Looking for roofing information? Class is in!

With all the class action suits being directed towards the asphalt roofing industry, one might wonder what the heck is going on.

Now, is there a real concern regarding the future of asphalt shingles? In a nutshell, no, there is no concern. And, before we all fall into despair, since 90 ;ercent of the homes in Cornwall and area have roofs covered with asphalt shingles, know this. There are presently class action suits against Crayola, whose washable colored bubble mix is apparently about as washer friendly as lead paint, and Reebok, whose easy tone shoes don’t actually tone the body, unless you run in them like any other fitness shoe, and Vita Coco, the makers of a coconut water sports drink, as well as a slew of others.

I was quite shocked by the Vita Coco accusation, since for the longest time I’ve been depending on the magical, revitalization powers of the coconut, keeping a few of them in my hockey bag, cracking them open with my skate, then drinking that god awful liquid before hitting the ice with the oldtimers. Apparently, the Vita Coco people were somewhat overstating the rejuvenating contents of its drink.

Needless to say, in this world of communication and legal networking, class action suits are as common as popcorn at the local theatre. However, we can’t dismiss the fact that a lot of asphalt roofs have worn and failed prematurely. When that happens, compensation from the manufacturer is certainly deserved.

The present day class action suit deals primarily with roof failures relating to organic asphalt shingles, which were a felt backed product that ceased being produced in 2010. Today’s asphalt shingles are referred to as fiberglass shingles, because of the fiberglass weave that’s since replaced the felt. What we do know is that asphalt shingles, when properly installed under the right conditions, are the best value, and offer the best protection against our harsh, four-season climate.

When I travel, I look at roofs, and get quite envious of the ceramic, slate, and clay tile roofs found in those warmer parts of the world. And, there’s no doubt those products would look spectacular on our homes. But, they wouldn’t last two seasons without crumbling. Cedar shakes? Beautiful, but extremely costly, while being very prone to developing algae and mold. And, with cedar’s irregular surface, good luck finding, or repairing, a leak. Steel roofing? Great option, but with labor included, becomes three to five times the cost of asphalt shingles. Plus, steel roofs don’t last forever, and are subject to the same poor performance issues as asphalt if the substrate materials aren’t adequate, or the installation is performed by someone other than a professional.

So, we’re left with good ol’ asphalt, a product that’s been protecting Canadian homes for over 100 years.

Three key points to remember about today’s fiberglass asphalt shingle. One, they have to be installed on spruce plywood, or an approved OSB roofing product, along with a layer of synthetic underlay underneath. Therefore, if you’ve got a boarded roof, cover it with a 3/8″ spruce plywood. Installing fiberglass shingles directly on a boarded roof will eventually have you joining the class action people. Two, if your roofer is suggesting you save on dumping charges by installing your new shingles over the existing ones, kick him in the nail pouch. Today’s fiberglass shingles require an absolutely smooth and solid surface, something only plywood, not 1X8  planking, and certainly not an existing 20 year old shingle, can provide. Furthermore, leaving the old shingles in place adds about 4,300 pounds to the truss load, basically equivalent to parking a 1970 Pontiac Bonneville on the roof once the job’s done. Finally, choose a Maxivent unit as your roof’s means of exhausting air, with continual soffit venting as the intake. In order for an attic to be effectively vented, which in turn will provide a consistent environment for your plywood underlay, you need adequate intake and exhaust venting.

Good roofing.

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

Up on the roof and get ready to shingle

What’s the first thing a homeowner should do upon receiving his load of asphalt shingles, felt paper, and various other roofing materials? Take the receipt, place it in a shoe box labelled ‘House expenses’ and set this box high upon a shelf in the bedroom closet for the next 30 years.

Even if roofing shingles are poorly installed, or get nailed to an unsuitable surface, or are otherwise forced to suffer through conditions that would in no way permit proper tab adhesion, they’ll probably do the job for at least six-eight years. By year nine the granular surface will begin to loosen, rolling down the roof into the eavestroughing. Then the shingle tabs will start to curl and buckle. Years 10 through 12 will show further deterioration, and as the shingles begin to detach from the nails, the next big wind will have the tabs flying off so fast you would have thought a flock of crows had just been disturbed off their perch.

