Cottager-approved building materials

Cottage building expert Steve Maxwell's round-up of today’s best materials

By Steve MaxwellSteve Maxwell


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Looks like wood

Trex composite deck and dock materials are a fifty-fifty blend of recycled wood fibres and plastic that replace lumber in most outdoor applications and eliminate the need for finishing. Unlike most other brands, which have hollow extrusions requiring edge caps, Trex makes a solid composite. They have two new versions that imitate the look of wood grain: Accents, which features a texture reminiscent of domestic hardwoods, and Brasilia, which has the contrasting colour tones of tropical hardwoods.

Rot reducer

Rot Not, a Canadian product, is a series of plastic strips designed to cap deck joists and beams before the deck surface goes down. It keeps moisture out of the vulnerable contact zone between these wood parts, greatly reducing the opportunity for rot to set in. Versions are available to cover single 11⁄2″ joists, double joists, and the top end of 4 x 4 support posts.




Rain drain

You can extend the working life of wood siding if you create space for ventilation and a drainage path for errant water to trickle out from behind wall surfaces. Home Slicker 10, a coarse, non-woven synthetic mat that’s about 10 mm thick, provides such a path. Unfurl it over housewrap, staple it down, then nail siding directly on top. The mat is firm enough that it doesn’t squish completely, preserving an open vertical drainage channel that’s also impervious to insect invasion. Just be sure to keep the bottom gap open, and you’re all set. Some brands of factory-finished wood siding need back-of-wall drainage features to meet warranty requirements, and Home Slicker 10 fits the bill.






Snappy flooring

Laminate flooring, which has been popular in Europe for 30 years and has been gaining ground in Canada since the early

1990s, now includes environmentally certified products. All the laminates in Kronopol’s collection, for example, are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Today’s best laminates are highly water- and abrasion-resistant and are easy to install without glue or hassle. Just fit the interlocking edges together and click them tight.




Energy-saving sandwiches

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are an innovative building system that replaces stud frame walls and roof framing. They’re factory-laminated sandwiches of oriented-strand board and foam that are Code-approved, easy to use, and highly energy efficient. Although SIPs cost 30–40 per cent more than traditional wood framing, they go up much faster and yield a building that’s three times stronger. Plus, according to a study sponsored by SIP manufacturer Thermapan, SIP-built structures use one-third of the energy it takes to heat Code-built wood-frame houses.


Tougher-than-wood siding

Fibre-cement siding is a great option for cladding exterior cottage walls. Made from a blend of sand, cement, and cellulose fibres, it doesn’t rot or support insects. It also comes in both factory-finished and paint-it-yourself versions. Although fibre-cement siding can be cut effectively with any electric wood saw, the operation is dusty. That’s why pros use heavy-duty industrial shears to snip the siding to length. Either way, the result is a durable siding that resists ants and powder post beetles, as well as cracking from kid-launched tennis balls. And since it looks just like wood, it also fits well in lakeside settings.


Tougher-than-wood shakes

Enviroshake is a made-in-Canada system of tapered, traditional-looking roof shakes made from a very non-traditional blend of reclaimed rubber, plastic, and plant fibres. The result is a convincing wood mimic, with greater rot resistance and longevity than any all-wood alternative, backed by a 50-year warranty. Enviroshake has been heralded for its good looks, ease of application, and environmental benefits. The system includes various surface patterns and a one-piece ridge cap available in different profiles to fit a range of roof pitches.





A roof with juice

Photovoltaic (PV) roofing materials finally make use of all that sunshine that hits the top of your cottage. Ideal for cottages off the grid, PV sheet and shingle-style roofing are available from suppliers of traditional solar-energy equipment. As with all photovoltaics, the system produces DC current that can be used to recharge batteries. As sunlight hits the ultra-thin silicon wafers that form the heart of the PV system, the energy is converted directly into electricity without any moving parts.


Waterproof your cottage

Waterproof membranes are made for use on roofs and walls to protect from ice and water damage. The concept has been

around for a while, but today’s new versions are drastically improved in quality and effectiveness. They’re also cheaper, allowing builders to put them over entire surfaces, rather than just the vulnerable locations. Most come in rolls (typically measuring one metre in width), with a gooey backing that permanently seals around penetrating nails and screws. Applying roof membranes before shingling is especially valuable at cottages, where months can pass before you discover that shingles have blown off in a wintertime windstorm.

This article was originally published on September 17, 2009

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