Tuesday, May 29, 2012

3 Ways to Compromise With Your Kids about Paint Colors

Once upon a time, probably about 6 years ago or so, my wife and I walked with our kids to the Zeeland Bakery.  Caleb (who was 5 at the time) waited outside with me while my wife and the other kids sauntered into the shop and ordered various donuts and cookies and different types of bread.  (It's always a huge undertaking whenever we go to the bakery).

Anyway, while Caleb and I were waiting outside, a lady walked by with a 1-year-old boy in a stroller.  I smiled at the lady and Caleb smiled at the lady and he even went so far as to say "Hello."  I was proud that the little guy was so polite.  And it was this pride which eventually led to my downfall.

See, as the lady was walking away, but while she was still within earshot, I thought I'd demonstrate how polite and kind my little guy was.  So I said, loud enough for the lady to hear, "Wasn't that a nice little boy?"

Oh, it was a question that he should have been able to hit out of the park.  It was an easy one.  A no-brainer.  All he had to say was "Yes Dad, that boy seemed very nice, indeed."  Had he said that, the lady would have thought I was a super parent because I'd raised such a wonderfully polite little lad.  In fact, I figured there was always the off chance that she'd turn her stroller around, shake my hand and ask my advice as to how to raise her own child.

Yes, my mind was brimming with the possibilities and the glory when Caleb spoke up.  He raised his little voice to match my raised voice and suddenly, as is always the case when this kind of thing happens, the entire world quit moving.  Suddenly, there were no cars--no road noise.  The shop doors quit opening and closing.  The clocks that had been ticking ceased their workings for a few split seconds.  Even the birds and the wind and the airplanes and the fountains went silent.  A whisper at one end of Main Street would have been audible at the other.  And it was into this utter and complete silence that Caleb bellowed his answer, informing me, the lady, her poor, poor child and everybody else within earshot that, "No," he didn't think that kid was all that much.  "In fact," he went on to say, "the kid was actually kind of ugly.  His ears were big and his nose was all turned up and his eyes were squinty.  Like a rat."  As if this wasn't bad enough, Caleb ended by informing me (and all of Zeeland) that he had only said "hello" to the kid because "he felt sorry for him."

Well, I just stared at him in horror and disbelief as he continued to rattle off all sorts of uncomplimentary descriptions that reverberated off the buildings and up and down the silent streets.  Silent, that is, except for the wildly squeaking wheels of the lady's stroller as she pushed her child rapidly away from that horrible father and his nasty little son....

I mention this little episode partly as penance but also because it's the perfect example of how kids think and act.  If you ask for a child's opinion, you're going to get it.  They'll typically tell you exactly what they think.  Problem is, while they're usually honest, they don't always exercise the best judgment.

In an earlier article (which you can read HERE), I suggested that it's important to involve your kids in the process of decorating their rooms.  You should let them pick the colors, ask them what they like and what they hope to see in their rooms.  However, when you do that, you're going to have to be ready for some crazy answers from time to time.  In fact, when you ask an 8-year-old what colors he'd like on his walls, don't plan on hearing him say "Oh, a nice medium-beige with an earthy brown would do just lovely."  No, get ready for black and orange (halloween colors).  Or bright blue and red and yellow (Superman colors).  

So, with that said, if you do decide to let them help you decorate their own rooms (which I still believe to be a great idea), you better have a method in mind as to how to incorporate their ideas without completely abandoning the overall look of the room.  You both need to be happy with the outcome.  And that means compromise.  Here are 3 tips:

When your kids choose the brightest yellows and oranges, the flashiest greens and blues, a great compromise is to paint one of the walls--an accent wall--with one of those bright, flashy colors.  Have them settle on which color they like best and see if you can't work that into a small wall--a wall with a window or a door.  

Now, in most cases, when you paint an accent wall, you'd pick the focal point of the room to do this with.  In this case, however . . . well, not so much.  If you're trying to minimize the effect of the color, then picking the focal point of the room is the last thing you want to do.  Just pick a small wall--a wall that's not the first thing you see when you walk into the room--and see if you can't put their color there.  They'll be happy, feeling proud when they see their bright wall and you'll be happy because the room doesn't glow like the face of the sun.

Another great compromise that sometimes works in the paint store is to steer kids toward more muted versions of their colors.  If they love bright reds and yellows, maybe throw out some options like a rusty red or terracotta and a more muted yellow.  Sometimes they'll see these new colors and be completely willing to compromise.  Again, with this type of scenario, both of you can potentially reach a mutually happy outcome.

