Thinking of a steel roof?

DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /Postmedia Network

Upon being asked to relay my thoughts on whether investing in a steel roof is a good thing, I decided to secure an opinion straight from the horse’s mouth, well, actually, Jim Hoarce’s mouth, one of our longtime local professional steel roofers.

“So Jim” I inquired, “after installing steel roofs for the last 30 years, would you recommend steel roofing to the average homeowner?” To which Jim answered, “If the customer is prepared to pay for the proper underlay materials, follow the recommended installation procedures, and use only approved flashings, gaskets, and snow stop brackets, then steel can make for an excellent roof”.

OK, sounds pretty simple, all a homeowner has to do is ensure his roofer follows the installation instructions.

Unfortunately, its human nature not to follow instructions. We purchased a high chair for my grandson recently, and it was my goal to not have to read the instructions, after all, I was looking at maybe 20 parts.

Now, I understand there’s a reason why my chosen profession is in retail, and not engineering, but 20 parts?

Regardless, after 2-3 minutes of assembly frustration, I searched and found the instruction sheets at the bottom of the box. Thankfully, they came with pictured diagrams, which were essential in successfully assembling this unit in under 15 minutes.

Conversely, when an amateur, or your cousin’s buddy, is on your roof, and there’s a cool wind, and it’s getting late, or almost time for a Tim’s run, what are the chances this fellow’s going to take the time to read the instructions should he be faced with an installation dilemma?

Or, might he just plant a few more screws around the issue, and be done with it? According to Jim, the number of calls he receives each year from homeowners asking him to come over and repair, or find the leak, on a roof that was installed by somebody else, indicates how often steel roofs are not installed as per instruction.

A steel roof is great, until it leaks.

Therefore, choose only an accredited steel roofing professional. Next, start with a 5/8” plywood sheeting underlay. Because steel roof sheeting is screwed in position, Jim strongly suggests the heavier 5/8” plywood, as opposed to ½” sheeting, commonly used for asphalt shingles.

A 5/8” plywood offers superior rigidity, and better accepts a screw. Should steel roofing be installed over existing asphalt shingles, thereby saving the dumping fees? Or, can steel be installed over a boarded roof that’s been stripped of its shingles? What about strapping an existing asphalt roof with 1×4 spruce?

No, no, and no.

People regard steel roofing as being relatively lightweight, which it is if you’re handling one 10 ft. sheet at a time. However, stack ten of these sheets together, and steel gets heavy real fast.

So, steel is relatively lightweight when compared to asphalt, but it’s not that light, and if layered upon existing roofing, will provide an unnecessary burden on your trusses.

Plus, an asphalt shingle base is too spongy, which may cause the steel screws to loosen over time. When screws loosen, water gets in.

Boarded roofs and 1×4 strapping underlays are strategies of the past. Why? Because they lack the stability of plywood, with these planks shrinking and warping over time, loosening the screws.

On top of the 5/8” plywood Jim recommends either a UDL50 Titanium underlay, or Lastobond, high heat rubber membrane (similar to an ice and water shield), offering an essential second line of defense.

Next, Jim’s two final recommendations are simple.

One, buy heavy. Heavier gages of steel lay straighter, dent less easily, and just look better.

Two, decapitation is real. Not that the heads of unsuspecting homeowners are found in our snowbanks every February, but snow and ice sliding down a steel roof can be a very destructive weapon. So, invest in heavy duty snow stop brackets. The little polar blocks will do little to stop a weighted avalanche of snow and ice.

Thanks Jim. 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

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

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

Warming your timbers

Case no. 913 has us examining the home owned by one Alison Shiver, along with her husband, M.E. (Michael Eliot) Timbers.

Together, they own and operate ‘Shiver Me Timbers’, taking advantage of this match made in heaven to become the new owners of the local ice cube and ice block company, formally owned by retired seaman L. J. Silver. With over one million cubes of ice being manufactured daily, the Shiver Me Timbers people know how to make and bag ice. Incredibly though, the Shiver Me Timbers company still ranks second in ice production to an element that’s thankfully not a retail competitor of theirs. Who might this element be? Oddly enough, it’s the roof right over their heads.

Alison and Michael’s roof produces icicles, which unfortunately due to the rather stringent laws regarding the use of petroleum oils and granular roof matter in foodstuffs, prevents these icicles from being bagged and sold as a natural after school treat. So, with no profit to be made by harvesting these icy daggers, or added benefit of introducing “Icy Roof Treats” to the company’s line of products, it’s time to eliminate this obvious display of home inefficiency.

Regardless of how charming icicles look in a Hallmark Christmas card, they’re a sign of heat loss. Heat loss in a home is going to happen. We lose heat through our windows, our mechanical exhaust vents, and every time somebody opens a door. Those heat losses are inevitable, not so controllable, and other than having a bunch of poorly operating windows, are no real cause for immediate concern.