Then the roof leaks. Then the customer questions why their 30 year asphalt shingles lasted barely half that long. That seems to be the pattern for most consumers who fail to keep their roofing receipts. Perhaps it’s just fate, but those persons who keep their receipts, rarely run into issues. So, keep your receipts. Without them, the claim or warranty process will be nothing but frustration.

Which brings to question, what’s with all the class-action lawsuits against the asphalt shingle industry? Because Canadians simply lay blame and brood, while Americans tend to skip this emotional state and move directly into the game of suits and litigation, most of the issues are State side.

With a home’s roof taking the brunt of all weather conditions, while receiving the least care upkeep wise, it’s easy to find a lot of unsatisfied consumers. Basically, most of the claim issues are directed towards what is referred to as an organic shingle. Organic shingles were the original specie, and had a felt base that was dipped in tar, then covered with ceramic coated granules. Production of organic shingles ceased in 2010, and were replaced by what the industry now calls a fiberglass shingle, because the substrate is a sheet of woven fiberglass, as opposed to a heavy paper felt.

However, the process of shingle making remained the same. Impregnate the substrate with tar, then cover with granules. So, an asphalt shingle is basically the same as it ever was, and of course looks the same as before, since the only modification to the new version is the hidden fiberglass base. Why the change to fiberglass? Because it proved to have a higher resistance to heat and wind, which really meant little to the Canadian market, since we lack the necessary trailer parks to attract tornadoes, and might get two days in July with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. However, it was cheaper to manufacture, and that’s all that counted.

Why did the organics fail? Could have been the product, or installation, or any number of factors. What we do know is that to ensure your new fiberglass shingles last as long as possible, we’ll need to change our traditional way of installation. Because all new homes use plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) on the roof, having a smooth, clean, reliable substrate, isn’t an issue. Older homes, whose foundations were framed with 1×8 spruce planks, with these planks salvaged and subsequently installed on the roof, are going to have a problem. Plus, it was also common practice to layer shingles, burying two generations of shingles under a brand new third layer. With the organic shingle of the day being so malleable, and quite adaptable to the inconsistent surface created by the 1×8 lumber and layers of shingles, it wasn’t uncommon to get 20 years out of a shingle. With fiberglass shingles, the practice of layering will need to stop.

Next week, installing the modern asphalt shingle.

Good building.

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

Recovering the potential in your cold storage

There are two strategies to dealing with a cold storage.

Either you close it off from the rest of your finished basement with a steel insulated door, or you embrace it as an area of great potential.

Now, you may question the great potential designation given to a room that was – up to this point – the go-to storage area for beets and potatoes. I understand the skepticism.

However, if you own a fridge and don’t have to hitch up the team of horses and wagon in preparation for your weekly ride into Dodge for supplies, then it’s probably safe to decommission this former storage site.

Where’s the potential? Well, the room most likely has four concrete walls and a concrete ceiling, creating the perfect soundproof environment for an office. Or, if space will permit, this could be a terrific theater, or fitness area.

Now, how do we make this room livable?

First, we’ve got to solve the outdoor issue. Cold storage areas are usually located under a poured concrete slab, which serves as a porch or landing, leading to the main entrance. To prevent moisture from seeping into our future living space, the porch surface will need to be sealed, or better yet, covered with a roof extended over it. Then, before we insulate, you’ll need to call your heating and cooling contractor, an electrician – and a plumber, if the room is to be served by a sink, shower, or some type of water supply.

The room will minimally need a little lighting and a few plug outlets. If the room is large enough, it will most likely need its own warm/cool air supply and cold-air return.

So, with this impending ductwork and electrical wiring to come, you’ll need a mechanical plan so that the ceiling joist can be framed in a manner that will least effect the floor-to-ceiling height. With a mechanical plan completed, we can insulate the exterior walls and ceiling.

