Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Truth About Deck Coatings

When it comes to protecting your deck, there are a lot of options out there as well as a lot of misconceptions. And really, much of this is brought on by slick marketing campaigns.

One commercial springs to mind. I think it's for Cabots stain or something. Basically, it shows a guy in house on a huge cliff overlooking the ocean. He wakes up in the morning, crams his iPod headphones into his ears and jogs down his immense wood stairway leading down from his immense deck. I think he's going to get the paper or something. Anyway, the point is that he's oblivious to everything going on around him and he doesn't realize that an enormous wave of epic proportions is preparing to crash down on his house.

Well, he does his thing, gets the mail or the newspaper or whatever he was after, and while he's gone for those few seconds, the wave hits. The deck is pounded with water, the stairs are buried beneath the tidal wave. But then, as quickly as it hit, it's gone. And the guy returns with his paper, walking back up (or down--I can't remember) the same pristine stairs and across the same flawless deck he had traveled earlier. He only stops and realizes something might be up when he sees that in the fishbowl . . . rather than his little gold fish that had been there earlier . . . is now a piranha.

The point of the commercial is to show you the durability and strength of Cabots wood finishes. And that sounds great. And it looks great. It's a very effective add--we see the water beading up on the deck and we're convinced. If we just buy that Cabots stuff, we'll be fine . . . our deck will last forever, right?"

Unfortunately, wrong. That's where the misconception comes in. Deck coatings, no matter what you use, are likely going to give you 1-2 years of protection on your deck. That's the dirty little industry secret that nobody wants to share. You'll hear how this product outperforms that one. You'll hear that product X will give you 2 times the industry standard in protection and durability. You'll see commercials about tidal waves burying small houses. But you'll rarely hear someone say, "you'll probably need to do this all again in a year or two."

And yet that's the truth of it. Deck coatings are subjected--especially here in Michigan--to some tremendous wear and tear. They have to hold up to hot Michigan summer sun, torrential Michigan Spring and Fall rains, as well as everybody's favorite . . . Michigan winters. That kind of abuse will wear a coating down quickly. And as a result, you're most likely going to need to re-apply your wood protector every other year or so.

OK . . . so why explain that? Why let the "dirty little industry secret" slip out? Do I have a product that I'm going to claim is going to last twice as long? Do I have one of those classic tag lines used by slick advertisers everywhere? Something along the lines of . . . "yes, that's what USED to be the case, but now, with this new product from RepcoLite, you won't EVER have to coat your deck again!" Do I have something like that to say?

Nope. RepcoLite's WoodMaster Wood Protector product is going to give you the same durability you're going to get from a Cabot's or any other high quality deck product. (Though it truly is WAY better than another, well-known deck protector that I won't name here [insert cough that sounds like "Thompson's"]).

No, I don't have a super-amazing product that will blow the doors off the competition . . . . That's not my point for explaining the limitations of all deck coatings. My reason for doing so is in the nature of honesty. So many customers we help in the stores have misconceptions as to what to expect when they coat their decks. And, as I said earlier, these misconceptions are promulgated by companies who sell deck coatings. They're afraid that if they tell you the truth, nobody will buy the products. They're afraid that if they confess that the product will probably last a year or two before requiring some maintenance, you won't bother coating your deck.

At RepcoLite, we look at it from another perspective. We feel it's worse to lead you into a sale by not making you aware of the full story. We're not afraid that you'll skip cleaning and coating your deck when you hear the nature of deck coatings. We're pretty confident you'll still go ahead with the projects. But we want you to know the full scoop--we want you to know what to expect: from our coatings AND from our competitors.

The truth isn't something to shrink away from. It's not something to hide. Giving a customer the full story and all the information ahead of time--before their purchase--is a much better business model. At least in our minds.

So when you get ready to coat your deck, we'd love to help you and we'd love to sell you the very best coatings at the very best prices. But what we don't want to do is mislead you. Remember: any deck coating you buy--anywhere, from anybody--is probably going to give you 1-2 (maximum of 3) years before it needs maintenance. Keep that in mind, plan for that . . . and you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hallmark Ceramic Matte Finish: A True Story of Children and Paint

Well, I'll start out by admitting that I know I'm probably biased.  I know that I work for RepcoLite Paints and that I'm writing on a RepcoLite Paints Blog and that I'm going to plug a RepcoLite Paints Product.  And I know that all of that makes me somewhat biased.  But as you read this, everytime you start to think that "the guy writing this is just blowing smoke because he's trying to sell something", I ask you to refer to the photo at the left.  Whenever you're tempted to doubt the honesty of this post, check out that picture.

Alright, with that out of the way, let me tell you about my back entry....

About 2 years ago I painted it a muted, olive green color.  In the photo it looks more tan, but that's because the camera flash washed the color out.  In reality, it's more green.  Anyway, that's not important.  About 2 years ago, as I said, I painted the back entry.  When I finished with the paint job, I remember standing there, marveling at my work (patting myself on the back) and congratulating myself on another job well done.  And then I looked down and saw that the paint I used was RepcoLite's Hallmark Ceramic Matte Finish

Well, when I saw that, I immediately thought, "oh no!  Matte!  I meant to use Eggshell so it'd be more washable!"  Yes, somehow, in all my wisdom, I'd grabbed the wrong can off the shelf.  But, being opposed to extra work just for the sake of it, I decided to leave it be and repaint when absolutely necessary.

OK, that was 2 years ago.  Now, I know--because I work at RepcoLite--that Hallmark Ceramic Matte is a washable, durable flat finish.  But I also know it's still a flat finish.  Which means that it's washability will be less than a shinier paint.  However, knowing all of that, I cannot believe--I literally cannot believe--how well this stuff has held up.  

It's amazing.   I have 5 children.  And some of the time, they're pigs.  In fact, their favorite thing in the world seems to be to eat ice-cream or pudding with their hands and then walk down our back steps, through our back entry, trailing their dirty, grimy fingers along the wall, leaving trails for the ants to follow. 

When this first started happening, I thought I'd be repainting that back entry very soon with a more washable finish.  But before I cracked open a gallon of Hallmark Eggshell, I thought I'd wipe the walls down and see how much of the junk came off.  Well, I did that and all of it came off.  All the gunk the kids put there that first time came off.  Easily.  The finish didn't dull or get shiny and the walls, when they dried again, were flawless.

"Hmmmmm," I thought to myself.  "That's a good sign . . . but I wonder how long before it doesn't wash up anymore?"

Well, day after day, month after month, I'd walk into the back entry . . . see the filth the kids had wrought . . . break out a damp rag . . . and clean the whole thing up.  Time after time.  With no dulling on the wall.  No burnishing of the finish.  No visible flaws at all.

I was literally amazed at the washability this wall--this most trafficked area of my home--was displaying.

But then came the day of the picture I posted at the beginning.  That was sometime last August.  Hannah, my 2 year old had been quiet for too long and when I found her, she was in the back entry with a pack of crayons, coloring all over the walls.  ALL over the walls. Big, sweeping, little-kid-circles all over the walls.

Well, at that point, I figured the gig was up--I figured my paint job had lasted two full years when I didn't think it'd last a couple weeks.  I figured I got my money out of it and now . . . with the crayons all over it . . . I figured my run of good luck was over.  I figured it was time to repaint.

