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

He’s here to become a pain with his cracks

The beige, cylindrical object towards the left of the furnace is the humidifier with its controls. CANSTOCK PHOTO

Arriving under the cover of darkness, usually around the time of our first snowfall, this little fellow will slip into your home.

While visions of sugarplums dance in your head, he’ll open up his bag of goods in your living room and begin his night’s work. The only problem is, this little fellow ain’t Santa Claus, and he’s no jolly elf.

The fact is your unexpected guest is an ogre by the name of Charles W. Cracks, with the W standing for willfully. His eyes don’t twinkle, and his dimples are about as merry as roadway potholes.

His cheeks are like roses, and his nose is like a cherry, although not so much coloured by participating in a healthy outdoor life, but more related to his six-pack-a-day smoking habit, and topped up flask of rot-gut brandy in his breast pocket.

Upon opening his sack, there are no presents to be found, but instead a large assortment of pry bars and chisels.

Alas, the Ogre of Cracks is not here to deliver cheer, but instead will get to work on separating miter joints from between moldings, and creating the heartbreaking and ultimately most disappointing drywall crack of all time— that being the separation of where ceiling meet walls. The thing about miter joints separating and cracks developing along your ceiling line, is that they’re the product of humidity, the physics of cold meeting hot, along with various atmospheric conditions.

Which, sorry to say, makes the homeowner’s ability to control these eyesores about as likely as hiding behind the big sofa into the wee hours of the night, and successfully catching the Crack Ogre as he descends the chimney.

Now, however bleak the reality of being able to prevent cracks, there are ways of lessening the extent of your casing and baseboards separating.

Crack preventing remedy No.1: control the humidity levels in the home by investing in a HRV (heat recovery ventilation) unit.

In the olden days, we had to rely on signals such as a dry throat and nosebleeds to let us know the air in the home was a little dry, or frost on the windows to remind us that it’s time to ease up on the pasta making. Which, would have us either opening windows or setting pots of water about the home to counteract dry or wet atmospheric conditions.

So, you can stick with that rather unscientific strategy, or invest in the mechanics of a HRV. Not only will your HRV regulate indoor humidity levels, which will vary throughout the year due to changing outdoor temperatures, but the HRV will also circulate and clean your household air 24/7.

Further to a HRV is a humidifier, which like the HRV, will work in conjunction with your furnace to efficiently distribute quality air into every room of the home.

Crack remedy No.2: fill the miter gaps with a paintable/flexible quality caulking. When cracks develop where the walls meet the ceiling, you’ve got a situation referred to as truss lift.

The good news about truss lift is that it’s a non-structural situation, so it’s not really affecting the home in any type of supportive, or building, manner— other than being simply unattractive. The bad news about truss lift is that once your home develops it, it tends to come back every winter.

Truss lift occurs when the trusses pry themselves off the partition walls in a home. Why trusses move in this way can be attributed to moisture conditions in the attic, whereby some trusses fall victim to condensation, and swell up in the cold, while the trusses buried in the insulation stay dry, and shrink slightly in the cold. Where shrink meets swell you get movement.

Solution? None that aren’t excessively intrusive or costly.

Remedy? Install a crown molding, or large cove molding to the ceiling only (not the wall), along the perimeter of the room. This way, when the ceiling lifts, the decorative molding moves with it, and nothing cracks.

Good building.

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

The nose knows when to bail on this cottage

Expanding polyurethane foam in spray cans is an essential ingredient when insulating and an excellent adhesive for fastening rigid foam insulation. It is indispensable for air-sealing around the edges of the sheets. POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILES

Today we continue our following of famed local home inspector Jack Nailbucket, aka Insp. Clouseau, as he meticulously examines a peculiar waterfront home that is for sale.

Bill Granite, the potential buyer of this home, and the one responsible for the hiring of Nailbucket Home Inspections, will not be continuing the tour. Unfortunately, our Mr. Granite is clearly dejected by the revealed failings of this home so far, including a cracked foundation, negative sloping landscape, and decking platforms that require a complete reconstruction.

