Renovation & Design

Renovation & Design

Draft dodger

Marc LaBossiere
February 15


Renovation & Design

Think outside the box when insulating basement

We have an insulated concrete form (ICF) basement and are putting up drywall as per code. There are some areas that we can’t access to put up drywall, including behind the furnace. Is there anything else you can suggest that might work?

Thank you — Paulette

Answer: There may be a few different options for covering your foundation walls which may not employ conventional methods you are using in the rest of your basement. Thinking somewhat outside the box can often be a good method to solve a difficult situation like limited space to install wall coverings.

Insulated concrete forms or ICFs, are a relatively recent product that incorporates foam insulation in the process of pouring concrete. When assembled, the foam blocks act as the actual form, replacing traditional plywood or metal styles, to hold the concrete in place until set. The opposing sides of these units are held together with plastic bars or webs, eliminating the need for metal form ties. This saves significant time and labour in not requiring removal of the forms and removal or cutting of metal ties. The other benefit of this system is eliminating the need to insulate the foundation wall on the inside or outside.

Once the concrete is set, and the rest of the house is built over top of the ICF foundation wall, finishing the interior is relatively easy. The plastic components of the ICF units actually become anchors for fastening sheathing directly to the foundation. Because of the unique design, no polyethylene air/vapour barrier is required. So, installing wall sheathing is quite easy by screwing directly to the plastic anchor locations. While some jurisdictions may allow the ICF to remain uncovered in an unfinished basement, others may require the foam to be covered for safety enhancement.

The foam insulation in an ICF, and many types of rigid foam boards, may emit toxic compounds if burned. Because this material is present inside the living space, it should be covered with fire-resistant material to prevent easy combustion. Depending on the requirements of your municipality or city, and the type of building, this will normally range from a layer of Standard drywall to one or more layers of thicker fireguard drywall, which has a higher fire rating. The higher the rating, the longer it will take for an active fire to penetrate the gypsum board and ignite the foam insulation.

Enquiring what type of drywall is needed in your basement is important before proceeding. Once determined, the easy to reach areas of your foundation may be covered by simply fastening the sheets directly to the ICF fastening points with appropriate drywall screws. If the surface of the ICF or fastening points are uneven, strapping the surface beforehand may help prevent uneven drywall seams, which can make taping the wall more difficult. This will increase the room needed for application, which can make your dilemma even more difficult to address.

It may appear that you will have trouble securing the drywall sheets behind your furnace if there is not enough room to fit in, but other choices may be available to you. While use of a thinner or more flexible wall covering may seem like an option, it may not achieve the fire rating necessary for adequate protection. Since the drywall sheets required are less than one inch thick, you may only need a little more room than that to install the wall coverings. There are more ways than one to fasten the drywall and using some form of adhesive may address your issue.

Many types of construction adhesives are available that will bond just about any type of wall covering. These may be available in cans or tubs to apply to the back of the drywall with a trowel. Even more common are glues sold in caulking tubes, which can easily be beaded on to the back of the sheathing in a desired pattern for good coverage. Once applied, only a few extra centimeters may be needed to slide the sheet behind the offending furnace. The drywall may have to be temporarily secured to the wall until the adhesive sets, but wedging anything behind the furnace cabinet that firmly holds the drywall against the foundation should suffice. Make sure any shims or blocking can easily be removed without damaging the surface of the drywall or the furnace cabinet.

The final consideration is protection of the foam insulation on the ICF, itself. Fastening rigid wall sheathing to the inside plastic foam should only be attempted if it is not damaged during installation. Care must be taken not to take chunks out of the insulation during this operation, otherwise the insulation properties may be reduced. Also, many solvent-based adhesives can actually react with the foam, causing it to deteriorate or melt. Make sure you use an adhesive specially designed for use with rigid foam insulation to prevent irreversible damage.

Typical fastening of gypsum wallboard to your ICF foundation may be done with conventional drywall screws, but other methods may be possible to secure it in the other locations that may seem unapproachable. Employing construction adhesive designed for use with rigid foam insulation, instead of screws, may allow you to comply with fire safety regulations in covering the combustible foundation interior.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and the past president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors — Manitoba ( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at

Ari Marantz
February 15

Renovation & Design

Life's a breach

Marc LaBossiere
February 8

Renovation & Design

Let the sunshine in

Laurie Mustard 
February 8

Renovation & Design

Sealing chase at top of building enclosure should stop moisture

Question: I have a question about what to do about moisture collecting on the underside of the metal cap of my false chimney chase. The entire chase has insulation and vapour barrier, but it would be considered a cold zone. Where it penetrates the roof, there in a piece of R10 rigid foam board, which is screwed and tuck taped to the framing, basically sealing off the upper portion above the roof line.

The problem happens every winter, when a small amount of moisture-laden air enters the chase above the roof line. This moisture collects on the cold chimney cap in the upper part of chase, which turns to frost. When the temperature warms to about -5C and the sun is out, of course the frost melts and you can hear water droplets falling on to the rigid foam below.

I know its not a lot of water, because I can access the bottom of the chimney chase, and I see a small puddle which eventually dries up. But, I want to fix this once and for all. 

First I would remove the metal cap and spray foam on the underside to stop the frost from forming. Secondly, I would put a static vent on the cap cover to allow the moisture to escape.