But, before I cracked open the lid on that gallon of Eggshell, I figured there'd be no harm in scrubbing the wall, you know . . . to see what would happen.

And so I did.  I grabbed a little scrubby pad out of the sink, dipped it in water, and started scrubbing.  And you can see the results.  I scrubbed the top section of Hannah's crayon artwork and removed ALL OF IT.  I was so shocked, I grabbed my camera and snapped a shot--I figured I'd use it on the website or in a blog somewhere down the road.  (The spot I cleaned is shiny because it's still wet, but when it dried out, it was perfect.)

Anyway, after I put the camera down, I easily scrubbed off all the rest of Hannah's crayon-work.  When the wall was clean again, I hauled my gallon of Eggshell paint back downstairs and put it back on the shelf. 

Now, as I said, I know that my opinion is suspect because of my close affiliation with RepcoLite.  But also, as I said, I'd refer the questioning reader back to the photo.  It's not touched-up in the least--it's just a snapshot (and not even a very good one) that shows the excellent washability of RepcoLite's Hallmark Ceramic Matte.
The bottom line here is this:  I wanted to show you . . . in the context of a real event . . . how practical and washable and durable Hallmark Matte Ceramic is.  It is the ideal product to use in any situation where you desire a flat finish.  And you can only get it at RepcoLite.  So check it out!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A New Room in a Gallon Can

Remodeling projects can get expensive. Quickly. Start tearing out flooring and knocking down walls and before you know it, you'll find that a little re-do project has grown into an expensive, all-encompassing home remodel.

And right now, not many folks are interested in dropping that kind of money. But just because the economy's not booming doesn't mean you have to put up with that old look you've got going on in your living room or your kitchen or wherever.

Never forget that a gallon of paint is easily the cheapest home improvement project you can tackle. Generally for around $100 or so, you can get your hands on all the supplies and paint you need to turn your living room from something boring--something that's been mired in the 70's since . . . well, the 70's--into something hip and cool and new and fresh.

Your walls make up a huge percentage of a room. When you put a new, exciting color on them, it makes everything else look new. Your furniture--even the old stuff--takes on a new look against the new color. Your wall-hangings take on new life. Even your carpet can take on a new look when you put the right color on your walls.

So think about it. As many of us do what we can to save money and make wise decisions, why not make the wisest home improvement decision (at least economically) that you can possibly make? Why not stop out at RepcoLite and let our decorators steer you towards a color that will infuse your boring, tired room with life?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Confessions of a Dope

Well, I did it again. See, I've got a way of humiliating myself on a regular basis. I don't mean to--I honestly would love to avoid it--but I seem drawn to humiliation. For example, about once a week or so, I wander through some large, public area with my zipper down. Unintentionally. DEFINITELY, unintentionally. I'm not one of those people.

Anyway, another thing I routinely do that embarrasses me involves involuntary grunting. I don't know what is causing this or why it happens, but I think it's got something to do with old age. At any rate, apparently, I sit around and when I'm not thinking about what I'm doing, I grunt. Quietly. And, of course, with great dignity. But it's still grunting. And because of it, my whole family gathers around me at night, listening and laughing and making fun of me.

Another thing I do involves my voice. Oh, I know you'd never guess it if you listened to our daily radio shows . . . but in real-life, I have a nasally, sissy-voice. I understand that and I'm dealing with it. But for some reason, God didn't just see fit to leave me with this obnoxious voice, but He also worked in a state of perpetual puberty for me. See, most guys . . . their voices crack and break as they move through their early teen years. Eventually, they end up with a man voice and they move on with their lives. Not me. Nope. I'm in a state of perpetual puberty. My voice still cracks. All the time. I can edit it out of the radio shows, but I can't edit it out of normal conversation. Once it's out, it's out. Once you try to say something in a group of people--try to say something impressive--and your voice breaks . . . well, there's no chance to go back, clip out the girly-voice, and then have another go at it. Sadly, that's not how real-life works. And so I try to live with it. And everytime it happens, people snicker and giggle and then I get nervous and start grunting. Which doesn't help.

Anyway, the point is, my life seems to be one big long string of embarrassing actions. And last night was just another in a long line of humiliations.

See, my wife was out with a friend and I was home with the kids. So I thought I'd have some fun with them. We whipped out our Rock Band game, I plugged in the little fake plastic guitar, plugged in my microphone, cranked up the volume on our surround sound and started rocking it out.

Yes. It was like a rock show in our living room . . . . The sound was deafening . . . I was screaming out songs, hopping around the room, playing the guitar so hard I was sweating buckets. (Which is partly a testament to how hard I was playing but also an indication of how out of shape I am). Anyway, I'm hoping around, sweating profusely . . .almost obscenely . . . belting out rock song after rock song, rattling the windows, acting like a dope . . . but having fun. And then I noticed that my daughter was standing by the front door. She had pulled the blind up and was staring at our front porch. I figured she was just looking for my wife . . . wondering when she was coming home or something . . . so I kept going with my rock show.

I was saying things like "Everybody on your feet . . . put your hands together" and junk like that in between lines of the song. I was hopping around and my daughter kept trying to get my attention. But, I was in the middle of a song. I was singing. I was rocking. And EVERYBODY knows that you don't interrupt rock stars in the middle of a song, so I ignored her. But then, on one of my spins around the room, I happened to look up and there, standing on the front porch, staring directly at me with an open mouth and a clipboard in his hands, was a man I've never seen before in my life.

Well, naturally, I paused for a second . . . because really, this isn't something you prepare for--this isn't one of those situations that you plan out. You know, if the house is ever on fire, I know what I'd do--I plan for those things . . . . But I've never sat down and worked out a strategy flow chart about what to do when I'm confronted with a stranger on my front porch while I'm dancing around the living room singing songs loudly and badly while sweating like an animal.

So I paused and stared at him. And then, finally, I opened the door and tried to say, in my most manly and professional voice, "Why hello . . . how may I help you."

But of course, my voice cracked. And, of course, when that happened, I started grunting.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Age Old Adage: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Alright, last time, I told you a big, long, sad story about my bathroom. I told you how I, in all my cheapskate wisdom, installed the most inexpensive beadboard I could find in my bathroom about a year ago. I told you how that beadboard was basically an mdf board--a composite, compressed, high density paper board. And while it all looked nice for a while, it didn't take long before the kids and lots of splashing water started to take its toll. In just weeks, I was looking at puckered spots and bubbled spots and areas where the board was flaring out because it had gotten damp.

Oh, I tried everything I could to fix it and make it look nice, but this past Wednesday night, I realized the battle was lost. It was like that moment in some television show when somebody stumbles on an accident victim or a heart attack victim and then starts doing CPR. You know, they work on the body for what seems like forever with no response. And then, inevitably, someone standing by tells them to stop. Oh, they don't stop--they keep going--they're going to bring this person back. But the other person grabs them by the shoulders, shakes them, sometimes slaps them . . . and then says, in a very dramatic fashion . . . "stop . . . just stop . . . you've got to let go . . . he's gone."

And then our hero . . . still sitting on his knees beside the body, looks down, comes to term with the fact that death has won . . . and then breaks down in tears. The scene ends and we all feel like we just watched good television.