With his dreams of cottage life fading, he’s found himself a comfortable spot down by the water, and for the past few hours has been true to his nickname, passing his time quaffing ale, then crushing the empty tins against his forehead, followed by unceremoniously tossing these tins into Lake Ontario.

From this point on, Crushers’ contribution to the inspection will regrettably be unintelligible babble.

At present, we find ourselves in the home’s basement, with our Clouseau scenting a problem. Besides the obvious moisture issues, evidenced by two dehumidifiers running full-blast, our inspector was detecting a further, potentially more serious problem.

Due to Jack’s rather large schnoz, a hereditary trait passed on by generations of Nailbuckets and Clouseaus, our inspector is capable of discerning odours and smells in the range of one part per million, placing him second only to the American bloodhound in scent detection.

After only a few minutes in the basement, Clouseau noted the presence of mould. Was the mould severe? No, but the 2×8 joists and plywood flooring were in some areas the same colour as the area’s native speckled trout, while being somewhat cool and moist to the touch, which isn’t good.

For some unknown reason, the basement floor was unfinished, having only a gravel base. In a poor attempt to somewhat control the moisture coming from the soil, and concrete block walls, a six-millimetre plastic had been spread and taped over the gravel floor and walls.

The basement housed the furnace, water purification systems, and other electrical units, so this was indeed an area that saw semi-regular human activity.

The problem was this basement was more designed as a cold storage, with an environment better suited to house this year’s batch of pickled beets, than human life. What to do?

Essentially, this area needs to be humanized, which means switching the basement environment from wet and damp, to warm and dry.

First, we’ll need to quash the basement floor humidity issue by installing a layer of two-inch pink rigid foam board, providing R-10 of thermal value, over the existing gravel and poly.

The floor should then be covered with four inches of concrete, spread directly over the foam. This modification would raise the floor about six-to-seven inches, which will also involve raising the furnace, likely affecting the ductwork. With the present basement height being a simply adequate 80 inches, this raising of the floor isn’t devastating news, since 80 per cent of the population will still feel comfortable navigating the area.

Next, the furnace’s ductwork system, now feeding only the living spaces above, will need to accept further venting and cold air returns in order to service the basement.

If we’re creating a living space out of the basement, or at least making it comfortable, then we’ll need to keep the heat in the space by installing a rigid foam board against the block walls, followed by 2×4 framing, then the appropriate levels of fiberglass pink insulation.

Or, forget the whole basement idea, move the furnace and mechanical systems to the main floor, insulate the floor, then seal the basement off altogether.

Simply put, this was a home that required a lot of work, but was fortunately situated on a beautiful lot. Essentially, a situation where all it takes is money to make things better.

With that information, our Mr. Granite accepted the report of our Clouseau, then graciously poured himself into a cab. Case #823 closed.

Good building.

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

Insp. Clouseau looks for clues at the cottage

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Today we’ll be following home inspector Jack Nailbucket, aka Insp. Clouseau, due to Jack’s genealogical connection with his French cousins, and a preference of wearing a white fedora and trench coat while performing his home inspections.

The inspector will be passing his magnifying glass over a potential cottage for purchase by a Mr. Bill ‘Crusher’ Granite, the subject of last week’s column.

Now to be clear, the use of the term cottage in this case is purely subjective. What’s for purchase here is a standard 1,600-square-foot home with nearly a full-height basement, and not an 800-square-foot hunting lodge raised up on cement blocks. There’s no way we’ll be closing this baby up for the winter.

In order for this cottage to remain healthy, general maintenance, a few upgrades, and providing heat for this home year round, regardless of occupancy, will be absolutely necessary.

Our Clouseau was also suspicious of the sales person’s repeated mention the sellers of this cottage are a physics professor and his wife who are looking to retire to the city. Very good, the home has been lived in by someone capable of splitting an atom.

