Window Basics – Part 3 (By Chad Vankoughnett)

How To Measure Your Windows For Replacement



When replacing your windows, it is very important to get accurate measurements of the opening so that the new windows will fit in the existing hole (unless you are wanting to do a considerable amount of renovation work to make the hole bigger). Windows are a large investment, and are usually made to order, so if you aren’t confident that you can get the measurements accurately, it is far better to have a professional measure your opening.

Let’s assume you are confident that you can get the job done right. There are several ways to measure windows – from the inside, the outside, the rough opening, etc. We are going to assume that you are replacing windows that already exist in the home. In that case, we will give you two options for measurements. The first is from the inside, the second from the outside. Ideally, we would like to receive both measurements unless we will be doing the installation.

When measuring from the inside, use a tape measure to determine the width of the window from the INSIDE of the window sill. Measure the opening at the top, the middle, and the bottom, and write down the SMALLEST measurement you get. Remember, if your window is too large, it won’t fit in the opening. Do the same with the height, measuring the middle and along each side, and write down the smallest number.

When measuring from the outside, you will want to measure the dimensions from the OUTSIDE of the brick moulding. That is the trim that goes around the outside of the window. Again, measure in three places, and provide the smallest number. You will also need to provide us with the jamb width. Windows come standard at 4 ½” to 6 ½” depending the wall thickness. This is standard because the wall frame is usually built from either 2×4 or 2×6 lumber. Then add the drywall which is ½” and the sheathing on the exterior, which is also ½”. If you have an older home, or if you have done renovations on the wall, this number might be different. Simply measure the distance from the outside of the sheathing to the inside of the drywall in the window opening. This can be a bit tricky if the window is still in place, so don’t be afraid to call for help in determining this number.

That’s all there is to it. Take your time, measure everything a couple of times to be certain, and be as accurate as you can. As stated earlier, if you are uncertain at all about getting a correct measurement, please give us a call. We would be happy to have someone come to your home and do the measurements for you.

– Chad Vankoughnett

Window Basics – Part 2 (By Chad Vankoughnett)



What Does That Mean?

In this segment on windows, we would like to take some time to examine different configurations of windows and some terms for different parts of the window. Hopefully this will help you communicate your specific desires and needs with your window specialist.

Terminology

Let’s start with the basic parts of the window. Every exterior window has some basic components in common. They are:

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Frame – the structural component of the window, around which the window is built. This can be made of any of a number of materials, including wood, vinyl, PVC, or metal.

Pane – the glass portion of the window

Jam – the inside edge of the frame where it abuts the pane

Sill – the bottom jam of the window, on the outside of the installation

Stool – the bottom jam of the window, on the inside of the installation

Casing – the trim around the window on the inside of the installation

Nail Fin – this is a strip with pre-drilled nail holes attached to the outside of a window that sits under the Brick Mould, used to fasten the window to the wall in a way that won’t be visible on a finished installation

Brickmould – the trim around the window on the outside of the installation, often integrated into the construction of the window, but not always



In addition to these common components, windows can also have a wide variety of other features. Two of the more common terms used with windows are the Grille, which is the latticework in a window that creates several panes in one installation, and Lites, which is the word used to describe each pane of glass separated by a grille. Grilles can be structural, each holding a single pane of glass (as seen in many older window configurations), or ornamental, usually sandwiched between or fastened on top of full panes of glass to give the illusion of multiple panes. When a grille is present, each section of glass it delineates is referred to as a lite. It is common to discuss how many lites a window may contain, which really just refers to how many sections of glass you want a particular window to display.

Exterior Window

Configurations

There are a number of different window configurations to consider when purchasing new windows for your home. What you choose will be determined by where on the house the window is located, the main purpose of the window, the need for ventilation, exterior factors like trees against the house, appearance, and of course, preference. In the diagram below there are several different configurations. These comprise the basic window configurations available from most manufacturers. Other configurations are possible, but are generally custom built for a particular application.

Window Types

Hopefully this will help you to be able to make an informed decision about your windows and to be able to carry on an educated conversation with your window specialist. In our next segment, we will discuss the importance of taking accurate measurements when determining the size of your windows, and give you the direction you need to take those measurements with confidence.

