follow a program of procedural excellence.

Starting with the posts holes, drill them anywhere from 48 to 54 inches in depth. Any shallower and you risk the frost heaving the posts up every winter, which will disrupt the entire fence line, and look lousy.

Does frost heave, a scenario whereby the frozen soil pushes things up to the surface, really occur? Just ask any local farmer who has to pick rocks out of his fields every year.

As for fence posts? 4×4 lumber is good, but 6×6 timbers are much better. So, if there’s wiggle room in the budget for the extra costs of using 6×6 posts, go for it. Besides simply looking better, 6×6 timbers are significantly more solid (great for high-wind areas), and stay straighter over the long haul.

Fence panels? Avoid the standard and very much overused board-on-board, or what’s referred to as the “good neighbour” style of fence panel, for basically two reasons.

One, because the fence boards are installed in an offset manner on either side of what’s normally a couple of 2x4s running vertically from post to post, the element of privacy isn’t so private. In other words, when standing on an angle, you or your neighbour can easily see into each other’s property. So, if you’re looking forward to seeing what latest fashion in swimwear your neighbour will be sporting this year, then choose what’s essentially a good viewing of the neighbour fence design.

Two, the good neighbour fence design is an atrocity to paint or stain, which will inevitably make continued maintenance a virtual impossibility.

Therefore, with privacy and easy maintenance being two important elements to our fence’s long term viability, next week we’ll look into building a “friendly neighbour” design.

Good building.

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

Solving the water mystery in your basement

This is were water from the weeping tile comes in and were the sump pump is submerged. It’s good practice to have a backup pump installed as well POSTMEDIA FILES

Today we continue our discussion regarding the mystery of basement water, basically asking the questions, where does it come from? And, how do we possibly control it?

Our case study will examine the finished living space of retired crushed-ice salesman, Sam “Slushy” Slushworth, who unfortunately has been spending most of his hours filling the clothes hamper with wet socks due to a number of repeated soakers.

Flooding is lousy, and when it occurs, is best handled by property restoration professionals. They have the pumps, hoses, and drying equipment to return your basement area back to dry in as little time as possible. Getting to dry within a day or two of a flooding is key to avoiding severe damage and mould. Flooding similar to Mr. Slushworth’s case is more of a pain in the butt, but still costly, although most would view the loss of Sam’s 1970s-era orange carpeting as divine intervention to a decorating choice long overdue for renewal.

Because basement floods will often lead to a total loss of flooring, furniture, drywall, and essentially everything except the suspended ceiling tiles and light fixtures, there are strategies to help avoid catastrophe.

One, if you’re dependent on a sump pump to keep things dry, have your local plumber install a second (or back-up pump) in the well. This second pump will be water-driven, as opposed to relying on electrical power. So, if there’s ever a power outage, or the primary pump simply jams due to an influx of granular matter, your basement investment isn’t lost to a malfunctioning $199 pump.

Those homeowners without sump pumps should consider using a dimpled membrane or 2’x2’ dimpled subfloor panel, as opposed to a simple six-millimeter plastic, underneath their chosen flooring.

A dimpled membrane creates a half-inch air space between the concrete floor and the flooring, allowing any water seepage to flow under the floor, depositing in a drain placed in an adjoining storage area or furnace room.

With the carpet removed, and the water stain clearly visible on the concrete floor, Slushy was able to trace back the water infiltration to a spot near the base of the finished wall.

So, is the mystery solved? Are we to simply cut out a narrow strip of drywall, pull back the insulation, and repair what should be a clearly visible crack in the concrete?

Oh, if Slushy could only be so lucky.

Although there exists a one per cent chance the water on the concrete floor is being fed by a crack in the foundation wall directly above it, 99 per cent of the time, water ends up travelling a distance, led by gravity and steered by obstructions, until it presents itself through a gap in the 2×4 framing.

So, if there’s no crack to be found directly above the point at which water is entering the room, is Mr. Slushworth to completely dismantle his drywall and framing in a frantic attempt to find the leak?

Perhaps, but, if this is a first-time occurrence, let’s avoid gutting the basement for now, and instead look at remedying any possible weaknesses in the water-management system outside.

If there’s a crack in your basement’s concrete wall, the repairing and patching of this issue is best done from the exterior.

There are certainly injection-type materials and hydraulic cement compounds that strategically allow the homeowner to attack water infiltration from the inside, but stopping water before it breaches the concrete is best.

Unfortunately, with our propensity to attach decks to our homes, install garden beds, lay interlocking paving stones and pour asphalt driveways directly against our foundation walls, essentially making our concrete foundations as inaccessible as possible, we’re left with either having to destroy our outdoor efforts, or make a mess of our beloved finished basement, in order to find that illusive crack.

Hence the importance of properly sealing a foundation, whether it be new or old, before any serious landscaping action happens.

Next week, managing the water runoff.

Good building.

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