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Caulking, for a Fresh 'New' Look in Your Home

Remodeling is a wonderful way to make a tired home look like new. But not every budget or schedule allows for tackling a major project -- even when it is needed. However, there are ways to spruce up your household and to give it a fresh "new" look, without breaking the bank, by investing just a few hours on a much-needed home maintenance task such as caulking.

Caulking is that stuff that builders and contractors use to fill and seal seams where two surfaces meet, to prevent water and weather from entering and causing damage. And if your home is five to 10 years old (or more) chances are good that many of those seams are both looking shabby and probably no longer doing their job to protect your home.

While re-caulking is a great way to cosmetically freshen appearances, resealing these joints is even more beneficial as a means of preventing pervasive moisture from getting into walls or under tile and floors where nasty mold and rot can do their dirty work. Consequently, what could have amounted to the cost of a tube or two of caulking and a bit of time may end up costing you a second mortgage and some major rot repair.

So, it's off to the hardware store or home center for a trip down the "caulk and adhesives" aisle.

Today, selecting the right product for the job can be a confusing undertaking since there are so many different types of "caulks and sealants" designed for specific jobs and applications. And let's not forget the patching compounds and putty that are often located along the same aisle, which further complicate matters.

Unless you have a special repair need, you can get by with a few basic types of caulks and sealants, such as latex or silicone. Of these, while water-soluble latex caulk is perfect for interior use along baseboards; around windows, silicone caulk is even better.

It can be used both indoors or out and for almost any purpose. It bonds to almost any surface, does not become brittle with age and provides outstanding water- and weather-resistance. Silicone caulk and hybrid caulks with silicone are generally your best bet. And if you plan to paint when finished, be sure to buy a "paintable" silicone caulk.

Two more small products, and you're all set to give your home a total "top-to-bottom" tuneup. First, a mini-tube of new double-duty "all purpose adhesive and caulk" that can be used for hundreds of household repairs, touchups and improvements, and secondly, a roll of new special "tub and tile masking tape." The former will prevent you from having to buy 16 different tubes of caulk or adhesive and the latter is a new product that can make even the most inexperienced of home improvers caulk like a pro.

Then, it's time to decide what to do first. Tackle the seams around windows and doors or reseal the kitchen counter backsplash? If your home is like most, the seam separating the bathtub or shower pan from the adjoining waterproof wall cover has probably seen better days. Chances are one or two spots have sprung a leak and dark mildew may be making inroads as well, leaving nasty stains even after scrubbing and bleaching.

If such is the case, re-caulking the bathtub is a great place to begin. It's also easy.

First, remove the old caulk, which can be done in a number of ways. One technique is to trim it first, top and bottom, with a utility knife and to then scrape or pry it out. Other options include heating it first, with a hair dryer or heat gun, to soften the caulk or using a specially formulated chemical caulk softener.

Once the old caulk in removed, a thorough cleaning and disinfecting is a must. We recommend using one part liquid chlorine bleach in three parts warm water with a dash or two of powdered laundry detergent added. (Be sure the detergent is "ammonia free" to avoid creating dangerous fumes.) Mix thoroughly, place in a spray bottle and (wearing gloves, eye protection and with good ventilation) give seams a good scrub with an old toothbrush.

Then, rinse well and let dry completely. A hair dryer or heat gun helps remove all residual moisture. A final wipe-down with denatured alcohol is also recommended.

New "tub and tile masking tape" will help you to achieve a smooth, professional-looking caulk joint. There are three layers in this new tape and three easy steps.

First, cut the tape to length for each wall to be caulked. Second, peel off the top "protective layer" revealing a strip of yellow tape with a wider backing underneath. One edge is 1/8-inch wider, while the other side is 1/4 inch. Finally, after deciding which size bead you want, you just place that side of the tape (1/8 inch or 1/4 inch) both above and below the open seam, smooth it down and peel the backing away, leaving two perfectly straight, evenly spaced, "edging" guides.

Then, simply lay in a bead of caulk, smooth it out with a wet finger and peel away the tape before the caulk dries. You'll have a fresh "new look" tub seam (with crisp, clean edges) that any pro would be proud to claim.

Selling Your Home

Think about how you felt the last time you visited someone whose home you thought was gaudy or poorly decorated. When it comes to selling a home, an unappealing interior, exterior or yard can be serious and expensive drawbacks for the seller.

This week's offering is all about how to prepare yourself and your home for sale. When most of the potential buyers don't care for what they see, the odds for a lucrative sale substantially diminish. On the other hand, if most are pleased with your home's appearance, the potential for a sale increases. Also, the more people that like what they see, the greater the chances for not only a sale, but a lucrative one.

When preparing your home for sale, remember that first impressions are lasting ones and the front yard is the first thing that most prospective buyers will see. Fertilize and water your lawn, pull weeds and plant colorful flowers. Make your home stand out among the competition.

