Caulking: Caulking can be a messy job that results in what looks like a 3 year old played arts and crafts with your house. Not to worry, here are a few tips to help you out. Around glass or a finished surface, use painters tape on either side of the joint being caulked. This will save you time on clean up and it's ok if the process gets a little messy, if caulk gets on the tape you can peel it right up. For the "professional" look, wet your finger and run it down the bead to smooth it out and remove the excess, this will also work if you want to use a putty knife. Just wet the knife and run it down the bead. Using a putty knife to tool the caulk or window glazing may take some practice. Part of the blade will need to follow a flat surace to keep things looking good, every movement made or bump the knife hits will show up in the caulk. Also be careful not to remove to much caulk or it will be ineffective. Follow the manufacturers recommendations for proper adhesion and sealing. Happy caulking.
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.