– Chad Vankoughnett

Window Basics – Part 1 (By Chad Vankoughnett)

It’s More Than Just Glass

New windows on an older home can be a great idea. Not only will they increase the value of the home, they provide better insulation, keeping your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and let’s face it…they look great. Replacing the windows on your home can be a big investment, not only in terms of money, but in time as well. With all the choices and styles out there, it can be pretty intimidating trying to select just the right windows for your home. I want to help make that easier for you. In this post, I want to help you understand the basic construction of residential windows. I won’t use a lot of technical jargon, but I will help define what some things mean and hopefully give you a small foundation as you begin researching this topic.
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The first thing you need to know is that glass is a terrible insulator. Heat and cold move right through untreated glass, meaning that windows, especially in our climate, need to be designed and built specifically to counteract that problem. The insulation abilities of windows is measured with a different scale than the rest of your building envelope. Walls, floor, and roof insulation is measured as an R-value. You will commonly hear people talk about R-12 (the common insulation in a 2×4 wall), R-20, R-45, and the like. The more insulation, or rather, the more efficient insulation you have, the higher the R-value, and the easier it is to maintain a temperature inside the house. Windows are more commonly gauged by their U-factor. A U-factor of 0.30 is roughly equivalent to R-3.3, and is considered a pretty good insulation factor for double pane windows. The lower the U-factor, the better the insulating ability of the window, although unfortunately it also means a higher cost. A high efficiency triple pane window can reach a U-factor of 0.15, which equates roughly with an R-value of 6.7.

Windows are produced in single, double, triple, and even quadruple pane configurations. The configuration you choose for your home will depend on several factors, including cost, availability, cost, and probably cost. When we talk about multi-paned windows, we mean that there are that multiple sheets of glass separated by either a vacuum or a gas such as argon or krypton. In our area of the world, single pane windows are pretty rare (read “almost non-existent”) because of their very poor insulating ability, but double and triple pane windows are common. Double pane windows are usually filled with argon, an inert gas found in our atmosphere (you breath in about 2% argon all the time). Argon is much denser than air, and temperature has a hard time moving through this gas. Triple pane windows are almost exclusively filled with krypton, as it functions much better than argon in the smaller space between the glass panes. Krypton is around 3 times as dense as argon, making it even better at insulating your home. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to push for krypton filled double pane windows, though, as the cost savings for the extra insulation are more than offset by the extra cost for the gas.

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Windows can also come with a special coating that reduces the heat transfer through the glass. This low-emissivity coating, commonly called Low-E, helps keep the heat out of your house in the summer, and the cold where it belongs in the winter. Low-E coatings are common, and a good investment in your windows, as it helps make your home much more comfortable in extreme temperatures, and reduces heating and cooling costs as well.

Windows are produced using several different materials for the frame, including wood, aluminum, vinyl, and PVC. These materials vary in cost and appearance, and there are some differences in the longevity and performance of various materials. Having said that, it really does come down to a matter of preference, as a well-constructed window will last a lifetime if properly cared for regardless of the materials used to build it. Talk to a professional about which windows will be right for your home.

In our next blog segment, we will take a look at common window configurations along with the various parts of a window, followed by a segment on taking proper measurements of your window in order to get an accurate quote. As always, if you have any questions or are interested in having a conversation about the windows in your home, be sure to call one of our window specialists here at J&H Builder’s Warehouse. Our expert advice, exceptional service, and professional installation team can make replacing your windows a breeze. One that you can see blowing through your yard, but never have to feel.

– Chad Vankoughnett

Flooring Basics 102 (By Chad Vankoughnett)

In this second installment of our examination of flooring, we want to take a look at three other popular floor covering options: Tile, Vinyl, and Carpet. As stated in our Flooring 101 blog, considering the primary uses of each room you intend to finish will greatly affect the choice you make for flooring. So far, we have examined Hardwood, Engineered Hardwood, and Laminate, and each of these can be an excellent choice when replacing the flooring in your home. Now let’s look at three more flooring options for your home.

