Recaulking Crown Molding & Baseboards – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

Cracked CaulkI have lived in my home for over 20 years, the house is about 30 years old.  I have just started noticing that there are gaps above and below my crown molding in one room, and gaps around the baseboard and window in another room.  Is my house settling and what can I do?

Good news and good news.  I don’t think your house is settling.  The tell tale signs of settling would be cracks in the drywall or plaster near windows and doors, along with doors becoming hard to open and close.  The other good news is that you can likely take care of this yourself.

When crown molding, baseboard, and casing for doors and windows are installed, they are caulked (except for stained items).  The caulking hides any gaps and creates a nice, finished look.  After years of expansion and contraction due to temperatures, the caulking can, and usually will, separate, showing the gap it was covering.  Recaulking the molding or door is relatively simple.  A caulk gun will cost about $5 and a tube of caulk between $5 and $10, depending upon the type you purchase.   You’ll also want to have paper towels or a rag available. 

There are different types of caulk.  A latex caulk will be the least expensive and will work well, but it turns hard after  a while (not a particular problem by itself, only when trying to remove it).  Also, a latex caulk is not flexible, so when the weather has things expanding and contracting, the caulk may split, causing you to do the job again in a few years.  A solution for this would be to use a silicone caulk.  This caulk will remain flexible forever.  If your baseboard or area you’re caulking is going to be painted over or touched up (anything that is not white), be sure to get a caulk that is paintable, as not all caulks are.

There is a little bit of an art to caulking, but there is also a little trick.  The trick is to apply only small amounts of caulk at a time.  Nothing will make more of a mess that having too much caulk in the area you’re trying to caulk.  So, when you have the new tube of caulk, only cut a small amount of the tip off.  If you find that no caulk will come out of the gun, make the cut slightly larger, but only a little at a time.  When you have it right, begin by placing the tip along the top of the baseboard and begin pulling the trigger slowly.  As the caulk begins to come out, move the caulk gun along the area.  Once you get the hang of it, you can move the caulk gun back and forth, working the caulk into the gap.  Once you have the caulk down, here is the other trick.  Use your finger to smooth out the caulk.  Just wipe it along the area and you’ll quickly see how much of a difference this makes.  However, this is also where the paper towels come in.  You’ll have to wipe your finger off of all the caulk frequently.

Once you have the area caulked, depending upon the color of the molding or wall, you may want to do some touch up painting over the caulk.  Another trick, if you aren’t a very good painter: use a small artist brush and take your time.

Good going, now start on the other rooms!

Recessed Lights Not Working – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

Recessed LightsI have several recessed lights that will go off every so often, then will come back on later.  It’s not the switch or the bulb, and they don’t go off or on at the same time.  Any ideas?

First of all, don’t worry.  I don’t think your house is haunted.  If I have to guess, I would imagine that this only happens in the hot months of summer.  If so, then we can assume that you have an insulation issue where it is surrounding the recessed light, causing it to get too hot.  There are two types of recessed lights to talk about regarding this issue.  There is an I. C. rating and a non-I.C. rated.  The “I.C.” stands for insulation contact.  In other words, if you have an I.C. rated light fixture, then it is ok to have insulation surrounding the light in the area above the ceiling.  If the light is not I.C. rated, then insulation should not be close to the light.  Even though a fixture may be I.C. rated, it can get overly hot.  What will happen at that point, is that the light will shut off.  Once the light has cooled, it will then come back on.

In your particular case, there are several options.  You could go up in the attic and move the insulation away from each light fixture.  However, if these lights are in a first floor ceiling and you have a 2-story home, this isn’t practical.  So, here are some alternatives.  First, make sure that you are not using halogen light bulbs.  The halogen bulb will produce a much higher temperature than an incandescent bulb. 

Next, make sure that the wattage of the bulb isn’t higher than what is recommended for the fixture.  If you remove a bulb, in the housing of the can light, you will see a note telling you what the highest recommendation of bulb wattage is.  If you are using the correct wattage, you might try lowering the wattage, so the fixture doesn’t get quite so hot.

Another simple recommendation would be to switch to the CFL (compact florescent bulb).  This will give off much lower heat than any of the other bulbs.

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Checklists for Your Home – Ask THE Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

ChecklistEveryone should have a house check up list.  These are items which are looked at frequently around the house, at least once a year, and this checklist should be written down, so that you don’t forget.  Each month, we list items which you should do for the month, such as change furnace filters and change the batteries in your smoke detector.

While many people may have good intentions, sometimes these tasks may get put onto the back burner.  However, this can be very costly.  For example, each Spring, we repair a number of exterior faucets.  Do matter how many times we try to tell customers to disconnect their garden hoses, it sometimes just doesn’t get done.  So, in the Spring, when these faucets get turned on,  a sudden leak inside the house becomes a big deal.  Especially since the pipe is in the basement, and the person using the hose is outside.  You may not be aware of it until further damage is done.

Caulking and grouting of tubs is another area that some forget.  A $10 tube of caulk or grout can save a very expensive repair or remodel.  What usually happens is, water gets behind the wall at a grout joint (the masonry material surrounding the tile), or gets behind a gap in the caulking (the area around the base of the shower or tub).  When water gets behind and to the drywall, it will quickly become like wet cardboard.  Since the tiles are glued on to the drywall, they have nothing left to stick to, so they feel loose and will eventually fall off.  So, now you have to take out tiles, repair the drywall, then reinstall tiles.  A big problem occurs when you find that you can’t find any matching tiles, and reusing the old tiles doesn’t work out well, as you will be able to see where the repair was made.  So, instead of spending $10 in caulk or grout, you may be looking at thousands of dollars in renovating your bathroom.

That same $10 in caulk can save an expensive door.  When you are outside, looking at your door, look down at the threshold.  Where the jambs (side framing of the door) or side-lights meet the ground and threshold, there should be caulk.  If there isn’t, snow and water will sit there, and eventually rot that wood away.  Some entry doors are very expensive, so replacement would be a huge expenditure.

So, find an exterior and interior checklist and stick with it!  Twice a year you should go through the house with this list in hand.  It would likely take only 1 hour for both, but it could be well worth your time.

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