Thursday, October 28, 2010

Silicone Caulk: The Cheese Grater of the Home Improvement World

OK, that title is convoluted at best.  But it's more attention-grabbing than the first title I tossed up there:  Silicone Caulk--Use With CAUTION.  Yeah, after typing that, I almost fell asleep.  So I changed the title in the hopes of infusing it with energy and lively interest.

Anyway, if you read the earlier post about cheese graters, you'll realize what I'm getting at here.  If you missed the post about cheese graters . . . well, you need to check it out (here!).

The point of that post was to poke fun at myself and stress the point that there are certain items out there . . . in the wide, scary world . . . that look innocent, but can really screw up your day.  Cheese graters and dental picks are just a couple.

Today, we're shifting back into the world of home improvements and were going to talk, as the title suggests, about the Cheese Grater of the Home Improvement World:  Silicone Caulk.

See, silicone caulk, if you're not familiar with it, is a type of caulk that sticks tenaciously to almost any surface.  It's also extremely water resistant.  Those two qualities make it tremendously useful . . . but also, "sneakily" dangerous.

Let me explain:  silicone caulk is so resistant to almost everything, that nothing . . . NOTHING . . . will stick to it.  It repels water, moisture, paint and even itself.  And that's where the danger lies.

Every now and then, folks pick up a tube of silicone caulk by accident at a home improvement warehouse.  They just wander down an aisle, grab a tube and take it home.  Then, they go ahead and do all their caulking.  They caulk around their woodwork, around their windows, around their crown molding . . . they caulk everywhere.

And then, after all that work is done, they start painting.  And that's when they notice that the paint doesn't seem to be sticking.  At all.  Wherever they applied their caulk, they discover the paint won't adhere.

Now normally, when this happens, people are sad.  They're frustrated.  They're angry.  But they're usually not flipping out yet.  And this is because they don't understand the nature of silicone caulk.  They figure they'll just buy some new caulk--some paintable caulk--and they'll put that over the silicone.  Or, worst-case-scenario, they'll prime all the silicone caulk with a special primer before they paint.  Either way, they figure there's a relatively simple solution.

But unfortunately, there's not.  As I mentioned earlier, nothing will stick to silicone caulk.  I even used ALL CAPS to express that idea.  Nothing will stick to silicone--not even silicone.  And that means the only way to truly fix the problem is to remove the caulk.  Completely.  

Now, for some people, caulking and painting a room is bad enough.  Not everybody wakes up every morning, just longing for another paint job to accomplish.  But even if you like painting and caulking, nobody likes caulking, painting, discovering a problem, removing the caulk, scrubbing the walls, re-caulking and finally re-painting.  That's just no fun at all.  

And that's why I'm suggesting that silicone caulk needs to be used with caution.  In the right situation, it can't be beat.  In a bathroom, between your tub surround and your tub, it's ideal.  But in an area where you plan to do some painting . . . avoid it like the plague. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cheese Graters and Dental Picks

There are some products or items that should only be used with extreme caution and with a full understanding of the ramifications. 

Case in point:  cheese graters.  I've sliced up a finger and two knuckles just this past week alone.  And really, honestly, that's only half the inconvenience.  The other half is trying to find all of the knuckle-skin I've shredded off without letting anybody else know what I'm doing.

You know how it goes:  you're standing in the kitchen, helping your wife make pizzas for the family on a Saturday night and you drag your knuckle over the cheese grater.  Instantly, quickly and easily, a nice hunk of flesh is removed and deposited in the pile of grated cheese.

When that happens, you gasp, grab your bleeding knuckle and try to staunch the flow of blood.  And while you're doing that, your wife (who's standing there rolling out the pizza dough), asks what happened.

You look at your hand, see the quarter-inch-sized patch of missing skin and then your eyes drift over the mounds and mounds of mozzarella cheese on the counter.  And of course you say: "Oh, nothing."

And then, you start sifting through the grated cheese--nonchalantly, trying to keep things on the low down--as you look for the part of you that the cheese grater lopped off.

But inevitably, when you start that, your wife clues in to what's going on (you know how wives are--they have this sixth sense when it comes to hunks of skin being randomly shredded into the pizza cheese) and she says, "Oh, don't tell me you lopped off another big hunk of skin into our cheese...."

And just the way she says it makes you feel stupid and disgusting--repulsive.  It's almost as if she thinks you did this on purpose.  As if the sole purpose of helping grate the cheese is because you're looking for your chance . . . your opportunity to grate your knuckles off into everybody's pizza cheese.  (I don't know about you, but nothing sounds better to me on a Saturday night than a good movie and some "me time" spent resting, relaxing and grating thick layers of my knuckle-skin into the mozzarella cheese.)