Unfortunately, this same fellow was befuddled by the soggy state of his loafers as he walked the perimeter of his home, and failed to recognize the fact the home’s landscape was working in a negative manner, directing water towards the foundation.

So, be leery of trusting all is good simply because a home has been lived in by persons of means or intelligence. It should be viewed as little solace or guarantee your future dwelling has been well cared for, or built to code.

The home had several little decks that permitted seating on the east, west, and north sides of the home, allowing the homeowners to view the water and strategically follow the sun, or the shade, throughout the day.

A lovely idea, except for the fact each deck was in its own stage of decay. This was due largely in part to the puddles of water and moisture-filled soil that lay beneath these decks, and the fact all three decks had been framed perilously close to the ground.

Further to the deck issue was a relatively significant crack in the corner of the foundation wall that supported the garage. Our Clouseau suspects rainwater and snow melt had been allowed to pool in this area, with this moisture infiltrating the concrete, then expanding during the freezing periods.

We haven’t even entered the cottage yet and we’re facing a foundation repair, dismantling the existing decks (which thankfully are of treated lumber, as opposed to composite, and represent no great loss), a total re-do of the landscaping (which may or may not include replacing the weeping tile, if it ever existed), then re-building the decks once again.

Properly grading the landscape is going to be a challenge because there’s little to no foundation left to work with. It’s as if the house had sunk into a hole. Built on bedrock, this cottage has never sunk, but its foundation was probably two or three rows of concrete blocks too short, a strange error considering the age of the home and the general guidelines of building.

Next, we visited the basement, which was for some reason only accessible from the outside. Our Clouseau was at a loss as to why the professor forfeited a standard stairwell to the basement, in exchange for added closet space.

His thought was that should an explosion occur in the basement as a result of the professor experimenting with a new rocket fuel, the main living area would have been shielded, with the ensuing damage limited to the basement’s block walls blowing out. With the basement walls gone, the home would have simply crashed down upon the rubble, which would have unfortunately included the professor, but on a positive note, saved on the cost of internment.

Next week, the inspection continues.

Good building.

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

Start from the top down

A qualilty underlay felt is important when roofing, says our handyman. Postmedia Network

Today we wrap up our three-week tenure on roofs with a few tips on how to get the most out of your asphalt roofing shingles.

Why so much talk about roofing? Because a roof in poor condition is to a home what Dion Phaneuf is to a defensive corps of professional hockey players.

Essentially, the potential for damage is extreme, with an aged roof eventually springing up leaks faster than Dion’s ability to cough up pucks in his defensive zone.

So, realizing that maintaining a home free from the damaging effects of water infiltration starts with your roof, we need to do all we can to ensure the long term success of our roof investment. Remembering that every layer of shingles represents one 1965 Pontiac Parisienne parked unnecessarily on your rooftop, if you’re redoing a roof’s surface, we start by removing every layer of existing shingles.

Next, fiberglass asphalt shingles need to be nailed onto plywood. Spruce plywood, or an equivalent OSB (oriental strand board) roofing product, will provide the necessary stability, and are the only underlay materials suitable to support the more ridged fiberglass shingle. So, if the existing roof has been covered by 1×6 or 1×8 pieces of spruce lumber, cover these planks with a 3/8” plywood, or the 15/32” OSB product.

Next, and still on the theme of stability, create the proper environment for your fiberglass shingles by ensuring your attic is adequately vented. Basically, you want the surface temperature of your shingles to match that of the underlayment, or, that the air temperature in the attic, matches that of the exterior air. The only way to achieve this is by creating an effective draft whereby outside air will enter the attic space via the soffit, then exit through a vent, or series of vents, located near the peak of the roof.

Venting through the soffit is pretty straight forward, and requires no calculating, because the strategy is to simply insert Styrofoam baffles in between each truss.

The Styrofoam baffles get stapled to the roofing plywood, and are positioned so that they reach down into the soffit space, thereby preventing the attic insulation or blowing wool from blocking this key point of air entry.