It was common practice to put a couple of round, four-inch vents in the cold-storage wall. Because the air temperature and quality in this former cold storage area will now be serviced by your furnace, you won’t be needing this outside air source anymore. So, block them up with a pre-mixed sand/concrete product.

Next, and like any other concrete basement wall, we install a Johns Manville polyiso, ridged foam board, directly onto the concrete. With the reflective side of the foam board facing the interior, the Johns Manville polyiso can be fastened to the concrete with PL premium glue. Choose at least the one-inch thick foam sheathing, which offers R-6 of thermal value. A 1.5-inch thick foam sheathing is better, with a two-inch polyiso, offering R-12 of thermal resistance, being the best option. Seal the concrete ceiling of the cold storage with this same polyiso product.

Normally you wouldn’t need to insulate the ceiling area of a basement, because usually there’s a heated home over top. In the case of a cold storage, all you’ve got overtop is about eight inches of concrete. As a result, this cold storage ceiling is basically an extension of the foundation wall, and should be treated as such.

With the polyiso sheathing glued to the walls and ceiling – Tapcon screws with washers will help with the gravity issue – frame a 2×4 stud wall directly over the foam board. The existing cold storage height will determine whether 2×4 framing will be possible on the ceiling.

Added insulation, light fixtures, and ductwork, will all be easier to install if the ceiling can accommodate 2×4 or 2×6 framing. Otherwise, the ceiling will need at least to be strapped with 1×3 spruce.

Once the wiring is complete, fill the 2×4 cavity of both wall and ceiling with R-14 fiberglass pink insulation. Next, install a six-mm clear plastic over the insulation, then cover the wall and ceiling with a 0.5-inch, mold tough type drywall.

Enjoy your new found space.

Good building.

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

What to do about slow drains

Why does my kitchen sink drain so slowly?

It’s a question asked by many a frustrated homeowner after post supper cleanup has once again created a sink full of murky water.

Not surprisingly, the answer to this dilemma is quite simple. Basically, you’ve tossed, or have been tossing, something down the pipe other than water.

Solution? First, this may require a change in lifestyle. In other words, stop crushing food waste and vegetable cuttings through the sink drain basket like it was some type of manual garburator. Perhaps it’s time to get into the habit of composting.

Plus, make sure all oil, grease, and food matter get wiped clean off those pots and pans, then get tossed into the garbage. When the only thing going down the kitchen drain is soap and water, the chance of future clogs drops to zero. Concerning this present kitchen drain clog, you’ll either need to retrieve whatever waste matter you’ve allowed to go down the drain, or you’re going to have to flush it through.

Please avoid the toxic waste strategy. Otherwise known as the lazy man’s answer to a clogged drain, a quick fix chemical solution like ‘Plumber butt in a drum’ is a horrible alternative. One, you’re handling something where even inhaling the fumes is hazardous, let alone spilling a little on your hands.

And, for those septic system people, it’s probably the worst thing you could put into the tank, which eventually reaches the soil. Plus, if the chemical solution doesn’t de-clog the drain, and you continue the attempt to flush water through, the toxic liquid will back up into your sink, or dishwasher, and all appliances you have hooked up to the main kitchen drain.

When that happens the fumes will bowl you over quicker than news of the PK Subban trade. Then you’ll have to deal with what is essentially a toxic spill, where your sink and appliances will have to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Drains that move slowly, or continue to clog, could be due to a plumbing issue. Drain pipes need to be vented to the open air in order for waste water to flow properly. So, if the drain in question is lacking a proper air vent, or this air vent is blocked, or the cheater vent, a small mechanism used to vent a pipe when connecting to the main stack isn’t convenient, is jammed shut, then this will have to be remedied.

Or, the slope of the drain pipe could be too steep, or too level. Drain pipes need to be sloped to 1/4 inch per foot, and be of the correct size. A larger than necessary diameter of pipe will not be helpful in creating good flow if the water being fed into it is minimal.

Venting, as well as pipe slope and diameter, are issues that should be checked and corrected by a certified plumber. If the sink contains a few inches of standing water, try plunging. Similar to a toilet plunger, except smaller, and, try not to get the two mixed up, a sink plunger should be able to shake things up to the point where there’s at least a little movement.

