Stay out of the sun

I was always intrigued by the Trivial Pursuit question, “Where are the most expensive seats found at the Plaza Mexico, the world’s largest bull fighting ring?”

You may have guessed the best seats in the house would be located near the cantina, providing guests with much-needed hydration. Or, in close proximity to the washroom facilities, VIP lounge, or sombrero and sunglasses sales booths. With the best seats usually placing guests closer to the action, you may have also guessed the most privileged seating to be ringside, where the splattering of blood and mud across your face and clothing would warmly embrace you as part of the spectacle.

Regardless of all those possibilities, the answer was “in the shade.”

So, in mid-afternoon, full-sun, 110 F Mexico heat, where do those sports enthusiasts with a few extra pesos want to be? Not in a hospital suffering from heat stroke.

Which, brings us to today’s topic of avoiding dehydration, wrinkly skin, and any number of serious medical conditions, by enjoying a sunny day from the safe confines of a shaded porch or backyard deck.

Now, Cornwall and area’s sun may not have near the impact of a Mexican sun, but even in our climate, sunburn and the resulting skin damage can result after only 15 minutes of full sun exposure.

So, with many a backyard deck to be constructed this summer, strategizing on how you plan on enjoying the warm weather, while avoiding the sun, will be best brainstormed while your deck concept is still on paper.

The best-case scenario would have your deck plan include some type of permanent roof structure.

Table umbrellas and self-standing umbrella structures are good between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., when the angle of the sun’s rays are practically streaming from directly overhead.

Otherwise, and as the sun shifts from its high-noon position, umbrellas tend to shade everything except the people seated underneath them. Now, you could simply move the seating to where the shade is, or risk lower-back strain, and a few extra scratches on your new composite decking, by tugging the 50- to 70-pound umbrella base into a new position every 30 minutes— but that would hardly be practical.

Retractable awnings? A good option on a smaller scale, but because the unit attaches to the home, you will be somewhat limited size-wise. Weaknesses to a retractable awning? The “retractable” means moving parts, which take time to engage and close, with the possibility of mechanical failure always looming. Furthermore, awnings aren’t snow resistant, if the plans are to shelter your hot tub for winter use. And, they’re deathly afraid of a strong wind – perhaps not to the same degree as a deck umbrella, which will simply take flight and land somewhere in the united counties – but winds can seriously damage an awning nevertheless.

So, with no concerns regarding having to close things up, retract things back, or shift things around, homeowners should consider a permanent-shade type of structure. Essentially, this will require either extending the roof, similar to a carport or extended garage type of construction, or erecting the latest in deck shading, that being a pergola with operating louvers.

The bonus to a roof extension is the chance of rain or snow making its way through to the deck drops to zero, with lighting being provided by a series of skylights, or a string of electrical fixtures. Plus, a permanent roof extension allows you the freedom of leaving the cushioned furniture as is, saving you the task of having to constantly remove and reinstall cushions at the first sign of rain, a real pain in the butt over time, even with deck boxes.

If you’re thinking a more simple structure than a roof extension is more in line with your budget, then consider the “Sun Louver” pergola, an aluminum product where the louvers can tip downward, offering shade or protection from the rain.

Next week, further sun-avoiding strategies.

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

Making that room even quieter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s how we keep things quiet.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder

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

Take the ‘opportunity of silence’

One type of stone-wool insulation is this Canadian-made Roxul STEVE MAXWELL/OTTAWA CITIZEN/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

If you’re planning a renovation this winter, then don’t pass up the opportunity to make your home a little quieter.

The ‘opportunity of silence’ refers to the fact most renovations involve the total gutting of the room needing attention.

Gutting a bathroom or kitchen means removing not only the existing cabinetry, but the flooring, light fixtures, and the drywall, thereby exposing the studs— essentially bringing the room back to its original state of framing.

Gutting a room becomes necessary when basically every component in the room is being replaced.

Replacing fixtures often results in having to re-direct the electrical wiring and plumbing pipes, or updating them to today’s codes and standards.

The error homeowners make, is after all the electrical and mechanical changes have been made, the wall simply gets closed up again with drywall in preparation for the cabinetry. That’s what’s referred to as a missed opportunity of silence.

The thing about rooms, especially kitchens and bathrooms, is they create noise, noises that in most cases need not be leaked or transmitted into neighbouring rooms. So, if you were lucky enough to score tickets to the Habs game, yet unlucky in your choice of the burrito special at Senor Rodriguez’s take out Tacos, the continued tooting of your horn after arriving home need not be advertised any further than your washroom.

How to make a wall increasingly more sound proof means first understanding a few terms.

A wall assembly will have a STC (sound transmission class) rating, based on how effectively the wall prevents sound from moving from one room to the next. So, the higher the STC rating, the better that wall will be at blocking sound.

Decibels (db) are simply a measurement of how loud something is, based on a sound pressure scale. For example, a casual conversation will register at 40 db, a large truck driving by at 80 db, and your home’s fire alarm at 100 db.

Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz), and relates to the tone, or time cycle of a sound. So, the low sound created by a tuba would register 30 Hz, whereby the clashing of two cymbals might register 10,000 Hz. Humans can only hear sounds that occur between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, with the capability of registering and effectively translating sound frequencies, and range of frequency, declining with age.

This might explain why after 25 years of marriage, men can still effectively receive and translate the low frequency sounds being emitted from the television, yet have difficulty registering the higher-pitched sound of their wife’s voice when asking them to take out the garbage.

With the wall cavity opened up, now’s the time to make your soon-to-be renovated bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen, a little more sound proof.

A standard 2×4 wall with half-inch drywall on both sides has a STC rating of about 30. If casual conversation creates about 40 db, a standard wall assembly will somewhat muffle the room-to-room sounds of regular conversation passing through, but will do little to impede the decibel frequencies created by any loud music or television sounds.

Muffling this noise transmission, or creating a transmission loss, will mean having to slightly modify and beef up our regular wall assembly with a number of sound-absorbing products.

The easiest modification one can make to a wall assembly is the addition of Roxul Safe n’ Sound insulation. At 3.5 inches thick, the Safe n’ Sound batts conveniently fit into any 2×4 or 2×6 wall, and bump up the STC rating by 10 to 12 points. Now you’ve got a wall assembly that’ll at least muffle out most regular low sounds.

Bonus to the Safe n’ Sound’s ability to block sound, is its ability to limit the spread of flames, somewhat creating a safe room, at least for a few key minutes.

So we’ve managed to block the sound of casual conversation, now what about the clash of cymbals? That’ll be next week.

Good building.

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

A great comeback

Paneling is making a comeback, and that’s a good thing according to our Handyman. Postmedia Network

“Fifty-five seconds left in the penalty, 1:27 left in regulation time, Boston 4, Montreal 3, Lafleur, coming out rather gingerly on the right side, he gets it up to Lemaire, back to Lafleur, he scores!!”

These were the immortal words of broadcasting great Danny Gallivan, as he called the tying goal in Game 7 of the Boston vs Montreal 1979 semifinal series. Yvon Lambert would go on to score in overtime, giving Montreal the series win, and a berth in the Stanley Cup final, which they won.

Lafleur’s tying goal followed by Lambert’s overtime score was one heck of a comeback. Although this decorating comeback may not stir your emotions, or cause you to leap out of your lazy-boy in the same manner so many Habs fans did back in 1979, this product’s comeback is nevertheless pretty big.

What product are we referring to? Paneling! Yes, that’s right, paneling. Popular in the 70’s, and basically the go-to product for anybody finishing their basement walls in those days, paneling is not only back, but it’s back in style.

Will consumers be seeing some of the birch and walnut woodgrain patterns that so faithfully adorned our basement and bedroom walls growing up? Mercifully, no. We expect that soft, woodgrain look to come back into play sometime around the year 2070, or when Montreal wins their next Stanley Cup. Today’s preferred paneling is made of 100 per cent recycled wood, and is referred to as HDF (high density fiberboard). Available in the standard 4’x8’ sizing, the advantage of a high density panel is that it can be grooved in any manner possible. This versatility allows the manufacturers to not only offer a series of standard V-groove, or beaded patterns, but also a stone looking, and more formal, raised panel type of wainscotings as well.

Further to these grooved HDF panels, that come painted white, but can be repainted by the homeowner in the color of their choice, is a series of HDF prefinished panels. This new series of prefinished paneling is much like the paneling of old, in that the wood finished surface was essentially a picture of wood, and not actual wood. The only difference is of course the guys and gals in the product development department these days have thought of a lot more fun surfaces and textures to copy, other than birch and walnut. Furthermore, the picture quality and definition of these portrait type paneling is absolutely excellent, creating a remarkable trompe l’oeil, embossed pattern, out of what is otherwise a flat surface. So, and like touching a trompe l’oeil painting to see if it’s really a portrait, and not an actual shelf, these panelings will definitely have you touching them to test their authenticity.

That being said, at about 50 bucks per 4’x8’ sheet, these panelings aren’t cheap, however, it’s a fraction of the price of a real brick or stone wall, and is something the relatively handy homeowner can install themselves, since one panel simply butts up against the other, with no special moldings or brackets needed.

What are some of the favorite patterns? Remarkably enough, and maybe it’s due to the old factory loft, or industrial type of living theme that has become somewhat popular, the look of concrete is now in vogue. So, we have engineers and architects telling us homeowners to cover up our concrete basement walls with insulating products, because that’s the environmentally responsible thing to do, with the décor people suggesting we cover this insulation with something that appears like concrete, because that’s the stylish thing to do.

To further that industrial theme, concrete looking panels are also available in 2’x4’ sheets, designed to fit into existing suspended ceiling grid systems. Other than the look of concrete, wall images of slate, marble, a variety of barn-woods, and even copper, are some of the terrific panels that are also available.

So folks, look to go with paneling, it’s made an impressive comeback.

Good building.

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