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Home Improvement

  • Anyone who’s ever done much woodworking has run into the problem of knots, imperfections and nail holes in their wood. If we could just build things without having to deal with these little issues, it would sure make our world easier, as filling the wood, by any means, never seems to come out as good as the original. There are a couple of ways of filling wood. The first, and most common, is to use a wood filler, before finishing the wood. If you’re painting the wood, that’s no problem, as they are all sandable and accept paint well. The problem comes in when you want to stain and varnish the wood. Even the best of “stainable wood fillers” don’t accept the stain as well as the wood does. To get around this, you typically need to either work with your stain a little bit extra, possibly staining the patched area twice, while the rest of it is stained only once. These wood fillers come in both water and solvent-based versions. Traditionally, solvent-based fillers have surpassed water based ones in their quality; but recent advances in materials technology has greatly improved the quality of the water based ones. Besides, they’re much easier to clean up. Solvent-based wood fillers also tend to dry out quicker than water-based ones. So depending upon the dry time you need and the storage time as well, you may want to take that into consideration as you make your selections. Some of the solvents used in these solvent-based fillers can stain woods, so you want to be careful how you apply them. The other way of filling imperfections and nail holes in wood is with colored putties or wax. Putties are typically used for filling nail holes in interior trim after installing your woodwork. Waxes are the common way of repairing small scratches and dings in furniture, without having to refinish the whole piece. Both of these systems allow you to color match the filler to the existing grain of the wood. This can be especially tricky with woods that have an obvious grain pattern or a lot of contrast in the grain pattern. I even use putties and waxes for non-conventional applications, instead of even trying to stain normal wood fillers. Unless I’m trying to fill a really large area (something I try very hard to avoid) I find that I can get a better match by using putties and waxes, than I can by using “stainable” wood fillers, whether water or solvent based.
    March 19, 2014
  • Termites are an insect pest that are related to cockroaches, and once established in your home, not only can they can become a serious nuisance, but they can also do serious damage to the wooden framework. Termites like to eat cellulose wood fibers, and they will gut posts, beams, framing and any other type of wooden supports that they can get to. They are difficult to locate initially because they travel in tunnels dug out of the woodwork, and often the only clue you will have of termite infestation is when a post or beam begins to crumble. Detection is the key here, because if you can't detect them then you can't eliminate them. Termite treatments will be effective at eliminating and/or preventing the problem once they are found. Price will be no object on this list, ease of use and effectiveness will be most important, with a detection factor making it to the top.However, in many cases, once a termite colony is fully established in a dwelling, the only real treatment is to have them professionally eliminated. The treatments on this list can, in theory, effectively eliminate an entire termite colony. But professional testing after treatment is advised to assure you that the colony has been eliminated, and additional treatments may be required to completely eradicate a termite colony.
    March 19, 2014
  • Wasps are beneficial insects in many ways. They kill and eat many insect pests, and use them in their nests to nourish their young. In normal habitation, wasps are harmless to humans, but when they begin building nests near human dwellings, they become the pests. Wasps will fiercely and boldly defend their nests from all perceived threats, and if you get too close, they will attack. That is where the problem comes in.Wasp spray is actually a misnomer. It should be labeled as "wasp nest spray." Granted, the spray will kill individual wasps on contact, but in all cases, wasp sprays are meant to be sprayed on a wasp nest to kill the entire colony, and the best time to do this is after dark when the entire population has come home to roost. Every wasp spray has adequate killing power, but the most important overlooked feature is the distance that the spray can travel. Many wasp nests are built beneath eves or high up in the rafters, plus, the farther away you are from an active wasp nest when you give it a spray, the safer you will be. Distance of the spray and ease of use makes it to the top of the list, price will come into play and overall effectiveness and environmental safety will also be considered.
    March 11, 2014
  • By the nature of their hive system, ants are foragers. They need to invade space to find food that supplies the colony, and ultimately, the queen. They will march far and wide to find sustenance, and if that means invading your house or home, so much the better. They will gladly steal the crumbs on your countertops and kitchen floor, then they will leave a scent trail so that more of the hive workers can zero in on this new food source. You can spot kill the invading ants, but until you eliminate the colony and the queen, the ants will keep coming back.The best ant killers on this list will target, not only the ants themselves, but the queen and the entire hive population. They will be easy to use, effective and give long lasting results. The one that makes it to the top will eliminate the entire hive for a terminal solution to your ant problems. And remember, always be careful around kids and pets when using any of the substances on this list.
    March 10, 2014
  • Cockroaches evolved with the dinosaurs, and in their natural habitat, they are actually a very necessary insect in the food chain. It is when they invade a house, home or apartment that they become a nuisance. Without any natural predators, cockroaches will quickly overrun any dwelling, and they will particularly flourish in areas that are unkempt with food stuffs left laying about, grease from cooking that is not cleaned, and crumbs that are left on counters or that have not been swept up from the floor. That type of environment is a cockroaches paradise. And before you can kill them, you have to clean up their food source, or they will continue to re-infest the area.Cockroaches are notorious for their hardiness, so cockroach killers on this list must be 100 percent effective from the get-go. Price is no object here since pest eradication has no cost limitation. Ease of use will come into play, but the best cockroach killer will be quick and the most effective to rid your house or home of cockroaches ASAP. Just remember, baits and ingredients in cockroach killers are also toxic to kids and pets, so care must be taken to hide baits in places that are hard to reach and hard to get at.