Once the sink is dry, set the tap to hot, fill the sink back up to a few inches deep, then repeat the plunging. If plunging doesn’t work, you’ll need to insert a sink auger, a.k.a. snake, into the drain, pushing and twisting it until the entire length is buried in the piping.

Still not de-clogged? Get a bigger snake. Or, insert a “Y” with cover into the drain pipe in a section that may be close to the clogged area, normally where several pipes converge. Be sure to have a garbage pail, shop-vac, and towels at the ready, because who knows how much water is backed up. Then, try a longer drain auger. If all fails, then call in the professionals.

Good building.

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

Avoiding the shake down

REUTERS photo

It’s the same sensation of gut wrenching trauma the Montreal furriers’ felt when PK Subban was traded to Nashville.

What just happened? Well, due to your newly installed porch railing section having just failed the shake test, you, like the furrier shops, will be suffering a yet to be determined financial loss.

When a newel post, which is essentially the backbone of your spindle and rail system, fails the shake test, it brings two things into question.

One, is the newel post perhaps missing a few lag screws, and simply lacking the proper blocking (when extra pieces of 2×8 lumber are used to secure the post into the joist system)?

Or two, has the newel and subsequent railing system been installed in a manner that contradicts the stamped drawings regarding this product?

If it’s a case of adding a little lumber and a few screws, then the burden is one more trip to the lumber yard, and yet another opportunity to pick up a coffee and blueberry muffin at the local drive-thru.

If it’s a case of the railing not meeting code, or being improperly installed, the sense of nausea is your body’s reaction to the fact this deck is yet going to require more time, and money.

What is the shake test? The shake test is a battle between a fixed 4×4 newel post, made of either treated lumber, aluminum, or composite matter, and one motivated inspector. I’m not sure what amount of education and practice is required before an inspector attains his “shake ’em up” certification.

What we do know is that the training is intense. Once the inspector gets his or her hands on the newel, and the “shake” procedure begins, it would take a crow bar to pry their fingers off. Basically, the integrity of the post is challenged by clasping the top of the newel, and with subjective force, an attempt is made to move this post backwards and forwards.

If the degree of deflection (the measure to which the post can be forced off its 90 degree perch) is significant, the inspector will ask for the proper documentation regarding the manner of install.

This “documentation” element is going to be the make-or-break factor in how well the rest of your day is going to proceed. Either the next few hours will be spent in calm repose, once the documentation confirms your manner of install as being correct. Or alternatively, an error or omission is discovered in the strategy, leading to you performing donuts on your front lawn in therapeutic frustration.

As a homeowner about to build a deck, especially if a pool’s involved, it’s important to understand one key point. Your deck drawings may have been good enough to earn you a building permit, but this in no way signifies your deck and railing system is to code.

In other words, the building permit has simply OK’d your drawing. From this point on, it’s up to you to follow code, and have the proper engineered stamped drawings regarding your chosen components.

As an example, a deck plan with newel posts placed at every 8 ft. on center, will pass the permit stage.

However, not all railing systems are permitted to span 8 feet. Some composite railing systems are stamped acceptable for 6 ft. on center newels only.

Vinyl, composite, and aluminum railing systems, all have their specified manor of install, which will differ from wood, and even from manufacturer to manufacturer.

What happens is that 8 ft. composite railing sections get purchased and installed, and then it’s discovered the Ontario building code has only approved the 6 ft. long series of components.

Or, the newel posts get surfaced mounted to the deck, when the approved drawings indicate they should have been integrated into the joist system. So, avoid those big headaches by procuring the stamped drawings regarding your specific chosen line of products, first.

Then, proceed accordingly.

Good building.

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

The party is always in the kitchen

Every kitchen is unique and should be designed around your needs. (Alair Homes)
Every kitchen is unique and should be designed around your needs. (Alair Homes)

If you’re looking to build a new home, or looking to buy an existing home, or are thinking of renovating your kitchen, stop!

