Honey-do Lists as “Love Notes”?

A friend of mine, who is quite handy, recently traveled for work and this is the note he received when he returned to an empty house:

Honey-do list

Honey-do list or love note?

My friend said, “I feel so missed… a week away on business and this is the love note I get upon my return.”

This note is the perfect example of how quickly little home maintenance tasks can pile up and if you’re not as handy as my friend, this wouldn’t be a joke with your friends about how, and I quote, “At least she has a reason to keep me around”.

This is the reason that Firebelly Renovations prioritizes home maintenance as well as the big home renovation projects, such as kitchens, baths and basements. Ideally if you properly maintain your home, then you won’t “have to” renovate your bath due to water damage. You’ll eventually want to remodel your bath because you’ve used it for 20 years and now it’s “dated”.

So if you’re a busy professional, and you’d rather find a real “love note” rather than a “honey-do” list and NOT spend the weekend after you return completing a honey-do list, then you might want to hire us or sign up for a Home Services Contract.

Get Caulky! Part II

Get Caulky! Part II is all about How to Caulk.

Let me start by saying, there is NO magic tool that will make you caulk better, so don’t waste your money buying those “as seen on TV” caulking tools.  Caulking requires a bit of finesse but mostly it is about the right caulk, caulk gun, a utility knife or razor blade, an old cup, an index finger, and the right angles.  You may also want to have some paper towels or an old rag handy as well.

First, invest in a “Pro” caulk gun.  It’s going to be marginally more expensive than the cheap ones and worth every penny.  A “Pro” caulk gun is going to have a better grip (e.g. trigger has finger grooves) to help you keep consistent pressure on the gun when applying the caulk.

Second, use the right type of caulk for your project (see our previous post “Get Caulky”) and follow the instructions for applying it.  For example, almost all caulk types call for a clean surface before applying.  This doesn’t mean you should apply new caulk over your old caulk after bleaching the shower.  It means remove your old caulk and then clean the underlying surface, so your caulk can adhere directly to the surfaces you are caulking.

Third, prep the area to be caulked.  I want to stress how important a clean surface is to this process.  You should remove your old caulk with a utility knife and/or razor blade.  I prefer an 8 in 1 painters tool and a razor blade/utility knife.  Getting caulk off is an “elbow grease” kind of job, but it also requires finesse because you don’t want to remove the grout either.  I find that the 8 in 1 painters tool is a good choice because of the sharp straight edges, and the flexible, yet inflexibility of the tool.  It also has a pointed corner that comes in handy when initially trying to get underneath the caulk and in corners.  Once you have removed all of the old caulk it is important to clean the surfaces, I use rubbing alcohol.

Then, there is the angle of the caulk tip and the angle at which you apply the caulk.  Pay attention to the angle and size of the opening you cut into the caulk tip.  The angle that you cut into the plastic caulk tip should be about 45 degrees.  It should also be fairly small.  It’s better to make the opening smaller and adjust later to bigger than to make it too big before you even begin.  Now that your caulk tube has been opened put it into the caulk gun and you are almost ready to caulk!

You are now ready to apply some caulk.  Using steady pressure apply a 1/8″ to 1/4″ bead of caulk at a 45 degree angle.  Next, dip your finger into a cup of water and run your wet finger along the bead to press the caulk into the seam and smooth out the caulk.  Wipe off the excess caulk from your finger on your paper towel and then wipe up the excess caulk from the tile and tub.  Repeat until all seams have been caulked.

Once you are done caulking, don’t go and jump into the shower right away, you should let the caulk cure for 1 day or 24 hours.

Happy Caulking everyone!


Get “Caulky”!

Water intrusion is a leading cause of damage in homes. An easy way to prevent this is to take some time a few times a year to inspect your caulk.  While caulk can last for a long time when properly selected and applied, it does eventually breakdown.  For example, while the caulk you should use in your shower is permanently waterproof, it may not standup to harsh cleansers and frequent scrubbing.  Therefore, periodic inspections of the caulked areas of your home is critical to the maintenance of your home.

You should be looking to see if your caulk is cracking or if there are holes or pieces missing.  If so, water is getting into your walls; the bigger the hole, the more water that infiltrates. The best way to prevent this is to take notice of the condition of the caulked areas in your home and to be sure you are using the right kind of caulk for the right situation.

First let’s start with what caulk is.  Caulk is a flexible material used to seal gaps and cracks. The most common types of caulk are acrylic and silicone. There are other variants such as blended caulk, kitchen and bath caulk, butyl rubber caulk, and asphalt caulk.

