What’s the mantel?

Today we’re going to be deciding on how to build our mantel.

Essentially, a shelf becomes a mantel when it’s placed over a fireplace.

When a mantel is supported by two column-like moldings placed on either side of the fireplace, this three-piece unit adopts the more elegant designation of “mantel surround.”

In an effort to simplify things, avoid formality, or guide the style of one’s home towards that of open space contemporary, mantels, as opposed to mantel surrounds, are becoming the decorator’s choice for accessorizing the wall space occupied by a fireplace.

So, with your lonely mantel now expected to bear a large portion of the decorating weight, becoming one of the key components to this accent wall, ranking second only to the fireplace itself, your mantel will need to provide impact.

For this to happen, the mantel is going to require two elements: size and character.

Size can be achieved either by building the mantel to the desired dimensions, by special ordering a solid piece of lumber, or by revitalizing an old barn beam into service. Building a mantel is easy, or like they say, only requires money.

Basically, any mantel found on Houzz or in a decorator’s magazine, can most likely be duplicated by your local building supply dealer’s bath and kitchen cabinet division, or by a local carpenter familiar with this type of finishing artistry.

Custom-made mantels are beautiful, but they usually don’t have any extended value, and carry even less of a story. Unless of course the mantel was made by some aging artisan who recently passed away, which like a piece of art, could elevate the mantel’s value.

Or, ‘legendary story’ value could result if the cabinet maker should have suffered a gruesome beheading after he slipped while trimming the mantel with his radial arm saw. In such a case, the customer would certainly benefit from the added value of their mantel having a history, and a warm, gather-around-the-fireplace type of story to recount to the little tykes on Christmas Eve.

Otherwise, a custom mantel is a rather nondescript piece of work.

So, with aging cabinet makers on their deathbed not so easily found in the yellow pages, if your mantel is to impress, then the option of solid wood might be the next best choice.

Because B.C. fir is readily available in practically any length or dimension of lumber, the fir specie is an excellent choice for a mantel. Besides the freedom to order a mantel in the desired girth, choosing B.C. fir also allows the homeowner to match the colour and grain pattern of their mantel to that of any other wood beams and pillars in the home, enabling the decorator to establish a real continuity of style and texture.

B.C. fir can be ordered with either a rough-sawn or dressed finish.

A rough-sawn look is the resulting finish of the original log being pushed through the band saw at the mill, and offers the customer a straight, but “furry” type of texture that includes splintering and saw blade marks. Rough-sawn finishes fit right into a rustic type of décor, or serve well to contrast in a contemporary setting.

Dressed refers to the fact the lumber has gone through a planer, and has been rendered smooth to the touch.

Other than made-to-measure and solid B.C. fir options, old lumber can serve as the perfect mantel. Beams from one of the seaway locks, old industrial pillars from the cotton mills, or the posts used in the 1870 last community hanging of bad boy Alfonse “le méchant” Papineau, all carry yesteryear’s charm, and make for great storytelling.

Otherwise, the fun thing about using old lumber is that you become the story teller, which is considered fair game in the home décor biz.

Concerns regarding old lumber? Look for any embedded nails or bolts before cutting. And, the paint on these older beams likely contains lead. So, sanding will require using extreme precautions.

Good building.

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

When choosing real wood

With all the terrific choices of composite decking available in today’s market, why would any homeowner install treated lumber or cedar on their decks?

Although it’s been suggested to avoid using uncovered wood products outside, especially relating to porch posts and railing systems, real wood decking still holds some advantages over the solid PVC or composite decking alternatives.

However, the “holds some advantages” statement will have to be qualified by referencing the fact composites still have some challenges, or product glitches that will need to be ironed out, in order for the choice of composite decking over real wood to eventually be considered a no-brainer.

Challenge No. 1: price.

Although aluminum and vinyl railing systems have fallen in price, due to improvements in manufacturing and larger-scale production, the costs of composite decking have steadily increased. Unlike aluminum and vinyl railing components, which have been around for decades, composite decking is relatively new, and has seen lots of improvements from those early generation composites that often swelled and developed mould.

