Deck Staining Tools: What’s Better, What’s Best?

When it comes to applying stain or sealer to your deck, there are a wide variety of tools and applicators available. But which tools work the best? Which ones do the job quicker than anything else?

Success on a deck project–as well as your overall experience–depends largely on the tools you use to apply the stain. Using the wrong tools can make the job more grueling than it needs to be. They can slow you down and prevent you from getting the stain on quickly and evenly. This can affect not just your experience, but also the quality and durability of the finished job. So, finding the right tools is important.

Well, last year, we filmed a review video where we tested out most of the various application tools and techniques that we’ve ever heard discussed at RepcoLite. Some of these were recommended by employees and others are the “favorite” methods of some of our customers. Either way, we put all of these methods to the test and discovered very quickly that some of them are much better than others.

Here are our top 3 recommendations:

METHOD 1: Roller and Brushwooster_bravo_brush

In our tests, we found that the fastest way to apply the stain evenly and quickly was to roll it on with a standard, 9″ roller and then back-brush it using a Wooster Bravo Stain Brush. If you’re going to use this application method (and it’s the best!), make sure you pick up 1 or 2 extension poles. You can attach the roller to the pole and apply your stain to the deck without leaving your feet. And, that’s why we recommend that particular Wooster stain brush–you can unscrew the handle and instead thread the brush onto the end of an extension pole. So you’ll be able to back-brush your deck from a standing position as well. Which is, (though I don’t have to say it), awesome.

Now, when we tested this method, we found it to be the fastest and easiest way to apply a smooth, even coat of stain to your deck. There are other faster ways (but they’re not as easy). And there are other easier ways (but they’re not as fast.) This method provides, in our opinion, the best balance between ease and speed. However, it’s important to note that the back-brushing step is of paramount importance! And typically will require a second person (helpers are always helpful!).  The reason it’s important is because the roller alone will apply the product too heavily which can lead to all sorts of problems. Back-brushing spreads the stain evenly, helps you get it into the gaps between the boards, and works into deep into the fibers of the wood. It’s a critical step to producing a beautiful deck. So don’t skip it! (And don’t, for your own sake, buy any brush other than the Wooster Bravo–you’ll thank us later. We promise!)

METHOD 2: Padco Paint and Stain Padpadco_floor_pad

Alright, in our testing, there was a second method that we really liked as well: a Padco paint and stain pad. You can see it in the picture here, but just to clarify, it’s a six-inch pad with a handle that can be threaded onto an extension pole. The pad itself is a sponge with a bristled face.

We found this tool to work very quickly and because the face of the sponge is bristled, it does not require back-brushing. It was as fast or faster than the roller and back-brushing method, but, there are two reasons we rated it second. First, it is not nearly as easy to stain the gaps between the deck boards when using this pad. It works and can be done by turning the pad on it’s side, but it’s much easier to do so with the brush. Second, and more importantly in our consideration, the pad works best when the deck boards are in very good condition. If you have boards that are splintered, uneven, or rough, the pad doesn’t perform as well. It’s too rigid to conform to boards that have cupped over time (and you end up with spots that get no stain). It’s also a sponge pad that can be easily snagged and torn apart by boards with splintered edges.

If you’re staining a new deck or a deck that’s in great shape, this is a very fast tool that you won’t be sorry you purchased. If the boards are less than ideal, definitely opt for the roller and brush combo we mentioned above!

METHOD 3: Garden Sprayer and Brush

A third method we tested (and really liked) was the garden sprayer/brush combination. Basically, we took a conventional garden pump-up sprayer and used that to apply our stain to the deck. Now, a couple of clarifications. First, this only works for transparent or translucent stains–sprayers like this are not designed to spray stains with too much pigment. Second, this method can be… will be… messy! So, watch out for overspray on your siding, on your house, on your feet, and so on!

However, if you can take care of all of those issues, then this is a tremendously fast method for applying stain to your deck. Just remember that as was the case with the roller, the stain still needs to be backbrushed to work it into the wood.

