Q&A / 

March 3, 2010 AsktheBuilder Newsletter And Tips

What’s in This Issue?

Latest News
Storing Paint
Stain Solver News
Cincinnati Home and Garden Show
Installing Hugh Ceramic Tile
Latest Columns
Fire Pit

I do product reviews frequently. Please read my Disclosure Policy to understand the relationship between me and the companies that make the products or offer the services I review.


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Latest News

I survived the mini-hurricane in New Hampshire late last week. It was an epic Nor'easter. The wind really picked up after 10 p.m. on Thursday night. Earlier in the evening the wind-driven rain found a breech in the flashing around the top of a French door in the lower level of the house. I didn't build the home I'm in, so I'll be fixing that leak when the weather gets better.

I'm back in Cincinnati, OH, now for the entire month of March. The mission is to cross off all the tiny honey-do list items that have persisted here just as in any house. These to-do tasks need to be completed by March 28th, the day of the one-and-only open house.

I've made great headway the past two days completing jobs. You'll hear more about this in the upcoming weeks. If you know of someone who might want to purchase this great home I built with my bare hands, let me know. It's a four bedroom Queen Anne Victorian that looks 125 years old, but was built in 1986.

Storing Paint

One of the things I'm doing here is touching up small places on both the walls and woodwork that have the traditional wear and tear dings and scratches. Fortunately, when I painted these surfaces over the years, I saved the leftover paint.

I discovered many years ago it's a mistake to save the paint in the cans from the paint store. Not only do you have to deal with lots of air in the cans, but you also have an issue with rust at the lid lip. The excess air in a paint usually causes a nasty skin to form on top of the paint.

What I've discovered that works best for me, and you may have an even better idea, is to use the inexpensive food-storage containers you can buy in the grocery store. They come in different sizes and the trick is to fill one nearly to the top with the leftover paint.

If the paint is water-based, I always add an ounce or two of water at the top of the paint before sealing the lid. This prevents the skinning effect. Using a permanent marker, and I do this before filling the container, I write on the side of the container the room the paint was used in, the mfr., paint type, paint name, formula if available, etc.

Let me tell you how well this works. Yesterday, I had to touch up many spots in my living room. I painted this room about ten years ago. If you were here with me today, I'd bet you $100 you couldn't find one spot where I touched up the walls. The paint matched perfectly and it's consistency was just like the day I opened the original can. Suffice it to say I store this leftover paint indoors at about 65 F.

Stain Solver News

If you're a new subscriber, and I have about 1,300 new per *week*, you probably don't know about Stain Solver. It's a magical oxygen bleach I've blended and sold since about 1996.

About a month ago, I wrote a column for my newspaper clients talking about using oxygen bleach to clean ceramic tile floor grout. Two weeks ago, The Washington Post newspaper ran this column. Talk about a tsunami, the rush of orders from readers almost tilted my shopping cart. In a little over 96 hours, we got over 500 orders from just the readers of this column in the DC area. I had not anticipated this kind of response.

I immediately had the idea that I should tape a video showing you exactly how this magical powder really cleans floor tile grout. We taped the video one afternoon two weeks ago and had it loaded the next day at the Stain Solver site. It's right there as soon as you land on the home page.

I urge you to watch the video to see how it works. You really need to watch the last ten seconds of the video. What I said the entire video was unscripted - especially the last few lines. If you're not smiling at the end of that video, you must be in a really bad mood today.

Finally, there are hundreds of uses of this product around your home. One of the craziest uses is to dislodge that pesky brown caramelized grease you often see on the outside of pots and pans. I experimented one day soaking a pan in the Stain Solver solution for about six hours. Lo and behold using a Dobie pad and some elbow grease, 90% of the encrusted brown spots came off after the soaking! The same happened on stainless-steel cookie sheets. I could go on and on, but rest assured Stain Solver will blow you away.