Perhaps the best way of working wild, crazy colors into a decorating scheme is to bring those colors in with accessories.  If your kids want to see black and orange or some other funky combination of colors on their walls, but you can't bring yourself to do it, then offer this:  coat the walls with a nice neutral color and then bring in accessories that fit your child's desired color scheme.  Bring in lampshades with bright colors, find art prints with the colors, switchplates and any number of other accessories that will serve to fill the room with the chosen colors without overloading the walls and driving you crazy.

The bottom line is this:  when you bring your kids into the decorating picture, you've got to be ready to compromise.  Don't let them decide everything when you hate what they're coming up with.  Likewise, don't decide everything yourself when they hate what you're coming up with.  You both have to be happy with the outcome for this little project to work.  If you hate the room, you're always going to feel irritated when you walk past it.  If they hate the room, don't worry, they'll find a way to let you know about it.  

So work together, have fun, and compromise!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let Them Help: Decorating With Your Kids' Input!

Every now and then I hit upon something that I know is a good idea. And, though this doesn't happen very often, this is one of those times. There's no way around it: decorating your kids' rooms with their help is a great opportunity for you and for them. Oh, I know there are lots of little bugs in the idea and potential complications--but that doesn't change the fact that it's a good thing to do.  

Taking a room that was decorated with younger kids in mind and turning it into "hip, way cool pad" is a great way to let your kids know that YOU know that they're growing up. Taking down the wallpaper borders of stuffed bears and turtles and replacing it with something more age-appropriate will make your kids feel important. And involving them in that process, seeking their input and listening to their suggestions will make them feel that they are on the path to growing up--they're actually an active force in the creation of their new room.

Surprise Makeovers are Cool on TV, But Not So Much In Real Life

If you still need convincing that it's a good idea to involve your kids in the process, then think about it this way: on TV, surprise makeovers are cool. They really are. But that's because we don't normally watch the recipient of the new room beyond their initial reaction. We see them when they first whip off a blindfold and stand blinking and squinting in the bright lights as they try to take in their new surroundings. Everybody's happy and giggly and the show ends. We don't see the couple standing there 12 hours later, now that the cameras and energetic TV personalities are gone, staring at the new walls and wondering what happened and how anybody ever thought that bright orange was a good look.


Your kids feel the same way about their room as you would about your home. Their room is their space--their world away from the world, especially as they get older. Just as you wouldn't likely appreciate it if your husband or your neighbor just dropped by one afternoon and repainted your living room in colors of their choosing, neither will your kids necessarily be receptive to the changes you bring about one day while they're off at school. Your vision for their room isn't necessarily their vision for the room. You've got to make it your goal to discover a mutually acceptable vision.


Involve Them, But Remember Their Limitations 

To that end, involve them in every aspect of the process. Take them to the store and let them look at colors. Let them flip through wallpaper books and mural books. Let them explore the world of Faux Painting. However, make sure that you keep the outings short and sweet--no marathon shopping trips that will frustrate and wear your kids out. Remember that their attention spans are not like yours--keeping the trips to a limited amount of time will make sure both of you enjoy the outings. And don't forget to think bigger than just a trip to the paint store or the furniture store: try to tie your decorating trips in with a nice dinner out or something like that. 


Taking the kids to the paint store and listening to their suggestions and then taking them out to dinner will be one of those special moments kids remember. If you treat their opinions as valid options and listen to their thoughts and take the time to discuss things with them over dinner, they will start to feel like an intricate part in the decision process. And trust me, I may have young kids and I may not have had much experience in the world of psychology, but I know this is a good thing. You don't have to be a genius to see that by involving your kids in something so small as decorating their rooms, you're basically telling them that their opinions matter and that you value their thoughts. 


What If . . ? 

Alright, now you're probably thinking that I'm living in a world where everything is puppy dogs and lollipops. Sure it sounds good to involve the kids in the decorating process, but what's going to happen when they pick out Sponge-Bob Yellow and Bright Red for their walls?  We'll cover that in the next post.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cleaning and Coating Your Deck in 3 Steps

Well, Winter's over and we're moving our way through a bit of a rainy Spring.  Chances are, if you look out your window, your deck isn’t looking the best right now.  Maybe the wood’s grayed a bit, maybe it’s black in some spots--maybe the coating you had on it is fading.  Maybe the deck isn’t as water-repellant as it should be.  Whatever the situation, there’s a good chance that many of our West Michigan decks aren’t looking as beautiful as they could.

And that can be a little depressing.  Largely, because I know that most of us tend to think that a deck project is a great big ordeal.  But hold on, there's good news:  cleaning and protecting your deck is not a complicated or painful or even time-consuming project at all.  With the right information, the right tools and some nice sunny weather, it can actually be a fun project with a huge payoff!  