Anyway, that's what it felt like a few months ago in my bathroom. I'd tried everything I could think of to save that room--to bring it back from the dead--but Wednesday night, I realized it was done. It was over. Death had won--at least in terms of my bathroom. And so I ripped all that beadboard off the walls and threw it in the firepit. $70 dollars worth of "fake wood", $20 worth of paint, $2 worth of nails, $30 worth of trim and hours worth of time . . . all dragged and dumped in my firepit. All that money and time gone because I was too cheap to by good materials to start with--I thought I'd save money, but as is typical, I ended up wasting both time and money.

That's where we ended last time. And really, the connection to RepcoLite paints isn't really all that tough to make. Many folks--I'm not naive, I know how people think--many folks think the same way about paint that I thought about that paper beadboard. I figured, "what does it matter? Beadboard's beadboard. I don't need to have the cadillac of beadboards . . . I'll be happy with this stuff as long as it looks good."

I know that people go through those same thoughts in their head when it comes to purchasing paint: they make the same justifications: I don't need the cadillac of paints . . . after all, paint's paint . . . right? As long as it looks good, I'll be happy.

Well, as I learned with the beadboard incident--and as tons of folks through the years have learned about paint--quality does make a difference.

Buy a quality beadboard and spend the money once, do the work once, spend the time once and enjoy the results for years. Buy a cheap material and end up spending more money, doing the work at least twice and washing all that extra time and energy. Same is true with paint: buy a quality paint and sure, you'll drop maybe $5 - even $8 more a gallon--but really, when the average household paint job uses 3 - 4 gallons, you're looking at a grand total of $15 - $32 dollars extra. Oh, that's not chump change . . . I love those old sayings . . . that's not chump change . . . but it doesn't break the bank either.

Especially when you consider that a quality paint is going to apply better, quicker, easier. It's going to cover better and will likely need fewer coats. It's going to hold up better and longer. It's going to be more washable and cleanable. It's going to hold up to use and wear better. It's going to function like the premium product it is.

Sure, the cheap paint may save you money at the initial purchase, but it's not going to be long before you start to see problems. Before long, you'll be repainting--way earlier than you thought--and you'll be frustrated. You'll end up spending more money, wasting more time, buying more tools, wasting more weekends . . . than you would if you'd just buy a quality product right at the start.

Oh, I'm not blaming you . . . like I said, I do the same thing. I'm just trying to encourage you to learn from somebody who apparently has nothing better to do than to spend tons of extra money and re-do work he's already done. Learn a lesson from me and don't do what I typically do. Bite the bullet, drop the little bit of extra money now . . . and save yourself some money and time and frustration in the future. You'll be happy you did. Think about it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saving Money the Smart Way

I've talked about this before on our daily radio blurb, Another Day at RepcoLite, but I'll say it again here: I'm a cheap, cheap, cheap person. When it comes to spending money, I don't like to do it. Oh, let me rephrase that. I don't mind spending money on FUN things. But when it comes to home improvement projects or things like that, I'm always looking for a way to save some cash.

Well, this money-saving binge I go on during home projects usually ends very badly for me. Most recently, I experienced this in my bathroom. See, I wanted to install beadboard, but I didn't want to drop the money that was necessary to buy regular wood strips of beadboard. That was too expensive for my little bathroom project. So, I looked around at all the home centers until I found the perfect solution: High Density Fiberboard Beadboard. (Basically, that translates into highly compressed paper with primer on it.)

This stuff was half the price of the regular wood and it was already primed. I was saving 1/2 the money I would have spent AND, I wouldn't have to waste time priming. This was exactly what I was looking for. So I bought it. And installed it. And that's when I first noticed the problems.

See, in pounding the nails into this stuff, I found that they created little puckered spots in the fiberboard. It was impossible to sand smooth (because it was really just paper) and I had a hard time patching them in with spackling. But still, I persevered, and before long, finished the project. And it looked great. GREAT. For about 3 weeks.

I'm not lying. 3 weeks after the installation was finished, I started to notice things. I noticed that the fiberboard was bubbling or puckering or something wherever the kids splashed water from the tub. I mean WHEREVER they splashed water. Even a tiny bit of water on this stuff caused problems.

Well, I worked to repair those spots, coated the boards with more paint . . . but it was a losing battle. Finally, about 1 year after I installed the boards, I ripped them all out and reinstalled new stuff. This time, I installed the real wood. I dropped the cash necessary to buy real wood beadboard and I didn't try to skimp on the work: I bought the unprimed stuff.

I've installed it now and it's holding up great. I've had none of the problems I had with the cheap stuff and I'm finally happy with the way the bathroom turned out.

Now, I bring that up to point out something that I think a lot of people (not just me) do: we try so hard to save money that we end up spending more. See, if I'd just bought the good stuff the first time, I'd have saved over $120 on my project. But that's not all: I'd have saved all the money I spent on my first set of materials (which just ended up in a dumpster), but I'd also have saved all my time and all the money I spent on more nails, more glue, more paint, etc.

Basically, by being cheap, I cost myself over $120 and a couple Saturday's worth of work. What a waste.

The thing I'm getting at is this: when it comes to home improvement projects--projects you think are going to be long-lasting fixes or improvements to your home . . . don't waste your time and money on cheap materials. You'll save some money in the short term, but as I found out, you'll end up giving all those savings back (and then some) a year or so down the road when your cheap materials do what all cheap materials do: fail.

Buy quality materials. Buy quality woods. Buy quality tapes and tools. And (of course) above all else, buy quality paints. These things will cost you a little more money right up front . . . but you'll never regret that expenditure later. Don't "save money" by buying cheap stuff that you'll have to replace later. Save money the smart way: spend a little more up front and enjoy the results of your work much longer!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Corona Excalibur: The Brush of the gods

Over the course of the years, I've used all kinds of different brushes for my little fix-it jobs around the house.  I've used cheap ones, expensive ones... brushes made for professional painters and brushes geared more for your everday homeowner- type needs.  I've used all kinds of different brushes.  Until I used the Corona Excalibur Brush.  Once I used this brush, I quit trying other ones.  In fact, I quit buying other ones.  There's no need.  This is hands-down the best, longest lasting brush I've ever used.

See, the Corona Excalibur brush makes use of a relatively new type of filament or bristle:  it's called Chinex and it's specifically made to quickly and effectively release water-based coatings.  This means that the brushed results are great.  Latex paint glides off the brush easily and smoothly and your end product looks tremendous . . . professional . . . like you knew what you were doing.

But really, that's only part of the reason I like this brush so much.  In fact, it's not even the biggest part of the reason I like this brush so much.  The true reason I think this brush is indispensable is because of how easy it is to clean it up.

See, the Chinex bristles used in this brush have two main benefits.  First, they apply latex paint easily and evenly.  We've talked about that.  Secondly (and more importantly, in my book), these bristles make clean-up about as easy as it's ever going to get with a brush.

Allow me a little personal testimonial here to prove my point.   A year or so ago, I was getting my home ready to sell (we subsequently changed our minds . . . but that's neither here nor there).  Anyway, we were getting it ready to sell and so I found myself doing tons of little touch-ups.  Fixing trim here, touching up a wall there, etc.  

