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

Covering up

Man in a blue shirt does window installation. Model Released GALITSKAYA / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Week three regarding file  No. 921, titled Meltdown, has us wrapping up the case of cold enticing hot, involving home owner Jack Frosty Snow and his bid to make his drafty home more comfortable for Barb Ma Barker, his new partner.

So far, the suggested plan of attack for making this 1970’s home more energy efficient has been pretty rudimentary, including the sealing of the more notable cracks and areas of air infiltration, and beefing up the attics insulation levels to today’s standards.

However, the next step in making this 50-year-old home more energy efficient, and more Barb appealing, is going to involve a more serious evaluation of Frosty’s situation.

On the one hand, continuing on a course to real home efficiency will involve new windows, ridged foam insulation, and new siding, a pretty significant overhaul requiring a whole lot of time, effort, and of course money.

On the other hand, Barb is a wonderful lady, owns her own swimsuit business, fills a bikini in the same manner sand pours into an hour glass, and to top it off, Barb’s a Habs fan. In other words, this lady’s a keeper.

So, with the decision to move forward likely, Jack is looking for a plan of action. Albeit a costly renovation, replacing the windows and exterior siding within the same time period is as effective a one-two renovation punch as you can get.

The curb value of the home receives a significant bump up, and the homeowner gets an excellent return on their investment.

The suggested course of action will be as follows; step one, choose a style of window, be it casement, guillotine, or slider, and the exterior door models, measure the openings, then place the order.

Because we’ll be increasing the exterior wall thickness, the window jamb depth will need to be ordered accordingly.

The windows and doors may take up to six weeks to arrive, which will allow the renovators to move forward with the balance of the renovation, starting with the removal of the existing vinyl siding.

Because the home is of standard two by four construction, the present thermal value of these walls is R-12. Before installing a new siding, we’re recommending Frosty and Bard consider wrapping the home with a two-inch rigid polyiso insulation board, which will add another R-13 of thermal value to the walls, effectively transporting this home into the 21st century, insulation wise anyway.

With a proposed R-60 attic, and R-25 walls, along with new, energy efficient windows, Frosty and Ma will be able to heat this 1200 square foot bungalow with a Bic lighter.

Due to this home being covered in siding it was the perfect subject for receiving a ridged foam wrap.

Brick or stone homes could be wrapped with foam, but you would be of course forfeiting a relatively expensive siding for a vinyl or composite alternative, which may devaluating the home, and affect its curb appeal.

Can homes be insulated from the interior? Yes, but the cost and inconvenience will be an issue, since the exterior wall electrical outlets will all have to be adjusted, with these same exterior walls having to be refinished with drywall.

The nice thing about insulating the exterior is that you get to live comfortably in your home, relatively speaking, while the renovation is taking place. With the existing siding removed, the home will be covered with a 2 inch ridged foam board, then sealed with a house wrap, which effectively cuts off any chance of drafts, and protects the ridged foam from the elements should the siding not be readily available.

Next, the home will be strapped with one by three spruce in preparation for the siding. The one by three strapping is a good idea, providing an air space for moisture to drain or evaporate, should any rain makes its way past the siding.

Composite and cement sidings will especially benefit from this spacing strategy. With this last bit of information rounding up our energy saving recommendations, case No. 921 was closed.

Good building.

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

Moving to keep the heat in

File No. 921, titled Meltdown, has us examining the case of a Mr. Jack Snow, aka ‘Frosty’ to the business community, due to Mr. Snow being the proprietor of Jack’s Cool Treats, a company that distributes snow-cones, ice cream sandwiches, and other freezer-type goodies.

A single man in his mid-40s, up until most recently that is, when a chancy meeting at a local fundraiser had him chatting with a Miss Barb Barker. Miss Barker, aka ‘Ma,’ a nickname she picked up as proprietor of Barb’s Bad Ass Bikinis and swimwear, along with Barb’s propensity to use camouflage type patterns, as well as dated photographs of badass gangsters Al Capone and Bugsy Malone, on all her custom garments.