And there you go! RepcoLite’s top 3 methods for applying stain to your deck. And if you’d like to check out our full review (and first video–so be kind to the dopes on camera), we’ve conveniently placed it just below this sentence!

Dress for Success: 3 Tips for Your Next Paint Job!

bigstock-Man-s-Legs-83108792_webA number of years ago, in the middle of the night, we heard something that sounded like gunshots outside our window. Well, needless to say, the second I heard the “shots”, I hopped out of bed, ready for action. Fight or flight, right?

Anyway, I was standing there, running through all the potential scenarios in my head when I looked down and realized I was in my underpants.

Well, this wouldn’t do.

See, in all of the scenarios I’d imagined–fighting off burglars, bustling my family to safety amidst a hail of gunfire–in none of them was I dressed in my underpants.

And so I went straight to my dresser and started rummaging around for my jeans.

“What are you doing?” My wife’s whispered voice cut through the darkness.

I could see her sitting in the bed, staring at me. “I’m looking for my jeans.” Duh. I closed the drawer I’d just searched and opened the next one down.

“Why?” her whisper was sharp and cutting, laced with anxiety and a little bit of fear. Gunshots, you know.

“Because I’m in my underpants,” I said without turning around. Time was of the essence. “Do you have any idea where that one faded pair with the hole in the knee is?”

There was a sudden thud on the floor next to me and she said, “There! There’s the pair that was sitting on the nightstand.” Her words were tense, strained.

I picked them up, but they were my fancy jeans. They were stiff and a little uncomfortable. And, like I said, a little too fancy.

“Nah. I want my faded pair.”

There was silence for a second and then her whispers filled the void: “Seriously? You need a specific pair of jeans to go fight off a burglar?”

I just shook my head. She didn’t get it. But everyone knows you can’t fight off a burglar in fancy pants or underpants. You need action pants. It’s really not that complicated.

And that’s when I found them. Relief washed over me. I yanked them out of the drawer and stepped into them, instantly feeling cooler and much more ready for whatever was happening.

Ten minutes later, it was clear that there was no burglar lurking. Nobody shooting. It was just fireworks. It was honestly a bit of a let down.

As I pulled off my action pants and placed them back in my dresser, it hit me that there was a paint point in all of this. I just never knew what it was until now.

See, I’ve been discussing a number of painting tips for the Do-It-Yourselfer on our daily little radio blurbs. (You can click here to listen!) And one of the recommendations I’m making is to dress for the part whenever you paint.

Here’s what I mean:

1. Wear old clothes.

This is a no-brainer. I get that. And yet . . . it happens all the time. We tackle a small project thinking we’ll just be careful. 10 minutes later, we’re standing at the sink doing everything we can to rinse blue paint out of a nice shirt. Or a good pair of shorts. I’ve personally done this countless times and have resigned countless clothing items to the “can’t-wear-that-to-Church-again” bins. Instead of accidentally damaging good, expensive clothing, take the extra few minutes–even if the project is a quick one–to throw on some old clothes.

2. Wear the Right Clothes.

OK. The first recommendation was about wearing old clothes. What I’m talking about here revolves around wearing the right ones. And what I specifically mean is this: pick up a pair of painter’s pants or painter’s shorts at a RepcoLite, Port City Paints, or Snyder Paints store. These things come with extra pockets for putty knives, screwdrivers, brushes and other tools you’ll need when you’re working. If you’ve ever worked through a paint project and spent a fair amount of time running around trying to remember where you set your putty knife down or left your screwdriver, then check these out. They’re not very expensive and they’re definitely worth it if you tackle more than 1 or 2 painting projects in a year.

3. Dress your room appropriately.

Finally, the last tip that’s even remotely connected to my jeans story is this one: dress the room appropriately. And what I mean by this is simple: purchase some dropcloths and use them! Cover your furniture, cover your floors, protect your decor. Sure, it takes a few extra minutes, but the minute that first drip falls from your brush and lands on a plastic sheet instead of your couch, you’ll realize how smart you were!