Anyway, as I pointed out at the beginning, there are certain products, items or tools that should be used with extreme caution.  One of these is the common cheese grater.  Another of these items is the dental pick--you know, the little metal hook or scraper that dentists use to scrape plaque off your teeth?  Yes.  Those things.  You need to exercise extreme caution when using those.  

See, the other day, while wandering around Meijers, I discovered that you could purchase these tools for yourself:  for $5 or so, you could buy a kit that came with a little handheld dentist mirror and two metal scraper/pick things.  Well, naturally, I thought that was really cool--it'd be like being your own dentist--and so I bought a pack.  After all, this $5 purchase could well save me hundreds of dollars down the road if I could pull it off.

Anyway, I bought a pack and spent the rest of the day thinking about them.  When I arrived home that night, I grabbed my new purchase and made my way excitedly to the bathroom to begin doing dental work on myself.

I moved in front of the mirror, flicked on every light in the bathroom, opened my mouth wide and started poking around inside with the metal pick.  It was an amazing experience.  I felt important.  I felt "dentisty".  And then, I felt pain.

See, I started scraping at what I thought might be plaque and the tool slipped.  It bounced off my tooth and firmly embedded itself, point first, into my gum.  Just below my tooth.

And of course, as I stood there with my hands in my mouth and my little hand-held dentist mirror trembling in my now shaky hands, trying to figure out how deeply the pick was imbedded in my now bleeding (profusely) gums, my wife started hammering on the door. 

"What are you doing in there?  Can I come in?  What's going on?  Are you crying?"  You know, all kinds of questions, fired at me machine-gun-style.

I just shouted "I'b fide.  I'b nob do-id anydin.  Bud dobe cub in . . . ."

In the end, the whole thing was just like being at the dentist:  I was bleeding, my teeth and gums hurt, I was forced to talk with fingers and tools in my mouth . . . and when my wife walked in and saw what I was doing, she gave me the same look of pity mingled with disgust the dental assistants always give me when they tell me I should floss regularly.

So there you go:  dental picks and cheese graters.  Two tools or products you shouldn't use without understanding the risk.  Next time we'll take this topic and apply it to home improvement stuff.  We'll talk about some commonly used items which commonly cause problems.  And we'll talk about how you can avoid those mistakes in your own home.  Until then, leave the dentistry to the dentists and don't eat pizza until you've given it a good once-over.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Little Color Here, A Little Color There

Many times, people think that in order to create a room with some "visual pop", they're going to need to pop open a gallon of Safety Orange paint and roll it all over their walls.  

We tend to view that big transition from the world of "neutral" to the world of "color" as being . . . for lack of a better word . . . violent.  And not everybody is up to the challenge.  Not everybody has the intestinal fortitude to make such a bold shift.  And so, as a result, there's often a feeling of frustration that builds in the home decorator who's trying to make the change. 

There's the desire to step out into the world of color, but there's the fear they will go too far, lose control of the color and  let it overpower their room. 

And so, in the end, what often happens is this:  the people on the verge . . . the ones who'd like to bring in color, but who are a little nervous, usually end up reverting to whatever was on their walls in the first place.  Maybe they try for a darker tan than they had before, but typically, they stay in the same, safe color range.  When the room is finished and the new paint is dry, they often feel a little sense of disappointment--it doesn't look terribly different from the original.  It's safe.  It feels boring and blank.  And yet the alternative--walls splashed with Fuschia and Teal and Turquoise and Lime Green--seems too crazy, too schizophrenic.  And so, they come to despise home decorating projects.

Well, if you've ever found yourself in that place--if you've ever wanted to step out boldly with color, but have been too nervous to try it . . . well, I've got good news:  It can be remarkably easy and, most importantly, SAFE.  All you need to do is this:  bring your color in with accessories.

It's a simple solution and it's used by Designers and Professional Decorators all the time.  It's the ideal way for those just stepping into the world of color to get their feet wet.  You simply find a nice, calm, reasonable, safe neutral tone for your walls and then spice it up with accessories.   

Paint some of your boring picture frames bright pink and green.  Maybe stripe a couple of them and mount them.  Or maybe, take a look at your dresser.  Maybe you don't want to paint the whole thing, but what would happen if you painted two of the drawers?  Or, what if you'd paint just the top?  

Pick up some simple shelves and splash them with a bright color and you'll be amazed how much character they display.  These simple, boring, run-of-the-mill shelves suddenly look like designer pieces when we see them in a pink or a bright yellow.

And what about that boring lamp on the desk?  What if you'd paint the base white or neutral and then pick up a bright lampshade?  Or, reverse that:  keep the lampshade white and simple and paint the base a bright color.  