Below are brief explanations of the different types of caulk:

Silicone caulk is the most common caulk. Silicone’s greatest attributes are that it does not degrade and it is very elastic. The elasticity of silicone allows it to contract and expand as the weather changes. Silicone is also waterproof. It costs $5- $8 per tube. For bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas exposed to moisture it is the best choice. Its biggest downfall is that you can’t paint it.

Acrylic caulk is for jobs that need to be painted and won’t be exposed to water or outdoor elements for a significant length of time.  This type of caulk is ideal for interior molding and baseboards; when you will be painting the surfaces and possibly the caulk itself.  This caulk is usually costs less and is easier to apply. It is more prone to cracking and not waterproof.

Blended caulk is a silicone based caulk that is paintable like an acrylic. Some projects require a caulk that is waterproof and paintable. If the area will be exposed to water or the outdoor elements, a permanently waterproof and shrink-/crack-proof caulk is needed. If the caulk is not permanently waterproof and shrink-/crack-proof, the area could be left vulnerable to water damage, mold growth, and air leakage. If the caulk needs to match the exact color of the adjacent surface, it also needs to be paint-able.

Kitchen and bath caulk is permanently waterproof and will not shrink, crack, or deteriorate over time. Moisture and repeated water exposure can take a toll on sinks, tubs, and showers. Kitchen caulk is impervious to water, meaning water can’t get through it and will never break it down. When caulk doesn’t perform in this way, the moisture from water and humidity can attack it and break it down. And, when an area repeatedly changes from wet to dry, water-based caulk, like acrylic, can degrade more rapidly. Its cracking may accelerate and its ability to adhere to a surface can lessen. When caulk dries out, shrinks, or cracks, gaps may form, which can lead to water damage and mold growth.

Butyl rubber sealant is a high quality sealant that is ideal for outdoor jobs requiring a durable, watertight seal. Butyl rubber sealant is designed specifically for use on metal buildings, windows, doors and aluminum gutters. It remains permanently flexible and is suitable for below-grade applications.

Asphalt Caulk is perfect for playgrounds, driveways, pavement, and parking lots. It provides a durable, elastic seal with excellent adhesion. Repairs are ready for traffic in about 24 hours.

Backer Rod is a non-absorbent, closed-cell polyethylene pre-caulking material (aka foam insert). This is used before caulking to fill gaps and openings larger than 1/2″ x 1/2″. Backer rods prevent 3-point bonding, which can ruin the caulk seal when expansion and contraction occurs in the seams.

Now that you know entirely too much about the types of caulk, you can use this knowledge to pick the right caulk for the right project.

Next blog we’ll talk about applying caulk.   If you need to have something in your home caulked, but don’t have the time, give us a call!

Garbage Disposal Woes

Your disposal is more than a noise making device hidden in you sink cabinet. It is a useful device used many times a day by homeowners. Many people abuse their disposals, by throwing all types of waste into them and do not realize the potential damage that can be done.

First you should try to avoid throwing the following items into your disposal:

  • Bones
  • Shells from seafood
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Anything that is fibrous or stringy such as celery, banana skins, corn husks
  • Egg shells, which are commonly thought to be good for cleaning your blades are not good (unless you are careful to remove the thin membrane inside the egg shell, which can wrap around the disposal blades.

Many of us are guilty of putting things we shouldn’t into the garbage disposal causing it to “seize up” or become stuck.  Below are two easy things you can try to clear the obstruction.

  1. There is a red reset/circuit breaker button located on the bottom of most units. If this button has popped out it will stop power going to the motor. Press this button back in. Try the disposal again; if it works, Great! If not, move on to step two.
  2. There is a place in the bottom center of the disposal, where you can use an Allen wrench to manually turn the motor.  You probably don’t have the hex key that came with your disposal, so you might want to invest in an Allen Wrench Set.  I personally like the kind that fits in your pocket and the wrenches fold out much like a Swiss army knife.  Figure out which size Allen wrench/hex key you need and use it to turn the motor a few turns to get it unstuck. Remove the Allen wrench and try to run the disposal again. This may need to be repeated numerous times to clear the debris from the disposal.

Firebelly Renovations provides Handyman services and many times we have been called in to replace a garbage disposals only to find that it could be easily fixed using the above tips.  If you have tried the steps above and your garbage disposal still isn’t working, call us at 703-635-7722 to replace it for you.