As sure as PK Subban has already come out with his own line of rhinestone cowboy hats and has likely recorded at least one duet with Nashville country pop star Carrie Underwood, the kitchen you’re planning on building, or renovating, is going to be too small.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, because I have no problem enjoying the comfort of a Lazy Boy recliner in the confirmed living room area of a home, when there’s a gathering of friends and family, people converge on the kitchen. If the kitchen happens to have a centre island, things get even worse.

Without provocation, the menfolk will surround the island, using it to prop themselves up like they were preparing to witness a cock fight. Then the golf stories and tales of past conquests begin. The remainder of the visiting crowd will either stand and talk in the archway leading into the kitchen, or grab a chair around the kitchen table.

Regardless, we’re all in the kitchen. Not that I have a problem with confined gatherings, but logistically, and if you’re the host, trying to get access to the fridge or utensil drawer once you’ve got this traffic jam of people can be a nightmare.

Why are people so attracted to an area that not only restricts movement, but in most cases, offers the least comfortable seating in the home? As far as I can deduce and regardless of the various discomforts, my research tells me the magnetic draw of the kitchen is directly correlated to its proximity to the booze and snacks.

So, with an “if you can’t beat them, join them” type of attitude, we enlarge the kitchen space.

Where to start?

Basically, the area once known as the living room has become redundant. The traditional dining room, which might see use a handful of times during the year, has become a total waste of space. So, we combine both these areas with the kitchen. We don’t want to cut down on bedroom space, nor storage area, while the main floor will require a bathroom and a small area for TV watching.

Every other bit of square footage needs to be dedicated to an expanse of space that in the future will be simply regarded as the kitchen.

How do we combine a series of rooms without having people feel they’re chatting in the old dining room or the former living room? After all, we don’t want our guests feeling alienated from the in-crowd of those persons standing in the original kitchen, where God forbid, they miss out on the 110th rendition of how my buddy Shooter Rockell managed to salvage par after driving his tee shot into the bunker on the 18th hole, maintaining his one-stroke advantage and eventual victory in the 1969 junior club championship.

Essentially, there are two key factors to designating your space as kitchen area – being the flooring, and, of course, an open concept.

Even if the floor tiles match, nobody will believe they’re in the kitchen if a wall is separating them from the cock fight gang around the centre island. So, and with your contractors’ and engineers’ stamped approval, we remove the wall once separating kitchen from dining area.

Next, we include the living room. If this means taking down a wall, or opening up an archway, then do what it takes to make this happen.

Basically, you should be able to flow freely along the entire space, engaging in a conversation about golf here, then about the PK Subban/Shea Webber trade there, all without risk of spilling your chardonnay by bumping into a sofa or tripping over an ottoman.

Where do the Leaf fans share their conversation? No change here, these persons are still restricted to the garage.

Make the best room in the home even better by creating a bigger kitchen.

Good building.

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

Practical kitchen flooring

A crisp white kitchen with Cambria quartz Summerhill countertops, vinyl plank flooring and stainless appliances. (Designer: Cassandra Nordell/Copyright William Standen Co. 2015)
A crisp white kitchen with Cambria quartz Summerhill countertops, vinyl plank flooring and stainless appliances. (Designer: Cassandra Nordell/Copyright William Standen Co. 2015)

When renovating a kitchen, one question always arises, “do we install the flooring first?”

A pretty straight forward question, indeed, and one that should come with a relatively straight forward answer.

However, nothing in the home construction biz is conveniently simple. Basically, there are two trains of thought when it comes to kitchen flooring.

From the contractor, or installer’s point of view, you install the flooring first.

Why? Because it’s easier. Installing hardwood or ceramic in a rectangular room is definitely preferable to having to cut and custom fit tiles around cabinets.

And logistically, it makes sense. The kitchen cabinets sit on the floor. So, why not install the flooring first. Plus, it’s absolutely essential that the cabinets not be buried inside the expanse of flooring.

When this happens, the dishwasher becomes practically irremovable for servicing, or replacement. And, the counter top height shortens by as much as an inch.

If you’re 5 ft. tall, then a shorter counter top is of little consequence. For a tall person, whose home life duties include having to chop up the vegetables for the weekly batch of spaghetti sauce, a shorter counter top will be the kiss of death for the lower back.