Vinyl

Vinyl flooring is some of the most versatile flooring available today. It is crafted to look like tile, wood, steel, paint, abstract art, you name it. It comes in a variety of thicknesses and can be purchased as a sheet or as tiles depending on your style choice and preferences. Vinyl flooring is often used in commercial applications, but can look very nice in the home as well. Many people will use vinyl flooring at an entrance to the home, in bathrooms and laundry rooms, playrooms and basements…pretty much anywhere in the home, although usually not as frequently in living rooms or bedrooms. Vinyl is a very hardy product, and is perfect for high traffic and high moisture areas of the home. Many people will use vinyl flooring in their nursery and pre-school play areas, as it is very easy to keep clean.

Vinyl flooring is very easy to install, although installation can depend on the type of vinyl flooring you buy. Many vinyl products simply “float” on the floor, meaning they are not glued or attached to the floor directly, but are held in place by their own design and the wall trim. Other applications include glue which needs to be spread on the floor with a notched trowel, and some vinyl tiles come with an adhesive backing…you remove a paper backing and simply stick the tile to whatever surface you are covering. A well maintained vinyl floor will last for years, and it is easy to repair and/or replace whenever you wish.

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Tile

Tile is one of the hardiest and most versatile types of floor coverings available today. There are places in the Middle East where you can see tile floors that are over 2000 years old! Tile handles wear very well, and can easily make a bland room look elegant and beautiful. Tile is made from a large variety of materials, such as plastic, stone, ceramic, wood, carpet, vinyl, glass…you get the idea. While you can glue down almost any piece of material and call it a tile, using a tile manufactured specifically for the purpose to which you are putting it is always your best bet.

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When it comes to styles, tiles provide you with a virtually unlimited selection. From whimsical to elegant, Chuck Norris to the Queen of England, you will always be able to find a tile to match the design. Tiles are very adaptable as well, and can be used in virtually any application. They are especially well suited to high moisture environments, which is why they are used so predominantly in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.

Along with being made from a wide variety of materials comes a wide variety in cost. Tiles can cost anywhere from $1/foot to $35/foot and more, depending on the tile. Tile also requires some expertise to install well, so if you are buying more expensive tiles, you might want to have a professional install them for you to limit wastage and other potential problems. With a cheap tile, you might be willing to take the time to experiment, knowing that if you get it wrong you can always tear it up and start over, but if the cost for doing so is several thousand dollars, you may not want to go that route.

Carpet

Carpet is probably the most dominant floor covering in Canada. A well installed carpet is comfortable and warm, an ideal floor covering for living areas and bedrooms. Carpet comes in a wide variety of colours and styles, and quality makes a real difference in how well the carpet handles wear. A high quality carpet with a good underlay will feel great underfoot, will resist staining and pilling, and will last for years.

Carpet is not suitable for high moisture areas, and although there have been trends in the past to put carpet in kitchens and bathrooms, these are really not the best applications for carpet. Moisture sensitivity notwithstanding, carpets are more prone to staining than other types of flooring, and care must be taken when choosing colours and styles to offset this tendency. It would be foolish, for example, to put a white carpet in your child’s nursery…children are MESSY, and your carpet will be very stained in no time at all (I admit I am speaking from experience here). As with all your flooring choices, the first consideration must be what the primary use of the room is.

Carpet must be installed correctly or it will lose its beauty very quickly. It is best to have a professional install your carpet in order to best protect your investment. A poorly installed carpet will show its seams, buckle and fold, and generally create a hazard for anyone who drags their feet when they walk. Carpet is generally designed to be coupled with an underlay, which is a pad of foam designed specifically for this use that goes between the carpet and the subfloor. This not only makes the carpet more comfortable, but will help it handle wear better, ensuring that your floor will look beautiful for years to come.


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No matter what kind of flooring you are thinking of installing, whether hardwood, engineered hardwood, laminate, vinyl, tile, or carpet, once you have decided on the materials there are a few things you need to do in order to make sure you get what you need and get it installed properly. In the next edition of our flooring series, we will explore some of the practical things you need to know when replacing your floors, such as accurately measuring your area, choosing the right products, and knowing what questions to ask. As always, if you just want the answers right now, call J&H Builder’s Warehouse and speak to one of our flooring specialists. We would be happy to help you!