In the beginning of this project, I was using a standard brush and it was very frustrating.  I'd paint some white trim and then want to switch to a tan color for my walls.  I'd take the brush to the sink, clean and clean and clean it . . . rinse it . . . spin it . . . finally get it clean (I thought) only to brush the new color on the wall to discover that some of the white paint was still in my brush.  This would screw up my touch-up, create more work for me and cause me to spend even more time rinsing my brush.

After a few days of this . . . and after complaining about it at work . . . somebody at RepcoLite told me to try the Excalibur brush.  He said clean-up was easier with this brush than any other brush he'd ever used.  

I wasn't completely convinced, but I thought I'd give it a try--after all, I figured it couldn't be worse than what I was already working with.  

Well, when I got home that night, I thought I'd break out this new brush and see if it was everything my friend told me it was.  And, my goodness, was it ever!  I'm still amazed when I use the brush, but I was absolutely blown away that first night.

I started with white touch-ups on some trim in the living room.  I finished that and tossed the brush in the sink under running water for about 45 seconds while I popped open the lid of the next paint I had to use:  a bright red for a piece of furniture.  Once I had the lid off, I reached for the brush, prepared to start the scrubbing and rinsing process and I was surprised to see that it was already clean--after just 45 seconds under running water.  I rinsed it a few more seconds to be sure . . . but it looked good.  So I went to the red paint and started brushing.  Oh, I half-expected to see white paint mixing with the red and screwing up my project, but it didn't happen.  The brush was clean and the red applied flawlessly.

After that, I switched to a tan and again . . . was astounded that a quick 45 second rinse under running water completely removed the red paint and allowed me to switch to another color.

In the end, I can't even begin to tell you how much time I saved.  My rinsing between colors was reduced from 3 - 5 minutes each time down to 45 seconds or less.  And, best of all, after that 45 seconds, I had ALL the previous color out of the brush.  Sometimes even after cleaning my old brushes for 5 minutes or more, I'd start painting only to find I needed to do more rinsing to get the old colors out.

It was amazing.  The Corona Chinex Excalibur brush is easily, the best brush I've ever used and I know, if you put one in your painting arsenal at home, you won't regret it.  Check it out!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Worse Than the Disease?

Have you ever paid attention during some of those "new Wonder Drug" commercials?  You know, the wonder drug that's supposed to completely relieve allergy symptoms?  Yeah, the commercials usually show us a bunch of actors (ahem, I mean, real people who AREN'T actors) who are finally living their lives again thanks to this particular drug.

We see them running and jogging, exercising and hanging out with other folks their age.  They're driving convertibles and laughing and playing tennis and drinking fancy coffees.  It's amazing.  Just days earlier, they had been curled up on the floors of their bedrooms and now their alive.  Fully and completely ALIVE!

Well, the commercial usually goes on like that, but then, just before it ends, there's that one fast-talking announcer who comes on to tell us about a few, minor side-effects.   Oh, tiny things--things that are hardly worth mentioning.  Insignificant-little-nothing things like sleeplessness, occasional headaches and the ever-popular uncontrollable and unpredictable bouts of vomiting and nausea.  

Now, if that's all the side-effects there were . . . maybe we'd be alright trying the drug.  But the fast-talking announcer is usually just getting warmed up at that point.  She goes on to explain that "in rare cases, users will experience dry mouth, bleeding gums, the loosening or losing of teeth coupled with a pronounced difficulty of saying words that have "th" in them.  In ultra rare cases, patients" (notice how first the people are called "users" and now they're called "patients"?  Makes you wonder about the progression).  Anyway, back to our fast talking announcer friend:  "In ultra rare cases, patients may experience hair loss, liver damage, internal bleeding, immense weight gain and possibly death followed by loss of appetite."

Wow.  But usually, before we can ponder those horrible side-effects too long, the actors . . . I mean, the real, honest-to-goodness regular folks . . . come back on and tell us how none of that happened to them and how they're finally living again.

Anyway . . . long description . . . but you've seen those before haven't you?  And if you have, you must have wondered, as I have, whether the cure is worse than the affliction.

Well, that brings me back to my point from the other day about Chlorine bleach cleaners on our decks.  This is a typical example of a solution that's worse than the condition it's trying to remedy. See, many folks (and honestly, many home improvement centers) recommend deck cleaners that contain or ask you to add Chlorine Bleach.  And while Chlorine bleach is a wonderful sanitizer and does a great job killing germs . . . it unfortunately also does a great job of killing all the trees and plants around your deck.  It'll take the natural color out of your deck as well as accelerate the corrosion of the nails, screws and structural hardware that hold the deck together.  It kills or damages the naturally occurring lignin in the wood, causing the wood to deteriorate more rapidly and, to top it all off, the ionic structure of the Chlorine won't allow it to penetrate into your wood.  The water will--and after all, bleach is 99% water--but that really only makes things worse.  The water penetrates and simply feeds the roots of the molds or algaes that are deep in your wood.  Basically, it provides food for the things you're trying to kill.

So that led me to urge you to lay off the Chlorine Bleach cleaning solutions when it comes time to clean your deck--you're just likely to cause more damaging results than happy ones.

But, while that's hopefully helpful information, it's actually, kind of empty.  Telling you not to do something or telling you about a product not to use is only half-helpful.  The information's only  truly helpful if I supply you with an alternative--another product that can and should be used in place of Chlorine bleach cleaners.

Well . . . that's the plan for today.  See, while Chlorine Bleach is a bad, nasty and ultimately detrimental solution to cleaning your deck . . . Oxygenated Bleach is perfect. 
  • First, Oxygenated bleach is safe for the wood of the deck--it won't harm the lignin.  It's not going to cause the wood to break down and fail quicker than it naturally would.   Also, it's not going to bleach out the wood's natural colors.  It will clean away the washed out, sun-bleached gray look of your deck and it will restore those deck boards to something much more like their original cedar or brownish, red color. 
  • Secondly, it's safe for all the vegetation and plant life around your deck.  With Chlorine bleach, all your landscaping needs to be protected at all costs.  Even a little Chlorine bleach can bring about rapid death to plants.  Oxygenated bleach doesn't.  It's biodegradable and perfectly safe for most vegetation.
  • Thirdly, Chlorine bleach is a hazard to work with on your own account as well.  It can bleach out your clothing, burn your skin, hurt your pets or kids.  Oxygenated bleach won't do these things and it's safe around your pets and kids.
Add to this the fact that it actually works better than Chlorine bleach cleaners on a deck and it's really a no-brainer.  Why use a product that's got a list of side-effects as long as your arm AND that will only work moderately well to fix the problem?  Why use that when you could switch to a product with NO side-effects and which is 10x more effective?

So, when it comes to cleaning your deck, head to RepcoLite and we'll steer you towards Defy's Safe Oxygenated Bleach.  It'll cost about $21 for a container that will clean over 1,000 square foot, so it's not going to break the bank . . . and best of all, it's both easy to use AND effective.

Next time I'll walk you through the deck cleaning project using a cleaner like this, and I'll fill you in on a couple tricks that will make sure your project turns out great. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Father's Day Ramblings

Well, we're closing in on Father's Day. Yeah. And on Father's Day, every year, we have the same problems. In my home. The same problems every single year. And these problems are entirely brought about by me--by my failings as a person.