Here's a list of the supplies you'll need and/or want:

  1. Defy Wood Cleaner (available at any RepcoLite, Port City or Snyder Paints location)
  2. Scrub Brush
  3. Garden Sprayer
  4. Power  Washer or High Pressure Hose Nozzle
  5. Paint and Stain Pad Applicator
  6. Brush
  7. 4' Extension Pole

Here's what you need to do:

The first step in any deck project is to clean the deck.  This is absolutely critical.  Many folks want to skip this step--they see the deck and they figure that this cleaning process is extra, that it’s something we made up just so we could sell you more stuff.

On the contrary, it's crucial to the success of your project and here’s why: the final appearance of most deck protector products is affected by the color of the deck before you coated it.

If your deck boards are old and gray-looking, the new coating you put on is typically going to take on a dull, old look.  If you want to have a deck that looks new and vibrant and beautiful, it’s important to wash away that dull, weathered gray, and get your wood back to a newer, brighter look.

So, the washing part of the process is critical and we recommend a product called DEFY Wood Cleaner.  It’s a powder you mix with water and then spray (using the garden sprayer), scrub or slosh onto your deck boards. 

Once it’s on--and this is the hardest part of this step--you let the solution stand for about 10 - 20 minutes.  After that complicated waiting process is over, you should scrub the deck with a good push broom or a stiff-bristled scrub brush.  Then, it’s just a quick rinse with a power washer and you’re ready for the next step.

Once you’ve got the deck cleaned and looking better, it’s time to let the deck DRY.  This is such a hard concept for most of us to grasp (mainly because we want to keep moving with the project and we feel that a delay is simply slowing us down.)

But as unnecessary as it may seem, this delay is absolutely critical.  Once you’ve introduced all that water to the deck, it’s important to let the wood dry for at least 3-4 good drying days.  And, by good drying days, I mean exactly that:  good drying days.  (To clarify:  a good drying day is a day without rain.)

So, let the deck dry 3-4 good drying days and then, before you move ahead with any wood protector product at all, you should do a water-drop test--to make sure it’s dry and ready to accept your coating.

To accomplish this, just sprinkle a few drops of water over various parts of your deck.  If the wood is ready to absorb a coating, this water should soak in within a few seconds.  If it doesn’t, it’s critical that you DON’T apply the coating.  If the water doesn’t soak in, your deck is either not dry enough yet, or it’s not porous enough to accept a finish.

Putting a wood protector on your deck at this point could easily create a maintenance hazard down the road--so even though you want to finish the project, if your deck doesn’t pass the water drop test, don’t proceed.  Instead, give it another day or so and repeat the test.  If it still doesn’t soak in, give RepcoLite, Port City Paints or Snyder Paint a call (or drop us an email at info@repcolite.com) and we’ll walk you through the next steps.

If the water does soak in--and that’s what’s going to happen most of the time--then you’re ready to finish the deck.

Once the deck is dry and has passed the "water drop" test, it's time to apply your deck protector.  Now, when it comes to choosing a deck protector, there are a lot of options out there:  don't be misled by a national advertising campaign or a big-name brand.  These products aren't always the best options.  (For a thorough discussion of our recommendations for deck coatings, check out our article:  The Truth About Deck Coatings

To proceed with this discussion, I'll assume that you've picked a deck protector like RepcoLite's Wood Protector.

Start with the railings and be careful to put drop cloths or cardboard down on the deck to absorb drips.  Brush the railings with one coat of wood protector (never more than one coat, period!)  Work your way around the deck and when you're finished with the railings and spindles, it's time to coat the deck's surface.

The easiest way to do this is to use an extension pole and a pad applicator.  Working out of a standard paint tray, you should be able to mop the product onto your deck boards very quickly and evenly.  

One note of warning here:  when you apply the wood protector, do not apply it in square patches.  You'll get overlap that way and this is not desirable.  Instead take one or two or three deck boards and apply the product on the entire board--from one end of the deck to the other, turning the pad applicator slightly on its side to get between the boards.  By working like this, you'll never have overlap and, if you have to quit or pause your work for an hour or so, you'll be able to pick up right where you left off, starting on the next uncoated board.  

Apply the product over the entire deck in this manner, making sure to start the deck in such a way as to have a means to exit the deck when you finish.  

Once the deck is coating is applied, you're done.  Simply walk away and give it some time to dry. When that's happened (normally just a day or two), you'll be able to get out there and enjoy the now protected and beautiful deck all summer long!

Monday, May 7, 2012

3 Paint Storage Methods that Don't Work!

Have you ever noticed that when you're sick, everybody is suddenly a doctor.  Everyone has an opinion and a cure for what ails you.  And while some of the cures are very common--chicken soup cures, we could call them--others are anything but.  