Finally, we don’t want the kitchen cabinets to sit directly on the subfloor, in their own type of moat, so to speak, because a leaky sink valve or faulty dishwasher connection could go unnoticed until the water makes its way well under the flooring, or into the basement below, creating all types of new problems.

So, we install the flooring first, right? Well . . . not so fast.

Logically and logistically, installing the flooring first might make sense.

However, when you examine the flooring issue from a more practical point of view, there are two reasons why I like installing the floor afterwards.

One, there’s far less chance of damaging a floor when it’s installed as the last piece of the puzzle. With finishing carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, all vying for elbow room within a standard 12×16 kitchen space, the trade traffic over the 3-4 week installation period is going to be busier than the front of a goalie’s crease come playoff time.

As a result, the chances of somebody dropping something, be it a drill battery, copper coupling, or piece of crown molding, on the floor, is conservatively estimated at 100%.

So, with most floors getting covered by a scattering of painter’s drop cloths, will the floor suffer a dent or scratch? Maybe, maybe not.

Alternatively, if the kitchen flooring is safely acclimatizing in the adjoining living room, carefully stacked in perfect, pre-packaged form, the odds of it being dented or scratched drop somewhere close to Carey Price’s GAA. And, once the floor is scratched, that’s it.

With 6-8 possible culprits, it might be difficult to pinpoint the guilty party. Then comes the awkward conversation regarding payback for floor repair or replacement which, of course, means this tradesperson has just worked the week for no pay.

Two, kitchen cabinets usually outlast their floors. If the original flooring goes underneath the cabinets, and prematurely needs to be replaced due to water damage or several cracked tiles, the cost of replacement, due to having to move the lower cabinet units, has just doubled.

Plus, with granite and quartz counter tops becoming the norm, along with ceramic tile backsplashes, everything is connected, which means touching a lower cabinet will inevitably affect the whole system. When the flooring simply butts up against the cabinet’s kick-plate, all these variables become a non-issue.

Key to the practical floor strategy is cabinet height, whereby the cabinet bases must be of equal height, or higher, to the finished floor. This will require the homeowner installing a three/quarter-inch fir plywood, and sheet of 1/4 inch mahogany, if necessary, underneath all cabinetry and islands. Treating the cabinetry and flooring as separate entities, in my opinion, is just practical.

Good building.

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

Know when to use a nail, or a screw

Often for outside work with lumber, nails are used. In this instance though, a June 4, 2016 file photo, volunteeers are using screws in the fascia board of the rafters for a new pavilion. The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network
Often for outside work with lumber, nails are used. In this instance though, a June 4, 2016 file photo, volunteeers are using screws in the fascia board of the rafters for a new pavilion. The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network

Before we begin our discussion on screws and nails, let’s be clear on one thing. The key to successful building, whether it be a backyard deck, or pair of book ends, is not only related to the proper nail or screw holding things together, but whether it was glued or not.

Wood studs, joists, and to a lesser extent plywood, will generally shrink over the first few months after installation, due to moisture loss. Then, as we create humidity in the home by cooking, showering, and just plain breathing, these wood products start to re-absorb some of that lost moisture.

This give and take scenario is a natural process that won’t affect the strength of a product, but it might compromise the joint, leading to popped nails and screws, and certainly the odd squeak. So, unless the plan is to dismantle your project at some point in the future, make that wood to wood, wood to plywood, or wood to composite connection (be it cement board or MDF molding and paneling), as solid as possible by adding the appropriate glue.

Most gluing jobs can be handled by keeping two types of glue in the shop cupboard. That being a bottle of yellow, all-purpose glue, and a few tubes of PL premium, for all exterior, or heavier duty type connections.

Generally, we nail for one of three reasons. Because the shear strength (force required to bend, tear, or break) of a nail, is superior to that of a screw, nails are often required by code when fastening joists to a ledger board, as in the case of a deck, or when laminating lumber together to form a beam. Nails also, on average, have a smaller head than screws, making them less visible, and more easily hidden when performing finishing work.