Today’s solid PVC, or composite/PVC-wrapped products have evolved considerably from those early years, with swelling, shrinking, expansion, and mould being non-issues. However, this road to composite decking success has of course come at a price for the manufacturer, with these research and development costs filtering down to the eventual consumer.

Is composite decking done evolving? Not quite yet.

Although the recipe for making a composite or solid PVC decking product is pretty well understood, with developments in sheen, texture, and colour variation, every manufacturer’s goal is to make their composite as realistic looking as possible. The cost to purchasing composite decking is not likely to fall anytime soon.

So, although aluminum and vinyl railing systems stand at an affordable two-to-three times the price of real wood, composite decking remains two-to-four times the price of cedar, and four-to-eight times the price of treated lumber. As a result, there’s still hesitancy on the part of the consumer in purchasing such a premium deck product, with further improvements regarding the costs of production to be made on the manufacturing end.

Challenge No. 2: temperature.

Essentially, in severe heat and/or direct sunlight, composite decking, regardless of colour or texture, gets too hot to walk on in bare feet. Real wood decking, under the duress of heat or direct sunlight, remains relatively comfortable to bare feet. So, regardless of composite decking’s many attributes, on some levels it may never outperform Mother Nature.

So, how does the homeowner deal with wood decking’s biggest challenge, which is of course maintenance? Is doing nothing to your wood deck an option? Yes, but a really lousy one.

Without some type of protection, a wood surface will warp, crack, develop slivers, and essentially look horrible.

Now, if your backyard is littered with dog poop, a 1970 Pontiac Parisienne on blocks, and a few garden gnomes scattered about, then a greying, decaying deck would provide the perfect centerpiece to such a backyard world of death and misery.

Luckily, success in owning a great looking wood deck that’ll demand only minimal maintenance, will require invoking these procedures.

One, sand both sides and the two edges of each plank with an 80-grit sandpaper.

Next, seal the underside of the planks with a clear waterproofing product.

Three, and most importantly, refrain from surface screwing the decking planks. Choose either the ‘Camo’ installation tool, which is a procedure that strategically guides the camo screw into the edges of the decking plank, or fasten the decking planks from underneath by first installing deck brackets, which are perforated steel strips that get fixed along the edge of each joist. Surface screws are to be avoided because they provide a direct route for water and moisture to enter into the core of the lumber. When this core water freezes, cracks, splitting, and splintering are the results.

Conversely, a sanded wood surface, when sealed, should last for years before needing a further coat. Next week, more on real wood decking.

Good building.

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

Decked out in composite

Composite deck lumber is a blend of reclaimed plastic and recycled wood fibers. There’s no need for finishing composites. Just keep them clean. STEVE MAXWELL/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

In this, our last segment on “touch it once,” the strategy of choosing building products based on the likelihood of these products not requiring a second touch, or further maintenance once they’re installed, has us examining what will probably be wood’s last stand— that being wood decking.

So far, the touch-it-once strategy has us choosing 50-year warrantied sidings, such as vinyl or fibre cement, or such mainstays as brick and stone, which can last several generations.

Touch it once means extending the warranty on your asphalt shingles by following a directed manner of install.

And, touch it once essentially means eliminating all that is wood on the exterior of the home, opting for aluminum or vinyl railing systems, PVC trim-boards around windows and doors, using PVC posts wraps to protect those 4×4 or 6x6treated columns, and vinyl lattice or vertical siding to skirt the raised portion of your deck.

However, when it comes to decking material, is composite or PVC decking not the obvious choice if we’re to stick with our touch-it-once home maintenance strategy?

Or, has treated wood or cedar decking suddenly become a one-touch product?

Without a doubt, composite or PVC decking is the best way to finish your deck. Composite decking is beautiful year after year, has a perfectly uniform colouration and grain pattern, doesn’t warp, crack, or sliver, and cleans up with a spray from the garden hose and sweep of a broom. So yes, composite and PVC decking is the obvious choice for any deck surface.

Conversely, wood decking products will definitely need maintenance if their appearance is to remain constant, so that inevitability hasn’t changed.

As a result, there’s no reason to choose anything other than composite decking, unless of course any of the following reasons pose an issue.