Jack owns an older home, which during the winter months displays all the charm of a Hallmark Christmas card, complete with icicles hanging from the roof edges, and windows panes so completely frosted up, it requires a heavy breath, followed by the persistent rubbing of the side of one’s fist, in order to create a porthole of sight.

With an average indoor temperature of about 15 C, our Mr. Snow was true to his name, and lived quite comfortably in his inefficiently cold house by simply adding a sweater, and tossing another log in the woodstove, should things get really chilly outside.

However, with Barb looking to move in with Jack, these frosty living conditions were all about to change.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Snow, tropical- or bathing suit-type individuals aren’t big on layering, and are somewhat unfamiliar with the habit of donning a sweater when temperatures drop outside. Conversely, when challenged by a cool draft, sun people are more likely to simply reach for the thermostat, where temperatures can be magically bumped up to a more agreeable climate range.

Understanding that earning and keeping Ma Barker’s love is going to require a little more than simply lavishing her with Eskimo pies, and if there’s to be any chance of a future Mrs. Snow, these present living conditions are going to ironically require more heat.

In an older, drafty home, keeping things toasty warm is like trying to preserve water in a colander.

So, how is Jack to transform a home that has all the heating efficiency of a 100-year-old barn, into a tropical climate zone, without dedicating 90 per cent of his present housing budget towards heating fuel?

One, Jack’s going to have to seal up the cracks and draft areas.

And two, this home is going to require some attic insulation.

As we approach the winter months, the opportunity to caulk around windows and doors becomes a little more challenging because caulkings and paints are best applied when temperatures are at least 10 C. So, when that 12 C to 15 C day pops up in October/November, have a case of caulking at the ready.

Where to caulk? Any crack or seam where one product, such as your window and door casings, meets another, such as your vinyl or brick siding.

Next, an area notorious for heat loss is the space around your exterior doors. So, check the flexible, rubber strips attached to the base of your steel slab. If these pliable fins are worn, or perhaps even non-existent if the door is 10 to 15 years old, then this is an easy fix to a real draft problem.

Best bet, remove the door sweep altogether, then bring it to your local building supply dealer in order to assure yourself that you’re buying a comparable sweep. The same strategy applies to the weather stripping around the door frame. If it’s worn, remove a small piece, then bring this sample with you to show the salesperson.

Next, seal your exterior wall outlets and ceiling fixtures. The exterior wall outlets can be sealed with pre-cut plug and switch foam gaskets, while any gaps around ceiling fixtures or pot lights can be filled with the appropriate-sized foam baker rod.

Next week, file No. 921 continues as we insulate the attic.

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

Outdoor fine finishing

Handout Not For Resale SUPPLIED

So, what have you done to improve the curb appeal of your home lately?

Perhaps you’ve swept the spider webs off the soffit areas, painted the mailbox, or finally picked up that dead crow that had flown into your bay window some two weeks ago.
Not exactly impact related changes. Kind of like the Montreal Canadiens finally getting rid of aging forward Tomas Plekanec last year, then resigning him to a new contract for this upcoming NHL season. This stellar management move will likely impact Montreal’s chances of making the playoffs to a degree equal to that of changing the burnt signal light on the team’s bus. At the other end of the NHL spectrum, you have the Toronto Maple Leafs signing star center forward John Tavares, immediately boosting the Leafs into Stanley Cup contention. Now that’s a positive impact decision.

So, if your home’s façade has pretty well looked the same for the last 15-20 years, with the only hint of added decor being a few pairs of equally aged louvered shutters, then it’s perhaps time to create a little impact. Habs management might suggest you simply paint the front door a light cream color, then tint the aforementioned shutters a lovely hue of mint green. Conversely, a more enlightened sense of décor would have you considering Replico’s door and window surrounds.