And there you go. 3 Tips to help you dress for success on your next paint job! Give them a try! And if you have any other great ideas, leave them in the combox!

Paint Behind the Toilet Without Pulling It (Or Even Removing the Tank!)

030916_wb_5Years ago I tackled a bathroom remodel and in all my wisdom, I pulled the toilet out myself. At 10:30 at night. Before having the kids use it. It was a nightmare.

Oh, there were so many things that went wrong on that particular project, I can’t even really begin to list them. But most of the pain that I felt revolved around that stupid toilet. See, it was the only one in our house and the minute I pulled it, the kids started showing up at the doorway. The toilet, at that point, was sitting in the hall, and it wasn’t long before they were eyeing it with interest, or perhaps desperation, as they danced.

Suddenly, the pressure was on. I had to get the toilet back in ASAP. And of course, doing exactly that was, perhaps, the most painful home improvement experience I’ve ever had.

My wife was helping me and every time we’d try to set the toilet down, the toilet bolts would fall through the floor and land in the basement.  I’d run down, stuff them back up through the holes in the basement ceiling/bathroom floor and then, before I’d get 10 feet away, I’d hear one ping off the concrete. My wife’s muffled “Sorry!” would drift down from the upstairs and I’d do the whole thing again. And again and again.

We struggled like this for over an hour.  We argued.  We laughed.  We fought.  We nearly cried.  Maybe we did cry.

We cried. Let’s just be honest. At least I cried. All in all it was horrible and I resolved never to pull the toilet out again.

And that’s why this tip about how to paint behind the toilet without pulling the toilet or even taking the tank off is so intriguing to me.

After all, painting in a bathroom is bad enough. It’s crowded. Tight. And then, to top it all off, at some point in the project you’re going to need to find a way to wedge yourself alongside the toilet, hug the bowl, and then do your best to reach around with a roller or a brush and slop some paint on the wall behind the tank. If you’ve ever tried to do this, you know how much fun it is.

But here’s a tip that will make it easier the next time you try.

Here’s What You Need:

1. Replacement Pads for a Shur-Line Edger. ($3.45 for a 2-pack at RepcoLite)

2. Some double-stick tape (or duct tape, or hot glue, or something sticky).

3. A stir stick.

Here’s What You Do:

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1. Gather your supplies.

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2. Affix the double-stick tape to the back of the edger pad.

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3. Affix the stir stick to the edger pad using the tape.

And that’s it. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got a thin, easy to maneuver “paint brush” of sorts that will allow you to reach behind the toilet tank and apply your paint without having to remove the toilet or the tank! It’s a great time saver and it’s going to cost you, at most, $5.

If you’re going to give it a try, here are a couple other tips to make sure the project goes quickly and smoothly:

1. Don’t forget to clean behind the tank first. You could use a rag on a stir stick to reach back there and remove the cobwebs.

2. Wrap the tank with a garbage bag and tape it tight, so it’s not loose or in your way. Then, you can get behind there with the tools we talked about and it won’t matter if you bump the tank.

The Great Flaking Paint Disaster of 2016

Peeling paint. Pattern of blue grunge material. Damaged paint. Scratched old plate

Photo courtesy of bigstockphoto.com

In our home, the previous owners painted a 4” wide border around the ceiling in the living room. On that border, there were a few small spots where the paint was flaking off. On a Saturday morning a couple of weekends ago, my wife was out of the house for a couple of hours, so I thought I’d surprise her by touching those spots up.

I grabbed some sandpaper and set out to accomplish what I should have been a 5 minute job only to find that wherever I touched the sandpaper to that border, the paint fell off. In huge patches. It was terrifying. Everywhere the sandpaper touched, a silver-dollar-sized section of paint came loose from the ceiling and fell to the floor like huge a snowflake. I would sand in ever expanding circles, expecting (hoping) to find some section of paint that was still stuck to the ceiling, but no. No matter where I sanded more and more flakes started falling. At that point, the kids came in, saw the mess on the floor and all the missing paint on the ceiling, and said “Mom’s going to kill you when she gets home….”

