Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bad Days

Today's just for fun--and to let you know that we all have bad days.  For example:  last Thursday, I decided--against my better judgment--that I should go into the eye doctor.  I’d been dealing with a goopy right eye for a couple weeks and I was sick of it.  I’d talk to people in the store and they would see the tears running out of that one eye and they’d always be patting me on my arm and asking me if I was alright and stuff like that.  So, sick of everybody thinking I was crying all the time, I decided I should probably go to the eye doctor.

And so we made an appointment and learned that RepcoLite’s insurance plan has a $15 co-pay for trips to the eye doctor.  So, for $15, I figured I couldn’t go wrong.  Shows what I know.

See, I made an appointment for Thursday and drove down there.  I got into the room and they did all the preliminary stuff including that horrible dilating of my eyes.  Then the doctor came in and started doing a full eye exam.  I stopped him and said I was just here to figure out why I had goop eye.  He didn’t understand, so I showed him my gooey, drippy eye and after literally recoiling with disgust, he leaned in and looked at it.  He then asked if I would like a full eye exam.

Once again, I said no. I think he asked me three more times if I'd like a full eye exam and finally, eventually, I convinced him that I was only here to have my infected (or whatever) eye looked at.   Persuaded, finally, he leaned back in and gave my eye a serious looking-at. For a long time.  Back and forth.  Flashing lights and peering in with all sorts of equipment.  Finally, he was satisfied and leaned back in his chair.  He folded his arms and looked at me.  And then he asked me this question in this way:

“Do you ever wash your eyelid with soap?”

Now, the way he said it made me realize that he had discovered something and that it was going to be embarassing for me--potentially.  So my brain started spinning and I started trying to figure out exactly what answer he wanted.  At this point, I was less concerned with telling him exactly how things work and more interested in not looking stupid.  I tossed all the possibilities in my head:  If I say I wash my eyelids regularly with soap, I figured he’d say, “there’s your problem--soap irritation--everybody knows not to put soap by their eye, what’s wrong with you?”  However, I also figured that if I said, “nope, soap never gets within 10 feet of my eyelid”, I assumed he’d say” well what’s wrong with you, you pig?  You’re filthy.  A little hygiene never killed anybody. Just leave through the back door and go straight home and scrub.”

Do you see the dilemma?  I didn’t want to look dumb--I needed to figure out what he wanted me to say, but I didn’t know.  So we just sat there, looking at each other.  My gooey eye made squishy sounds as it blinked repeatedly.  Finally, I said, “Nope.  I don’t let soap get near my eye.”  

And of course, that was the wrong answer.

He said--and I quote--”it wouldn’t hurt to use a little baby soap around your eye--it’s dirty.”  He then wrote that on my paperwork--which will now be with me forever:  "Patient has dirty eye and displays profound inability to clean himself adequately--use latex gloves when handling."  He wrote that all down, I’m sure, and sent me out to the desk.

At the desk, the next blow came when I discovered the visit wouldn’t cost me $15 dollars, but $45. When I asked why, they explained it was because I didn’t have an eye exam.   (Imagine palm slap to forehead). 

Now, you’d think that was the end, right?  Nope.  They gave me those great big horrible sun glass things and sent me on my way.  I felt like I was 94 years old driving out of that parking lot and pulling onto the highway.  My eye was tearing up, my crazily dilated pupils were sucking in so much sunlight I could barely see and then, at a stop light, I pressed on my brakes and noticed that my foot went straight to the floor.

I though that was odd--unusual--not the way things normally worked--but then the light changed and I started going again.  I tested my breaks as best I could and realized that they weren’t working very well at all.  Something had gone wrong and now I had extremely limited breaks.

Think about that for a moment:  my eyes were dilated to the breaking point, I was wearing those huge sunglasses that shrouded the world in darkness, my goopy eye was tearing up and blurring my already limited field of vision and, to top it all off, I was driving down the road in a car that had almost no breaks.  If I hadn’t spent most of that drive just trying to stay alive and keep other people alive, I think it would have been hilarious.

In the end, I made it to the repair shop, parked my car, took off my big dumb sunglasses (because I didn’t want to look stupid) and then staggered blindly into the building, waving my arms out in front of me to make sure I didn't bang into the siding or another person.  