– Chad Vankoughnett

Flooring Basics 101 (By Chad Vankoughnett)

One of the biggest impact renovations you can make is to change the flooring in your home. It can also be one of the most expensive renovations, and can cost tens of thousands of dollars depending on the floor covering you choose and whether you have it installed or do it yourself. It makes sense to learn as much as possible about floor coverings as you can in order to prevent potentially costly mistakes.

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Regardless of the type of flooring you choose, make certain that you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your choices, and make sure the product you install meets of the needs of the room you have put it in. It doesn’t make sense to put carpet in a kitchen or a bathroom (historical practices notwithstanding), and if you are looking for a warm soft landing for your feet when you get out of bed, tile probably isn’t the best choice for your bedroom. Before you even consider what kind of flooring you want, make sure you have thought through the practical issues of what the room will be used for and what kind of floor covering makes the most sense in that application. Once you have made these decisions, then it is time to determine what type of floor is best for you.

There are several different kinds of flooring to choose from, including hardwood, carpet, tile, vinyl, and engineered products such as laminates and engineered hardwoods. We are going to break down this list, give some strengths and weaknesses of each product, and hopefully help you make good decisions when it comes to your floor coverings.

Hardwood

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Hardwood has been growing in popularity for a couple of decades now after going out of style for a time during the 80’s. People love the classic look and feel of real wooden floors, and this popularity is reflected in how many different faux hardwood floor coverings now exist. Hardwood floors are made up of real wood, which has been stained and finished prior to being shipped to the seller. True hardwood flooring has no layers of other material laminated (glued) to it, but is real wood through and through (distinguishing it from engineered hardwood, which is a thinner layer of wood laminated to plywood, fiberboard, or other backing). Hardwood looks fantastic, and is a very long lasting floor covering. It is also a very expensive floor covering, and can easily cost $5 – $10 per square foot even before installation.

One of the real benefits of hardwood apart from its beauty is the ability to sand it down and refinish it when it begins to look worn or scratched. This, combined with the cost, means that you really want to be certain that you want the same flooring for life. A well maintained hardwood floor can easily last 100 years or more, so the cost is somewhat mitigated by the longevity inherent in a hardwood floor.

On the downside (apart from cost), hardwood flooring should only be used in certain areas of the home, and you should avoid using hardwood in any high-moisture area of the house. Bathrooms, basements, and any area below grade (ground level) in a home should not have hardwood installed due to the risk of moisture damage. The other downside to hardwood is installation, as specific tools need to be used when installing hardwood. Unless you are a truly accomplished DIYer, with an investment this expensive it is always wise to leave installation to the professionals.

Engineered Hardwood

As stated above, engineered hardwood is a layer of hardwood laminated to a carrying agent, such as fiberboard or plywood. This allows the appearance and wear of hardwood with the added benefit of moisture resistance, meaning that most engineered hardwood is suitable for any application in the home. Because the expensive material (the wood) is much thinner, the cost of engineered hardwood is considerably less than true hardwood. Engineered hardwood still allows you to sand and refinish the surface of the wood, although for a limited number of repetitions compared to true hardwood.

There are very few downsides to engineered hardwood. Unless you are a purist who needs the wood to go all the way through, there are virtually no technical reasons to choose hardwood over engineered hardwood, and in fact the extra flexibility of application found in engineered hardwood makes it an ideal choice for many homeowners.

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Laminate

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When talking about floors, the term “Laminate” refers to artificial flooring made from layers of fiberboard, plastic, and other materials. Usually, laminate flooring is designed to mimic the look and feel of wood without the pesky issues that accompany wood floors, such as cost and weight. Laminate floors are lightweight and reasonably durable, and come in a wide variety of styles, thickness, and colours. Cheap laminate will not be effective in high traffic areas, but is easy to replace if nothing else. More expensive laminates will still be much cheaper than either of their wooden cousins, will be very durable, and will certainly enhance the beauty of your home.

The low cost of laminate makes it an ideal product if you are the type of person who likes to change the look of your home on a regular basis. It is also an excellent choice if you are looking for something to spruce up your home in order to sell it, as many people change the flooring when they purchase a home anyway.

