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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.
The Latest on Storage
Shelving Storage is the one thing in most American homes that... as the song says... "there's just too little of." Not enough closet space, not enough shelf space. Simply nowhere to put anything. There are companies that are making millions selling storage systems in every size, shape and form that can help you make the most out of every inch of available space. We often have mentioned closet systems in our articles and how they can substantially increase the amount of "usable" storage space at your place. But we haven't spent enough time in the garage or garden. These locations also are very important.
Every time we've moved into a new home, we've followed the same setup routine. The first order of business always has been to organize the garage for maximum storage... installing shelving and a workbench. Once the garage has been organized, moving into the rest of the house is a breeze.
In the past we built our shelves and workbench ourselves. We fired up the pickup and made a trip to the local lumberyard where we got the needed plywood, 2x4's, brackets, braces and screws. At this point we were able to begin personalizing every available inch of our new garage. Unfortunately, we have recently discovered that built-in plywood shelving isn't always the most practical alternative. Yes, it is inexpensive and sturdy and it can be fabricated to exactly fit our personal needs, but once it's in, it's kind of permanent, and changing the configuration can get complicated.
Metal shelving always has been available, but was expensive and required hours of assembly. Times have changed. We've discovered that you can now buy prefabricated steel shelving that's improved over what it used to be. It is lightweight, unbelievably easy to assemble, strong and, best of all, you don't need a truck to get it home. Even with all the advancements, we still want to offer an idea or two and a few precautions about installing prefab shelving of any kind.
First, we want to tell you about the shelving itself, and why it interests us. By volume, steel is heavier than wood. But when it comes to sheer strength a tiny piece of steel will hold more than a gigantic piece of wood. Therefore, a lightweight steel frame can hold as much as... or more than... a heavy set of wood shelves. So, with steel "lightweight" doesn't mean weak. Older-style metal shelf systems were heavy and the ends of the assembly parts were sharp. One could easily be cut. This is no longer a problem. We have found the components to be smooth. And, best of all, at least for the systems we looked at, you won't need nuts, bolts or washers to connect everything. Just stand four uprights on end and intersect them with interlocking shelves. You might need a rubber mallet, or a hammer and a block of wood, to firmly seat the shelves into the uprights. Even better, shelves can be added, removed or adjusted to satisfy changing storage needs.
Take certain precautions regardless of what your shelving is made of... wood, steel or plastic. If it's freestanding it can get top-heavy and topple over. And top-heavy or not, your shelving should be anchored to the wall for safety's sake, especially if you live in earthquake country. Using approved connectors and heavy screws will hold everything safely against the wall no matter what the condition. Later, if you want to relocate a shelf all you'll have to do is loosen a couple of screws.
This type of shelving is usually about a foot deep and 6-feet to 7-feet tall. In the past we have connected two sets of shallow shelving to create one set of 2-foot-deep shelves. Just place one set of shelves immediately in front of the other, and clamp the two together with two or three self-taping sheet-metal screws. Takes about 10 seconds and holds like a welded joint. And disassembly is even quicker. Back to workbenches. Today's workbenches range from a piece of plywood and a pair of sawhorses to fancy cabinetry topped with countertops made of everything from particleboard to steel. You also can purchase kits that allow you to assemble a modest-sized bench that contains locking cabinets, a small storage closet with a pegboard backing and shelving above.
Choosing Roofing Material
A roof does more than keep a home dry. It usually has an impact on the overall appearance of a home and hence, its value. And, because a new roof is one of the single largest home-improvement expenses, it makes sense to choose material that will enhance a home's architecture and last a long time.
Wood, asphalt, metal, slate and cement are the most common choices. For the most part, roofing material is a durable, yet decorative, layer that covers a waterproof membrane which is the real stopgap from water entering the home. The roofing material simply protects the membrane from becoming damaged. Most membranes consist of an asphalt-impregnated building felt with the seams lapped for proper water shed. The membrane is available in various thicknesses (weights) and widths.
Asphalt shingles are by far the most popular roofing choice. There are two types - organic and fiberglass. Organic shingles consist of a wood-fiber base that is saturated with asphalt and coated with colored mineral granules. A fiberglass shingle consists of a fiberglass mat, top and bottom layers of asphalt and mineral granules.