The air exit strategy will be satisfied by a Maxivent. Maxivents are the not so attractive, chimney-like devices you see on most roofs these days. There are alternatives to the Maxivent, such as using ridge venting, or a series of smaller, slantback vents, or even solar power vents that operate with their own fans.

However, with no moving parts, and only one maxivent needed on most roofs, which means only one hole to cut out and seal, none of these alternative products can compare with the ease of installing, general efficiency, and long term viability of the Maxivent.

How to calculate your maxivent needs? One #301 Maxivent will service up to 1200 square feet of attic floor space, or meet the needs of your average 40’x30’ home. If you own a larger or smaller home, or have a garage or addition that requires venting, optional Maxivents include the #303 model (satisfies 800 sq. ft. of attic area) or the #302 Maxivent (satisfies 500 sq. ft. of attic floor space). Essentially, you can’t have too much ventilation, so if you’re not sure, go bigger.

Next, use a quality underlay felt. Your fiberglass shingles will require both an ‘ice + water shield’ product, used along the roofs edge, and in any valleys, along with a felt paper on the balance of the roof. ‘Ice + water shield’s’ are pretty standard, however, there’s a world of various felt coverings to choose from.

Recommendation? Avoid the paper felt, and buy the best synthetic felt available. A quality synthetic felt offers that key, secondary line of defence against water infiltration and ice dams.

Finally, if your home is situated in a wind tunnel, have your roofer follow the extra nails, extra caulking procedures related to better shingle tab adhesion.

Good building.

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

Thar she blows

Postmedia Network Blowing insulation into an attic is fairly easy, especially if you follow the advice of our handyman.

Today we’re going to be adding insulation to an existing attic.

The home in question was built in the mid 1970’s, and presently has about six inches of fiberglass insulation on the attic floor, providing about R-20 of thermal value. With today’s attic insulation standards set at R-60, the homeowner will need to add about 14 inches of Atticat blowing wool.

Why add insulation to an attic that’s already insulated? Because this attic is insulated to 1970’s standards. In the 70’s, energy and electrical costs were relatively low, the economy was strong, and the Montreal Canadiens were winning Stanley Cups. So, it was no big deal having to put on a sweater before curling up under the covers, because hey, the Habs were winning hockey games. Today, the Canadiens wouldn’t recognize the Stanley Cup if it walked up and bit them on the butt, so there’s no celebratory mood to help warm your cockles.  Furthermore, home heating costs are atrocious, while Justin Trudeau’s focus is on getting fitted for his dragon embroidered Changsha (traditional ceremonial robe) in preparation for his trip to China, because that’s what Chinese men wear every day, apparently, with the deficit issue far down his list of concerns.

So, we’re left to fend for ourselves, which means reducing our heating bills by bumping up our insulation levels. Why choose a blowing wool, as opposed to fiberglass batting, to insulate an attic? Because the blowing wool strategy provides the homeowner with longer arms, allowing them to distribute the insulation matter from a series of vantage points, thereby eliminating the risk of having to gingerly step across the truss joists. The suggestion to use the Atticat strategy is based on the element of P&P, prudence and probability. The safety relevance of the P&P is based on what’s referred to as ‘balance beam heartbreak’, which simply refers to the fact 40 per cent of gymnastic injuries are balance beam related. Considering this beam measures four inches wide, and is stepped upon by trained athletes, what are the chances of the average do-it-yourselfer making it safely across a series of truss joists that are only 1-1/2 inches in diameter? Unfortunately, official documentation regarding this action is limited. However, ‘prudence’ tells us the average non-gymnast homeowner should be avoiding the strategy of straddling joists as they place batts individually over the attic floor, because ‘probability’ tells us the resulting fall will drive one’s scrotum up into their body cavity.
So, with this vision in mind, cut yourself a couple of 16”x48” sheets of 5/8” plywood, or pick up a couple of 2×10 pieces of lumber, and toss them up into the attic beforehand. These will provide a safe walkway as you slowly manœuvre over the floor joists.