Laminate flooring can be installed virtually anywhere in the home, and is very easy to install even for the beginning DIYer. Most laminate floors do not require any kind of glue or nails, so the only tools you may need are a pencil, a cutter (a saw of some kind or a special laminate cutter, which are quite inexpensive), and maybe a rubber mallet.

In the next edition of the blog, we will be looking at carpet, tile, and vinyl flooring as options for your renovation. Remember, regardless of the style of flooring you choose, the type of material will determine longevity, comfort, and practicality. Take the time to make the right decision and you will be happy with your floors for a long time to come.

– Chad Vankoughnett

Get Fired Up! By Chad Vankoughnett

It seems hard these days to find a new home that doesn’t have at least one fireplace in it. Whether it be in the living room or master suite, a fireplace adds functional style and beauty to virtually any room. A fireplace can be the centerpiece of a room’s decor or a subtle accent intended to provide warmth without intruding on the living space. If you are looking to add a fireplace to your home, there are several important things to consider.


The first thing you need to decide is what the main purpose of the fireplace is to be. Are you looking for a decorative touch, or a primary heating source, or a combination of the two? Most fireplaces will provide heat of some kind, but there is a wide range of heating capability, so if you are in the market for something to get that basement warm, it is important to consider just how large an area the fireplace will heat. Alternatively, if you are wanting something primarily decorative, then aesthetics will definitely be on the forefront of your mind. Whether you are looking for something ultra-modern or classically styled, chances are there is already a fireplace out there waiting for you.

The second thing you should determine is what kind of fuel you want your fireplace to run on. There are three primary fuel categories you will need to consider. The first is what I will call wood/combustibles. This category would include pellet stoves, wood burning fireplaces, and other non-gas type real flame fireplaces. These fireplaces require you to feed the flame with combustible material. The advantage of this type of fireplace is primarily aesthetic (unless you live in a cabin in the woods, in which case the plethora of free fuel is also appealing). Nothing beats the sound and smell of pine logs burning in the fireplace. It brings up images of cozy winter nights, hot chocolate, and romantic getaways. Unfortunately it also brings up images of ashes, soot, burn marks on the carpet, cutting and chopping wood, cleaning the ash pan and chimney…you get the idea. Wood fireplaces tend to be much more labour intensive than other types of fireplace.

The second type of fuel is natural gas. Gas fireplaces have become extremely popular in the last several years for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are an economical way to heat a space. Secondly, they are attractive, coming in a wide variety of styles and designs. Thirdly, they have actual flames and realistic looking logs, mimicking the aesthetic appeal of wood fireplaces without the mess. And finally, they are affordable and can be installed virtually anywhere in the home. A gas fireplace can be turned on and off with a switch, meaning that you don’t need to wait for a log to burn out before leaving the room. They are convenient, safe, and best of all, they look great. They can be placed in walls so that people in two or even three different rooms can enjoy the flames. There are even fireplaces that can be placed in an outside wall so that they can be enjoyed from both the living room and the deck. Gas fireplaces are, in a word, versatile.


The third type of “fuel” is electricity. Electric fireplaces have come a long way in the past several years, and now represent an affordable, attractive alternative to true flame fireplaces. Electric fireplaces generally have heaters that can be turned on to help warm a room. They are easy to install, and can often simply be removed from the box and plugged in for instant fireplace gratification. They can be great for smaller rooms or rooms where venting a gas fireplace would be difficult. While they lack the true flame of a wood or gas fireplace, most modern electrics do a fairly good job of mimicking the appearance of flames, although they will never truly be able to replace them.


Once you have determined the purpose of the fireplace and the type of fireplace you wish to install, you need to figure out which fireplace will look best in the space you are designing. It is a good idea to determine the design theme of the room first, then shop for a fireplace that will complement that theme. There is a vast selection of fireplaces to choose from, and customizing the overall look of your fireplace is fairly easy with your choice of hearth, mantle, and surface treatments such as stone, tile, or wood. It is a good idea to speak with a professional who understands the advantages and disadvantages of each type of fireplace, not to mention the options and styles available. They will be able to direct you to a fireplace that is perfect for your needs.