    March 10, 2014
  • Silverfish are a flat bodied, silvery scaled insect that are common in most households. They are starch and sugar eating bugs, which is one of the reasons they are often found between the pages of books. Their thin and tapered bodies are perfectly adapted to fit inside of book pages, and their starch fueled appetite will eventually cause considerable damage to both the binding, where the glue is, and the wood-pulp manufactured pages themselves. They also like damp places, and will feed on mold and fungi, which means they are also commonly found in bathrooms and laundry rooms too. Although they do not carry diseases and would rather stay hidden, they can become a true pest if their numbers become high enough. Fortunately, their are some good silverfish killers available that will effectively eradicate them. Effectiveness and ease of use make it on to this list, but the best one will be safe to use in an organic formula.
    March 06, 2014
  • Mosquitoes are blood sucking insects that need a meal of blood before they can breed. Only the female sucks blood as the male flits around harmlessly gathering nectar from flowers to eat. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk, but they roost on the undersides of vegetation leaves, so a hike on a nature trail or a stroll out to the garden will disturb where they rest, and they will come looking for food. Although mosquitoes are a valuable link in the overall food chain of nature, their bite has spread many debilitating and deadly diseases throughout recorded human history. Originally breeding in swamps and stagnant pools of water, they are just as comfortable breeding in water collected in old tires, standing water in buckets and cans, and virtually any place where water accumulates and remains for a few weeks at a time.First and foremost, a mosquito killer must be effective and cost will be no object. Ease of use will be considered, and the best mosquito killer will also give you the most bang for the buck as well.
    March 05, 2014
  • Fly traps are a non-toxic alternative to eliminating flies from virtually any space. Simply hang a fly trap somewhere, and allow the trap to work by itself. It lures the flies in, catches them securely so they cannot get back out, and you can either dispose of the entire trap once filled or clean and reuse the trap once again. Fly traps that are most effective, easy to use and easy to employ will make this list, and the best one will have a combination of these qualities that are unequaled by the others. There will also be a best bang for the buck rated fly trap that works in any circumstance at a very competitive price.
    March 05, 2014
  • Flies are one of the largest and most successful insect types on the planet earth. They evolved with the dinosaurs and have been around ever since. Although there are many species of fly, the common house fly, among others types that are related, have become the pests that have plagued humans throughout history. This category of fly has become the insect that fly killers were engineered to eliminate.Overall, effectiveness makes it onto this list, but those fly killers that are able to dispatch more than one fly at a time, are the most valuable, and will make it to the top. Ease of use will also be factored in and there will be a best bang for the buck fly killer that is easy, effective and inexpensive.
    March 04, 2014
  • Cats can become a nuisance when digging in gardens, sandboxes and chasing birds away from feeders, among other activities. The cat can't be blamed, it is only doing what comes naturally, but unless this activity is curtailed, damage to your garden, health concerns about droppings in your sandbox and culling of the local bird population may occur. The most humane way to stop these activities is by the use of a cat repellent. This is a harmless, yet effective. means to deter a cat from doing what a cat does. A repellent essentially chases the cat away and teaches it that your yard or property is off limits for its behavior. By using any of the listed repellents, in no case will the cat be harmed.This list takes into account a variety of different types of cat repellents, with the most effective one making it to the top of the list. Price will be no object here, because effectiveness does not have a price, but there will be a bang for the buck product that gives the most effectiveness at the best cost.
    February 20, 2014
  • Pesky mice often need to be removed from the house, home and surrounding areas. There are so many options available that it can be difficult to know and choose what product is best for your space. Poisons work especially well when mice become trap wary and refuse to go into a trap. At times like these, there may be no alternative than to employ a poison to eliminate mouse infestation. Modern poison formulas are based on either anticoagulant properties or disruption of the nervous system. Anticoagulants cause internal bleeding, and ingested, the mouse goes into shock from loss of blood, feels no pain and succumbs. Nervous system disrupters interfere with the the basic electronic controls of life. When the nervous system shuts down, so does the mouse. Care must be taken to hide the poison so that children, pets, and other wildlife don't consume it, and never distribute mouse poison unless you are wearing gloves. The poisons on this list were chosen because they are the most effective, easy to use, and affordable. Bait packs top the list because they keep the poison contained until eaten. That means safety first for children and pets alike.
    February 19, 2014
  • Rats are very intelligent animals, and unless there are only a few of them that can be trapped out quickly, they will become trap wary. Traps that once worked will suddenly not be visited, they may be turned over or they may be soiled with urine and feces that tell other rats to keep away. When this occurs, the only solution may be a rat poison. Poison formulas have come a long way since the early days of using toxic chemicals. Many are anticoagulants which, once ingested, cause internal bleeding. The rat goes into shock from loss of blood, feels no pain and succumbs. Care must be taken to hide the poison so that children, pets, and other wildlife don't consume it, and never distribute rat poison unless you are wearing gloves. The poisons on this list were chosen because they are the most effective, easy to use, and affordable. Bait packs top the list because they keep the poison contained until eaten. That means safety first for children and pets alike.