Step one to this project, ensure the attic space will be adequately vented. For this job, you’ll need to staple vent baffles, aka rafter mates, in between each truss. The vent baffles prevent the insulation and blowing wool from blocking air from entering the attic through the soffit. Then, make sure there’s adequate roof venting to create this necessary draft of fresh, outdoor air. The roof venting requirement can be satisfied by having an accredited roofer install a Maxivent type of product near the peak of the roof.  Next, create an extended attic hatch tunnel by stacking 2×8 lumber edgewise along the perimeter of the hatch. This extended tunnel will prevent the blowing wool from falling through the attic hatch door. Since we’ll be requiring about 14 inches of Atticat blowing wool, use a tape measure to mark the 14 inch necessary depth along the truss webbing, or staple a series of Atticat paper rulers to the joists at 10 ft. intervals. In order to add R-40 of thermal value to this attic space, the amount of Atticat required will be based on the calculation that one bag of Atticat blowing wool will provide 49 sq. ft. of coverage. Be sure to watch the Atticat install video, and follow all instructions.

Good building.

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

Ice belongs in your freezer, not as icicles dripping from your roof

QMI AGENCY FILE

Today we continue with case No. 913, involving Alison Shiver, and her husband M.E. Timbers.

To recapitulate, the ‘Shiver me Timbers’ people are dealing with the fact their roof is producing more ice, in the form of icicles, than the 10 commercial freezers working 24 hours a day at their ice cube company.

The problem? A home attic space that’s too warm, due somewhat in part to heat infiltrating into the attic space, and largely in part to an under-insulated attic floor.

Step one to remedying the infiltration issue involves sealing the gaps found where the electrical outlet’s octagon boxes, and venting ductwork, penetrate the ceiling’s drywall. Products that would serve well in filling these gaps would include an ‘acoustic seal’ caulking, or ‘Gaps n’ Cracks’ spray foam.

Next, we need to ensure any exhaust ductwork traveling through the attic space is not emitting heat. Often, bathroom fan ductwork is fed through the attic, then exhausted out the soffit, or worse, left lying on the attic floor, feeding warm air into what’s supposed to be a cold environment.

One, ductwork travelling through a cold space, such as your attic, needs to be insulated. This can be accomplished by either by wrapping what’s existing with fiberglass insulation and a six-millimeter plastic, or replacing the ductwork with the insulated version of whatever flexible pipe is needed.

Next, we make sure this duct vents out a gable wall, or better yet, out the roof. Because the soffit acts as intake ventilation, the feeding of warm, moisture-filled air created by showers and baths into this area is counterproductive.

Maxi-vents located at the peak of the roof work in conjunction with the soffit vents to create a draft.

Essentially, feeding your bathroom exhaust into the soffit will only have it re-entering the attic space. Venting out a gable wall, or the roof, ensures this humidity gets lost in the atmosphere.

Next, remove those dated pot lights and replace them with the significantly more efficient, non-heat producing, LED-recessed lighting. Pot lights are notorious for their inefficiency, the fact they create heat, and their habit of allowing warm air to infiltrate the attic space.

So, make the change to LED. Fitting tight to the ceiling, and being a fraction of the thickness of a pot light, the newer LED fixtures don’t protrude into the attic space, and therefore will require no special protective cover over top, making them an easy, value-added renovation decision.

Then, we insulate. Because heat rises, and cool air sinks, there’s a big benefit to adding insulation to the floor of your attic. Basically, insulation slows down the transfer of heat, or the transfer of cold, from one space to another.

The more insulation or R-factor that you have in your attic, the longer your living space below will stay warm, which will result in lower fuel costs.

The new home standard for attic insulation is R-60. In order to achieve this level of thermal value, a homeowner would need to cover their attic floor with about 18 inches of fiberglass pink insulation, or about 22 inches of Atticat blowing wool.

Most homes have at least six-to-eight inches, or about R-20 of insulating value in their attics already.

So, you’re basically needing to top things off to our 2018 standards.

