Sunday, March 30, 2008

Painting tips from the pros

Inman News

If you're an avid do-it-yourselfer, you know the value of a simple can of paint for sprucing up walls and revamping tired rooms. But you've probably also experienced the love/hate relationship that seems to be a part of painting, so here are a handful of tips that should make your next paint project a little easier and more enjoyable.

1. Get organized: Painting is more than just opening a can and grabbing a brush. If you take the time to gather up all your paint gear, paint, rags, ladders, tools, aspirin and everything else you anticipate needing before you start, the job will flow much smoother.

2. Mark the cans: Use clear tape to cover over the name of the paint color, as well as any custom-formula markings put on the can by the paint store. This will help keep them from being obscured by paint drips. To simplify paint touchups, put a blank white label on the can's lid. On the label, write the name of room(s) where the paint was used, put a small dab of the actual paint on the label to simplify color identification, and then cover the label with clear tape to protect it.

3. Tint your primer: If you are priming your walls or woodwork prior to painting, have the primer tinted to a color that's close to the finish color, rather than leaving it white. Primer, which is less expensive than paint, provides good adhesion, and having it tinted may save you from applying a second coat of paint.

4. Intermix your paints: If you are using multiple gallons of paint, open at least two and intermix them in a clean 5-gallon bucket to ensure an even color blend.
5. Skip the roller tray: Many professional painters don't use paint trays for their rollers, which are easy to knock over or step into. Instead, use a roller screen that hooks inside your 5-gallon bucket.

6. Cover your brushes: When you need to get away from the painting for a while, wrap your brush and your roller cover in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will keep them from drying out while saving you the hassle of cleaning them before the day is done.

7. Be prepared: No paint job is without drips and other minor problems. Keep several clean rags close at hand -- one in your back pocket, one hanging on the ladder, etc. Rags are your best friend for getting little messes taken care of right away. Also, keep a bucket close by with a little clean water in it (for latex paints) or paint thinner (for oil-base paints) to aid with cleanups.

8. Proper cut-in: Do your cut-in work with a brush before grabbing the roller. For best results, you want to overlap your painting while it's still wet, so work in one area at a time, and then roll on the paint before the cut-in has dried. This "wet-lapping" helps blend the paint better.
9. Top to bottom: Start with the ceiling first. Paint the walls next, working from top to bottom. This allows you to better handle and drips.

10. "Push" the paint when brushing: When painting against a corner or an edge, such as a piece of trim, don't put the brush all the way against the edge -- paint on the bristles can leave small marks on the adjoining surface. Instead, touch the wet brush to the wall slightly away from the edge you're painting up to, then use the brush to push the paint -- not the bristles -- up to the edge.

11. Watch the grain: When painting wood trim or doors, always paint in the direction of the grain.
12. Brush cleanup for latex paint: Run warm water in a sink or bucket. Add a small amount of dish soap and a small amount of fabric softener. Soak your brushes for five to 10 minutes, then finish rinsing and cleaning under running water. Twirl the brush handle back and forth between your hands to spin out excess water. Allow to air dry, and then store the brush in its original cover to help maintain its shape.

13. Rinse and dry roller covers: Use a roller scraper, which looks like a putty knife with one concave-curved side, to scrape excess paint off the roller cover and back into the can. Soak the cover in the above solution, and then insert the cover into a roller spinner, which is an inexpensive hand-operated device that spins the cover quite rapidly. Spin the cover under running water to remove the rest of the paint and to rinse the cover, then shut the water and continue the spinning to remove most of the moisture. Air dry, and then store the cover in its original plastic cover.

Published by Paul Bianchina/Inman News

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Remodel rids closet of musty smell

Q: Our 1920s bungalow has a small front closet that is punched out from the wall of the house so that the box of the closet extends past the exterior walls. This leaves the three walls and floor in direct contact with the outside damp air. We use this as a coat closet, but because of the outside dampness and lack of insulation in the lath-and-plaster walls, clothes get musty.

The closet is very small, so simply adding a layer of insulation on top of the walls would make the closet prohibitively small. I was thinking of removing the lath and plaster, adding insulation between the studs, then putting up drywall with a vapor barrier. If I get particularly inspired, I may add cedar paneling. What would you suggest?

A: Your instincts are right on. Insulating the walls will go a long way toward warming up your closet and eliminating the musty smell. But since you've started, and you're going to make a mess anyway, why not go for the whole enchilada and insulate the floors and the ceilings, too? It's not that much more work and the job will be done right.

The first step is to strip all the lath and plaster off the interior walls and ceiling. A claw hammer and a flat bar are the only tools you'll need for this part of the job.

We suggest you leave the baseboards and door casing in place. Ripping off the case and base adds unnecessary work. Leaving it maintains the original character of this part of the house.
To demo lath-and-plaster walls and ceilings, it's easiest to crack the plaster with the hammer and scrape it off the lath with a flat bar. Wear a mask and go easy when near interior walls. You don't want to put cracks in your entryway, meaning more patching and painting.