    February 13, 2014
  • Time makes fools of us all and rots all of our belongings. From the boat to the home, sealants keep our engines running, houses standing and electronics humming by simply blocking out the elements. There are numerous kinds of sealants and each of them does a specific job, which means you need to be diligent to avoid using the wrong one and potentially ruining something expensive. Below you will find lists of the best sealants in each of the major categories chosen for their cost efficiency, working life and tightness of seal among other qualities. Do the research, buy the best and seal the deal.
    December 16, 2013
  • The most important part of any paint job is called surface preparation. I don’t care how good a pint you buy or how much you spend on it, if you don’t have a good surface to apply it to, it’s not going to last. That means that the surface has to be properly primed as well, as the primer is what bonds the substrate and the paint together. While it is possible to paint many surfaces without priming them first, it’s not advisable. There are several things that primers do, which paints aren't really designed to do. While many manufacturers are now advertising their paints and “paint and primer in one,” the reality is that those paints still don’t do as good a job as a true primer will. Quality paints are designed for coverage. More than anything, that means putting a thick coat of high pigment, high solids paint on the surface, which will cover up whatever is underneath it in one coat, so that you don’t have to go back and do it again. At the same time, these paints are designed to remain somewhat flexible, so that they don’t crack and bubble over time. An unprimed surface causes serious problems with the paint being able to cover well. Most substrates used in construction are porous, so some percentage of the paint soaks into the substrate and is not available to provide cover and weather protection. The more porous the surface is, the less paint remains on the surface to cover and protect from the weather. Primers are designed very different than paints; with the main goal of soaking into the substrate and sealing it. By doing that, they make it possible for the paint to stay on the surface, where it can provide the most protection to the building. Another reason for using primer is that not all substrates are compatible with all paints, or even with any paint at all. Aluminum, for example, doesn't bond well with any paint. By using a special aluminum primer, you create a chemical bond with the aluminum substrate, providing a good surface for the paint to adhere to. Properly primed aluminum will allow the paint to last for years longer than applying paint directly to the aluminum substrate. Some primers also provide a stain hiding capability, which is often necessary when repainting a home. Mold and mildew, water stains and children’s artwork on the wall are all serious problems which paints have trouble covering. It is not the color of these stains that causes the problem, but rather the fact that these stains actually seep through the new paint, staining it. A sealing primer dries fast enough to prevent that, trapping the stain in the substrate. When picking a primer, you have to be cognizant of the reason you are priming. For new construction, this is usually to promote good adhesion and long paint life. Those reasons can apply to repainting as well, plus the problem I just mentioned about stains. You must also be sure to understand the substrate you are painting over, as that makes a huge difference in primer selection.
    November 06, 2013
  • Removing adhesive can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Since adhesives are made of all different manners of organic and synthetic substances, they’re full of different properties and thus, take specially formulated removers to clean them up (unless of course the adhesive you’re working with is waterproof). Since there are many different kinds of adhesives and all are made of diverse materials with different properties, the adhesive remover you buy needs to be able to work with multiple different glues. Every adhesive remover I've listed below can do just that. Furthermore, each of the adhesive removers below can be bought for fewer than $15. There are some very expensive removers out there that frankly have inflated price tags. The removers I have listed below for you are all top quality and cheap, so you don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money.
    October 21, 2013
  • A caulking gun is a useful tool to keep around the home. It’s used to fill in gaps, holes, cracks and make other similar repairs. It works by fitting the gun with a tube of caulking and then using the gun to dispense it. The gun allows you to control how much caulking is dispensed and do so more accurately. While there are several different types of caulking guns available such as pneumatic, electric or manual, I will be focusing on manual guns for the purposes of this list. They’re the type you’re most likely to use unless you’re a serious professional. That means every gun below has a large, squeezable trigger and a plunger rod that you have to manually operate yourself. Plus, by focusing on manual caulking guns, the price you have to pay for one will be significantly lower. Furthermore, each of the caulking guns I have listed below work with various, if not most, caulking and sealant tubes on the market. That ensures that you’re not stuck with a gun that only works with one brand of caulking, which is a pain and can be expensive. Finally, every gun I’ve listed below has a 10 ounce or 1/10 cartridge capacity. This again, further ensures that you never have to worry about not being able to find a caulking cartridge compatible with your gun.
    October 21, 2013
  • Polyurethane is a polymer that’s used as a finish/top coating/protectant in woodworking. It basically creates a hard surface that makes whatever surface it’s been applied to resistant to elements, spills, scratches, etc. In my experience, I have seen it most popular with cabinetry, floors, trim and outdoor furniture. The main thing that you want to keep in mind when it comes to polyurethane is if it offers damage protection against all manner of things. That’s pretty much the only reason you would want to use polyurethane, so it’s important that that factor is addressed. All of the polyurethanes I have included on this list offer superior protection. Another thing you have to keep in mind with polyurethane is what you will be using it for. There are two types: oil based and water based. Oil is better for exterior application and water is better for interior application because it produces fewer fumes and can be cleaned up with water. So, take a second to reflect on your polyurethane needs and then continue reading to find out what product is best for you.