Next, keep in mind that a prospective buyer is a space-conscious animal. If you've been in your home for 10 years or more you probably could store half of your furniture and still have more in your home than you need. Show the walls, not your furniture. And clear them of paintings and other wall decorations.

Paint walls a light off-white color - all of them. Hide everything in the way of personal taste. Let the buyer use your plain white walls as a canvas to imagine how they will be able to decorate and personalize "their new home."

Next, get rid of that green shag carpet. What you want is an inexpensive medium earth-tone cut pile carpet. One color everywhere. And, if the floors are hardwood, give them a shine. Finally, air out your home. You might not be aware of how different your home smells to an outsider. Use fresh-air circulation and air fresheners to eliminate odors.

Your home will be competing with others in your market. Visit the competition. Count the bedrooms and bathrooms. Get a feel for the size (total square footage) of the other homes for sale. Be aware of features such as window covering, a pool, an out building, landscaping, fencing, etc. This will help you price your home. Although your real estate agent might have a handle on all of these things, it is important for you to know as well.

Study the schools in the area whether you have children or not. Leave literature about what's available on the kitchen counter. Help the buyer make up his or her mind. And don't be in a rush to sell. Your real estate agent might detect your anxiety and try talking you into selling quickly and cheaply.

Market conditions and available financing will also have an impact on the sale of your home. When the market is hot you likely can sell quickly and for a top price. But, remember... the same will apply to the home you intend to purchase.

Study the mortgage market, and learn about creative financing.

High Humidity Can Make You and Your Home Sick

Beyond feeling hot, sticky, having excessively flat hair and being generally uncomfortable, high humidity can be bad for health – your home’s health and your personal health.

When it comes to your home, high humidity can be the cause of:

  • Warping of wood floors, furniture and trim
  • Chipped and peeling paint and wallpaper
  • Wet stains on walls and ceilings
  • Musty, foul smelling odors

And when it comes to your health, high humidity can be responsible for:

  • Growth of dust mites
  • Products in the home that off-gas at higher rates causing allergic reactions
  • Growth of fungi and bacteria
  • Growth of mold and mildew
  • Clammy feeling
  • Trouble sleeping

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the ideal relative humidity range for the home is between 35 – 50 percent, at this range you are comfortable, healthy and your home is protected.

The big question is how to effectively and efficiently accomplish this? Most people try to use their air conditioner to remove humidity. But according to air quality experts, homeowners should never lower the thermostat temperature in an attempt to control humidity in their home. Setting the thermostat temperature lower does two things that are counter to your goal of reducing the moisture content in your home.

1. It actually increases the indoor relative humidity and, more importantly, it decreases the temperature of the materials in the walls, floors, and ceilings of your home, thereby significantly increasing the potential for condensation on these elements of the home.

2. Secondly, with today’s super energy efficient homes, a typical air conditioning unit will cycle on and off too quickly to eliminate excess moisture in the air.

As a result, homeowners resort to overcooling the living space while attempting to remove moisture, which leads to uncomfortable air temperatures, high energy bills and excess wear on the cooling system.

An alternative is a portable dehumidifier, which by definition will only address a small area of the home. A portable dehumidifier is designed to run at a temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while basements have an average temperature of between 58 to 65 degrees. Below 65 degrees, frost can form on the condensing coils, which negatively affects performance by causing the compressor to cycle on and off repeatedly without removing moisture from the air. While a portable dehumidifier can be valuable for a small, isolated space, common complaints are that they are noisy and require regular maintenance.

Another option to consider that is growing in great popularity is a whole-home dehumidifier. Better systems work in conjunction with the cooling system and can remove up to 90 pints of moisture from the home’s environment each day.

Whole-home dehumidifiers are designed to remove moisture while the thermostat is designed to maintain temperature. A whole-house dehumidifier automatically senses moisture levels and maintains the optimum humidity level in the home. In addition, these systems can switch between whole home and localized areas – such as a basement – offering the best of both worlds.

One of the most appealing aspects of having dehumidified air is that it actually feels cooler to the skin, thus allowing homeowners to raise the thermostat. This can result in significant energy savings (and a lower utility bill) and less wear and tear on the cooling system without sacrificing comfort.

And when it comes to maintenance, a whole house dehumidifier contains a pump and drain line that will discharge collected water into a sump or drainage system, in contrast to a portable system with a collection system that must be regularly emptied. Better whole house systems have a high efficiency filter that will usually need to be cleaned once annually.

Though a whole house dehumidifier is essential to managing excess humidity, there are preventative steps that you can take, which will further reduce the problem. They include:

  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly – use covers to keep leaves and sticks from building up in the gutters.
  • Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers and stoves to the outside where possible.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.
  • Use down spout extenders that carry water at least six feet away from the foundation.
  • Seal unwanted air leaks, such as around holes for plumbing and wiring, this is where humid outside air sneaks into the home.

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