Challenge No. 1, price. Treated lumber costs about $2 per square foot, and cedar decking about $4 per square foot, which seems costly enough, until you compare it with the ticket price of composites, which due to the vast array of finishes and colouration choices, will range in price from $8 to $15 per square foot of decking product.

Now, in all fairness to composite decking, consideration must be given to the fact most composite and PVC decking products come with 25-year warranties, which should entitle the owner to 25 years of weekends spent doing something other than painting or staining a deck. So, if we consider the costs of time and material related to maintaining a wood deck, the pricing gets a little closer.

Regardless, composite decking still remains considerably more expensive than wood.

Besides the price, it’s important for the future composite decking buyer to realize three further points.

One, composite decking isn’t the perfect product, yet. Its surface is tough, but not indestructible, so it will scratch and dent if people are careless in the way they move decking furniture about.

Two, being composed of mostly recycled plastics – a great thing because it reduces stuff otherwise going into our landfills – composites do move a bit under the stress of extreme heat or cold. So, those miter joints that were so tight and perfect in the spring, may not look so good in the heat of the summer or fall, which can be disappointing to the perfectionist carpenter.

And three, the surface of your composite or PVC decking will heat up to a slightly uncomfortable level in direct heat and sunlight. I love our composite deck, but on a hot sunny day, stepping out onto the deck from the patio door without my sandals on has seen me do a not-so-coordinated tippy toe dance back into the kitchen.

So, with composite decking comes the need for shade, sandals always at the ready, and a hose nearby to help cool things off.

Otherwise, you’ve got wood decking, which when really analyzed, isn’t such a formidable challenge.

Next week: the one-to-two, OK, maybe three-touch wooden deck.

Good building.

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

Anything but wood

The staircase in the Mackenzie model by Minto at Arcadia splits on the second level to provide separation between the master suite and other bedrooms. Railings are simple metal spindles in urban black with a modern handrail profile. GORDON KING, FOR POSTMEDIA NETWORK

If our goal is only wanting to touch things once, inevitably freeing ourselves from the bondage of home maintenance by eliminating those products requiring a second touch or further care once installed, then the 42-inch beveled-edge baluster is doomed to become the loneliest product in the lumber yard.

Essentially, it’s made of wood, it’s going to require a second touch.

Depending on how long you keep your home, there could very well be third and fourth touches, which all fall under the dubious term of maintenance.

Saying goodbye to wood appendages will be difficult for some, since the wood spindle’s contribution to residential history has been significant. Formed on a lathe, turned Victorian-style spindles were often the showcase items on those grand, century townhomes that featured exquisite wraparound balconies.

From the post-Second World War years to the end of the 20th century, turned spindles were the look of middle-class prosperity, similar to the white picket fence of the previous generation.

So, are we to forfeit the cultural significance of the turned spindle and dismiss its contribution by eliminating its future use?

Well, understanding that painting a turned spindle ranks right up there with having to change a flat tire or manually dig a post hole on the satisfaction spectrum of household jobs we hold most dear, there’s little chance the next generation of homeowner is going to put up with this type of yearly monotony.

Following the turned spindle, the exterior railing trend switched towards the smooth look of the beveled edge baluster. Though the balusters plain finish would reduce maintenance times rather significantly in most cases, one coat of finish is all most balusters were going to see.

Eventually, with brown-coloured treated wood entering the market, balusters and their handrails would most often be left unfinished. With no paint or stain to protect the finish, the thought was these balusters would keep their brown colour for a few years, then gently turn to a lovely grey hue.

This was, of course, one-touch dreaming.

Unfortunately, time does exposed wood favours in the same way it improves our hairlines, and benefits our ageing knees and lower backs.

So, with exterior wood railings and wood trims being the type of products that will need constant revisiting or replacement within six-to-eight years should you totally ignore them, the only solution to not having to maintain wood spindles is essentially avoiding wood spindles or balusters in the first place.

What one-touch type railing systems will the homeowner have to choose from? Well, there are several, with the more popular choices being aluminum, steel, and PVC (vinyl).

Essentially, the steel and aluminum series of railings offer spindles and newel posts that are thin and sleek, with colour choices that include the popular deep brown and black tones of the day. The PVC railing systems offer a slightly heavier looking baluster and newel post, and are a good choice if a traditional white spindled railing is what you’re after.