    October 15, 2013
  • Somewhere in the world, there’s a room that needs painting, which is so perfect, so well cared for, that there’s nothing to fix, nothing to caulk, not one single hole to spackle. I don’t know where that room is, but there must be at least one. For me, every room I've ever painted has needed cleaning, caulking, spackling, and many times it even needed the trim to be repaired.So, if all these rooms are so imperfect, I guess it’s a good thing we have spackling paste to fill in those holes, dings, and gouges in our walls. I firmly believe that proper surface preparation is the most important part of any paint project.Spackling pastes basically come in two varieties, standard and the newer lightweight spackling. Standard spackling can be made with acrylic, vinyl, or epoxy fillers, all of which are designed to add strength to the spackling. These spackling products will work with other materials than just drywall, such as wood trim, brick and even concrete.The weight of standard spackling causes some serious problems though. You can only put a limited amount of it in a hole, or it will begin to sag, even to the point of running out of the hole. Additionally, standard spackling shrinks as it dries; heavy coats will crack from this. So, if you have any large imperfections in the wall, you can pretty much count on having to apply several coats, delaying the completion of your project.For interior walls, lightweight spacklings are a real advantage. Since they are lightweight, they can be applied in one heavy coat, as opposed to layering multiple coats. They don’t shrink as they’re drying, so they won’t crack. They are also quick drying, and sand quickly and easily. These lightweight spacklings can also be textured by touching the still moist spackling with a finger.Overall, lightweight spackling, by whatever brand, is far superior to standard spackling for interior drywall. However, it does have one drawback. If it is applied in a case where furniture, carts, or furniture will bump into it, the spackling can crush faster and easier than standard spackling. It really isn't as strong as standard spackling is. Of course, in those applications, one should have something stronger than just drywall, such as a rub rail to protect the wall.Remember, we’re talking about spackling paste here, not drywall finishing compound. You can fill holes up to about one inch in diameter with spackling. If you've got larger holes, such as from removing an electrical box, you need to fill it in with a small piece of drywall, tape it, finish it (with drywall finishing compound) and texture it.
    October 11, 2013
  • Garage floors are an especially difficult painting problem. Extreme durability is required to withstand constant abrasion, items being dropped on it and chemical spills. The paint must be extremely hard, while still maintaining some flexibility to overcome this combination of dangers. For this reason, epoxy paint is normally used. Epoxy paint is essentially a thinner, tinted version of epoxy adhesive. It is normally a two-part paint product, just as epoxy adhesives are. However, there are a few one-part epoxy products on the market which are specifically designed for use as garage floor coverings. I don’t understand how they can be one-part products, but still be epoxy. Nevertheless, their manufacturers label them as such and sell them as garage floor coatings. Epoxy cures as a chemical reaction; which is different than other paint products. Almost all other paints dry by evaporation of the solvent that is in the paint. This is why VOCs are such an issue with oil-based paints. The solvents used in these products are VOCs. They must leave the paint by evaporation for the paint to dry. Due to increased regulatory requirements, more and more of these paint products are being replaced by water-based products; as water, by definition, isn’t a VOC. Likewise, more and more epoxy paints are becoming water-based paints. From what I’ve seen, this has not reduced the quality or durability of these paints, as the epoxy still cures by a chemical reaction. Unlike other paint products, water-based and oil-based epoxy paints are extremely similar. What makes an epoxy paint good is the percentage of solids that it contains. The more solids, the heavier and more durable a coat of finish it puts on the floor. High solids epoxies also soak in less, providing better coverage. Coverage is a major issue for these products, as concrete is highly porous. A certain amount of the material soaks directly into the concrete, reducing the coverage area. This is hard to predict, as concrete used for garage floors varies considerably. The way that the concrete is finished has a part to play in coverage as well. The good news is that the more the epoxy seeps into the concrete, the better it bonds with the substrate. Before using any garage floor coating, it is essential that the floor be totally clean. This is actually a bigger challenge than applying the floor covering, as garages typically have stains from oils and other chemicals. All of these, especially the oil, will reduce the adhesion of the epoxy to the floor. If the floor isn’t cleaned and prepared adequately, the covering will not last, but will flake and peel from the floor. For this reason, it is best to apply an epoxy floor coating to new cement, before the garage is used. However, that is not always possible. If the coating is to be applied to an already existing garage floor, then it is important to take the time to thoroughly cleanse the floor. Finally, remember that two-part epoxies have a limited working time before they cure. Check the working time for the epoxy product that you purchase and ensure that you can finish the application in the time available. Once it starts to thicken, effective application is almost impossible. It is possible to mix only part of the product, rather than mixing the whole kit. However, when this is done, there is a very high risk that the second part won’t be exactly the same shade of color as the part already applied. Without exact measurement, it is impossible to maintain color consistency. When measuring to separate part of a kit out for later application or touch-up, remember that a 1:1 ratio may not be exact. Verify that both containers have the same amount of product in them, so that your measurement will be accurate.