See, every single year, I make a big, profound display of telling everybody not to worry about presents. Because really, I'm an adult. I don't need presents. I'm bigger than that. My reward is in knowing that my family loves me. I don't need presents. So I tell them that. I tell them not to worry about it. I tell them to save the money. I assure them that they don't need to worry about getting me anything . . . .

But the problems come about when they actually believe what I'm saying. See, when I say all those things . . . the sad little truth is that I'm lying. Oh, I say I don't want presents, but what I'm REALLY saying is that I don't want any CRUDDY presents. I want fun stuff. Video Games and electronics of all sorts. Things like that. Things that are wrapped in plastic and have anti-theft devices inside. Things with bubblewrap. Yes, I'm trying to sound big and adult and above the notion or need for presents, but inside, I really, really just want GOOD presents.

Well, unfortunately, my family doesn't always clue in to this fact. No. They take me at my word and they don't get me anything . . . and so when father's day comes around and I wake up and don't get anything . . . I usually get all pouty and I mope around the house until Tami says something along the lines of "Fine . . . I'll go buy you your stupid present tomorrow!"

Well, when that happens half the fun is gone. And so I say that. I say, in my most adult and serious and honest voice, "No, no, no. I'm fine. I'm just being a crab. Besides, if you'd get me something now, half the fun would be gone because I complained so much. So really, don't bother. I'm fine. Fine."

Now, what she hears when I say something like that is this: She hears me say "I'm sorry for crabbing. I love the handmade cards I got and don't need anything else. In fact, I don't deserve a present and the fun would be gone anyway because of how I acted. So Don't bother."

That's what my wife hears. And this is a lesson for all men and women out there about how differently we communicate. See, that's what she hears, but if you remember what I said, you'll realize how wrong she would be in interpreting it that way. See, what I actually said was, and I quote, "if you get me something now, half the fun would be gone" end quote. Now, do you see the difference?
She thinks I said "the fun would be gone" when in reality, I said, only HALF the fun would be gone. Now, maybe for you women listening, that makes no difference--maybe those two things mean the same things to you--but to a guy, there's a world of difference. Let me explain: see, to a guy, what that means is that while half the fun would be gone . . . the other half of the fun would still be there... And half is better than none, right? I'd rather have half a dollar than no dollar. I'd rather have half a roast beef sandwich from Arby's than no Roast beef sandwich. It's not complicated. Half is always better than none.

See, the whole thing is code. It's my way of saying, OK, go buy me something tomorrow--I know I was a jerk and I know that because of that I'll feel bad about getting something. And I know that bad feeling I have will take away 50% of the fun I would have had. But I'm willing to sacrifice that 50% of fun in order to pick up the other 50% of fun the present will bring.

Really, the whole thing is very simple, when you break it down . . . but Tami just doesn't get it and so that's what happens on most Father's Days. Oh, like I said, it's my own fault. I know that. I know I'm being petty and childish and ridiculous. I know all that.

But that's not the point. The point I wanted to make today is that this year looks like it's going to be different. Oh, of course, I did the same thing I do every year. I made all the standard brush-offs when it came to presents. "Don't get me anything--let's just save our money" and other tripe like that. But this year, when I said those things I watched as as everybody looked at each other and winked and nodded. And that's when I realized that they KNEW! They knew I was only saying that to sound like an adult. They knew I wanted presents!

I remember sitting at the table that night and almost rubbing my hands together: I was going to get presents this year.

But . . . . Yes, there's a but. A big one. See, I thought this year would be different, BUT, a few days later we went to Target for some basic things and as I was walking through the store ahead of my wife and kids, I happened to turn around to ask them something and they all straightened up and acted like they weren't doing anything. But I had seen them. Oh, I didn't let on . . . but I started sweating . . . because I had seen them. I knew what they were doing: They were getting me my Father's Day present.

Now, you'd think I'd be happy about this, but I have already told you: I'm a petty and small individual. And they weren't standing by the electronics when I caught them. They weren't standing by the Video Games. They were standing at some end cap display that was full of . . . are you ready . . . trophies. Yes. Trophies. They weren't even metal trophies. They were that resin stuff and then painted to look kind of gold. They were trophies with a golf ball and some grass by it and the trophy said "Number 1 Dad." They were $9.95 + tax and Caleb, as I stared at him, currently had one behind his back and was trying to pass it to Tami so she could slip it into the cart without me seeing it.

Well, I let that go. I don't know if they bought it or not. I think it found it's way back to the shelf, but I won't know for sure until Father's Day.

As the days went by, I forgot about it. It's not a big deal--it's just Father's Day--and I went about my normal life. Until Caleb asked me if I had any scrap hunks of wood he could nail together. Well, I do . . . but I was curious what he was going to build. Oh, he was a little embarrassed and nervous to tell me but then he confided that he was going to build me something. With wood scraps and roofing nails. For Father's Day.
Well, you can't argue with a little boy building his dad a present out of wood scraps and roofing nails--oh, you can wish it was an ipod, but you can't fault the little guy for trying--so I pointed him in the direction of the wood heap and told him not to poke his eyes out.

He hammered away for a while and then emerged with something that he decided was for him instead of me . . . and again, life went on. Time passed and I forgot about Father's Day and presents and trophies and wood scraps . . . until the other night.

See, Tami and the kids were running a garage sale with my sister and they were all there the other day. As we were sitting around the table that night, eating dinner, Caleb and the kids confessed that they had spent much of their time at the garage sale . . . shopping. Caleb took a bite of his hamburger and put it down and said,

"Dad, I looked and looked, but didn't find anything for you."

I looked at the boy and thought he was joking. He didn't seem to be. So I asked a clarifying question: "You looked for things for me at our own garage sale?" He nodded.

I looked at him a little longer and then asked another clarifying question: "You know what a garage sale is, right? You know that's a place where people bring the junk they don't want, put $.25 on it and hope somebody takes it, right?" He nodded.

"And you didn't find anything for me?"

He shook his head. Well, I breathed a sigh of relief--last thing I wanted for Father's day was an old 70's lamp I was trying to get rid of. "Oh, don't worry about it," I said, "I don't need anything anyway."
Well, as I said in the beginning, we're closing in on Father's Day . . . and I have no idea if I'm getting anything or what I could be getting. But I've changed my mind on whether it's important or not. It's been fun watching their little minds work as they try to find something they can afford that they could give me. And 10 years from now, I'd rather have that #1 Dad trophy or that hunk of wood with nails on it sitting on my shelf than a hundred ipods. But you know, guys, in case your listening . . . I wouldn't mind both . . . .

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Caring for Exterior Wood Doors

Exterior wood doors can be a beautiful addition to your home--a tremendous step up in appeal and appearance from a typical steel or fiberglass door.  But, along with the added beauty comes added maintenance. Fortunately, this maintenance doesn't need to be painful as long as you keep up on it!

The life of the finish on your exterior door is going to vary.  It all depends on the conditions to which the door is continually exposed.  If it's protected from the elements and the sun, it may last for 2-3 years or so.  However, if it's exposed to rain and sun on a regular basis, you can probably expect that finish to last about a year.  

The key to keeping the maintenance of your door to a bare minimum is to catch problems early.  Catching problems early means that you just have to reapply a new layer of a protective varnish.  However, if you leave the door too long and the finish fades off, bigger problems can result--problems that aren't as quick and easy to fix.  So, to avoid that, inspect your door regularly and look for signs of finish failure.  Look for a dulling or a whitish haze in the finish.  Feel the door, looking for  roughness or raised grain.  Examine the door for surface checks.  If you notice any of these things, you should consider a restoration of your finish.