Exterior door and window surrounds are essentially large casings, architraves, and decorative pillars that were once all the craze back in the post WW2 days of grandiose type estate homes. Why the trend to trim the exterior of our doors and windows, as well as rooflines, with these elegant moldings, somewhat declined in the 1960’s and 70’s, can be attributed to a number of reasons. First, with marijuana flooding the market, and disco taking over the radio sound waves, all sense of class, decorum, and traditional style were lost for about 15 years, with recovery of our former state of building integrity taking another 20 years.

Other than that, homes were getting smaller, and simpler. Mostly though, it was the cost of these ornate moldings that mostly turned people off, and the fact they were made of wood, which of course required maintenance. Now, maintaining a wooden deck and railing is one challenge, but having to climb an extension ladder every year to paint trims around second story windows, or crown moldings that follow the roof line, is a whole different commitment. As a result, people who owned homes with these types of surrounds would often lapse in their maintenance schedules, which would lead to these trims rotting over the course of a few years. And, once things rot, homeowners become fearful of ever dealing with that type of headache ever again, especially if it’s something decorative.

So, why am I suggesting homeowners consider door and window surrounds one more time? Because door and window surrounds have never stopped looking good, and because these moldings are now made out of a ridged polyurethane, which will never rot or succumb to moisture. And, with today’s high quality paints, you’ll be painting your surrounds due to a change in color scheme, as opposed to them needing a re-coat due to peeling or crackling.

Regardless, even if you aren’t so willing to maintain these PVC moldings, there’s no fear of them falling apart. Having the weight and consistency of pine lumber, the convenient thing about PVC door and window surrounds is that they are a non-structural, purely decorative feature that can be easily fastened (glued or screwed) to basically any brick, stone, vinyl, or composite siding surface. So, you’re not needing to cut sidings, or necessarily caulk around these trims once they’re fixed in position. Plus, surrounds aren’t restricted to a few widths, like shutters, and come in a wide enough variety of shapes and sizes to fit most any door or window space. For pictures and more information on door and window surrounds, be sure to visit the Replico website at www.replico.ca.

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

That’s a wrap

When building, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion exposed so that the wood may be allowed to ìbreatheî or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate. Postmedia Network

I think the inventors of Baggies sandwich bags, and Saran Wrap, are two of the most intelligent and opportunist people in the world. Intelligent because they’ve managed to develop a lightweight, flexible, and user friendly manner of sealing and protecting foodstuffs. Opportunists because they’ve not only developed something useful, but have enabled us, as humans, to fulfill one of our most instinctive and powerful needs, and that’s the simple desire of wanting to wrap things.

What do we do with a newborn baby? Although it’s referred to as a swaddle, we’re essentially wrapping ‘em. Bloody finger? Wrap it. Christmas gifts, sprained ankle, hole in the car’s muffler? Wrap, wrap, wrap.

After supper the other night, I wrapped or bagged 10 different leftover items and tossed them in the fridge. Approximately 50 per cent of these items will see action in the immediate future, two to three things might be caught in time for use, with the last one or two items forgotten and allowed to develop into 15 types of mold. Regardless, they were all good wraps.

What do we do with a staff meeting that’s gone 30 minutes into overtime? We wrap it up. So, what do we do with basically any wood project or structure? Well, if you’re still not sure as to the theme of this week’s rant, for the good of the wood, you wrap it. For all intents and purposes, plywoods, basic framework, and wooden posts, will stick around for the long term if they’re kept dry. The strategy to keeping wood dry in a four season climate such as ours is challenging because wood is a product that naturally absorbs moisture. So, with a “dry season” unfortunately not forming part of the four seasons we experience, our plywoods and 2×4 framing lumber are always in a state where they’re retaining some level of humidity, regardless of the fact the lumber was kiln dried at some point in its production. As a result, we can’t simply saran wrap every piece of lumber because that would trap the humidity, which would lead to our lumber looking like the aforementioned science experiment regarding the 15 types of mold. Instead, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion of the plywood or lumber exposed (with these exposed sides usually facing the interior of the building) so that the wood may be allowed to “breathe” or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate.

