Bryan, how do we protect our home from a squirrel invasion? We have lived in our 1911-built detached home for 35 years, near Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood. We had new windows installed about seven years ago, all with nylon fly screens. But this year squirrels are gnawing at those screens, creating two- to three-inch holes. At least five of our neighbours have had this dilemma. So we replaced some of the screens with aluminum and after two weeks it happened again. I heard that maybe stainless steel screens might work but have not been able to find anyone to install them. Have you heard of anything like this, and what would you suggest to eliminate this problem for next spring?
Richard T., Toronto
Those pesky squirrels! This is a tough one because squirrels are pretty ingenious — if there’s anything they can get their teeth on, they’ll chew it. I’d think stainless steel screens would probably not feel good on your teeth if you’re a squirrel. However, that’s not going to be cheap. You could put Florida-style security grids on the windows, but I don’t think you’d want to do that. It doesn’t really match the ambiance of the neighbourhood.
What I’d honestly recommend to you is talking to a wildlife control company. They might have some better suggestions on how to keep those squirrels out of your ducts.
Or you could always get a cat.
Hi, Bryan. I had my backyard decked over this summer, as a huge tree was preventing any grass from growing. I loved the result but, unfortunately, I left leaves from said tree sitting on the deck for too long. This resulted in ugly black splotching on the deck. I tried to get rid of it by hosing down and brushing, but with no luck. I was told not to finish/seal the deck for a year. It is made of treated wood in a blond colour. Would a mixture of bleach/water help and if so in what proportions? Many thanks.
Sandra H., Hamilton, Ont.
Well, Sandra, it’s tough when you get organic material on lumber. Whether it’s pressure-treated or not, you’ll get a bit of a stain. Obviously, if it’s protected from the sun and other areas aren’t, you’ll get some bleaching from the sun. As the water hits it, the protective chemicals in the wood will leach out a little bit and over time the wood will become exposed.
The reason you were told not to finish the deck for a year is that there are a lot of preservatives in the wood that will leech out a little bit, and they will actually come through the seal. The wood also needs a bit of time to dry out, as the preservatives typically make the wood very wet. There are a number of deck cleaners available — I’d suggest going to the paint section of your local Lowe’s store and talk to them about some different options for deck cleaning. The problem with the bleach mix is it’s going to bleach that area of the deck — so you may get rid of the stain, but you’ll end up with a big bleached area on the deck that looks even worse.
If you’re thinking of using a pressure washer, that’s probably not a good idea. If you get too close to a wood deck with a pressure washer, it could actually break apart the fibres of the wood, leaving you with a fuzzy deck that looks terrible and is difficult to finish and repair.
So I would stay away from the bleach unless you want to bleach the entire deck. There’s product for that as well. If you’re determined to do that, you should first try it on a piece of that same deck material and see how it looks.
Hi, Bryan. We have a three-level backsplit, built in 1969. The front is brick veneer with a crawlspace beneath, and the back is aluminum siding on the top level with a poured concrete basement beneath. We are considering replacing the top-level siding and would like to upgrade the insulation — I believe it’s about two-inch insulation with paper covering, and half-inch fibre board. Which would you recommend in terms of feasibility and cost: 1) Remove the old siding and insulation, and replace with spray foam and conventional siding; or 2) leave the rockwool and apply rigid foam and siding/stucco. We are concerned with possibly trapping moisture inside the wall cavities and longevity of the siding/stucco. Thanks.
Those are both good options, Peter. Peeling the siding from the outside and spray foaming it will certainly give you the highest R-value. That will give you the opportunity to put on conventional siding. You could also sheet the house in stucco by doing an EIFS (exterior insulation and finishing system). That’s going to be your most expensive option, but it’ll also give you the best air seal and R-value in those walls.
Your second option — to leave the rockwool and apply rigid foam and siding/stucco — is also a good one, and a fair bit cheaper. You’ll do it all from the outside and you won’t risk disturbing the interior walls. It’s also going to provide good R-value, because the foam is solid and won’t block airflow through the wall. And I wouldn’t be that worried about trapping air in there, because houses built in 1969 really aren’t that airtight from the inside. So any moisture stuck in that air cavity is going to come into the house and get out of the walls.
It really depends on the look you want to go for, too. You could also go with conventional siding over an EIFS system. People usually think EIFS is stucco, but it doesn’t have to be — it could just be those foam panels on the outside. Then you could actually strap it and put siding on it as well. So you’ve got more options.
Bryan, we bought our house in 1987 and have always had leakage in the front bay window. So we installed a new window, hired a mason and replaced the brick under the window with a limestone sill. We recapped the bay window with an aluminum roof and caulked everything. We have done so much and it still leaks! I’m wondering: do you have any other suggestions? Thanks.
Darlene W., Ajax, Ont.
Now my question is: when do you get these leaks? Is it a lot of moisture on this window that’s showing up? Because if it’s water that’s dripping down the window on the inside, that would make me think there’s really high humidity in the house that’s condensing on the window, rather than the water getting in the window. Realistically, you’ve done the roof, masonry, flashing, window — you’ve already eliminated a lot of probabilities that the water’s coming though the window.
That’s a tough one, but one thing I’d look at is whether you’re sure it’s a leak from outside or is it that the air in your house is too humid? If it’s the latter, you can run a dehumidifier to bring down the house’s humidity. Apart from that, I’d look at the roof in other areas of the home to see if water is getting in through a rafter or a wall plate above that window.
Hi Bryan: A year and a half ago we bought a home that has a Cembrit roof — no longer available in Canada. The house is 20 years old and the roof has held up but needs a little work on cracked tiles and chipped edges. It has been hard to find someone who knows anything about this product. One roofing company charged us $250 just to look at it and then wanted another $650 just to repair the cracks. Have you come across this type of roof before? Do you have any suggestions?
Jody J., Erin, Ont.
Jody, we really haven’t dealt with any Cembrit roofs. We’ve had lots of experience with fibre cement siding panels, but not specifically roofing. My suggestion would be to get some roofing companies to look at it. You could even try tracking down a fibre cement board siding installation contractor, or hire a company that specifically does caulking. Have them take a look at it and give a price.
To me, the price actually sounds fair. By the time you get somebody there, get the ladders up, have them up on the roof to do all the work and attaching a warranty to it, the price sounds reasonable to me. But you’ll really want to ask yourself: is it really worth trying to repair this or would you prefer to replace it and put a new roof on? Obviously, the latter will be more expensive, but then you’ll have a product that the majority of roofing contractors deal with and know how to fix.