NOW THE HARD PART (But Don't Worry, It's Easy)
Once you notice a problem on your door--a failing of the finish--the job at hand is to get a new protective coat on the surface.  And while this may not sound like a fun project, have no fear:  it's simple.
  1. Start with a light sanding over the entire door.  Dull the surface up and be sure to fully remove any loose or chipping areas in the finish.
  2. Wipe the door down with a rag dampened slightly with mineral spirits (paint thinner).
  3. Apply two coats of Sikkens Cetol Door and Window finish.  (This is a UV resistant, high quality exterior wood finish. It's a little on the expensive side, but when it comes to a wood door, you've already made a huge investment . . . don't skimp on the protective coating!)
  4. Let the door dry the required amount of time and you're done . . . (at least for another year!)
The big thing with exterior wood doors is Preventative Maintenance.  Catch the problems early and you'll have no problems getting the door back to it's original, beautiful condition!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Unique Headboards

I'm kind of frustrated.  See, I would love to try some of these headboard ideas I've been writing about in my own home--but I can't.  Or really, to be more accurate, there's no point.  The beds we already own are adequate and they don't lend themselves to this project.  So I'm kind of frustrated.  But, I take some comfort in the fact that I can still write about these and get you thinking about them and hopefully convince some of you to give the ideas a try.

Anyway, I'm going to breeze through a few ideas today with only brief descriptions or information.  I think these particular ideas are pretty basic and don't need too much explanation. 

It's just like it sounds.  Buy either a section of Picket Fence at the lumber yard, or build one specifically.  Since you're using it inside, you could easily build it out of regular pine and then simply prime and paint it for that clean white look.
If you opt for this . . . don't let yourself leave the motif without completing it.  You've installed a picket fence in your bedroom . . . that means you need lots of greenery and "outdoorsy" stuff.  Possibly sky blue walls, possibly (in a kids room) a tree mural.  Maybe you need to wind some "greens" or "vines" through the slats of the fence.  Whatever you do, have fun with the theme and build on it.

Here's another idea that I think has a ton of potential.  Buy or get your hands on (lawfully, of course!) one of those changing screen things you see at home decor stores and then it's up to you how creative you can get.

Some of these screens are frames with scrolling and winding metalwork.  That's fine.  They can be mounted directly behind the bed as is.  I've seen other screens that are like the screen on the right.  This one had a uniform brown canvas backer that was removed and replaced with the black and white fabric. 

Again, whatever you do is up to you . . . the point is . . . think beyond what you immediately see!

I don't know exactly how this one was done, but it seems to be more about patience than skill.  It's made entirely of those little wood shims can pick up at any lumber yard.  They were probably sanded (though not necessarily) and varnished when the look was completed.

However they were put together, the look is a weird combination of modern . . . and warm and woodsy . . . you could really go any direction with something like this.

And there you go . . . a bunch of ideas for headboards.  And the point, above all, is to remember to think creatively when a need arises.  When you need a new headboard for a bedroom, you could jump in the car and drive to the home decor store, pick one out, and call it good.  Or, you could get creative.  Maybe you've already got everything you need for the perfect piece.

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Old Shutters" Headboard

In keeping with some earlier posts about headboards, here's another idea worth your time and attention:  what about using old shutters?

This idea works especially well if you're interested in a distressed look (as we see in the picture at the left).  If that's the look you're going for, it doesn't matter if the shutters are old, chipping, faded or even broken (note the second white shutter).  All of those things play into "the look."

So, whenever you're wandering through a large flea market or a mission store . . . keep your eyes open for little treasures like these!

  • BUILD YOUR OWN.  Now, if you can't find some plantation shutters like the ones above, don't worry--you could still imitate the look with some very simple exterior shutters.  And if you can't find any wooden ones for sale, you could easily build your own.  Just take a look at the picture to the right for inspiration.  The shutters don't need to be complicated.  Just create some shutters, finish them in whatever style appeals to you and mount them.
  •  MIX and MATCH.  Don't be afraid to combine headboard ideas into one.  For example, an obvious combination would be to start with 1 old window and then install a shutter on either side of it.  Go crazy and complete the look by building a small flower box underneath the window with greens or real potted plants.
Whatever you do, as with all these ideas, have fun.  Don't jump at the first idea that crosses your mind.  Think about it for a while . . . turn it over in your brain . . . and you'll be surprised how creative you really can be!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Steel Doors Revisited: Surface Prep on a NEW Door

In an earlier article, we talked about painting your old steel doors.  And while all that information was absolutely flawless (!) in it's delivery, it's probably important that we take a second here and attach an addendum.

See, we often talk to people in the store at RepcoLite about their new doors and we usually discover there's a misconception as to what needs to be done.  Most people tend to think that since their steel or fiberglass door is NEW, they need to do no prep work.  It's one of the perks of buying a new door, right?

Unfortunately . . . wrong.  New doors, even if they're pre-primed, need to be prepped correctly.  Even if they're new, they can be covered with surface contaminants that can affect the adherance of your finish coat.  So, even though your door may be new, it still will need to be prepped correctly before you move on to the paint.

Here are the steps:
  • SCUFF SAND:  Do a light scuff sanding of the door with some 120 - 150 grit paper.  Even though the door is pre-primed, it never hurts to dust over it lightly with some sandpaper to level out any bumps in the primer coat.
  • WASH THE DOOR:  After you've sanded the door, be sure to wash over it with TSP (TriSodium Phosphate).  This will remove the dust you created while sanding AND it will remove any contaminants that could be on the surface (body oils from installation, airborne dirt and grime, etc.)
Doing those simple prep steps will help ensure that the paint job on your new door will look great for years to come!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Painting a Steel Door

Painting a steel door is one of those projects that can make a big impact on the exterior appearance of your home.  And if you do the project the right way, you'll be enjoying that color for years to come.