At J&H Builder’s Warehouse, we sell high quality Montigo and Dimplex gas and electric fireplaces. Our salespeople are experts in their field, and will be able to help you make the best choice for your needs. We will also install any fireplace we sell, so if you are concerned about getting the work done or finding a contractor you can trust, you can rest easy knowing that your renovation is in good hands. Let us help you find that perfect accent to your home today.

– Chad Vankoughnett

Ready Or Not, Here It Comes… (By Chad Vankoughnett)

House in the snow
The time has come to start getting your home ready for the cold days of winter. As depressing as that seems, there are some relatively easy steps you can take in order to help keep your house warm and your life easier over the months to come. Not only will these ideas keep you relatively sane, they might even save you some money, and who doesn’t like that?

1. Clean your gutters – taking the time to clean your gutters will ensure that melt water will run freely and prevent you from having water back up into your home. It is also essential to make sure that your gutters empty out away from walkways and other high traffic areas. It may not matter much right now, but with the melt/freeze cycles we see in spring you know you will end up with a skating rink instead of a walkway if you don’t redirect your runoff. Believe me, your backside will thank you for your foresight.

2. Check for air incursion into the home – this could happen any number of ways, from a poorly fitting window or door to a crack in the foundation or lack of vapour barrier around outlets. With your lights off during the day, look for light leakage around your doors and windows. Make sure that they fit snugly and that there aren’t any large gaps around the openings when the door or window is closed. In my first home, the front door had a rotten corner (which the previous owner patched over), so when, in the middle of winter, the patch broke I suddenly had a 1” gap on one side of the door. Needless to say it had to be replaced, and replacing a door in the middle of winter isn’t ideal to say the least. Check the condition of all doors and windows, including frames, before the weather turns too nasty. If there is a bit of a gap around the opening, get yourself some weather stripping to help stop the airflow, or if necessary, replace the item outright.



You will also want to take a walk around your home looking for any cracks or holes in the foundation that might need to be patched or filled. Depending on your situation, repairing something like that could be as simple as a bit of spray foam, or it might require expert repair. Regardless, a crack or hole should not go unrepaired.

An easy way to check to see if air is getting into the house, take a piece of tissue paper or a lit candle around to each window, door, and outlet (on exterior walls, obviously) and hold them an inch or so away from whatever it is you are checking. If the flame or paper flutter or move, you may need to do some work there. If you get really ambitious, you might want to take the casing off the wall from around the windows/doors and make sure that the gap between the frame and the wall studs has been properly insulated. It is a good idea to use an expanding spray foam (available in cans for under $10) to fill the gaps instead of simply stuffing batt insulation into the space.

3. Change your furnace filter regularly – the cleaner your filter, the easier it will be for air to flow through it and into your house. It is a good idea to replace your furnace filter on a regular basis, although how often really depends on the filters you buy and the type of heating/cooling system you have. A good rule of thumb is to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer, but if you can’t find them, go with once a month. It will never hurt to change them more often than recommended, but if you wait too long between changes it forces your furnace to work much harder than it should to heat your home, and that can lead to expensive repairs if you aren’t lucky.


4. Get those Christmas lights up early – if you are the type of person who likes to put up lights for the holidays, it is a good idea to do that before the snow flies and your roof becomes a slippery slope of death. People may wonder why you are doing it so early, but they’ll stop wondering when they are struggling with their ladder in 3’ of snow while you are sitting in front of the fireplace drinking hot chocolate.


5. Clean up the yard before the snow flies – if you have kids, this especially applies to you. Nothing is worse than wondering if there is a bike under that pile of snow, or knowing that somewhere out there is a sprinkler or a hose. Not only is this bad for whatever item is missing, it makes snow blowing a risky venture. It will only take a few minutes to clear off the toys, yard implements, sprinklers, hoses, shovels, rakes, etc, leaving you with a clear path and peace of mind.

6. Lastly, it is a good idea to get your winter gear in order before winter truly hits us. Find your shovels and get your snow blower tuned up before the weather turns. Put them at the front of your shed or garage so you can easily get to them when the snow comes. A few minutes of forethought will save you a lot of grief later on.

At J&H, we know what winter is like and what it can do. After all, we live in Saskatchewan…we know that -40 is chilly, and we know that anything less than 30cm of snow is a light dusting and not a blizzard. Still, it’s nice to stay warm and worry free during the winter. We carry everything you need to keep your home warm, your walk cleared, and your peace of mind intact. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. We’d love to help you out (in a “sell-you-a-shovel” kind of way, not a “shovel-your-walk” kind of way).