    October 11, 2013
  • Cleaning up after a paint job always requires some sort of solvent. For latex paints, this solvent is water; but for many paint products like oil-based paint and varnish, some other solvent is needed. Unfortunately, these other solvents aren’t as benign as water. For this reason, the EPA has been creating regulations that pressure paint manufacturers to reduce the VOCs in their paints. By definition Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic liquids that evaporate. The word “organic” refers to chemicals that contain a carbon atom in their molecular makeup. The word “volatile” doesn’t mean that it is flammable, like many people think, but rather that it evaporates. This includes almost all liquids. Water gets a pass, because the water molecule H2O doesn’t contain carbon; only hydrogen and oxygen. However, pretty much everything else that it used as a solvent for paints qualifies as being VOCs. This is especially true of any oil-based products that are used as paint thinners. While manufacturers are gradually moving away from oil-based paint products, in order to satisfy FDA regulations, there are still some around. For these products, finding an appropriate solvent for cleanup and thinning of the paint is important. This need to meet FDA regulations draws a line which clearly divides all paint thinners and products. On one side of the line are the more traditional thinners, which have VOCs and on the other side of the line are newer chemical thinners which are either low VOC or don’t contain any VOCs. Some of these newer products actually work incredibly well, especially when you consider that oil and water don’t mix. In this list, we’ll cover both categories of paint thinners. Keep in mind that paint formulations vary widely, so the results you get from a particular paint thinner may be different than those that I have received. A lot depends upon the particular chemical composition of the paint product you are trying to thin. In all cases, I still have to say that the old-fashioned products work better, even though they are not as good for the environment. Before trying to pick out a paint thinner, be sure that you know what type of paint material you are expecting to use it with. This is important, as different thinners work with different paints. For example, mineral spirits is excellent for use with standard oil-based paints, but won’t do a thing for cleaning up lacquer; nor does lacquer thinner work well for cleanup of most oil-based paints.
    October 09, 2013
  • Painted furniture and architectural trim can look nice, protects the wood and can even be repainted numerous times. Nevertheless, there can come a time when it’s necessary to remove the paint, especially if the article is to be returned back to its original condition, with a varnished finish on it. There are two basic ways of removing paint; mechanically or chemically. Mechanically basically means sanding off the old paint. This can be done with sandpaper, Scotchbrite wheels in a drill, or even a plane, if you have one that is the right shape. However, chemical paint removal is much more common than mechanical, and is done with paint removers. Paint removers soften the existing paint, so that it can be scraped off the piece of furniture or architectural molding. It doesn’t usually fully dissolve the paint, but merely makes it possible for you to remove it with a putty knife or other tool. That way, you don’t have the dissolved paint running all over and staining other pieces. Regardless of this, removing paint is an extremely messy proposition. So, whenever you do it, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got drop cloths down to catch the drips and the paint that you’re removing. Keep in mind that the paint remover can also attack the finish on hardwood floors; so if you are removing paint in a room that has hardwood floors, be sure to use waterproof drop cloths; possibly rubber backed canvas or plastic backed paper. It is necessary to choose a paint remover that works well with the paint product you are removing. That isn’t always easy to determine, as you probably won’t know what types of paint were applied beforehand. With antique furniture and homes older than 50 years old, you can pretty much be assured that at least the earlier layers of paint are oil-based. Most things done in the last 40 years were painted with latex paint. Even so, there’s a grey area there, where you may not be sure what type of paint was used. For this reason, it is often necessary to do a test spot first, verifying that the product you chose will work for your project. If your project has a lot of vertical surface, it can be very useful to use a paint remover that’s in a gel form. That way, it won’t run off the surface. Another important factor is how quickly the solvents in the paint thinner evaporate. Evaporated paint thinner doesn’t help you at remove anything. Many modern paint removers are made from organic materials and designed to function with zero or very low VOCs. This is great if the product will work for your needs, but often, these products are slower, when used on certain types of paint. Regardless of what type of paint remover you choose to use, be sure to read and follow the instructions carefully. In many cases, you will need some protective equipment, such as rubber gloves, eye protection and possibly a respirator in some cases. Attention to safety is important as some of these chemicals can be very dangerous.