If you're thinking about sprucing up your front door any time soon, follow these tips and steps to make sure the project goes as easily as possible:
  1. REMOVE THE DOOR and THE WEATHER STRIPPING:  If possible, you'll have your best success if you can completely remove the door from the frame and set it in your garage or your basement on saw horses.  If you can't remove the door, don't sweat it--you can still do a good job, though you'll need to be a little more cautious with paint runs, etc.  Also, many doors allow you to remove the weather stripping.  This is ideal.  Remove it (paying attention to how it will go back on) and store it somewhere safe.
  2. REMOVE THE HARDWARE:  Whether or not you can remove the door from the frame, the next step is to remove the hardware.  Remove the hinges, the door knobs, and the kick plates.  You can paint around them or tape them off, but leaving them on makes all the subsequent steps more complicated and more time consuming.  So, remove them if at all possible!
  3. SURFACE PREP:  As with any painting project, failure or success is usually determined before you even open a can of paint.  If you're painting over a previously painted door, you need to make sure that you sand and scrape at all the paint to ensure that what remains on the door is stuck down well.  Sand the door with 120 grit paper (you're lightly sanding it--not trying to leave visible grooves).  And then, after sanding and scraping, wash the door down well with a solution of TSP (TriSodium Phosphate).  Quick Tip:  When using the TSP, scrub the door down with a 3M Scotchbrite pad (a little green scrubby pad you might use on dishes).  This will serve to dull and etch your previously painted surface and will aid with the bonding of the new paint!
  4. PRIME (if necessary):  After you've sanded and washed the surface, you should prime any bare metal spots with RepcoLite's 449 Grey Metal Primer.  This is an oil-based, rust-inhibitive primer, that's perfectly suited for these situations.
  5. BRUSH or ROLL YOUR DOOR:  Either using a high-quality brush or a small, quality 4" or 7" roller, apply your paint to the door.  We recommend applying RepcoLite's Acri-Glo Acrylic Latex Paint for the most durable, longest lasting finish.  Work evenly and quickly, starting with the inserts and then finishing up with the remaining flat surfaces of the door.  Apply coats as needed.
  6. LET IT DRY and RE-INSTALL:  Let the door dry at least 8 - 12 hours (longer if possible) and carefully re-install it.  UNDERSTAND:  Latex paint will dry to the touch in a matter of hours, but it doesn't reach it's full hardness for about 30 days.  You don't need to leave the door off the hinges for 30 days, but keep in mind that just because it's "dry" that doesn't mean it's as strong or durable as it's going to be . . . so go easy!
  7. RE-INSTALL WEATHER STRIPPING LATER:  If you can leave the weather stripping off for 10 - 30 days, that'd be in your best interests!  As mentioned earlier, the latex paints will dry quickly, but if you close the door and press it against the weather stripping too soon, it's entirely possible that the paint will peel around the edges when you next open the door!  If you can leave that stripping off for a couple weeks or so before re-installing it, you'll minimize your risks.
  • COLOR MATTERS:  Dark colors fade quickly.  Red can be especially bad.  Also, reds can cover poorly.  
  • NO SHORTCUTS:  One of the worst things you could do when painting a door is try to make a coat of paint cover in 1 coat when it probably needs 2 or 3.  The best advice we can give you on this one is to apply EVEN coats.  If you're color needs 2 - 3 coats of paint, then resign yourself to applying 2 - 3 coats of paint.  If you try to make it cover by applying it too heavily, you will have all sorts of problems on your hands.  The paint will run and sag; it won't cure or dry well and you'll find it sticking to your weather stripping and causing all sorts of other problems!  So, don't rush it.
  • GIVE IT TIME TO DRY:  Latex paints dry to the touch very quickly, but don't let that fool you into applying too many coats too soon.  Apply a coat and let it dry for an hour or two before trying the second one.  Sometimes you could apply those coats as quickly as 15 - 20 minutes after each other (it dries that fast), but in the end, you'll only run into problems.  So give it the dry time the can recommends.
  • LATEX IS BETTER THAN OIL:  Latex Acrylics (like RepcoLite's Acri-Glo) will outperform oil based products.  They'll hold their color better and they'll endure the constant expansion and contraction a steel door experiences much better as well.
  • PAINT IN THE SHADE:  Paint when the sun isn't directly on the door.  And ideally, paint before or long after the door's been exposed to the sun.  Steel doors will heat up significantly on a summer day and if you get on it and start painting too soon, or when it's too hot, you'll have trouble with your latex paint.  It will dry much too quickly and you'll end up with streaks and roller marks.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  This is a project that usually can be accomplished in just a few hours.  It's not complicated--and if you take the steps we've outlined (and check with any RepcoLite store for more information if you have questions) you'll be fine!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tri-Fold Door Headboard

In an earlier post, we talked about using a standard paneled door as a headboard.  Here's another take on the "door as a headboard" idea that really offers you a ton of creative opportunity:  create a headboard from a set of tri-fold closet doors.

Now, admittedly, this is maybe a bit more expensive than some of the other ideas--you would need to pick up a set of doors if you don't have them--but the project will produce a very unique and interesting result that's probably worth the expense. 

Here's how to achieve what you see in the picture, as well as some other variations you could try:

Stripes, Stripes, Stripes
As we see in the picture, stripes can create a calm, soothing, clean and somewhat modern feel in a room.  And the good news is that accomplishing a look like this is much easier than you may think.

However, before we spell out the "how-to's" regarding this project, let me start by saying that the biggest, most important tool you'll need (besides the doors and the paint) is the right tape.  Trying a project like this with the wrong masking tape is going to be disappointing and frustrating.  So don't go cheap on the tape if you're going to try this!  I strongly recommend picking up a role of 3m's "Orange Core" safe-release masking tape at RepcoLite.  This is a specially formulated "safe-release" tape that will both leave sharp, clean lines while at the same time come off freshly painted surfaces without pulling up the paint.  Using a tape like this will prevent any bleed-through or "bumpy" paint lines.  You'll get sharp, crisp lines and (trust me) you'll be happy!
OK, start with the right tape and the rest of the project is easy.
  1. Prime and paint the doors with a white (or the predominant color in your scheme) Eggshell finish.  Preferably RepcoLite's Hallmark Eggshell.
  2. After the doors have dried for 24 hours, carefully measure off and tape the different section that you want to apply the different color stripes to. 
  3. Roll your colors onto these areas using a small roller and allow to dry for 20 minutes to an hour before carefully removing tape.
  4. Continue in this manner, filling in the doors with the differently sized and colored stripes until the doors look the way you want.
  5. Once you've accomplish this, let the doors completely dry and mount them.  (Remember this, though:  Latex paint dries to the touch in hours, but doesn't reach it's full cure or full hardness until about 30 days later.  This means the doors/headboard won't be as durable as possible for the first month or so--so go a little easy on them!)
Variations on this One 
  1. Don't stagger the stripes--run them from one end to the other.
  2. Skip the stripes entirely and paint each door a separate color.
  3. Paint the doors a solid, consistent color--all three of them--and then run 1, 2, maybe 3 narrow stripes (1", 2" or so) across the doors from left to right.  Clump these narrow stripes or spread them out.
  4. Run the stripes from top to bottom rather than left to right.
  5. Apply wallpaper to the doors instead of paint.  
The variations are basically endless.  It's only a matter of the limits of your creativity.  Above all things:  have fun!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Old Window Headboard

Last time we looked at a simple way to create a unique headboard for your bed using an old wooden paneled door.  Today, we're going to move ahead with this topic (headboards) and give you another idea:  old windows.

For this project you need to once again scour your basement and your attic.  Call your friends and ask around.  And if you can't get your hands on any old windows that way, then head out to the mission stores, the junk shops and even the antique malls (though watch out that you don't pay too much money for somebody's old window!)

However you (lawfully) acquire them is your business, but once you have them, you've got any number of ways to turn them into unique, bold, inspiring and interesting headboards for your bed.

Here are just a few ideas and tips:

Distressed Windows for that "French Country" Look
Take a look at the windows after you've finally found them.  Take into account the condition of the paint.  Is it pealing and flaking off?  Or does it just look worn and old?  If it's currently flaking, you might do well to remove it entirely (trust me...leaving it on is just an invitation for it to continue flaking off all over your furniture and floors).
If you decide to remove it entirely, remember to exercise care--understanding that the paint used on the window could be lead-based.  Get an N-100 respirator which is available at any hardware or paint store and then either heat the paint up with a heat gun (less than 1,100 degrees F) and remove it that way or mist it with water (to minimize sanding dust) and power sand it off.