Fiberglass pink comes in batt form, whereby a standard attic “batt” is 24 inches wide, by 48 inches long, by the desired thickness. Choosing the batt strategy will require the homeowner (or hired hand) placing each piece individually across the attic floor. If this is to be your preferred method, choose the R-20, six-inch thick fiberglass pink batt. This thickness of batt handles easy, and gets you to your R-60 goal quite effectively by using a crisscross pattern of laying the second series of batts over the first.

In Alison and Mike’s case, we’re going to be choosing the Atticat blowing wool. Next week, we find out why.

Good building.

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

Why glass breaks

Today we examine Case no. 805, titled ‘extra crunch for the Captain’ involving a Mr. Lester W. Bligh.

Mr. Bligh, aka “the Captain”, with this designation having no relation to Lester’s ancestral, seafaring British name, or his receiving top of the class honors upon graduating from the ‘introduction to sailing’ laser dinghy club, but is rather due to his eating of the Quaker Oats, ‘CAP’N CRUNCH’ brand cereal with regularity. On this occasion, our Captain Bligh is seated in his usual position at the kitchen table one frosty morning, enjoying a cup of coffee, along with a bowl of those golden, crunchy nuggets of sugar. The sea (although several hundred miles away) was angry that day, and with a strong Nor’easter wind mercilessly pounding Lester’s breakfast nook, the inside pane of his fixed thermal window suddenly shattered, sending bits of glass shrapnel into his bowl of CAP’N CRUNCH, minimally adding some much needed fiber.

Why do thermal panes break? Essentially, we don’t know for sure, but there are theories as to why this happens.

Breakage theory no.1, blunt force trauma, otherwise regarded as something made contact with the window. Unfortunately, the blunt force theory can only be proven if there’s evidence. Rarely will a culprit leave their baseball or football lying at the scene, or volunteer the fact they were using the bird feeder just outside your window as target practice for their new pellet gun.

Can a bird break a window? An albatross, yes, a chickadee, probably not, with every flying creature in between definite maybes. So, unless there’s a corpse, the bird theory is inconclusive.

Generally speaking, the modern thermal pane is a pretty tough customer, whereby it can handle some relatively severe shocks. However, glass has three main enemies, them being seismic activity, temperature extremes, and compression. Essentially, glass cracks, or shatters, because something has disturbed its comfortable state. I remember one fellow telling me every time he closes the front door in the winter, the windows shake, the dishes rattle in the buffet, and the cat gets blown back about eight feet. This represents an air circulation issue, whereby the home is so airtight, any action of opening, and then swiftly closing an exterior door, creates a vacuum of new air entering a home that doesn’t have the space to accept it. Hence the vibrations, and hence the need for an air exchanger.
Otherwise, homes can sometimes shift, or settle, regardless of age, which will cause doors to jamb slightly, windows to not slide so well anymore, and of course glass to crack.

Unfortunately, there’s not much action that can be taken to reduce the chance of seismic shifts, other than building a foundation beyond regular code minimums. Because our climate zone has our window panes experiencing extreme temperature differences between the outdoor glass surface, and indoor glass surface, the glass panels are constantly under the stress of cold contraction meeting hot expansion. If you take a hot dinner plate out of the dishwasher and place it under a stream of cold tap water, you’ll soon discover how glass reacts to hot meeting cold. For this reason, floor grates (often found directly below our windows) that aim straight upwards, should have deflectors placed on them, directing this heat flow into the center of the room. Also, and on a particularly cold day, be sure to open up those blinds and curtains. Blinds and curtains will create an insulated air space between them and the glass. If it’s sunny outside, this space can really heat up. When the indoor/outdoor temperature differential on a glass surface exceeds 30 degrees Celsius, your thermal pane enters the risk zone.

Finally, if there are several glass panes that have failed, it could be the result of too tight an installation. Due to our environment, our window frames need flux room, and should be installed so that they somewhat float within a halfinch perimeter space filled with foam insulation. With the captain accepting these prognoses, Case no. 805 was closed.

Good building.

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