    October 07, 2013
  • One of the reasons why we paint and varnish wood is to protect it. All types of weather have harsh affects on wood, ultimately destroying its natural beauty and utility if the wood isn't protected. This comes into conflict with our aesthetic desires at times, wanting to leave the wood unfinished, as to enjoy its natural beauty. This is especially true of exterior wood projects, such as decks, fences, and cedar shake shingles. Sun and heat tend to dry out the wood in these projects. This is actually more of a problem than water causes, as the types of wood used for these projects withstands water damage well. However, there is no such thing as a wood that withstands the affects of sun and heat, without drying out. Dry wood is more brittle, making it more easily damaged by wind, hail, heavy rain, and objects falling on it. Splintering is common, which can make surfaces like wood decks dangerous for inhabitants of the home. The way to prevent wood from becoming damaged by sun and heat, without having to paint or varnish it, is to use a wood protector. These oil based products moisturize the wood and seal it, to hold in the moisture. With a wood protector applied, wood fences, shingles and decks last longer, with less splintering and cracking. The cost of the finish is more than compensated for by the cost savings of not having to make replacements prematurely. At the same time, these products waterproof the wood, preventing water from entering in and causing water rot. Some also have bug inhibiting capabilities, which help keep termites and other wood eating insects out of the wood. These products are usually sprayed on with an airless paint sprayer, although they can be brushed or rolled on as well. The main reason that airless sprayers are used is to save time. They don’t need to be applied neatly, although you should be careful of overspray. In some cases, wood protectors are tinted slightly, although in most cases they are transparent. This doesn't mean that they don’t affect the color of the wood though, as the natural wetting action of applying them tends to darken the wood somewhat, bringing out the natural grain and beauty of the wood.
    September 27, 2013
  • By far the most common finish used when one wants to see the grain of the wood is varnish. While there are other finishes available, varnish has been used literally for centuries. Some modern varnishes are adaptations on the original, but they still qualify as being varnish. Many of these are labeled as “polyurethane varnish” rather than just saying “varnish.” To understand the differences that these new varnishes provide, we need to have a basic understanding of the chemistry behind varnish. There are three basic ingredients in any varnish: resin, oil and a solvent. The solvent is there to allow the varnish to be brushed on and flow, with the intent that it dissolves. Therefore, it really isn’t all that important. I think we can all trust that the manufacturers will use a solvent that will accomplish the purpose. It is the other two ingredients; resin and oil that make the difference in varnishes. The types of these ingredients used, as well as the ratio between the two of them, are what give each varnish its particular characteristics. There are three types of resins used: phenolic, alkyd and polyurethane. In recent times, most varnishes are polyurethane, due to its lower cost, higher scratch resistance and clear coloration. The best (and most expensive) varnishes are made using phenolic. It is also possible that a combination of these resins will be used in one varnish. There are two types of oils used in varnish: tung oil and linseed oil. Of the two, linseed oil is by far the more common, due to its lower price. However, many people feel that tung oil is a superior product, and it is found in the higher priced varnishes. The other major distinction to look for in a varnish is the use that it is created for. Most varnish is created for indoor use, where the wood and the varnish on it are protected from weather and ultra-violet light. Spar varnish, sometimes referred to as marine varnish is created specifically for outdoor use. Since any wood left outdoors is much more susceptible to absorbing moisture and expanding, these varnishes have a higher ratio of oil to resin, making them more flexible. They also have UV inhibitors added to the varnish to protect it. When selecting a varnish, it is important to consider the application; specifically, where the finished item will be used. If it is going to be used outdoors, then you definitely want a spar varnish. If it is going to be used indoors, then the next question is whether it will be subject to a lot of wear. A table top needs a more durable finish than baseboard and casing. Therefore, selecting a hard varnish, with good scratch resistance is important.
    September 26, 2013
  • Paint edgers are a specialty tool, invented by the painting equipment industry, to satisfy the needs of people who are painting their own homes. Professionals don’t use them, as they learn how to “cut” edges and corners freehand, with a brush. However, for those that don’t have that level of experience, an edger can be easier than masking things off. Edgers are pads, usually with a couple of wheels to roll against the trim or other wall/ceiling surface that the individual is trying to avoid painting, while applying paint to the wall that they are painting. The idea is that the edger will be able to provide a clean line, because of guiding along the trim or adjacent wall/ceiling. While they do work to some extent, there are several problems associated with using a paint edger:The edger can’t hold much paint, so it is necessary to recharge it with paint frequently Extreme care must be used when recharging the paint edger, to avoid getting paint onto the guide wheels or edges of the edger. Should paint get on these, it will end up painting the very area that you are trying to protect Due to their short napp, edgers work best when used on smooth walls; however, most homes have textured walls. With heavy texture, the edger will skip a lot The edger is depending upon the adjacent trim or surface to be smooth, without bumps. That makes them work well with most trim, but not well at all when used to trim a wall against a popcorn ceiling or another textured wall Edgers usually hold the pad back from the edge slightly, to prevent painting the adjacent surface. That could leave a line of the wrong color next to trim or in corners Painting pads with wheels don’t edge against baseboard very well, as the typical baseboard doesn't stick out far enough from the wall for the wheels to guide on. This problem can be solved by using a straight edge Even with the drawbacks, there are times when an edger is the most practical way of cutting in a wall, especially in cases where scaffolding would need to be used to reach the place needing to be cut in. In those cases, the edger can be put on an extension pole, just as paint rollers are. Therefore, when selecting an edger, it is important to select one that can be used with an extension pole. Any edger is going to take some practice to be able to use correctly. Too many people just take it out of the package and expect to be able to use it flawlessly, just like they saw in some TV commercial. The truth is, the amount of paint you use, how you adjust the wheels (if they are adjustable) and even how you hold the edger will make a huge difference in your results. It is always best to start out with some test pieces that closely resemble the surfaces you are going to paint, before trying the edger on the wall. Besides the socket for connecting an extension pole, other things you should look for include: How well does the guide system work to keep the paint pad from touching the adjacent surface? Is the distance between the edge of the pad (edge of paint area) and the adjacent surface adjustable? Does the edger include a guard to protect adjacent surfaces? Is the angle of the pole socket adjustable? The biggest precaution when using these is to be careful with how much paint you get on the pad. Too much paint, and you can be assured that you will get paint onto surfaces where you don’t want it. Ideally, you should dip the pad flat into the paint tray, just deep enough for the napp to get wetted, without wetting the foam backing. Then rub it on the textured part of the tray. Finally, wipe off excess paint on the edge of the tray.