One-touch porch posts will need to follow a similar rule, although not quite so stringent, to your deck spindles. In other words, wood columns or posts are fine during the construction phase, but will need to be covered with a PVC wrap at the finishing stage.

Similar to the wood joists and general wood structure, there’s no questioning a piece of wood’s integrity or longevity if it’s kept dry.

Are there any conditions which would allow exposed wood to be used on an exterior deck, and still fall under the one-touch philosophy? If any portion of your deck crosses into the State of Arizona, where temperatures vary between dry and very dry, then perhaps. Otherwise, no.

The task of choosing alternative products to wood may seem daunting at first, but don’t fear the challenge.

There are PVC trim-boards, fascia planks, moldings and lattices available to cover any decking challenge.

Next week, does ‘touch it once’ mean saying no to wood decking?

Good building.

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

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

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

A drill-down on making great holes

Getty Images/iStockphot

One thing penetrating into another is always made easier by first creating a hole.

No matter how skilled, how mighty, or how overwhelmingly powerful the athlete carrying the ball is in the sport of professional football, his success in progressing past the line of scrimmage will correlate directly with the size of the hole created.

If the 300-pound offensive lineman creating this hole was successful in separating the angry bunch of 300-pound defensive linemen in the way, then the skilled ball carrier passes through with minimal discomfort.

If the offensive lineman fails to create a hole, either due to lack of skill, poor timing, or the fact a few individuals are somewhat disgruntled by recent contract negotiations, then the ball carrier will certainly be facing a whole lot of hurt.

Most nails and screws will penetrate wood. There are self-tapping screws designed to drill and pierce through steel. There are even nails that can be hammered into solid concrete.

However, it’s always easier when there’s a hole created first.

Let’s look at some of the things we can use to create holes. Things to realize; steel drill bits will cut through wood, but wood bits won’t cut through steel, while concrete bits will only really cut through concrete.

That being said, with enough weight or pressure, a drill bit could be forced through just about anything, just like a grand piano could be forced through the mail slot of a front door, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

To keep things easy, and pretty, we use the proper designated drill bit for the task at hand.

Essentially, small holes of 3/16” or less, often used to pre-drill wood in order to accept a nail or screw, are effectively done with a steel drilling bit.

Holes required to be anywhere from a quarter-inch to 1.5 inches in diameter are best drilled with a spade bit, which has a flat head, similar to a canoe paddle. Using a steel bit for these sized holes will work, but you’ll be forfeiting accuracy. A steel bit will move around a little on the surface before it bites down into the wood. Plus, the hole will be frayed at the sides, due to the steel bit lacking the extended, cutting edges found on a typical spade bit.

Anything larger than 1.5 inches would require a hole-saw, which is a cylinder-shaped cutting tool. Hole-saws are two component drilling tools, requiring a centre bit, referred to as a “mandrel,” to start the hole. The mandrel further guides the circular hole-saw into the wood. If this is your first hole-saw purchase, don’t forget to buy both components. Generally, one mandrel will service a number of various hole-saw diameters.

However, not all centering mandrels match all hole-saws. So, be sure to test-fit your existing mandrel with the newer hole-saw before leaving the building supply centre.

Note to self: drilling with larger spade bits and any sized hole-saw bit is like playing catch with a football, best done using two hands. If your drill doesn’t have an extended arm to place a second, steadying hand, definitely consider ordering one of these components for your specific brand of drill. Otherwise, keep two hands firmly on the trigger shaft.

Spade bits and hole-saws will sometimes jamb in the wood. If that happens, and you’ve only got one hand on the drill, the sudden twist is going to leave your wrist looking and feeling like a strand of cooked spaghetti.

Next, be wary of purchasing just any spade bit. Some spade bits have regular tips, others a full-thread tip. The full-thread bit option effectively draws the spade bit blades into the wood, making this bit very aggressive— which is fine if you’re an electrician with 1,000 holes to drill. Otherwise, I prefer the gentle push, draw back (which helps clear the hole of cuttings) then push forward strategy of a regular spade bit.

Next week we’ll have more on creating holes.

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

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