For example, one older gentleman I know--who will remain nameless--uses Vicks VapoRub whenever he has a cold.  

Now, you may say:  "What's so strange about that?  Many folks use Vicks VapoRub when they've got a cold."  

And of course, you're right.  Many folks do.  But the older gentleman I know uses it (and has recommended that I use it) in a very unusual manner:  He eats it.  By the spoonful.  

Yes.  Whenever he's sick or feels that "under-the-weather" feeling starting up, he heads straight to the medicine cabinet with a teaspoon and downs a spoonful of Vicks VapoRub--that greasy, Crisco-ish paste.  Somehow he swallows it down and, "almost instantly" (he says) the soothing Vicks vapors make him feel better.  

Needless to say, I've never tried it.  Nor do I recommend that anyone else ever try this.  Yes, my friend is 80+ years old, but I certainly do NOT attribute that age to eating Vicks.  I believe he's achieved a fine old age in spite of Vicks.  

At any rate, when you're sick, everybody comes out of the woodwork with suggestions and recommendations to make you feel better.  Some make sense, others are of the "eat-a-spoonful-of-Vicks" variety.

Well, the same thing happens whenever you paint:  There are tons of different tips and tricks people recommend for everything from opening the lid to applying the paint to storing it on your shelves.  Today I want to focus on several common methods recommended for paint storage but which, in fact, actually do more harm than good.  

The first method I want to debunk is the Pound Some Nail Holes in the Rim Method.  Now, technically, this isn't a paint storage tip.  It's actually a painting application tip, but I'm including it here because it can radically affect your ability to store paint when you finish the job.

Now, the point of the method is to pound nail holes in the rim of your paint can so that all the paint that collects there as you paint, actually drips and drains back into the can.  Oh, it sounds like a great idea and many, many folks (me included at one point) have tried it.  

However, the problem with the method is this:  those holes (as well as the process by which they're created in the rim), can actually damage the rim of the paint can, dramatically reducing the ability of that rim to create a good seal with the lid.  That's just a fancy and long way of saying:  pound holes in the rim of your can and you'll find that you can't seal the can very well later.  Oh, the lid may go on and may look tight, but you'll often find, when you open it later, that the seal was very poor and your paint has dried out significantly.

So, all that to say:  don't pound nail holes in the rim.  Instead, simply keep that rim clean of paint.  Or, if you happen to get paint into it, clean that paint out before trying to affix the lid.

The second method I'd like to address is the common Store the Paint Can Upside Down method.  The theory behind this concept is that air will leak in through the lid.  If you turn the can upside down, the air will not be able to sneak in and therefore, your paint will stay good longer.

The problem with this theory is that often, the bigger problem in a can--the reason paint can dry out so often in a closed container--isn't so much that the air is leaking in.  It's because the air's already in the can when you close it.

If you've got a half-full gallon of paint and you pound the lid on and store it--upside down or rightside up--the air that fills up that empty half of the can will start drying the paint that remains.  If you leave the can rightside up, this air will cause a thick coating to form on the surface of the paint and on the exposed sides of the can.  If you turn the can upside down, the same thing will happen, only on the bottom.

This is frustrating enough when the can is rightside up, but at least that way, the skin is on the surface of the paint and you can see it and easily remove it before you do any stirring or shaking of the paint.  However, if you stored the paint can upside down, the skin forms on the bottom side of the can.  All the clumpy stuff, the junk, the bad, unusable paint is at the bottom of the can where you can't see it when you open it up.

At first, you'll turn the can over, pop the lid, see good paint and think your "upside-down storage" method worked.  But when you drop a stick in and start stirring (and break up and spread the clumped paint all through the good paint) you'll realize the flaw inherent in the system.  Unfortunately, by then, it's not very easy to get the clumped, dried paint out of the good paint without straining it.

So, we recommend simply storing the paint can rightside up, but taking precautions (as we wrote about here) to make sure the can is as full as possible before storage.

The third storage recommendation that is often tossed around is the Place Some Plastic Wrap in the Gallon and then Pound the Lid on method.  This is supposed to create an extra seal between the rim and the lid and prevent air from seaping into the can.  

That's the idea anyway, but unfortunately this method usually fails because most often the plastic, rather than augmenting the natural seal between lid and rim actually compromises that seal.  With the plastic in there, the lid can't seal as tightly as it could without the plastic and the result is air leaking into the container.

You're much better off to do as we recommended above and simply clean the excess paint out of the rim before pounding the lid on.  That way you won't need the plastic at all.
And there you go:  3 different methods recommended on the internet and home improvement shows that just don't work all that well.  For my money, avoid these crazy solutions (and of course, avoid the earlier solution regarding eating a spoonful of Vicks) and stick to the ideas we recommended here!