When I finally made it to the counter, I dropped my key there and the guy at the computer looked at me.  He saw my big goopy, drippy eye and said, in a very conciliatory tone:  “Bad day, huh?  Well, it’ll be ok.  Just tell us what’s wrong and we’ll get it fixed.”

Yeah, I'd been humiliated at the Dr’s office, dropped $45 bucks, lost the breaks on my car, was almost killed at least 5 times all in the hopes of fixing my eye and in the end, people talking to me still thought I was crying.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Paint Your Front Door and Change the Look of Your Home for $30!

Summer's getting closer!  And with it, comes a natural desire for many of us to get outside and do some work on our homes.  There's just something about nice weather, sunny days, warm breezes, and all the beauty of Spring that makes us want to "spruce" up our homes a little bit.  

Unfortunately, money is a little tight for a lot of us right now and the thought of dropping a few hundred dollars on a big paint job can be daunting to say the least.

Well, if that sums up you (as it sums up me!), then consider this:  what about a smaller paint project that will still have a huge impact?  

I'm talking about your front doors.  Doors can be painted, typically, in a matter of just a few hours.  The cost?  Typically under $30.  The results?  (To use the over-used formula):  Priceless.

A new color on a front door can bring your home from "boring" to hip in just a matter of minutes.  A new color on a front door can give your siding--what you may think of as tired and old--a new look.  A new color on your door will interact differently with your shutters, your roof, your landscaping, everything.  

In short, a new color on a front door can give your entire home a subtle new look.  All for under $30 (tools included) and a couple hours worth of work!  

So, if you're looking for a project , but aren't quite ready to repaint your entire home, give this a try!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Peeling Paint on a Deck . . . Now What?

I was out of the office and working in one of our RepcoLite stores last week Friday and a contractor walked in with some questions about a deck.

Here's the scenario:  He's been hired to fix a deck for a homeowner.  The deck had been painted before and was now peeling.  He'd power-washed it and managed to remove about 20% - 30% of the old paint.  He was at RepcoLite to pick up some primer and some paint so he could prime the bare spots and get everything coated.

Well, that sounds easy enough, but there's a problem and after explaining the situation to him, I decided it was perfect for a blog entry.  So, here's what we covered at the counter:

  • OLD, FAILING PAINT CONTINUES TO PEEL:  The first concept I needed the contractor to understand is the notion that once the paint starts to fail and peel, it will continue until it's mostly gone.  Unfortunately, it doesn't typically do this all at once.  So, even though the contractor had done a good job and had power-washed the deck, the problem was that much of the old paint remained.  The reason this is a problem is because...
  • NEW PAINT/PRIMER WILL NOT MAKE OLD PAINT STICK BETTER:  Putting new paint overtop of old paint--old paint that has started to peel--will not bond that paint to the surface.  The new paint WILL bond to the old paint . . . but if the old paint is starting to fail, it will eventually peel and take the new paint off as well.  This is bad news because...
  •  ALL THE WORK YOU DO CAN BE WASTED:  If you go through all the work of power washing, priming and painting a deck that is covered with old paint that has started to peel, the chances are the spots where you primed and painted BARE WOOD will hold up alright for a couple years.  However, equally as likely is the chance that the old paint that you couldn't remove will peel soon, taking the new paint with it.  In the end, you (or your customer) will be left with the same situation they just thought they rectified. 
Well, we covered those problems and I could tell it sunk in and made sense to the contractor I was helping.  He then asked the obvious question:  WHAT DO I DO TO FIX IT, THEN?