If you're going for that distressed look, don't worry too much about removing everything down to bare wood.  Just get the loose and peeling stuff off and then dust over it with a single coat of RepcoLite's Hallmark Ceramic Matte Finish.  This will produce a very low sheen and it applies and covers very well.

Coat your windows with a single coat of this and then scuff sand them with some 120 grit paper, paying special attention to the edges and corners.  Sand them until they look sufficiently distressed and then hang them.

An option for greater durability and washability would be to topcoat them with a single coat of RepcoLite's Flat Polyurethane Enamel Varnish.  This will keep the sheen down to a minimum while providing you with some durability down the road.  (This is only recommended over colors since it will yellow over time.  If you put it over white windows, they will look "cream" very quickly).

Neutral Windows, Colored Panes
Another way to turn these old windows into a unique headboard is to keep them simple and plain, but use colorful inserts in place of the window glass for interest.
To accomplish this, follow the original steps above to clean and prepare the windows, but rather than painting them with a bright or interesting color, paint them white or cream or some other neutral color.  Then head to the craft store and pick up either some heavy duty foam board or some small artist canvas boards (not the standard artist canvas that is stretched over a frame, but artist canvas that is glued to a thin, heavy duty board).

Pick up one of these types of materials and cut it to size to fit the openings where the window glass would normally be.

Once you've done that, you've got an almost unlimited number of options.  You could paint them solid colors--colors that coordinate or accent your room.  You could rag paint them or use any number of faux-finishing techniques to create an interesting look on the boards.  You could cover them with scraps of fabric or even leftover scraps of wallpaper.

Basically, the point is to cover these inserts with color--whether it's paint or paper or fabric or even photos of your family.  Cover them with somethig interesting and then mount them in the windows.

Experiment with positioning and determine whether or not you want all the window openings filled with color or only several of them.

Other Variations to Consider
  1. Clean the windows up and paint them a solid color and don't distress it--leave it clean and simple.
  2. Use the windows as picture frames.  If there's no glass, you can mount new glass.  If there is glass (and if it's old and wavy and dirty) LEAVE IT!  Mount black and white pictures behind it for a very cool and interesting look.
  3. Fill the window openings with "Stained Glass".  Your local craft store will usually contain small, 8x10 or so pieces of the glass that artisans use for crafting stained glass windows or mosaics.  Buy a few sheets of this and either cut it (carefully) yourself or have a hardware store cut it to size.  Then mount it in your frame.
  4. Mount the windows and then finish the look by installing curtains around them.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Paneled Door Headboard

Creating an interesting, colorful or unique headboard for you bed is a fun and potentially easy way to completely change the look and feel of a bedroom.  Over the next couple entries, we're going to look at some of the best ideas out there on the web--along with a little how-to steps from RepcoLite to make sure these projects go easily for you if you try to tackle them.

The first one I want to talk about is pictured at the left.  It's the "Old Paneled Door" headboard and really can be a highlight or focal point of your room if you do it the right way.

The main thing you need to tackle this project is . . . obviously . . . and old paneled wood door.  Possibly you've got one sitting around in your basement or attic (like me!), or maybe you'll need to scour some junk shops and mission stores.  Another thing to try is this:  call your friends and family.  Many people have all kinds of extra junk sitting around in their homes that they don't know what to do with.  They hate to throw certain things away, but they also have no use for them.  As a result, people "sit on" items like old doors and they end up just taking up space.  It never hurts to ask....

Anyway, once you get your door, the steps are easy from that point on to achieve the look in the picture:
  1.  Install some trim (or crown molding) around the edge of the door that will be the top of the headboard (see top edge of door in photo above).  This will give it a finished look on the top and will also cover up the notches cut in the door for the hinges!
  2. Clean it up and scuff sand it (if you're going to paint it).
  3. Apply your latex paint without primer (if you're going for a distressed look as we see in the photo).
  4. After the paint has dried for a couple days, take some 120grit sandpaper and dust lightly over the entire painted door.  Spend some extra time on edges and the panels to completely remove the paint in those areas and expose the original wood beneath.
  5. Once the door looks sufficiently distressed, wipe it clean with a damp rag and let it dry.
  6. After it's dried you can either leave it and hang it, or for a little extra durability, you could top-coat it with 1 coat of RepcoLite's Flat Polyurethane Varnish.  (If it's white, you might want to leave it unvarnished as the varnish will yellow over time!)
  7. After it's dried for 24 hours, you just need to mount it sideways on the wall (door knob removed and hole down so it's hidden behind the bed) and you're done!
This is one of those projects that you should be able to accomplish relatively quickly and without too much effort.  The part that will require the most DIY'er skill will be the installation of the crown or trim around the top edge.  Other than that, it's all pretty straightforward and simple.  But best of all, the impact is huge.

  1. Leave the door with a "stained" look.  Either scuff sand it and apply a "freshen-up" coat of stain over the whole door (along with a couple coats of Polyurethane) to create a new, finely finished look; or, leave the stained door completely "as-is" for a more rustic look.
  2. Don't distress the door.  Skip the roughed-up look and go for a nice, even, solid coat of paint.  If you do this, I'd strongly recommend RepcoLite's Prime-all Primer as a great basecoat.
  3. Use those old wallpaper scraps!  Cut squares of wallpaper that will fit the panels of the door and install them.  Cut them from scrapes left over in your own home, or call RepcoLite and ask about discontinued wallpaper books you can grab for free!
 from Country Living (photo by Simon Bevan)

from Sunset

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    Little Changes, Big Impact (part 4): ABC Blocks on the Walls

    OK, for the last little bit, we've been talking about small projects you can tackle in your home that will have a big impact on your decorating.  We understand that the idea of repainting a couple rooms in the home isn't always the most exciting thought to everybody out there. Some of us just don't feel like going nuts on a paint job--we don't have the time or the energy right now.

    Others of us like the color of our rooms already.  We think they look nice, but still feel they're missing something.  They're a little plain or boring and we're not sure what we can do to spruce them up, to infuse some life into them, without completely overhauling them.

    That's been the point for the last few entries: small projects that will hopefully  infuse some life into your home without giving you a project that's going to take you weeks to accomplish.

    Well, today I've got one that's really suited for a kids room  or maybe a back entry--some small room where you can branch away from the norm for a little bit without throwing off the decorating scheme of your whole home. Anyway, if you've got a room like that, think about this: what if you'd paint some shapes onto the wall?

    Now, I know (I know, I know) that sounds boring.  But I'm not just talking about basic squares or circles or geometric shapes.  I'm talking about being a little more creative than that (though I'd still argue that geometric shapes on walls can be tremendously creative and interesting if done right!)

    Anyway, even though those basic shapes can be creative, that's not exactly what I'm talking about today.  See, I've never had the right room to do this in, but I've imagined a cool kids rooms where you take some stencils of letters and combine them with some square shapes to create letter blocks on the wall--you know those little wood ABC blocks kids play with and chew on? Anyway, paint the blocks in a corner--make them large (1-2 foot square)--and stack them. Stagger the stack or paint them in a tumbled heap in a corner. You could spell out ABC's on the letters or a child's name. You could craft some other message:  Family or Faith or pretty much anything you want.

    All it takes is a little time, a small amount of paint, and a helping of creativity.