One of the most impressive uses of color in a small room that I've ever seen is pictured above.   They made perfect use of this concept:  the walls are a light, neutral green.  They're safe.  Simple.  Dangerously boring.  But then, the designers added the dark brown bedspread and the brown picture frames.  These constituted another earthy color, another safe choice, but they added to the overall effect. 

The bench with the darker green stripes goes even farther towards adding some visual interest, but I think it's easy to see that even then, the whole room has a very safe feel to it.

And then there's the bed.  The bright green on the bed suddenly gives the room a shot of life.  It makes it vibrant, exciting . . . the kind of place you walk by and then walk back to so you can take a longer look.  

And the reason it works so well is twofold:  first, the green is so bright and bold that it instantly grabs your attention.  Secondly (and more importantly), the green is in the last place we'd normally think to look.  In a normal situation, the bed might be brown and the frames might be lime green along with the legs of the bench.  And if that were the case, I don't think the room would have it's flair . . . it wouldn't make the statement that it does here.

But instead of doing that, these designers "messed with" our expectations and, in so doing, by putting the color in the last place we'd expect to see it, they created something that really stands out. The color in the room isn't overpowering, but the intelligent, controlled use of the bright green pumps vibrant life into the setting.  

And that's what I'm talking about.  You don't need to go crazy and cover your walls with  circus colors in order to spruce up your rooms and infuse them with energy.  You can do it through accessories, through the compelling choices of bright colors and interesting items, through the intelligent, well-thought out placement of these colors in areas we might not usually expect them.  Remember, you don't need a room full of color to make a statement.  You just need the right colors in the right locations.

Give it a try!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Quick Hitter" Project 2: Striped Frames (Child Not Included)

I found the picture frame at the left when I was cruising around the internet.  It was pretty much the type of frame I needed for a particular project I had in mind.

However, there were two problems:  first off, the frame I found, the one in the picture here, came in that color green.  And that's the wrong color green.  I needed a slightly darker, less olive green than what's pictured here.

But that's not important.  Color's not important, because the second problem with this frame was that the asking price was . . . wait for it . . . $120.  Yes.  Apparently, the child in the photo comes with the frame.

Needless to say, when I saw the $120 price tag, I quite naturally backed off and closed the computer down for fear that I might mistakenly bump a couple of keys and put that obscenely-expensive frame into "my cart."

A couple days later, I was back, looking for more frames.  And I found them.  And this time, they were a real bargain:  only $40.  They looked nice and were mostly (again) what I wanted . . . though the colors weren't perfect and the price was still (in my opinion) high.  

I was just about to toss them into "my cart" when inspiration hit me:  I work at RepcoLite.  I deal with paint all day long.  Why in the world would I buy a frame like that for $120 or even for $40 when I could turn a frame I already own into the same thing for free?  

See, I've got the perfect frame at home--it's just got a gold-leaf look to it and I don't want that anymore.  I also have a couple quarts of two different greens at home because I painted a dresser earlier this year for the same room.  From there, I put it all together and came up with a great, quick, simple, money-saving project that I'm going to pass along to you as today's "Quick Hitter."

What You'll Need:
  • 2 quarts Hallmark Ceramic paint in your desired colors (check your basement shelves or stop out at RepcoLite!)
  • 1 can of flat black spray paint  
  • 1 picture frame
  • Sandpaper
  • Brush
  • 3M Safety Release Blue Painter's Tape 
  • Old newspaper or a plastic dropcloth to protect your work area.

How to Do It:
This project is about as simple as it gets.  Just start by doing a light scuff sanding of your picture frame (with the glass removed, of course).  Just dust over it to take some of the shine down--you're not trying to bring it down to bare wood! 

Once you've done that, wipe it clean with a dry rag.

After wiping it down, place the frame on a large sheet of plastic and spray paint it lightly with your FLAT black spray paint.  Don't try to make the first coat cover if it doesn't seem to want to.  Multiple light coats are much better than a single heavy coat.  

Once the frame is coated solidly black and is completely dry, take your lighter color of Hallmark paint and apply it to the entire frame.  If you need a second coat, apply it when the first coat has finished.

Now, once that initial color has dried (overnight to be safe), take your special 1" Safe Release 3M Painter's Tape (you'll notice it should have an ORANGE cardboard core) and apply it in straight lines down your frame.  

To mimic the look of the frame above, just run the tape down the parts or areas of the frame where you want the original color--the lighter color you first painted--to show through.  Leave the other areas untaped and  paint over them with your darker color.  As soon as you've finished, carefully remove the tape.  You don't want to pull it too quickly or it could lift your original coat of paint off.  (And, just a quick note:  that's why we recommend using 3M's Safe Release Blue Tape.  Any other tape is lightly going to cause problems).
Once you've removed your tape (and have let the frame dry), you should have a chic, hip and happening striped frame that you can incorporate into your decorating.  If you want to get fancier yet, go ahead and scuff the frame slightly to distress it, bringing out the undercoat of black along the edges.