That's a bigger concept, but to briefly sum it up:
  • POWER WASH!  A good place to start is where my contractor DID start:  a good power washing.  Much of the time, the pressure from the wash will blast off much of the loose and flaking paint.  
  • SAND/STRIP THE DECK!  If the power washer doesn't completely remove the paint--or at least remove 80% - 90% of it, you may want to consider stripping the deck with chemical strippers or possibly renting a sander and sanding the paint off.
  • FLIP THE BOARDS OR INSTALL NEW!  This is a hard-core solution to the problem, but would typically fix the issue.  Some decks are in good enough condition that flipping the boards to the uncoated side gives a new surface to work on.  Other decks might be better suited simply being replaced.
  • BITE THE BULLET AND DEAL WITH THE FAILURE!  Another option--though not terribly appealing--would be the option of simply accepting the failure.  This means you weigh all the options and decide that for your situation, you're better off just cleaning the deck as well as you can and then priming and painting and accepting the fact that next summer you'll probably have to do it again.
In the end, I write all of this for two reasons:  first, to give you some tips if you're dealing with a deck that's been painted in the past.  It's important to understand the limitations and the struggles you'll have trying to make it look good.  Sometimes at least knowing those issues up front will help!  Secondly, I mention this mainly for this reason:  To help you realize that paint on a deck is NOT THE WAY TO GO.  It sounds good, it looks like a good option, it's appealing to many people . . . but the problems quickly arise and then, dealing with them can be extremely time-consuming and expensive!  Paint's great for many surfaces.  A Michigan deck, however, isn't one of them!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

4 Tips to Help You Paint (Successfully) With Color!

Have you tried bringing color into your home only to find that it didn't work?  That the colors didn't look good together?  That they were too bold or too overpowering?  And then, when that happened, did you simply go back to painting in soft whites and neutrals?

This happens to a lot of people we run into at RepcoLite--they branch out into the world of "color" only to find that the colors they chose didn't look very good.  Typically, many of those folks then assume that "color's not for them" or that "they're just not cut out to decorate in color" and they return to the safety of neutral.

If that's you, then hold on for a second:  color adds interest and visual appeal to our decorating.  It can take a boring room and turn it into something that turns heads and starts conversations.  The trick is to use the right colors in the right quantities. 

And here are 4 quick ideas to help you do that:

  • CHECK OUT YOUR COLOR IN ALL LIGHTING SITUATIONS:  Many folks come into the store, pick out some color samples, scrutinize them, and then order a gallon or two of paint.  Then they go home and paint their walls only to find that when night comes and the room darkens the color's way too dark on their walls.  Avoid this mistake by taking your color chips home and examining them in YOUR lighting and in all lighting situations.  Look at the colors at night in the rooms in which they'll be well before you start rolling them out!
  • CHOOSE YOUR PAINT LAST:  In the decorating process, many folks start with the paint.  They'll come to the paint store and try to establish their paint colors before they step into the furniture stores or the carpet stores.  This is a mistake.  Folks will come in, pick a bold, bright color for their walls, and then later discover they can't find a couch or carpet that looks good with those colors.  They then, mistakenly, assume that bold colors are just not their thing.  The problem isn't bold colors, it's the timing of the color choice.  Remember:  Paint is the most adjustable aspect of any home decorating project and should therefore, be selected after everything else is chosen.  First find your couch, your carpet, your wall hangings, etc. and then have the paint made to pull colors from those items.  Doing it this way makes decorating with color easy.  Doing it backwards makes decorating with color seem impossible!
  • PLAN AHEAD:  Another thing to think about applies especially to those folks who are working their way through their house.  They start with one room, get it finished and then move on to the next one.  If this is you, plan your steps and your decorating with an eye on your next move.  Don't find a beautiful, bold color for your living room, make everything work together beautifully only to discover that you have no idea what color will go with it when you move to your hallway.  Plan your living room with your hallway in mind.  Make sure the colors will harmonize as you work your way through the house.  
  • DON'T BE FOOLED BY COLOR CHIPS:  This last tip is important!  When you look at a standard color chip, you'll see a light color at the top and a darker version of that color at the bottom with five or six variations in between.  The typical response many of us have to this way of displaying color is to assume that the top color is an off white.  From there, we gauge the depth of the subsequent colors on the chip.  The mistake comes in our initial assumption:  often, the colors on the top of the chips are already significantly darker than off whites.  So, while the third color on the chip may look--by comparison to the other colors--to be a "medium-toned" color, we are often surprised to see how dark it actually is on our walls.  So all that to say, one of the best things you can do is take that color swatch you like and hold it up to some standard whites or off whites to give yourself a good perception of the true depth of the colors--that way you won't be too surprised when you get them on your wall.

Monday, May 16, 2011

When It's Time to Clean Your Deck, Lay Off the Bleach!