– Chad Vankoughnett

Building Your Dream Deck (By Chad Vankoughnett)

Fiburon Composite

So you’re building a deck. You’ve figured out where it’s going to go, you know how big it’s going to be, and you have great plans for how you are going to use it. The big question you need to answer before you start shopping for materials is what are you going to build the deck from? The most common material used for the structure of the deck is pressure treated lumber, which is usually pine that has been immersed in a pressurized preservative that is water, rot, and insect resistant. As this framework is usually unseen, we will spend our time discussing materials for the deck surface, where the beauty of your deck will truly shine through.

In the past you had pretty limited choices for building materials, but these days there are a wide variety of materials ranging from natural and treated lumber to metal and plastic, and each product has its own set of pros and cons. What is the best choice for you?

Wood

Let’s start with natural wood products. Pressure treated lumber, cedar, redwood, and hardwood are all natural wood products that can be used as is for your deck. There are many advantages to using natural wood. It is easy use and manipulate, can be cut to almost any dimension, and is simple to attach to the frame. Because it has been so commonly used for so long, finding matching material when expanding or repairing your deck should not be an issue. Wood remains one of the most popular choices for decking primarily because of its natural beauty and ease of use, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t negatives when using wood.

Some of the cons of using wood decking include the necessity of treating the wood on a regular basis to prevent damage from water and sun. Wood decking can also shrink, twist, swell, and generally degrade over time, meaning care must be taken to maintain and repair your deck on a regular basis. Wood decking is definitely not a “set it and forget it” kind of material.

Natural wood can be among the cheapest decking materials to use, depending on the type of wood you are using. You can expect to pay much less for common pressure treated lumber than you would for exotic hardwoods like Ipe (pronounced EE-pay) or mahogany, which can actually cost more than man-made materials. Another factor when considering wood decks is the ongoing maintenance costs. If you regularly maintain your new deck (which you should if you want it to last), you could easily spend 5% of the cost of the materials each year in maintenance, meaning that after a decade, your costs could equal what you would have spent on a more expensive composite deck that requires little to no maintenance. A well maintained wood deck can last 20 – 30 years with proper care.

Composite

Composite decking has come a long way in the last 20 years. It is available in a wide variety of colours and textures, and is coming closer to emulating the look and feel of real wood, although it still has some distance to go. Composite decking is made from a mixture (or composite) of wood particles, plastic or rubber, and adhesive. It is dyed in production, meaning that the colour you buy is the colour you will have for the life of the deck (not accounting for fading and weathering). While this means you won’t have to worry about staining the deck every couple of years, it also means that care must be taken to select a colour and texture that you won’t grow tired of over time. Composite decking is virtually maintenance free, doesn’t warp or split, and is almost as easy to work with as wood, so why wouldn’t you automatically choose composite over another material?

Well, for one thing composite decking has a much higher initial cost than wood, and can cost almost twice as much as pressure treated lumber. As mentioned before, if you select colours or textures that lose their appeal in time, there is little you can do to change the appearance. Composite materials also have much less strength than most wood products, and installation can be difficult in some applications. Composites also tend to retain more heat than wood decks, meaning they can get quite hot under foot in exposed areas.

As mentioned, composite decking can be as much as double the cost of pressure treated wood, and will likely have a higher price tag of any wood product save certain hardwoods. If you are doing a small deck, this may not be an issue, but if you are building a true outdoor living space, you will definitely want to do the math before choosing composite. Composite decking has a lifespan of around 30 years, similar to that of wood, but without the effort and cost of regular maintenance.

Vinyl, Plastic, Metal

These are some of the new kids on the block in decking, and as such can be difficult to find at a reasonable price. Vinyl decking is made of essentially the same material as vinyl siding. It has a life span of 50+ years, won’t fade or splinter, and requires essentially no upkeep. It is far and away the most expensive material to use in decking, costing 10-50% more than composite. It is also very limited in colour and texture selection, and requires care in installation.