Finally, nails don’t require electrical power, but only a swift swing of the hammer, keen focus on the nail, and a thumb that knows when to get out of the way, in order to effectively insert.

For everything else, we use screws.

Now, there are hundreds of types of screws. However, choosing the right screw for the job has been made easy due to the fact the name of the screw usually corresponds with the product you’re working with. As a result, if you’re hanging drywall, you’d request drywall screws. If you’re finishing around your shower with a cement board underlayment, you’ll require cement board screws. Regular lumber and plywood will require wood screws. Treated lumber? Either green or brown treated screws of course, depending on what color of decking material you’ve chosen.

The only other information the salesperson serving you will require is the desired length, which if you’re not sure, has equally become a pretty standard thing. So, there’s no more asking for a Robertson or Philips type of screw, with a specific diameter, and desired length. Screws have become so product specific that we automatically suggest to you a 1-1/4 inch, #6, Philips screw if you’re hanging 1/2 inch drywall, and a 2-1/2 inch, #8, Robertson screw if you’re to be fastening down deck boards.

Can screws be mixed? Or in other words, is there great risk in using a decking screw to fasten drywall, and vice versa. Worst case scenario is that the sky thunders, clouds separate, then bolts of lightning descend, turning your pathetic, mortal being into nothing more than a heap of ashes. Best case scenario is that the screw tears the finished surface, or rusts, and eventually fails.

Basically, we don’t mix screws. Screws used for treated lumber have a ceramic coated finish, in order to avoid corrosion from the chemicals in the wood, and rust from the elements. Concrete screws (a.k.a. Tapcons) have a finer, double-thread that effectively holds in the hard, brittle type of conditions found in cement, while drywall screws have a thinly tapered head that best suits the paper surface of drywall.

A screw or nail for every task.

Good building.

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

Not worth losing your head over

Might look nice, but is it up to code? Pinterest photo
Might look nice, but is it up to code? Pinterest photo

Negligence; the failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another.

Case #255, titled ‘Heads will roll’, has our Mr. Blimp inquiring as to the availability of aviation wire. Since his list of previously quoted items included 2×8 joists, 4×4 posts, and various other lumber materials, his request for aviation wire intrigued me. Was this Mr. Blimp to construct a rejuvenated version of the Howard Hughes ‘Spruce Goose’, with the aviation wire used to support a great wing expanse of golden brown plywood? And, will the balance of the aircraft equally benefit from the advancements of time, basking in the glory of our new age pressure treated lumber?

Unfortunately, no such plan was in the making. The aviation wire was to be used in replacement of the more traditional spindle, and be installed horizontally, perhaps every 8-10 inches apart, tautly stretched from post to post, on a proposed backyard deck. No doubt an attractive, nautical type of installation manner (being the preferred railing system of most cruise ships), offering the person on the deck a relatively unobstructed, clear view of whatever landscape formed their backyard, the horizontal line strategy unfortunately contravenes our local building code.

When Mr. Blimp was made aware of the fact this type of horizontal install, be it wire, rope, board, or spindle type of railing structure, would not only violate the four-inch spacing bylaw, but would further be non-compliant due to this system permitting a child to easily climb over the railing, he remained unfazed. “Well, I’m not getting a building permit” were his justifying words.

According to the household insurance people, negligence is certainly subjective. Being held financially or legally liable, as the result of somebody injuring themselves on your property, due to you, as the homeowner, inviting people onto a backyard deck that was not code compliant, is arguable, and like everything else, subject to interpretation.

If a homeowner, after having a guest, or neighborhood child, injure themselves on their property, were to be asked the question, “Were you intentionally negligent in the construction of your deck, and deliberately designed it in a manner to inflict injury?” Most of us would, I suspect, answer with a definite “no”, and moreso, be quite shocked by such a damning inquiry.\

However, in Mr. Blimp’s case, he was aware of the fact he required a permit for his deck construction, and was further aware of the fact his proposed railing system was not code compliant. So, would moving forward with this strategy make him careless, reckless, just plain negligent, or none of the above?

