Tip of the Week
Sanding drywall: When sanding drywall seams, it's good to follow the seam instead of going against it. It's better to go in circles, this way everything is blended and faded instead of getting that "path" from over sanding. Use a scrap piece of lumber or something hard and flat to put under your sand paper, this will keep things uniform. Using your hand can result in high and low spots which ultimately leads to more work. Also if you need the seams to dry quickly, try mixing your own "mud" instead of using the premix. The powedered mix comes in drying times of 20 minute, 45 minute, and 90 minute. The work times aren't very long with these so keep moving!
I have read a few articles on msn.com lately about contractors and home projects. These articles are good thought provokers and bring to light some good points, but maybe some that don't apply to your particular area, county, or city. Obviously if you are doing a home remodel project on a house you plan on selling, you want to make sure the project will add value to your home as well as functionality. If you don't plan on selling the home, then adding value may not be as important as funtionality or "want to". It's your decision and your home, take your time and make lists.
In these difficult times there may be some shady contractors or even fly-by-night guys out there. If you want quality work there is a price to be paid. Here's a good saying: "Cheap work isn't good and good work isn't cheap." Not always the case, but something to keep in mind. I know statistically the price of work has come down, but the price of material has not. So you might find the contractor cheaper, but expect to pay the same if not more for material. Many contractors out there are willing to discount their work just to get the job and there's nothing wrong with helping those in your community out. The things I would watch out for are guys you charge not only for material used on the job, but all the material they bought and maybe even contractors who charge by the hour. In remodeling you don't know what you are going to find behind drywall or plaster or under the floor or in the pipes until you get into it. There's nothing worse than under estimating and over paying. For me it's just easier to charge by the job and then however long it takes is on me. It also may be a good idea to check with your local Chamber of Commerce to see if the contractor is a member. The guys who invest in their community are the ones you can normally count on. Also, if something should happen to be wrong or go wrong after completion, a good contractor will come back and fix it at no cost.
There may be some unique situations also. If you know a contractor personally or have a good relationship with one, there may be times where some "experimentation" comes up. New systems or new materials may be introduced or maybe it's just gain some experience, the contractor may approach the home owner with this idea. I guess the home owner may approach the contractor with this idea, who knows it's a crazy world. If this situation does come up you ,the homeowner, could possibly get the work done for the price of materials. Just saying, if you don't mind being the guinea pig it might be a worth while venture.
All in all, remodeling and renovation don't have to be scary or bad projects. Make some lists, decide what you want and start asking questions. Contractors may not have all the answers and may have questions themselves. It's going to take time, life isn't a one hour tv show, it going to take some money, and there will be dust. Remember, the lowest bid isn't always the best and the job will only be as good as the material you are working with. Don't expect a million dollar bathroom for two thousand dollars. Happy remodeling!
Recently I have been doing some work with various types of cement, mortar, portland, and grout (yes grout is a "cement"). This made me wonder "I wonder if the average home owner knows what type of cement to use where?" We all have seen the leaky basement that someone has tried to patch with something, but with the way it seems to have run down the wall or been thrown against it, chances are good it wasn't the right stuff. Not all concretes are created equal. If you have a leaky basement or foundation, you will need a hydraulic cement. No, not the cement they put in the back of pickup trucks to make them low riders (that is how they do it right?) Hydraulic cement is actually a cement that forms a waterproof seal, unlike the normal ready mix in a bag. Portland cement is an example of this, very sticky, but very strong. Also, it is better to patch a leak from the outside versus the inside, for obvious reasons.
Now, it seems every house has a retaining wall that has been standing for a hundred years. You know the one, it's leaning over and there is grass growing between the stones. Believe it or not these walls do serve a purpose and if you live on a hill you know exactly what it is. These walls keep your yard yours and not some city or county road clearing project. However, they wall can't it's job if the mortar joints are loose or missing. Every freeze thaw cycle kills a weak joint and undermines the strength of the wall. Filling in the gaps or replacing loose joints is called tuck pointing. There are ready mixes available for this and (wait for it) to make "special blends" portland cement can be added. Adding portland will give mortar more strength, more sticking power, and add some water proofing characteristics.
What about sidewalks and driveways? Your typical ready mix is alright to use as sidewalk material, but there are better versions of the same stuff. There are ready mixes that are more waterproof and others that are more impact resistant. Most sidewalks are about four inches thick and most are just poured right on the soil. I like to dig a little deeper and add a base to pour the cement on. Soft limestone is good for this, put an inch or two down and compact it. This gives something for the cement to grab a hold of and also forms a good strong base that should prevent cracking. If your budget doesn't allow for the extra step then pour your sidewalk at 6 inches with a quality product for a long lasting pathway. If you are resurfacing or adding a cap to old concrete, a step that is often skipped is etching. Concrete must be etched for any new cement to adhere to it. If you skip this step, after a few winters you'll be doing it again.
I know someone out there was laughing when I said the grout was a cement. It is, Google it. Most homeowners have done some tile work before and have therefore grouted. Here's a question, sanded or unsanded? Oh, you didn't get that far in the store? I'll let it slide this time. Sanded grout is for joints over 1/8" and unsanded is for anything smaller. There may be some exceptions to this such as glass tile, but this is the general rule.
Always read the health hazards when dealing with cement, it can cause skin burns, eye and lung irritation and lung cancer. Wet cement is caustic so where gloves and wash off cement that comes in contact with your skin.
Don't forget to leave comments or ask questions, we like that kind of stuff.
Craig Jones, owner of Property Serv LLC. My goal is to better educate the homeowner and to make Richmond a better place to live.