One advantage that a fiberglass shingle has over the organic type is fire resistance. Fiberglass has a UL Class A rating while organic shingles have a UL Class C in the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) system for classifying fire resistance. Roofing materials are rated Class A, B or C, with A having the highest resistance to fires originating outside the structure.
Organic or fiberglass, asphalt shingles come in a variety of weights, styles and colors. In general, the thicker and heavier the shingle, the longer it will last. The three-tab shingle is the most common, lightest and least expensive. The architectural grade or layered shingle is heavier, more attractive and pricier.
Wood shingles were once the rage, but their popularity has waned due to concerns about their ability to resist fire. Wood shingles have a UL fire rating of Class B, C or none at all. Wood shingles and shakes are made from cedar and sometimes redwood, southern pine and other woods. The appearance and lasting quality of a natural wood roof can be greatly enhanced if it is treated regularly (every three to five years) with a shingle and floor oil. A good wood roof care program consists of cleaning with a power washer, select replacement of damaged material and oil treatment. A pigment in the oil will offer greater protection from damage by ultraviolet rays, one of the biggest causes of deterioration of wood roofing.
Because consumers love the look of wood, manufactures are producing shake look-alike material. These impostors look like shake, but, in most cases, have a UL Class A fire rating. Look-alike roofing materials include metal tiles and concrete or fiber-cement shakes.
Tile-clay or concrete - is a durable but fairly expensive roofing material. Mission-style and Spanish round-topped tiles are widely used in the Southwest and Florida. Flat tiles are also available to create a French and English look. Tile is available in an array of colors and finishes. One concern with tile is its weight. If it is being used to replace another type of roofing material it is important to verify that the structure will support the load. An engineer can help here.
Slate, one of our favorites, literally is stone. Quarried in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, it comes in different colors and grades, depending on its origin. Considered virtually indestructible, it is more expensive than other roofing materials. Furthermore, its application requires a highly skilled craftsperson. As with the shake and tile, slate has its look-alike cousins which are significantly less expensive and can be installed by an experienced roofer. Slate look-alike material is made from portland cement which is reinforced with cellulose fibers.
Metal, once reserved for commercial roofing, has found a growing niche in the residential market. The two most common types of metal roofing are standing-seam and corrugated panels. The standing-seam material is generally factory finished with paint or a powder coating. The corrugated panels and tile look-alike material are subject to a rigorous factory priming process followed by a granular mineral finish. Metal is durable, but its life expectancy ultimately depends on the properties of the metal selected, its coating and its installation.
The price of a new roof can vary widely. To get a good idea of the cost of your roof, get three or four estimates from reputable contractors in your area. Keep in mind that cost is only one factor, and it must be balanced against the quality of the materials and workmanship.
How long should a roof last? Different materials have different life expectancies. The American Society of Home Inspectors provides the following estimates: asphalt shingles, 15-30 years; wood shakes/shingles, 10-40 years; clay/cement tiles, 20-plus years; slate, 30-100 years; and metal 15 to 40-plus years. These estimates depend on local conditions, installation, quality of materials, proper design and maintenance.
KAREL’S KORNER: The Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen in the body. Collagen is necessary for structural soundness of bones, teeth, connective tissue, skin, cartilage and capillary walls. Connective tissue plays a role in wound and burn healing. It is important in protecting the body. By creating stronger tissue, the body can resist invasion by microorganisms and infectious diseases. Vitamin C increases immune function by helping to boost adrenal and thymus function.
Smokers who also take Vitamin C, have statistically lowered their risk of bladder cancer. Vitamin C helps to cancel the formation of nitrosamines. These are present in many cured meats and sausages, which have been linked to certain types of cancers.
Vitamin C also aids in the formation of serotonin. This is a compound that mediates our moods and sleeping habits. It is believed that a balanced state of mental health can be reached through Vitamin C supplementation.
I must warn you, not all forms of Vitamin C have equal restorative capabilities. The most effective form of Vitamin C is the one that has the highest absorption rate. This Vitamin C is in the form of mineral ascorbates. It has the proper mineral transporters already chelated to the Vitamin C molecule. This causes greater assimilation and a more timed-release action. This form of Vitamin C is also naturally buffered creating a less acidic environment. The best formulations also contain bioflavinoids, which increase the effectiveness of the Vitamin C up to 50%.
So eat right, exercise and take proper supplementation