Do you think a regular roof vent would work if I screw and silicone it down to the chase? I should mention that the chimney is for esthetics only, and is part of the house design.  Thanks, Arny.


Answer: A small amount of moisture from frost buildup inside your open chimney chase may be a minor inconvenience, but can be difficult to prevent without air sealing additional areas. While insulating the underside of the metal cap may help somewhat, concentrating on sealing the chase before it leaves the building enclosure may be more successful than trying to vent the top of the chase, itself.

A small amount of moisture dripping onto a piece of waterproof foam insulation in the attic, or at the roofline, a couple of times each winter should not be a major concern. Regardless, I commend you on trying to find a simple solution to this problem. To fully address this issue, you must understand the forces that create this stack effect in your home.

The stack effect is the name given to the natural airflow inside a building enclosure, due to warm air rising. Inside your chimney chase, which is a true stack, cold air may leak into the bottom from the basement. The heat generated by the gas fireplace, and the central heating system in the home, will warm this air, forcing it up the inside of the false chimney. If there are any air gaps at the top of this area where it enters your attic, which is likely, the warm air will continue upwards. It will start to cool as it makes its way through the cool attic and if it still has enough heat energy it will leak into the chase above the roofline. This is where you are seeing the results, frost and condensation.

To prevent the stack effect from occurring, ideally the chimney chase should be well sealed at the bottom and the top. This will prevent air leaking into the cavity, while the sealed top will stop air movement, because it will have no where to escape the sealed enclosure. Adding a vent to the chimney cap, or chase above the heated home, may actually increase air movement, causing more frost buildup. It may help vent the small amount of water dripping onto the rigid foam once the weather warms, but that water may increase in volume.

A better solution is to try and stop the air movement before it leaves the heated building enclosure. Installing another couple of layers of rigid foam, or blown-in high density foam, inside the chase at the floor of the attic should work better. This will require crawling into the attic and cutting open the chase, but may yield a better result.

Adding a passive vent to the top of your false chimney chase may do little to prevent your frost and dripping issue. Sealing the chase at the top of the building enclosure, which is the attic floor, should go much further in preventing warm air intrusion, which is the root cause of the melting and dripping frost.


Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and the past president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors — Manitoba ( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at


Ari Marantz 
February 8

Renovation & Design

Cleaning ink off leather may not be neccesary

Question: How do I remove ballpoint ink off a white leather chair?

Answer: The safest solution is to do nothing — ballpoint ink on leather often fades on its own, over time. If you do not want to wait, apply a small amount of dish soap and water onto the area, this may be all you need to get the job done. Whenever attempting to clean leather, you should always test cleaners on an inconspicuous area first. Over the years, readers have had great results getting rid of ink stains by using non-bleach, non-gel toothpaste, shaving cream, hairspray, Goof Off, Goo Gone, Sunlight bar soap, mosquito repellent containing DEET, saddle soap, Windex, Calvin Klein Obsessions cologne or Axe Body Spray. Discontinue application if leather dye begins to fade. Another favourite leather cleaner and renewing product is Urad (available online).


Question: What is the fastest way to ripen an avocado? Thanks, — Robyn

Answer: Wrap the avocado in foil and place it on a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 95C and bake for 10 minutes (or until the fruit is soft). Put the fruit in the fridge until ready to use.


Question: What is the best way to clean brass? — Helmet

Answer: While some people use ketchup or A1 Steak Sauce, as their number one go to for brass, I have found that WD-40 is the most effective cleaner. Spray the brass, leave for 10 minutes and polish. After cleaning, apply a thin coat of wax to the brass to prevent it from tarnishing as quickly.


Question: I need a laundry stain remover solution using vinegar, water and baking soda. Thanks. — Lynne

Answer: Here is a spot remover that you can use to pre-treat stains as well as several other machine washable, colourfast fabrics. Into a spray bottle combine 2/3 a cup ammonia (or vinegar), 2/3 cup of Dawn dish soap, 1/4 cup baking soda and two cups of warm water. Spray fabric and wash with heavy-duty detergent. Or boil fabric in 10 cups of water and one cup of washing soda. Boil for five minutes and hang outside to dry (test on inconspicuous area first).


Clever ideas

● I use an old round CD holder to carry my bagels when I pack my lunch for work. It comes with a lid, and it’s the perfect size.

— Marvin

● To prevent strawberries from rotting, I wash them in four parts water and one part white vinegar. Dry them thoroughly with a towel. They will last for a long time.

— Hilda

● The easiest way to clean crumbs and dust that falls between the keys on your keyboard is to run the sticky part of a Post-it Note between the keys. The dirt actually sticks to the paper.

— Blossom

● Grind up one cup of uncooked rice in a coffee grinder to clean the grinder and sharpen its blades.

— Alex

● To get rid of the hiccups, I take a breath and hold it for 10 seconds. Then without letting that breath out, I take another breath and hold it for 10 seconds. The hiccups disappear. Of course, this should only be used if you don’t have any medical conditions.



Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email at: Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website:



Reena Nerbas 
February 8

Renovation & Design

Growing gains

Colleen Zacharias
February 1

Renovation & Design

Vibrant vinyl flooring a hit

Marc LaBossiere RENO BOSS
February 1

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