In this case, Mr. Blimp remained defiant, and built his deck and railing according to his plan. Days later, as fate would have it, a child broke their ankle after climbing over the railing. The following week, an invited guest, late Saturday evening, decapitated himself after attempting to squeeze in between the aviation wires in a hurried attempt to retrieve his fallen beer.

So, who pays for the damages? Again, it becomes subjective. In the lawsuit to come, will it be discovered that the little kid was left unsupervised by his babysitter, or that the decapitated guest was by his own doing, inebriated. With luck very much in Mr. Blimp’s corner, both suits were amicably settled. The small child was paid off with a year’s subscription to an ice cream of the month club. The girlfriend of the decapitated man, having been desensitized to the trauma by binge watching all six seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ over the previous weekend, and citing a strained relationship anyway, due to this fellow being a Leafs fan, accepted as fair compensation the same ice cream of the month club.

Case #255 closed.

Not all breaks and decapitations end up so rosy, or easily negotiated. My recommendation, avoid negligence. Build safe, and build to code.

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

Sway me over to a wider door

Over the last 10 years my elbows have been taking a beating. What seems to be the cause?

Well, I’m not a member of the army reserves, so it’s not due to me having to crawl on all fours during bi-weekly basic training. I don’t play tennis, and I don’t arm wrestle, after being soundly defeated by little Wendy Shulster in the quarterfinals of the 1972 primary school sports activity week. The problem, after further investigating the situation, and studying the effects of time on the human body, has been pinpointed to one specific affliction affecting most of us over the age of 40, that being “sway”.

Basically, if you’re under the age of 40, you probably walk a relatively straight line. Over 40, well, we’re facing two realities. One, we probably wouldn’t fit into our high school gym shorts. And two, with sports injuries, manual labor, or the weight of life having taken its toll, the head movement of the average middle ager as they perform the simple task of walking, is like following the crow’s nest of a sailing ship on a stormy night.

That natural sway that we develop isn’t exactly a handicap, unless of course you’re attempting to move from one room of the home, to the other. Basically, I can’t manage to carry a basket of clothing, move even a light piece of furniture, or carry a burger in one hand, beer in the other, through a standard sized 30 inch doorway, without bumping at least one elbow. Give me more than 40 lbs. to carry, and I end up pin-balling my way through.

Solution? Widen the doorways. Now, I don’t expect those persons in existing homes to start taking a sledge hammer to perfectly good interior doors and frames, unless of course you’re totally fed up with bruised limbs. However, as we progress from those first starter type homes, and look to build for the first time, it might be a good idea to keep our aging lifestyle in mind as we design the floorplan. Or, if your middle-aged income will allow you to begin extensive renovations on an existing home that you’ve come to love, then it’s time to look past the weekly door crasher sale specials on 30 inch pre-hung doors.

Plus, some of our futures will involve walkers and wheelchairs, which for ease of movement, will of course require wider than average doorways.

Is aging all doom and gloom? For the most part, yes. Regardless, if you’re building or renovating at the age of 35-40, and you plan on staying in this home for the next 10-15 years or so, then know this. Even healthy older folk wake up sore in the morning, put on their slippers, then begin that gentle sway as they make their way to the washroom. So, make that passage more manageable by installing a 32-34 inch wide door slab in all bathrooms.

The balance of the home, including bedrooms and office areas, should have minimum 32 inch wide door slabs. Where will the 30 inch and skinnier slab sizes find a home? As linen closets, perhaps.

These wider door dimensions, along with the tendency towards people choosing larger casing moldings, will of course require 2-4 inches more of wall space in order to make it all conform. As a result, be sure to inform your architect, home planner, or whoever’s making the drawings for your new home or addition, of your desire for wider interior slabs.

Wider bedroom doors may not directly affect the structure, but bathroom doors, often found squeezed into a space at the end of a hallway, will certainly require some slight modifications to a general plan. No matter what the delay, it’s much easier, and cheaper, to make changes to a floor plan when it’s on paper, as opposed to after construction begins.

So, do yourself a favor when designing your next home, and widen those doorways.

Good building.

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