    September 26, 2013
  • Besides paint brushes, paint rollers are still the most common means of paint application for homeowners and do-it-yourselfers. Even professional painters, who use airless paint sprayers for new construction and exterior painting, still use paint rollers for interior painting, especially on occupied dwellings and offices. In these cases, the overspray from paint sprayers is unacceptable. A high quality paint roller will make a difference in the quality and quantity of your work, just like a high quality paint brush will. Specifically, the differences you will see in a high quality paint roller include: The roller will carry a higher volume of paint, allowing you to cover more area before recharging your paint roller. The roller will not “shed” leaving little pieces of the nap stuck in your paint job. The roller will leave a smoother, more consistent paint finish. There will be less paint splatter from the job. The roller will have beveled edges to help eliminate “lines” at overlap points. The roller will last through a number of cleanings, without falling apart. On this last point, let me say that while many do-it-yourselfers buy inexpensive roller covers and throw them away after one usage, paint rollers and covers really aren’t all that hard to clean and reuse. A good quality roller cover, which is cleaned after every use, can last for years. I have a lambskin cover that I bought more than 20 years ago. While I haven’t used it constantly in that time, I have used it for a number of projects. I am currently repainting my entire house, inside and out, and expect to complete the entire project with this one roller, then clean it up and keep it for the next project. I am a big fan of lambskin paint roller covers. Personally, even though I was an engineer, I find it hard to believe that man can improve upon what nature creates. However, in all fairness, I must say that some of the newer synthetic materials that have been created outperform lambskin in all but one important area, that of life expectancy. Lambskin roller covers are still the longest lasting on the market. For the sake of this article, I’ve stuck to 1/2-inch nap roller covers. If you are painting a slick surface, this is too long, you’d need a 1/4-inch nap; likewise it is too short for painting brick or cinder block, you’d need a 3/4-inch nap. However, for the most common paintjob, that of painting textured interior walls, this is the best length.
    September 23, 2013
  • Painting tarps, more commonly known as drop cloths, are one of those unglamorous essentials that are needed to insure that any painting project comes out right. Without them, not only does your paint get applied where you want, but you get the bonus of having it apply itself all kinds of places you don’t want. Have you ever looked at the walkways, patio, or porch around a house and seen a dazzling selection of colored paint drips near the wall? That’s the unmistakable evidence of painters who don’t believe in using drop cloths. It’s even worse when that happens inside the house, because then the victims are furniture and carpeting. Those are much harder to clean and much more costly to replace. While it is possible to paint with a brush, without every getting a drip on the floor, it’s impossible to paint with a paint sprayer or roller without drips, splatter and overspray. Even with a brush, there’s always the chance that you’re going to drip, no matter how careful you are. If you are going to buy drop cloths, the first thing you need to eliminate from your mind is the word “plastic.” While there are many brands of plastic drop cloths available on the market, in any thickness and size you can imagine, they all share one common fault; none of them can absorb paint. When your paint drips, and it will drip, you want something to absorb that drip, not just preserve it until you can step in it. Many a carpet has received a lovely, colorful footprint from painting over plastic drop cloths. The only thing that plastic drop cloths are useful for is for covering furniture. Even then, you don’t want to take that drop cloth and move it to another piece of furniture, because you may have paint drips on it and not be able to keep track of which side is up. The second thing you want to keep in mind is that bigger is always better. Trying to use a 9 foot x 12 foot drop cloth to paint your 10 foot x 12 foot room is a prescription for disaster. While you can always fold a drop cloth that is too big, you can’t stretch one that is too small. If you are going to cover furniture with it, you will be amazed at how quickly your drop cloths seem to shrink. What you thought was big enough suddenly seems like it’s last year’s size. I've always used canvas drop cloths, as most professionals do. However, I recognize that not everyone reading this list is going to want to invest in a bunch of canvas drop cloths, so I've also included some plastic-backed paper, disposable drop cloths. While they won’t last you years, they will work for the project you are trying to complete. A good habit to form with your drop cloths is that of always using the same side up. That way, when you move the drop cloth, you’ll be sure that any paint drips on the drop cloth are on the “UP” side and not on your furniture and carpeting. To start out with, mark the up side in several places with a thick magic marker. After a while, the paint splatters and drips themselves will make it obvious which is the up side for that drop cloth.