So, whether you’re building a shed, or 3000 sq. ft. home, we always protect the plywood walls with a house wrap. Because the interior, or what’s referred to as the warm side of a standard, insulated wall, must have a plastic vapor barrier, in order to prevent moisture from entering the wall cavity, the outside wall cannot be saran wrapped, or covered in the same manner, because that would trap the moisture already in the plywood, and stud framework. So, we cover the exterior wall with a house wrap, a product that sheds water, should rain or snow makes its way past the siding, but is still porous enough to allow the wood to breathe.

Our plywood roofs require the same type of protection. Although asphalt paper was for the longest time the product of choice, synthetic felts are the better product. Similar to a house wrap, synthetic roof felts shed water and breathe. However, they differ from house wraps in that they reflect UV light, and are far superior to paper felts because they can protect a roof for up to six months, which is a real bonus when inclement weather causes unforeseen delays.

Other areas in need of protection are the wooden framework around windows and doors. When the caulking around a window or door frame begins to shrink or crack, water infiltrates into the wall and puddles on the sill, leading to mold or rot. For this reason, we now wrap three out of the four sides of the wooden frames with a rubberized membrane.

Next week, more on wraps. Good building.

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

Window options

Installing new windows is never a bad idea but there are a few things to consider. Postmedia Network

My new pick-up truck comes with a manual the size of a New York City phonebook, explaining the roughly 500 electronic display and movable part options that are all designed to make my driving life more comfortable.

Including the heated seats, automatic windows, and time delayed windshield wipers, I have a pretty good grasp of about five of these 500 computer advancements. I did, however, participate in the 60-minute orientation lesson regarding these options, well . . . actually, I cut the deliberations short by about 50 minutes, mostly because I find modern electronic type conversations tiresome, and all I really needed to know was how to access the spare tire. So, I’m really the owner of a regular pick-up, with incredible potential.

Does my lack of adaptability somewhat reduce the value of all these personalized and voice recognition type options? Perhaps, but only until which time a more computer savvy, 25-year-old gets behind the wheel.

Windows are like automobiles, in that there are several options, or upgrades to choose from after deciding on either a casement, horizontal slider, or guillotine, base style unit. And, like a car option, some of these window options will deliver a more efficient, better performing window, while other options may simply enhance the looks. Because I value heated seats over fiery decals (isn’t aging a bummer) I lean towards those upgrades that provide real value.

In general, today’s CSA certified windows provide decent efficiency. So, even though a casement style of window will deliver better results than a horizontal slider on the national A440 test, with this test measuring a window’s performance in relation to air, water, and wind pressure, a new window, regardless of style, is a good renovation decision every time.

So, if the difference in window style performance is somewhat negligible, then what can we add to a base model window to make it better? Start with the glass. A standard thermal pane with Low-E glass delivers an R-value of 3.85, which when compared with your 15-20 year old existing window, is pretty impressive.

However, those numbers would never steal the headline from Donald Trump during a Wolf Blitzer situation room scrum. With the cost of heating fuel steadily on the rise, paying for a better thermal unit is definitely money well spent.

How do we make a thermal pane better? By adding more glass, essentially upgrading from a standard dual pane, to a triple pane unit. And, by adding more layers of Low-E film, going from one to four layers of this clear, energy saving coating. Now we’re talking about a glass unit that provides R 7.87 of thermal value (get Blitzer on the line). With 25 ;per cent of a home’s heat lost through the panes of glass, doubling the usual efficiency of your thermal panes will generate huge savings.

Next, eliminate any trace of wood. If you’re a lover of all things wood, then enjoy your wood kitchen table, wooden chairs, the purchasing of wood carvings, or join a Saturday morning arts and craft club that specializes in wooden stir stick creations, but avoid wood windows, or wood framing around your windows, like you would the plague. Simply put, wood sashes and wood jamb buildouts, will over time, disappoint.