Once all of the plaster is off the walls and ceiling, shovel it into a garbage can and send it off to the landfill. Next, use the flat bar to carefully remove the lath, exposing the stud bays. If a piece of lath is buried halfway behind the baseboard, leave it alone. Score the lath that extends behind the door casing with a utility knife and break it off. This is the perfect time to add or update any electrical wiring that may be in the closet.

With the ceiling joists and the stud bays open, install the insulation. Use a paper- or foil-faced insulation and place the vapor barrier toward the inside of the closet. Conventional practice is to apply vapor barriers toward the warmer air of conditioned spaces. We assume the wall studs are about 3 1/2 inches thick, so R-11 batts are what's needed. For the ceiling joists you probably can go a little heavier, depending on the space available. R-19 batt insulation with a thickness of 6 inches should do the job. At any rate, the batts should fill the stud and joist bays and should not be compressed.

We've found that interior plaster is generally 3/8 inch thick and applied over 3/8-inch wooden lath for a total thickness of 3/4 inches. Although using 1/2-inch drywall for the ceiling is perfectly acceptable, it won't work on the walls. To reproduce the 3/4-inch wall thickness, nail pieces of lath vertically to the studs and apply 3/8-inch drywall to finish the walls.
Tape, texture and paint the walls, and you're done, unless you decide to face the closet with cedar. In that case, tape and one coat of mud will do as a base for the cedar paneling.
Because the bottom of the closet is cantilevered out the side of the house, we suggest you also consider insulating between the floor joists.

From underneath the house, install batt insulation with the vapor barrier toward the conditioned air of the closet. Nail or screw a piece of plywood to the floor joists to cover the insulation. Before you install the plywood, drill two 1-inch holes in the plywood at each joist bay to allow for ventilation and cover the holes on the inside of the plywood with screen mesh. That will keep critters from taking up residence in the insulation.

By: Bill & Kevin Burnett, InNewsman

Friday, March 7, 2008

Periodic flush does water heater good.

You may have gotten some advice at one time or another about draining your water heater periodically. Your neighbor might have mentioned it, or you may have even seen it recommended by the manufacturer of the water heater. But why do you need to do this, and how is it done?

As to the why, the answer is sediment. Sediment is small bits of dirt, rock and other debris that can work its way into your water heater over time. Being heavier than water, it will settle to the bottom of the tank and build up. It's not an earth-shattering problem, but in areas having water with a high mineral content, or water coming from a well or other supply that may not be well filtered, it certainly is possible to accumulate a fair amount of material in the bottom of the tank.

That sediment buildup can potentially decrease the amount of hot water the tank can hold, or it can clog up the drain valve. If your city periodically flushes the municipal water lines, or anything else causes a water surge or a sudden increase in water pressure, that layer of sediment can get itself all stirred up and work its way into faucets, valves and other areas where it's better off not being.

Hence the advice to periodically drain and flush your water heater to remove that buildup of sediment before it can do any harm. This is a very simple procedure, and how often you need to do it depends on your local water conditions -- annually or even semiannually in areas with poor water quality or if you're on a well, and every couple of years in areas with very clean water or homes with a filtration system.


First of all, shut the power. If you have an electric water heater, simply shut the circuit breaker. Don't overlook this step, because if the elements come on while they're not covered with water, it can do some serious damage. For a gas water heater, shut the valve controlling the gas supply to the heater.

Next, shut the cold water supply to the water heater. This is a valve that is located above or next to the heater. Go inside the house, open the hot water faucet that is closest to where the water heater is, and wait a moment until no more hot water comes out.

Near the bottom of the water heater is a drain valve. It may be white plastic, or it may be a brass valve that looks like an outdoor hose bib. Attach a garden hose to the valve, and route the other end to a safe location. Remember that this is very hot water that will be coming out of the hose, so keep it away from kids, pets and sensitive plants.

If your water heater is located in a basement and you have nowhere to route the hose -- to a sump or floor drain, for example -- then the draining process will need to be done with a bucket, and will obviously be a whole lot more tedious. To avoid burns, use a sturdy, good-quality bucket, and don't fill it more than half full.

Open the drain valve all the way, and let the water heater drain. This will typically be a relatively slow process. You may find it necessary to open the pressure relief valve on the tank to encourage things to get started, something akin to punching a second hole in the top of a can to get it to drain.

To get an idea of how much sediment is in the tank, you can run some of the hot water into a large glass jar (carefully). This is a good indicator of what was in the tank, and if you know how long it's been since the last time it was drained, it can give you a rough idea of how often you should be doing this.

When the tank is empty, shut the faucet in the house and turn on the cold-water supply valve. This will allow fresh cold water to run through the tank, stirring up and flushing out any remaining sediment. Unless you have a tremendous buildup of material in the tank, it shouldn't take more than about five or 10 minutes to completely flush it out.

When the water is clear, shut the drain valve and remove the hose. Leave the main cold-water supply valve open and refill the tank. When the tank is full -- and only when it's full -- you can turn on the electricity to reactivate the elements, or turn on the gas valve and relight the pilot. If you are unsure about how to safely relight the pilot, call your gas company for assistance.

Published by Paul Bianchina/Inman News