Oh, of course my wife wasn’t going to kill me. Probably. I was concerned, however, about the problem that I now had on my hands. If you’ve ever dealt with peeling paint issues, then you know the frustration and anxiety I was feeling.

See, these are problems that have to be fixed the right way. There are no shortcuts. There are no quick fixes. Fixing it the wrong way, the quick way, usually ends up creating bigger problems down the road. Instead, fixing a problem like this takes patience as well as some blood, sweat, and tears. Here’s how you do it:

STEP 1: FIND OUT WHY IT FAILED

The first step to fixing anything at all is finding out why it needs fixing in the first place. You can treat the symptoms, but it’s likely the problem will recur until you actually address the problem that caused the failure in the first place. In my instance, with the peeling paint on my ceiling, the problem was caused (as is usually the case) by poor surface prep. When I examined the paint chips I found that the backs were gritty and chalky. That means the grit or powder was there before the paint was applied. The paint stuck to that rather than the ceiling itself and thus came off easily when bumped or stressed.

When it comes to peeling paint, surface contamination of one kind or another is typically the cause. Sometimes it’s drywall dust, sometimes it’s due to cleaning agents, soap films, or other contaminants like that.

Surface contamination is the one of the typical causes of many paint peeling problems. The other main cause is due to the painted surface simply being too smooth or hard. Sometimes we paint over a glossy, hard enamel finish and the new paint peels right off when bumped or scratched. Without scuff-sanding or priming surfaces like that with primers like BIN primer from Zinsser, you’re just asking for the paint to fail.

So all that to say, if you’ve got a peeling paint problem of your own, the place to start is by doing a little detective work. Figure out why it peeled. From there, you’ll be able to plan the next step in the repair process.

STEP 2: LET THE SCRAPING and SANDING BEGIN!

Once I figured out the reason my paint failed, now all that was left was to do the work and fix it the right way. Sadly, that’s easier said than done.

See, when it comes to peeling paint, the only solution is to get all of the loose paint off. All of it. If paint is left on the surface, it’s absolutely necessary that it’s left there only because it’s stuck so well it wouldn’t come off!

So, to get the paint off that border section of my ceiling, the only fix is for me is to get out a paint scraper, some sandpaper, and go to work. It’ll take some time and it’ll create a fair amount of mess, but any shortcut I take will only result in bigger problems down the road.

For example, on my ceiling, with the paint peeling as badly and easily as it is, if I were to paint over that old paint–even though some areas seem to be adhering quite well–the surface tension of the new paint as it dries would likely be enough to pull loose new sections. Soon, that paint I’d left on the ceiling would be coming off and taking all of my new paint with it!

To avoid that, the right solution is to get all of the loose paint off. Once that’s done, a second part of this step is to go around and give some attention to all the areas of paint that remain on the surface. Most likely, when you examine these spots, you’ll see rough edges where the remaining paint meets bare spots on the wall. These spots will not be filled and disappear when you apply your new paint. In most cases you can minimize the visual appearance of these spots by sanding all the edges of the remaining paint. Sand the spots smooth in order to create a smooth transition from the bare surface to the remaining paint.

Also, if you determine that the reason your paint is flaking is because the surface you painted is too shiny or smooth, then you need to make sure you scuff sand the surface with a 150 – 180 grit sandpaper.

STEP 3: GET THE DUST OFF

Once the sanding/scraping process is complete, it’s absolutely imperative that the surface be as dust-free as possible. That may mean wiping it down with a damp rag or it may mean vacuuming it with a shop-vac. Either way, that surface needs to be dust-free or the problem will just repeat.