Here's a post from last year, but since we're coming up on "Deck Season" again, I figured it was good to dust it off....
Well, summer's upon us and many of us, because of the rainy start, are still scrambling to get our decks cleaned and protected for the season.  If that's you--if you're one of those folks looking for a good, dry weekend so you can get your deck cleaned and ready for cookouts and parties, well be sure you read this first.
See, one of the tendencies we often notice at RepcoLite is a customer's desire or plan to use regular household bleach to clean their deck.  Since Chlorine bleach does a great job killing bacteria and stuff like that, many of us figure it'll be perfect for our dirty, moldy or mildewed decks.  

But before you go and jump into a job like this, you should be aware that Chlorine bleach has never been proven terribly effective in killing molds on rough, porous surfaces.  Also, be aware that it actually destroys 
the lignin in your wood deck.  

Now, for those of you not quite up to speed on what exactly lignin is, or does, let me explain:  Lignin is a naturally occuring "complex polymer that binds to cellulose fibers and hardens and strengthens the cell walls of plants"(1).  Basically, when lignin is destroyed by bleach, the way the wood bonds together is disrupted or compromised.  When this happens, the wood's much more likely to exhibit signs of aging, splintering and checking.  On top of all of that, Chlorine bleach will effectively remove the natural coloring from the wood of your deck, replacing it with a bland, washed-out appearance.

Also, not only does Chlorine bleach negatively affect the durability, quality and appearance of the wood of your deck.  It also can make your deck restoration project.  See, bleach is basically 99% water. And water is largely the reason we see the growth of bacteria and mold on our decks.  Now, the nature of Chlorine prevents it from penetrating deep into materials like concrete or wood.  However, while the Chlorine won't penetrate--and instead, just lays on the surface--the water WILL penetrate.  And this really only serves to feed the roots of the mold.  So, you clean the deck, get it looking great--right away--only to find a few days later that the mold is back with a vengeance.  This is all likely to happen when Chlorine bleach is used as a cleaner.

So, with all that said, the answer's pretty simple:  when it comes to cleaning your deck, lay off the Chlorine bleach!  Instead, use an oxygenated Bleach cleaner like "Defy's Safe Oxygenated Bleach Wood Cleaner" available at RepcoLite for $20.95.  This powder mix will mix with water to produce 5 gallons of deck cleaning solution--enough to cover 700 - 1000 square feet.

An oxygenated Bleach like Defy's cleaner will give your deck a clean look without harming the wood, detracting from it's appearance or endangering the surrounding vegetation.  Oxygen bleach give you a clean deck and will not harm vegetation surrounding your deck, which is a huge plus and will save you time from covering your grass and landscaping to protect it.  Remember, the healthier your deck wood is, the better the deck's going to look.

So lay off the Chlorine bleach when it's cleaning time!

End Notes

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Save Money: Buy Quality Paint!

Spring has finally (hopefully) sprung and with it, so has the exterior painting season.  Homeowners all throughout West Michigan are already starting to take a look around their properties, trying to decide what jobs need to be tackled and which ones can wait until next year.

Well, with the economic situation being what it is, chances are most of us who are looking to do some exterior painting are also looking for ways to cut back on the expense.  And typically, when it comes to painting, the most obvious place to cut expenses is by buying a cheaper paint.  After all, if you buy 3 gallons of paint at RepcoLite for $40 a gallon, but can buy some paint at the hardware store down the street for $20 a gallon, you'll save at least $60 on the project, right?  

Not exactly.  In fact, chances are, you won't be saving any money at all and, in fact, will likely be spending more in the long run.  

According to a Press Release by the Paint Quality Institute, field tests show that "while ordinary exterior paint lasts about 4 years, top quality 100% acrylic latex paint can last 10 years or more when applied to a properly prepared surface"1.  What this means, is that while the initial cost of the paint is HIGHER, the overall cost of the paint will be much, much less.  

For example, taking our situation where a homeowner purchases 3 gallons of ORDINARY paint to do some work on their home, we can see that the cost is $60.  Add another $15 or so in for supplies and then, don't forget to take into account your time.  With all of that, you've got at least $75 in materials and some time invested.  Now, according to the field tests conducting by the Paint Quality Institute, that ORDINARY paint is likely to give you 4 years of quality service.  So, doing the math, the cost breaks down to about $18.95 a year.