Conclusion and Suggestions
Now, possibly, this project sounds complicated and long, but let me assure you:  it's not.  You should be able to easily accomplish it with a total work time of about 1 hour per frame (at the very most).  Doing multiple frames at the same times will also save you a fair amount of time.

And finally, if you decide to give this project a try, go ahead and get creative beyond the scope that I've already described: Alternate the color patterns on multiple frames, vary the sizes of the stripes.  Run the stripes up and down on some frames and side to side on others.   Overall, just have fun with it and realize that with the right paint and a little creativity and energy, you can duplicate almost anything you see at a home decor store--for pennies on the dollar!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Quick Hitter" Project 1: Picture Frames with that "Hand-crafted" Touch

OK, for our first Quick Hitter project, we're going to look at a quick, easy, inexpensive and incredibly effective way to infuse some life and color into a boring bedroom.

What You'll Need:
  • 1 Quart Hallmark Ceramic Matte Paint from RepcoLite (it's the best, afterall!)
  • 1 Quart RepcoLite's Prime-All Waterbased Primer 
  • 1 picture frame
  • 1 scrap of wallpaper (or decorative paper) big enough to fit in frame
  • A few sheets of heavy-duty artist paper
  • Some old newspapers (to protect your work area)
  • An old paper grocery bag
  • Double-sided tape or photo adhesive

    How to Do It:
    This is a great project that will take you very little time, but that will pay off big in terms of visual "pop" in your home.

    Just start with a standard picture frame. If it's already stained and finished, then do a light sanding with some 150 grit paper and prime with RepcoLite's Waterbased Prime-All primer. Once it's dry, apply the Hallmark Ceramic Matte finish paint in whatever color you selected using either a roller or a brush.

    Set the frame aside to dry (with Hallmark, it will only take about 30 minutes or so to dry).  

    While the frame is drying, take your scrap of wallpaper or your decorative paper (picked up cheaply at any hobby store with scrapbooking supplies) and cut it to fit inside the frame.  (A simple way to do this is to save the paper insert that came with your frame.  Use this as a template).

    Anyway, cut the wallpaper or decorative paper to fit the frame and set it aside.

    Once you've got these things accomplished, it's time to create the handprint in the center.  Now, this is not a difficult process, but there are a few things to know that will make your results turn out well.  First, you've probably seen this done before (at school) where the handprint is "globby" and, well, for lack of a better word...ugly.  The reason this happens is because kids usually mash their hands down on the paper while they're covered with way, way, WAY too much paint.

    The easy way to fix that is this:  carefully brush the paint you used to paint the picture frame onto your child's hand (if you've used Hallmark Ceramic, it's perfectly harmless--though you will want to supervise for obvious reasons).  Making sure your child doesn't touch everything in site or eat the paint, help your child press his or her hand onto a paper grocery bag.  Do this a number of times until you start to see a clearly defined handprint.  Once you get to that point, shift from the paper bag to the sheets of heavy duty white artist's paper.  Help them firmly press their hand onto the paper and then help them lift their hand off without smudging the print.

    Maybe make a couple just to be sure you get a good one and, while those are drying, wash your hands and clean up your supplies.

    When everything's dry, cut the handprint paper down and tape it or affix it using photo adhesive to the center of the wallpaper scrap.  Mount everything in your frame, hang it up and there you go:  something cool, something unique, something that will serve as a great memory and something that will add some visual pop and interest to your room!

    Introducing our NEW "Quick Hitter" Feature

    RepcoLite is all about helping you turn your house into a home.  (Hence the name of our blog!).  We're all about helping you take plain rooms and, with a little paint, turn them into warm, comfortable, relaxing or exciting spaces in your home.

    With that focus in mind, we're introducing our new "Quick Hitters" feature on this blog.  These "Quick Hitters" are going to be simple projects that you can complete in a few hours.  Each one will offer pictures, how-to advice, a list of needed supplies and everything else you need to know to jump right in and accomplish the project.

    You'll be able to pull up a list of these projects by scrolling to the "Quick Hitter" tag on the right hand side of the page.

    We're hoping this new feature is going to provide you with practical, straight-forward, creative projects that will help you add some flair and excitement to any room in your home without having to drop tons of money to do so.  And, most of all, we're hoping you'll get involved.  Please add your comments to each Quick Hitter--let us know how it went for you.  Let us know if you have a better idea.  Let us know if you ran into trouble.  And, if you're really successful, we'd love for you to post pictures of your projects on our Facebook Page!