Bryan: We live in an older home (100+ years) which is clad with aluminum siding — much of which is at least 40 years old. As you can imagine, it’s looking a little tired. My question: Is there any type of paint available which could be used to refinish the siding? Or is replacement our only option?
Chris H., Rockwood, Ont.
Hi, Chris. Yes, you can certainly paint cladded aluminum. Now is really not the time to do it, though. If you’re happy with the aluminum siding and just want to paint it, you can look into a siding contractor or a painter, because the key there is proper preparation of the surface. So you’d have to sand or remove any peeling paint. A good exterior primer likely would be sprayed, rather than rolled on. So you’d have to tape up all the windows, set the scaffolding up and spray it with a HVLP — a high-volume low-pressure — sprayer. And, depending on the shape of the siding, you can certainly repaint it, change its look completely and save yourselves a lot of money.
However, if you are looking to replace it, I’d probably look at doing an EIFS system — that’s an exterior insulated finishing system. That’s a stucco or foam you wrap around the house and put siding over. That’ll probably help you make that old house a little more efficient, as well.
Hi, Bryan. We like your advice in the Star, helping people with their home problems. My wife and I had our home built on a hill 13 years ago and it faces fierce winds coming from the north and open farm fields. When I noticed a few broken shingles on our front lawn, I had a look with binoculars and sure enough — a few shingles were torn off near the gas fireplace chimney. The rest of our shingles are in good shape. I’ve had the area tarped and will wait until spring to deal with it. Would it be a good investment to put on a steel roof or just fix this one? Can you put a steel roof over shingles with tarpaper beneath? We are seniors and plan to live here a long time.
Herman V., Cobourg, Ont
Thanks, Herman! I enjoy helping people.
Your shingles, depending on the type you’ve installed, are likely getting into their twilight years. I would hope the side of the roof that’s facing those winds has an ice-and-water shield so that there’s no water’s getting blown up underneath them. If they’re starting to break off, that tells me the roof is taking some abuse and the shingles are beginning to show their age.
Putting on a steel roof is certainly a good idea; that’s a lifetime investment, so you’d only have to put it on once. They pretty much last forever. However, they’re also expensive. So that’s something you’ll want to consider, but you do get what you pay for. You can certainly install that roof over a shingled roof with tarpaper beneath, or the ice-and-water shield. You could strip the roof, as well.
Ultimately, you need to decide how long you plan to live there, what type of investment you want to make in the house and what you can afford. If you’re not willing to make a big investment, maybe having someone in just to repair those shingles that have come loose would be a good enough investment for now. But, as someone who’s spent money on a steel roof, I do see it as worthwhile.
I’m not sure if it’ll be a good long-term investment in terms of return when you sell the home, but it’ll certainly be a good peace of mind investment.
Hello, Bryan. When we removed the ceiling in the basement, we discovered seven ceiling joists are notched out to accommodate a radiant heating pipe. This pipe is to be removed shortly. The question is: How do we ensure the structural integrity of these joists? The tub directly above them creaks quite a bit. Is it even safe to go in there with the joists in this condition?
Arlene M., Elliot Lake, Ont.
Well Arlene, first of all, unless you know exactly what you’re doing, you should never, ever notch in the joists. For any reason. This is because there are specifications based on strength calculations, or the floor loads being held up by those joists. Of course, there’s some wiggle room on either side and the chances of the floor being in imminent collapse is fairly small. When you fill a tub there’s a lot of water in there, so it could be creaking for a number of reasons — maybe it’s tight against the wall.
So, how do we ensure the structural integrity of the joists? The best thing to do is call a structural engineer for a consultation — for something in the $400 range they’ll come out, examine it and tell you what you’re looking at.
Is it even safe to go in there? It’s hard for me to say. The subfloor, and everything attached to the floor, is actually adding strength, as well. So it’s probably not going to collapse but I can’t say that with 100 per cent certainty.
So the first thing I’d do is get either a good licensed contractor-carpenter or structural engineer to get in there and have a look at it. What they’ll have to do is draw up a stamped set of engineering drawings that will detail a fix for that floor. That may mean sistering up the joists, as in gluing and nailing additional lumber to the side of those joists to fix the areas that were compromised structurally.
Bryan: We have replaced the windows in our home generally with casements, approximately 20 years ago, and now some of them have failed seals in the thermopanes. A supplier has told me that they can’t be repaired, because the PVC frames are too brittle and new parts are no longer available. Are new windows our only option?
Tom, those are pretty old windows. I can say that 20-year-old PVC certainly gets pretty brittle. Depending on the type of windows they are, they may be able to be opened up and the thermopanes could be resealed and repaired. But that’s rare.
Usually vinyl or wood windows are a little more flexible and easier. If the PVC is heat-relative in the corners and everything is sealed into a unit, they’d be pretty hard to repair. Of course, there are companies out there that say they can repair thermopanes, reseal them, fill them with gas and all that kind of stuff.
With the seals gone on the thermopanes, I’m sure you’re getting moisture and condensation in between the windowpanes. If it’s happening on quite a few of them, then replacing the windows may be the best, albeit more expensive, option for you. You mentioned you talked to one supplier — I would talk two or three of them, as well as manufacturers, and weigh your options. Then take it from there.
Hi, Bryan. I have a 1,100-sq.-ft. bungalow with baseboard heat. Last year, our first here, our hydro bills were sky-high. The question is: Would heating the basement help lower costs to overall hydro usage? The winter months ran about $520 a month. Thank you.
Dan N., Wolfe Island, Ont.
I feel your pain, Dan. Our first home was about the same. It was a 950-square-foot bungalow and I was in the $500-600/month range to heat it in the winter, as well. But we were actually on a very inefficient gas furnace with very little insulation in the home — it was rough.
So would heating the basement help lower the costs to overall hydro usage? That’s tough to say. You’re going to be heating more space. Generally, when you have a furnace in the basement, keeping that area warm means the furnace doesn’t have to work as hard to warm up the air to warm the rest of your home. So that means insulating your basement properly will increase the efficiency of your furnace, because it won’t have to work as hard heating cold air throughout the rest of your house.
There’s a bunch of stuff you can do to save your money. Heating the basement just means heating more space. So I would look at a couple of things. The easy option, first, would be caulking and sealing around all your doors and windows, putting in new weather-stripping and adding insulation to the attic to actually retain some of that heat. If it’s an option for you — if the basement’s unfinished and it would be a fairly easy install — you may want to put in a high-efficiency gas or propane furnace that would be a better option than electric baseboard heating.
Generally, heating the basement is pretty effective if you’ve got a furnace that’s heating up the air to warm the house, anyway. With baseboard heat in the individual rooms, that’s not really an option. You can turn down the heat in the rooms you don’t use, but ultimately you’re going to want to insulate that house and seal any air leaks to retain the heat that you do have.