The Professional Choice

A companion overview to the popular "Ask Mr. Handyman" radio program airing on Christian Talk Radio, KCRO 660AM Saturdays @ 9:30AM.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Deck Replacement? Many Options!

One of the first questions your professional handyman will ask as part of the deck-designing process is: What type of material do you want to use? Your first thought might be wood, but composite lumber also has its benefits. Never heard of composite lumber? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both decking materials to help you choose what will work best for your particular deck design.


Cedar and pressure-treated woods are your options in this area. Cedar, with its deep red, looks the most natural and proves rot resistant. It also doesn’t absorb moisture. The same holds true for pressure-treated woods, but they come in a wide range of grades. If you do opt for pressure-treated wood, choose the higher grades, which often are kiln-dried before and after being pressure treated.

Composite Lumber

This material most often features a composition of recycled plastic and bamboo fibers, wood chips or sawdust. It also resists rotting and warping due to moisture. Some common brands are AZEK, TimberTech and Trex.


Pressure-treated wood costs the least with cedar costing about 3 times more. Composite lumber costs the most.


Cedar requires pressure washing and resealing every one to two years, but no matter how well you maintain cedar, it will fade. It also requires somewhat delicate use, as cedar is a soft wood that gets easily dinged. Pressure-treated wood, on the other hand, cleans easily and holds up well to abuse. Again, opt for the higher-grade pressure-treated woods for the best results. Composite decking requires the least amount of maintenance, as it can be cleaned with a regular hose and sprayer.


A cedar deck will last 15 to 20 years, with decks built close to the ground or in the shade lasting on the lower side of that range. Certain pressure-treated decking products come with a limited lifetime warranty, and composite lumber decking products typically offer a limited 20-year warranty.

When choosing a decking material, keep in mind the upfront costs as well as the long-term maintenance costs. Overall, spending more upfront may be the best long-term investment.

One final thought, if you strive to use only eco-friendly products in your life, a composite lumber will best suit your style. Most composite materials are made from recycled products.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Water Your Foundation?

Most homeowners know that in extreme conditions of excessive moisture (usually in the form of rain) there may be some movement of their foundation, concrete sidewalks and driveways. The hydrolic pressure posed by expanding soils will easily move a house and all of its contents a few inches over time. The same holds true of extreme conditions of dryness, such as the current drought conditions throughout most of the country. The moisture in the soil receeds and causes the home to move in the opposite directions.

Ground movement due to the drought has caused concrete roadways to buckle and water-mains to burst.

A recent caller described her brick chimney as pulling away from the house but upon further analysis it was determined that her home was settling away from the well-supported chimney. Other homeowners are calling about doors not shutting properly, cracks in the drywall near their windows and doors and cracks in their foundations.

To help prevent the excessive movement of your home, water near the foundation in these extreme dry conditions. If you notice a 1/2 inch crack, or wider, in the dirt in or around your foundation, or between the dirt and the foundation, your house is subject to settling issues. With cracks that wide, too much watering at one time will lead to moisture in the basement so it must be done gradually over a period of a few days to a few weeks. One of the best methods is to use "soaker" hoses and keep them a foot or two away from the foundation while in use. Start out with watering about 1/2 hour a couple times a day to longer periods if a change in the width of the cracks is not noticable.

Foundation repairs are very costly. Repairs to the cracks in the walls, ceilings and adjustment of doors and windows can be costly as well. Spending some time and a few extra dollars on your water bill may be all it takes to keep your home from settling in these extreme weather conditions.