However, a warm attic in the thick of winter is not a good thing. Essentially, your attic is going to end up catching a cold. Heat being produced in the home naturally rises up. If this heat, and accompanying moisture, is allowed to infiltrate the attic, it’ll continue up towards the plywood or roof plank underlay. When the plywood warms up, heat gets transferred to the shingles overtop, which melts the snow. This snow melt then races down the roof until it reaches the overhang, the only part of the roof that’s cold because it has no heat source underneath. When the snow melt crosses the overhang, it begins to cool, then freeze, just as it’s attempting its leap off the roof, forming the not so cherished icicle.

Unfortunately, hanging shards of ice will be the least of your worries. If the snow melt fails to make its way to the edge of the roof, it’ll join the ranks of the other icicle wannabes, and become a member of an even more notorious group, known simply as the ice dam bad boys. When heat is allowed to rise into the attic, condensation often forms on the plywood. Now you’ve got a couple of water sources in your attic, one as a result of an ice dam forcing snow melt back up and under the shingles, along with moisture dripping down from the plywood underlay.

Two bad things about these scenarios. One, wet plywood eventually rots. And two, the condensation drippings will fall into whatever insulation you have in the attic, lessening its thermal value, forming mold, and eventually making its way to the ceiling’s drywall. So, how do we keep our attics nice and cold in the winter? By sealing any breach in the ceiling’s drywall, removing any heat sources, and most of all, by insulating.

Start by removing the decorative collar around any hanging light fixtures and ceiling exhaust vents. Sometimes, the drywall cut around the electrical box, or ductwork, isn’t so perfect, which will allow moist air to draft up into the attic. So, seal this gap (if it’s a 1/4 inch or less) with an ‘acoustic-seal’ caulking. Larger gaps can be filled with a ‘Gaps n’ Cracks’ spray foam. Next, make sure any ductwork or venting pipes running through the attic are insulated, and, that they’re not exhausting directly into your attic space.

Next week, we’re insulating our attic. Good building.

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

Why we wrap

We need to wrap our outdoor things, mostly the structural wooden outdoor things, essentially for two reasons.

One, painting doesn’t cut it anymore. And two, we’re not quite as handy as our fathers, in general, and not even close to comparing with the handiness of our grandfathers, again in general, when it comes to having an aptitude, or even desire, to fix things ourselves. So, when you’re as unhandy as our, and this next generation is, albeit through no fault of our own, since we were focused on watching the Brady Bunch after school, instead of learning how to change the oil in our parents’ cars, with this next generation preferring not to risk losing a finger on a table saw, when there’s still level 10 to achieve in PlayStation’s Resident Evil 7: biohazard game, you can understand how we failed as a society to maintain most of our home maintenance competence.

The issue with exterior paints and stains is that they simply can’t last any more than a couple of years in our climate zone. As a result, homes with wood posts, wood spindles, wooden decks, or wood sidings, all require maintenance. And, since we’re not so competent, or have the desire, or are too consumed with other affairs to really dedicate much maintenance time towards our wood structures, our homes are often left to the mercy of the elements.

When that happens, the home loses every time. So, in order to maintain the dignity and curb appeal of our homes, without actually having to maintain them, it’s imperative that we cover, or wrap our wood things, with something better than paint.

First thing to consider wrapping, or replacing, are your porch posts. Often made of either 4×4 or 6×6 treated lumber, square or turned wood posts can look good for a few seasons. Then they twist a bit, crack a bit, and all of a sudden, don’t look so good. Painting or staining a post can help camouflage the issue for a while, but unfortunately, there’s no hiding a crack. So, instead of replacing a weathered post, we wrap ‘em. Even though a post has twisted, and suffered a few cracks, the compression strength of a 4×4 or 6×6 timber is still strong. As a result, and in order to avoid the engineering challenge of replacing a post that’s structurally supporting a roof or overhang, we suggest wrapping the post with a PVC vinyl sleeve. As long as the post remains dry, it’ll avoid rotting, and maintain its strength.
Because the copper injected into treated lumber will sometimes corrode other metals, we don’t recommend wrapping a treated post with aluminum. The vinyl sleeves are an easy install, even for the unhandy, whereby the four walls that make up the sleeve simply snap together. These PVC sleeves also come with a number of decorative crown and base options that snap together as well, then get glued to the wrap, effectively turning a wood post into a very impressive white column.

Next, consider using PVC trim boards. Trim boards are moldings used to enhance the exterior look of a window or door by providing a four-five inch picture frame type border around the perimeter of these units.

Trim boards also serve well to border the base of the homeowners chosen siding, getting installed just above the foundation line, while providing an equally decorative border molding along the top, running just below the soffit. Trim moldings are attractive because they’re slightly thicker than the siding, and effectively help define the windows and doors, along with the general lines of the home. Unfortunately, by protruding out in this manner, wood trim pieces would often succumb to rot, simply due to the rain and snow matter resting on the edge of these moldings. With PVC trims, rot can’t happen.

Next, if you’ve got a wood deck in need of replacing, modification, or maybe we’re talking about a new build, it’s time to consider composite decking.

Next week, the maintenance free deck.

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