Now, if you'd do that same job with QUALITY 100% ACRYLIC paint like RepcoLite's Endura (formerly UltraShield), you'll pay $37 per gallon.  With 3 gallons needed, you'll spend $111 on paint.  Add to that the $15 in supplies and your time and you'll have a total cost of about $126.  

At first glance, that looks like a $50 savings by going to the cheaper paint.  However, if the Endura lasts--as the field tests show it will--at least 10 years before it needs to be redone, you find that the average cost per year breaks down to about $12.60, which actually makes it cheaper in the long run than buying the cheaper paint.

Add to that savings the fact that your time isn't cheap and that with the ORDINARY paint, you'll have to do the project at least twice before you've reached that 10 year point that QUALITY paint will get you.  

The savings get even greater if you decide to hire a contractor to do the work because labor costs don't vary based on the paint.  If you have your painter use a cheap paint, it's not going to affect your LABOR costs.  If he uses a QUALITY paint, your LABOR costs will not change.  The only thing that changes is your PAINT costs.  And if that paint lasts you 2 1/2 times as long as an ORDINARY paint, you're going to be money ahead in the long run.

In the end, remember that saving money is about looking at the big picture.  Saving money today, only to spend more money down the road doesn't really do you any good.  You're net result is still a loss.  So don't let yourself get suckered by a low sticker price.  Saving money is about more than just saving a few bucks today.  Buy with the big picture in mind and you'll be congratulating yourself for your smart decision 4 years from now!


1. Paint Quality Institute, Best Paint Offers Best Return on Investment.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Geting Rid of Mold on Your Ceiling in 4 Steps

Mold on a bathroom ceiling is a common problem homeowners struggle with on a regular basis.  However, the good news is that while it is common and while it can be a pain to get rid of, it CAN be dealt with--you just need to take the right steps.  

  • ASSESS THE PROBLEM:  You need to start the process of fixing the mold on your ceiling by remembering that mold is a SYMPTOM of a deeper problem.  Somehow, moisture is causing this mold to grow and thrive on your walls or your ceiling.  You need to figure out what is causing the moisture.  It could be your shower, it could be an ineffective (or non-existent) ceiling fan, it could be a leaky pipe or even a leaking roof.  Find the problem that's causing the mold and fix it.  If it's the roof, repair it.  If it's the shower, cut down on the number or length of showers if possible.  If it's the fan, put a new one in.  This is the first part and it's a critical step.  If you DON'T do this, chances are the mold will just continue to be a problem.
  • KILL THE MOLD:  Once you've dealt with the root source of the problem, it's time to deal with the symptoms--the mold.  And the first step here is to kill it.  This is done by mixing a solution of 1 part Bleach and  3 parts Water in a spray bottle.  Once you've got this mixed, mist the bleach solution over the affected spots on your ceiling or walls.  (TAKE PRECAUTIONS HERE:  Wear old clothes, remove rugs, put down drop clothes, wear eye protection and DON'T MIX THE BLEACH WITH OTHER CLEANING AGENTS).  After you've sprayed the mold spots, allow the bleach about 10 minutes or so to work and then scrub the spots with a sponge or a scrub brush.  If necessary, hit the spots with a second misting of bleach.
  • PRIME:  Once the mold has been sprayed with Bleach, allow the walls or ceilings to dry for 24 hours and then prime all the affected areas with ProFlo Alkyd Primer from RepcoLite.  It's an oil-based primer and it works better than any other primer we've sampled.  It's got a smell to it, but since you only need to spot prime the affected areas, it's worth putting up with it.  Just make sure you ventilate your room and you'll be fine!
  • TOPCOAT:  After the primer has dried, the last step in the process is to roll a couple coats of a high-quality finish on your walls or ceiling.  We recommend RepcoLite's Hallmark Satin Sheen (or Eggshell).  We recommend a somewhat shinier finish like Satin (or eggshell) because it will help resist the moisture much better than a flat (and remember, moisture is what leads to mold).  We recommend the Hallmark product because it comes with a mildewcide/mold inhibitive agent added right into the paint.  This will help slow or prevent the growth of NEW mold in the future.
Mold on a bathroom ceiling is a pain in the neck.  My bathroom is living (literally) proof of that right now.  But, as I mentioned earlier, the good news is that the problem is fixable and, with effort, even preventable.  Follow these steps and you should find your way to a mold-free bathroom in no time!