Instead, choose a vinyl or aluminum clad window, with most importantly, a vinyl sill and buildout that extends the full depth of the wall. Window maintenance is something you want to avoid, and with several interior cladding colors to choose from, the value of a PVC finished jamb extension is worth every penny.

What option might a window purchaser avoid? Grills in the thermal pane. Colonial type window grills can look quite stylish, until misfortune leads to a cracked glass or thermal seal failure. Due to most companies having a lifetime warranty on the window, the challenge lies not in replacing the glass, but matching a grill molding that may have changed over the years. So, save yourself the headache of this fiasco, and order your windows with clear thermal pane units.

Good building.

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

How to buy a window

When installing windows, try to avoid the inserts and replace the whole thing. Postmedia Network

Whether you’re replacing an existing window, or buying windows for your future home, the process involved in choosing a type of window, along with the desired finish and depth of frame, is basically the same.

The only difference will be the sizing, whereby a new window going into the space of a window scheduled for termination, will of course have to conform to the existing parameters of this space.

What about insert windows? And are they a viable option? Insert windows are like fast food restaurants, in that they’re seemingly convenient at the time, but a choice you inevitably end up hating yourself for afterwards. An insert window refers more to the install strategy than any actual style of window. Essentially, they’re either a casement, guillotine, or slider type of window with a narrower, 3-1/4 inch frame.

The insert strategy has the contractor removing only the moving parts of the old window, or basically the sash and perhaps a few track moldings, leaving the frame of the old window intact. The replacement, or insert window, is then positioned in this remaining space. The insert strategy is convenient because the narrow, 3-1/4” depth of this unit, permits the installer to set the unit permanently in position with the use of a couple of quarter round moldings, and a tube of caulking. Unfortunately, like a trip through the fast food drive-through, the tummy ache to purchasing an insert window comes shortly afterwards.

Although the insert strategy satisfies the need for new glass panes, it does nothing to remedy the air infiltration issue surrounding the existing window frame, or rectify an often hidden water penetration (most likely causing mold) situation, or fix the general deterioration of the existing framework and interior moldings. Essentially, you’ve replaced an energy loser, that being the existing glass, with another energy loser, that being the new thermal pane, with a very marginal gain in energy-saving performance. Plus, the insert strategy has you basically placing a window inside of another window, which results in a slight forfeiture in natural light, never a good thing.

Finally, although an insert offers the convenience of requiring only a bead of caulking on the exterior to somewhat complete the installation, the old, existing frame often gets left as is, which looks lousy. Or, the old frame gets covered with aluminum, which is effective, and looks slightly less lousy, but has the home basically screaming at each passerby, “Hey! My owner was too cheap to replace my windows properly, so please don’t judge”. Essentially, the insert strategy disappoints.
So, when it comes to replacing an existing window, avoid this quick-fix alternative of an insert, and instead, choose the strategy of complete window replacement. Window style options include the casement (crank-out), guillotine (single or double hung), and horizontal slider. Fourth and fifth options include awning windows, which are basically casement windows that are hinged at the top, as opposed to the sides, and fixed windows, which are inoperable panes of glass that sit in the same, identical frame as your other functioning windows. Fixed windows have a purpose in that they’re more efficient than their working counterparts, and require zero maintenance, due to the lack of moving parts. Plus, and because it’s not necessary that every window in the home be operational, fixed windows offer the option of large, unobstructed viewing. So, don’t dismiss the value of a fixed window.

Awning windows, on the other hand, have limited value because the operating mechanism allows it to open to about 50 per cent of its potential. Plus, with the sash hinged at the top of the window frame, and the crank-out mechanism stretching out from the bottom of the frame in an accordion type manner, escape via an awning window during an emergency type of situation, would be challenging, if not impossible. As a result, its placement in most cases is limited to over the kitchen sink, or some first story bathroom.

Next week, which type of window will best serve most homeowner’s.

Good building.

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