    September 23, 2013
  • The most important part of any paint job, whether you are painting your house, a Ferrari, or the Golden Gate Bridge is surface preparation. Everyone wants to concentrate on that finish coat, but if you don’t have a good surface underneath it, your great paint job is going to look like garbage. Even worse, if you are repainting an older structure, and haven’t removed all the old, loose paint, your nice new paint job is going to fall right off. Scraping off old paint is hard, tedious work; maybe that’s why people don’t really like doing it. Nevertheless, it’s important. A good paint scraper will make a lot of difference, as you will be able to get the job done faster and easier. Trying to scrape paint with a putty knife just makes the job harder, so the investment in a scraper is well worth it. Although water-based paints are dry to the touch in less than an hour, they continue to “outgas” for up to six months. So they aren't fully dry until that process has finished. That’s why wallpaper companies recommend waiting six months before putting wallpaper over new paint. Once the paint is dry, the process really doesn't end. Dry usually means as dry as a product is supposed to get, but then there’s dried out. Paint that has been too long on a structure gets dried out. When this happens, it begins to crack and peel. This damaged paint must be removed before applying new paint. Otherwise, the new paint is just sticking to something that’s going to fall off the wood underneath. That’s where paint scrapers come in. Before applying paint to old structures, especially old wood structures, it is essential to scrape off this old paint. A good paint scraper is made to take lots of abuse. It’s amazing how many people think that a paint scraper is a hammer, when they see a loose nail. Not only that, but the constant pressure of scraping is hard on the tool. While it may not look like it, paint is abrasive, and will dull a scraper blade. For this reason, the best paint scrapers usually come with carbide blades. That’s even better than having good quality steel or easily replaceable blades, although those are both good options. I especially like tools like this when they have ergonomic handles. When you've got a tool in your hands for hours, you want something that is going to be comfortable and not cause any blisters. A nicely contoured handle makes a lot of difference. Even better is a nicely contoured, padded handle.
    September 23, 2013
  • Let’s face it; painting can be a tedious chore. Even for people who know what they’re doing, it can be time consuming, repetitive, and just plain boring. However, like many other such tasks, it’s a necessity to maintain our homes in top-notch condition.While manual paint application, via brush and roller, is still the most common way to apply paint, modern technology has been applied painting homes and other buildings, seeking ways to make the job both easier and quicker.Most professional painters use an airless paint sprayer. These high-pressure systems apply paint at a much higher rate than anyone can with a standard brush and roller. However, they are rather pricey for a homeowner, don’t do well sitting for years between uses, and require lots of masking (especially indoors) to use them without making a mess. In reality, they’re too much for a homeowner to think of buying.To fill the gap, power roller systems have been developed. These combine the high-speed pumping benefits of an airless paint sprayer, with the ease of application of a roller. Typically, an average non-professional painter can apply paint in one-fourth the time of using a manual roller.There’s a few things you need to know about these systems if you are thinking of buying one:First of all, they all tend to leak at the connections. You can alleviate this a little by applying Teflon tape to the connections, but making swivel connectors that don’t leak at all requires some very expensive machining. Since they cut some corners on the design and manufacture of these systems, to keep prices reasonable, some leaking is normal.There’s a limit to how thick a paint these systems will pump. They actually work better with less expensive paints, because those paints tend to be thinner. If you are using high-quality paint, you may need to thin your paint slightly to make it flow well. Just make sure you measure how much you are thinning it, so you can thin the next gallon the same amount (otherwise your color may not be consistent).These systems are hard to clean; but they have to be thoroughly cleaned each and every time they are used! Otherwise, you can plan on throwing it away and buying another one. For that matter, avoid buying one that someone else returned; you don’t know how well they cleaned it.Read the instructions! Yeah, I know, the instructions are only for when all else fails. Well, if you don’t read the instructions, and do what they say, you’ll probably fail. The only problem is that once you fail, trying to backtrack and do what the instructions say, may not work.
    September 13, 2013
  • When looking for a great deal on a home security system it is important to know what you want it to do before you sign up for all the bells and whistles. If you just want to check in with your kids after school, you probably won’t need much of a system. However, if you want to monitor a distant property 24 hours a day then you will need something more. These following security systems were selected based on their many functions, their affordable price, and how easy they were to set up and operate. By the time you are finished reading them, you will be able to have enough information to make an informed decision about what system is right for you.
    July 23, 2013
  • Motion detection lights are a great way to use the appliances you need, but allow them to turn off when not in use. Items such as outdoor lighting in particular will stay on all night using far more electricity than is really needed. By adding a motion detector to them, you will be able to have the light you need, only when you need it, and allow the fixture to save energy when not in use. Motion detection features are also good when someone has their hands full with groceries, a child, or whatever they are carrying. All you will need to do is walk up to the light source and it will turn on for you. It’s almost like having your own personal assistant. These motion detector were selected because they are affordable, have a detection range of up to ten feet, and the really nice outdoor motion detectors will often times run on solar power. If you are looking for a good motion detecting light fixture, then take a look at these.
    July 23, 2013