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Three Phone Calls and Three Happy Homeowners

Sandy's Brick Home

This is Sandy's brick home. The high-quality paint is peeling because there's no vapor barrier on the inside of the brick walls. Whitewash will solve the problem forever. (C) Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Three Calls - Three Happy Homeowners

  • Chuck convinces Tim to get back in front of the microphone
  • Vic has a tilted concrete patio and needs to level it
  • Sandy's house paint is peeling, she wants to whitewash it
  • TJ wants to be his own contractor on his house building project - good idea or now

Allow me to preface this column by sharing a short story. My syndicated Ask the Builder column was born the first week of October 1993. Seven months later, I found myself in front of a live microphone at a local radio station trembling as I did my first call-in radio show. It was terrifying and fun at the same time. Soon it was nothing but fun answering questions I received from homeowners like you.

I continued to do the show for twelve years and then hung up my headphones. I got burned out waking up at 4:15 AM to get rid of the drag so I’d sound alert when the show started.

Seven weeks ago, a very good friend of mine, Chuck, called me and said, “Tim, you need to get back in front of the microphone. You need to start up an on-demand online radio show of your own.” BOOM - a month later my first show was done and it’s at my AsktheBuilder.com website. I just uploaded my third free on-demand radio show on my website for you.

This past week I had the pleasure to solve the problems of five homeowners just like you. They were scattered all across the USA. I think you’ll be interested in a few of the calls as I’m pretty certain you might have the same problems at your home.

Vic was one of my free phone calls. He lives in Maryland and had a gorgeous concrete patio in his backyard. The trouble is, one side of it had tilted so it was somewhat uneven. He didn’t want to spend the thousands of dollars required to jackhammer out the half of the slab that had sunken.

Fortunately for him, I was taught many many years ago by a master concrete mason how to solve the problem. Vic could invest just $100, or less, and get the same result as if he had poured a new slab. I shared over the phone how he could install a concrete overlay that would bond permanently to the old concrete.

The old master mason who shared his secret with me nearly forty years ago was kind enough to pass on his knowledge so I wanted to do the same with Vic and you. It’s important to realize you need to not only use a smaller pea gravel in the new concrete mix, but you also need to spread a layer of cement paint on the old concrete just before you pour the new concrete on top of the old. The cement paint ensures the two layers stick to one another.

I then spoke with Sandy who lives in the greater Washington DC area. It was a delightful call because she was so happy to discover she’d never have to paint her peeling brick home again. Sandy had been spending thousands of dollars buying the best paint and using professional painters only to have the paint peel after just a few years. Water vapor inside her older brick home was causing the problem. When her house was built, plastic vapor barriers for walls had yet to be invented!

Sandy has stumbled on several past columns at my website that dealt with whitewashing. I had the pleasure to work with traditional whitewash on one of my custom jobs over twenty years ago and it was a huge success. Sandy even discovered my column that contains my secret whitewash recipe.

A key point to remember is whitewash doesn’t peel if you apply it correctly. It chemically and mechanically bonds to brick, stone and even wood. In essence, you’re putting on a thin layer of rock on your home. Sandy was stunned to discover during the call that she could add color to the whitewash making it any color she wanted! I told her that I had another phone call months before with Maggie who wanted to put the whitewash on a dated brick fireplace in her living room. That was also a huge success.

I then got to speak with TJ. He lives in Oklahoma. He and his wife are going to build a new home and he wanted to know if he could save 10 or 20 percent by acting as his own general contractor. He told me he had a unique job that gave him two or three days off in a row allowing him to supervise the job.

He had contacted me via my Ask Tim page at my website and I had some background, but during the call, he gave me two pieces of information that changed what I was going to tell him.

Almost always I tell wishful homeowners that want to be their own builders that they’ll be lucky if their new house costs 15 to 20 percent MORE than had a builder done it for them. The reasons are many, but the few that stand out most are: project delays, change orders and latent defects discovered months after you move in. Almost all of these issues are caused by not having great plans and simple written specifications.

TJ, fortunately, has a home builder as a friend and he’s the person who told him to act as his own general contractor. The builder even offered to give TJ advice over the phone when he needed it and TJ could even tap into his builder’s sub-contractor network. Those two key elements allowed me to give TJ the green light to try it himself.

I’ve created a free downloadable document for you at my website. This document has more tips about how to mix cement paint and how to get pro results with concrete overlays, sources for all you need to do whitewash along with more helpful tips and links to great plans and specifications that will allow you to minimize cost overruns on your new home.

Just go to: B1240 to get the free PDF document.

Column 1240


8 Responses to Three Phone Calls and Three Happy Homeowners

  1. Hi Tim! Love the new format!! I've emailed both my local paper here in Clarksville TN and the one from my hometown back in Alabama. I think both would benefit by having your column in our papers!!

  2. There are only a handful of reasons I subscribe to the weekend paper, and you're one of them. Keep up the good work.

  3. Hi Tim! Love the new format. I'm the "Maggie" you mention in this article, and it's been nearly a year since my daughter Kelly and I whitewashed that old dated fireplace. It still looks brand new, even after a winter of frequent wood burning fires. Ash that falls on the hearth just vacuums up and the whitewash on the face of the fireplace is pristine. Thanks for the great tip--what a huge difference just two days made in the way the room looks. In fact, I was inspired to move some furniture around and repaint, and what was once my most-disliked room in the house has now become my favorite!

  4. Our paper is still using the old format, perhaps they've yet to make the change...

    I like the advice you gave to the homeowner who wishes to act as his/her own general contractor. Unless people have experience with this...they are going to open all kinds of hornets' nests.

    We live in a home that was built by a man who acted as his own general contractor. Overall, the home is solidly built, however there are inconsistencies with design and construction he failed to pick up on. Just one case in point: Kitchen

    The home is in a fairly well-to-do subdivision so the quality needs to be there. He had cabinets that were custom made and the wood used - maple - high quality, however the finish is poor. And now it shows. It should have had several coats applied or a better quality coating.

    He used sheet vinyl when ceramic would've been a much better choice for wear and resale value. He had Formica installed, when again, granite, Corian or some similar higher quality finish would be in order.

    In this day and age of technological innovation and evolution moving at the speed of light, acting as a general contractor when inexperienced is simply a bad way to go.

    By the way, even using an existing sub-contractor network may result in deficiencies (one is only as strong as the weakest link). Here's where your suggestion to have a rock-solid (highly detailed) set of blueprints/plans will help most assuredly.

  5. Love your newsletters and advice, not to mention Stain Solver but I clicked on the two links for the old v new format and don't really see a difference. Am I missing something?

    • Jay,

      Well, look again. See how the old one is just one answer to one person? It reads more like a lecture.

      Then the new format is more relaxed and covers three topics. Did you catch that?

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