Cincinnati Home and Garden Show

If you're near Cincinnati, OH, the second weekend of March, I'll be speaking at the Cincinnati Home and Garden Show. I am scheduled to talk Friday, March 12th at 5 p.m., Saturday the 13th at 2 and 6 p.m., and on Sunday the 14th at 2 p.m. The best time to stop by would be Saturday, as I'll be just hanging out with you between the two talks. I'll be talking about the top five issues I see homeowners struggle with each day, some exciting new products I've discovered and answering your questions.

I'll also consult with you at no cost about any issue you have with your own home. If you come, be sure to bring photos of the problem if you feel it will make it easier to describe it. Be sure to come up to me at the end of the talk and identify yourself as a newsletter subscriber.

Installing Huge 18x18 Ceramic Tile

Michelle from Kearney, NE wrote to me with a very interesting question:

My husband and I are about to install 18x18 porcelain tiles in our kitchen. Problem is: when we ripped up the original flooring, we discovered large nasty patches of paper and glue from old linoleum. We're preparing to install cement backer board as a base, but we're afraid the tiniest bit of un-levelness on the plywood subfloor will cause tiles or grout to crack.

I've been told by a co-worker that a good bed of modified thinset to adhere the  backer board to the subfloor should bypass this problem. Is he right? Or will we need to spend a weekend choking on adhesive remover to get rid of the old glue?

Michele, you've got an issue no doubt. It's compounded because of the giganzo tile you've decided to use. Ceramic tile loves to be installed on a subfloor that's in the same plane. This doesn't mean that the floor is level, just that there are no humps or dips in the floor. These imperfections can cause tiny gaps under tile. If you step on a tile with a gap under it, it creates tension in the tile and it can crack.

Tiny tiles can be installed on a floor that's wavy because they lay flat on the gentle undulations. But giant tile like the ones you're going to use, well, they're problematic. You need to get that floor as smooth as possible before installing that tile. Yes, you can trowel on thinset and put backer board over that, but my guess is that it will not guarantee that the floor will be in the same plane.

Open the windows and get a long straight edge to help you discover high and low spots. Use a pourable self-leveling floor compound to solve any issues.

Author's Note:

Jeff Phillips sent the following email after reading this Newsletter.  Thanks for sharing all this info, Jeff!!!!

Hi Tim,

Regarding the inquiry about the large format tile and floor prep ...

You give good advice that gets to the point and simplifies the job where possible, so they can just get the thing done. You helped me some months back re some reframing I was doing, so I try to return the favor if I can. So, here's some more ideas that may help down the road:

You are right - plane has to be the same. There are other things that will determine if the tile is to break on them: deflection, subfloor composition, trowel size and technique, selection of bonding materials, and if they back butter doing so correctly.

The inquiry did not say if the base was concrete or wood.

Being a vinyl residue and since they talked about using backerboard, it was probably wood not concrete.

If wood, I think you steered 'em right with scraping it up, using a leveler, and so on. The other solutions all come after getting the bond breakers off and fixing plane and there are so many good choices out there, just pick one.

If it was concrete, Franmar makes a soy-based adhesive remover called "beaneedoo" that has low voc's and even softens old cutback. http://www.franmar.com/product_info.php?cPath=22&products_id=42.

The other thing with large format tile, especially porcelain, is to use a mortar that offers both bond and compressive strength. Here the field is limited to, in my opinion, one at the top, and a couple just below, and a lot of wannabes that will take your money and give you regret in return.

MAPEI is a favorite for a lot of specifiers in the Chicago area, but my preference is Laticrete. A bit pricey for common installers' preferences but no call backs and for me I think that makes the cost worth it. Their Sure Set is designed for large format and no back buttering and good pot life. Just set, adjust, and go. Here's a point of reference: http://www.laticrete.com/Portals/0/datasheets/lds2610.pdf

I like your newsletter and glean tidbits for my future file. Stay at it!


Latest Columns

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Tim Carter's Fire Pit

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