Plastic decking is often made of recycled materials, and is very durable. It is waterproof, ages well, and comes in standard lumber dimensions, making it easy to work with. Much like vinyl decking, plastic decks require virtually no upkeep, and can be cleaned with water. One advantage plastic has over vinyl is the wide variety of colours available, making it easy to match any colour scheme you may have in mind. Plastic decking is very artificial in its design, and makes no attempt to truly imitate wood surfaces. For some this is not an issue, but you would need to be very comfortable with the appearance for a very long time, as plastic decking has a lifespan in excess of 50 years. The cost of plastic decking is comparable to composite decking.

Metal decking is an excellent choice for raised or multi-level decks, as the interlocking pieces make for a watertight surface. If you are looking to have a living space underneath your deck, surfacing at least the upper deck in metal may be the right choice for you. Metal deck “planks” come in lengths of up to 28’ (8.5m), and when properly installed will last a lifetime and then some. A metal deck will never be anything other than a metal deck, so regardless of the colour you choose (and there is a limited selection of colours) you need to be prepared for that industrial look for the life of your deck. Metal decks are also susceptible to extreme temperatures, and tend to retain heat quite strongly, so care would need to be taken in exposed areas (much like touching a car hood on a hot sunny day). Metal decking can cost as little as cedar or as much as vinyl, depending on market conditions, etc.

Ultimately, the deck you choose will be a reflection of your style and preferences. There are pros and cons to any choice you make, so find something you can afford and that you are comfortable with for the long run. After all, you want to be able to relax on the deck, not fret over the colour or style. Take your time in planning, do your research and talk to professionals who know their stuff (like we do here at J&H), and you will have a deck you are happy with for a very long time.

– Chad Vankoughnett

Start With A Shower… (By Chad Vankoughnett)

Welcome to the brand new J&H Builder’s Warehouse Blog! To get us started off right, I thought I would tell a story. No facts have been altered, no names have been changed to protect the innocent…this recently happened to me at my house.

Last week I was doing some renovations, trying to plumb in a new bathroom in my home. When we bought the house, we knew that sooner than later we would need to do this work, as our house has 4 half baths and only 1 shower (our house has no tub…can you believe that?). In order to accommodate the new location and added fixture, I had to replace the soil stack (you know, that large black pipe standing in your laundry room). I had already cut all the attached pipes, but for some reason the stack just wouldn’t come out. I “gently” tried to encourage the pipe out of position, at which point one of the water lines to the old bathroom suddenly burst apart and tried to drown me in a torrential outpouring of hot water. In my haste to get off my ladder, I grabbed the drain line from the kitchen and put my thumb through the bottom of the fully rotten pipe, adding somewhat to the scope of my intended renovations. I managed to get the water main turned off without anything else getting destroyed, then went about trying to discover what had just happened.

It turns out that the hot water line to the old bathroom needed to go around the soil stack. Instead of adding a couple of elbows to the old line, the last person to do the work decided to see how well copper bends, and simply forced it around the stack to fit it into the T (which could have gone anywhere in the line…I’m still not sure why it had to be there). Of course, this put a lot of tension on the pipe and as a result it could only be pushed a couple of millimeters into the joint. Recognizing that this probably wasn’t sufficient, the “plumber” who did the work then wired the pipe to the stack to hold it in place.

Needless to say, a 40 minute job became a much larger situation as a result.

There are some lessons to be learned here. First, before you start any renovation, make sure you go over every inch of what needs to happen just to make sure you don’t get any nasty surprises. Oh, you will anyway, don’t kid yourself, but at least this way you can say you tried. Secondly, be ready to laugh at yourself. Blistering the paint with a verbal tirade after something goes wrong might briefly feel good, but it makes the neighbours uncomfortable, and let’s face it, it never helps to get the job done and all you really end up with is a sore throat.

Above all, if you don’t know what you are doing, please call a professional. It might cost a little more at the outset, but if it all goes wrong (as it so often does) it will cost a lot more to get the basement dried out and the carpet replaced than it would have to get the job done right in the first place. We can help you with this. Not only can we provide professional installation for all our products, we can give you time saving and helpful advice to help you avoid those unforeseen catastrophes.

Good luck, and happy renovating!

– Chad Vankoughnett