Likewise, if the paint failed because of an oily residue left by a cleaning agent or something else, the surface needs to be washed well with a degreasing agent like TSP (Tri-Sodium Phosphate) before any new painting is done. Remember:  without eliminating the source of the failure, the problem will only repeat.

STEP 4: ROLL ON THE NEW PAINT

When the surface is completely clean (and I can wipe it with your hand and not have a chalky, dusty residue come off on my palm), then it’s time for my new finish paint. (In certain situations, a primer might be recommended. You’ll probably want to talk to someone at RepcoLite if you have any questions about whether you need a primer or not.)

I’ll probably apply a primer coat to my ceiling just to be safe. After that, I’ll roll on two coats of finish and finally, after all of that, I should be done and the living room will be better than before. And, best of all, it should look good and resist flaking or peeling for years to come!

Peeling paint can be a very frustrating situation. And when it happens to us, we may find ourselves tempted to take a shortcut or an easy way out. However, in a situation like this, shortcuts just don’t produce good results. Instead, take the time to do the project the right way. It’s a lengthier, more time-consuming fix, but it will give you much better results (and save you a lot of repeat work) in the long run!

The Fabric Softener Fix for Stripping Wallpaper!

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On August 28, 2015, we finally closed on our home in Fruitport, Michigan. Being a short sale, Patrick and I had been waiting since late February of that same year to sign the documents, solidifying the closure. I knew it would be months before we could move in, even after the closure, but that was the least of my worries. We were inching closer to our ultimate goal of remodeling a home. Standing two stories tall, half brick-half vinyl siding, attached garage, on just shy of an acre, seven bedrooms, and three and one-half baths, we were eager to start our adventure in reconstructing and cosmetically reconditioning a three thousand square foot, 1970’s retro home.

A twenty foot dumpster had barely enough space for all the garbage and debris we removed from the home. White ceramic tile and soiled carpet had been pried and stripped from the floors; drywall torn down in the master closet, living room, basement, and upstairs spare bathroom; three layers of shingles had been removed from the roof surrounding the fireplace. Yet, despite all this, the most agonizing and time consuming demolition project was still ahead: the removal of the wallpaper!

Throughout the whole process, my most valuable resource was Patrick’s mom, Phyllis, and her sister, Aunt Diane. Thanks to their much-appreciated help, we were able to remove the majority of wallpaper from six walls, including the kitchen, two bedrooms, a master walk-in closet, and two bathrooms in two days time.

However, even though we got the job finished in the end, it wasn’t without some complications. In fact, after many “oops” and a bunch of experimentation as to what solutions and tools to use, it occurred to me that stripping wallpaper was going to take a lot more time and patience than I had anticipated. Who knew that dogs of all shapes and sizes holding balloons could be so intimidating? (see the photos!) It only took us three walls of peeling quarter-sized paper pieces, one-by-one before I was found myself ready to defeat.

It was around that time, at the moment of near despair, that we decided to shift gears and try something different.

After reading somewhere that fabric softener actually helped in the process of removing wallpaper, we decided to give it a try. After all, what was there to lose?

So, in a yellow garden Sprayer, we combined 1/2 gallon of SUPER hot water (though not quite boiling) with 1/2 gallon of fabric softener (we used the least expensive!) along with 1 cup of DIF Concentrate Wallpaper Remover.

Using a PaperTiger by Zinsser, I scored the wallpaper in circular motions. And here, I’d like to urge a little caution: I cannot stress how important it is not to press too hard when scoring. Using too much pressure with the PaperTiger can easily result in damaged drywall. Light to medium pressure works just fine.

To prevent damage to our sub floors, we used Blue Painter’s Tape to stick plastic sheeting to the top lip of all base boards to catch excess solution that dripped from the walls.

(On a side note: If you find yourself removing wallpaper in a room or setting where you’re concerned about using a garden sprayer, you can get the same effect by using a spray bottle filled with solution!)

Anyway, once we had all the prep work done, we sprayed our new solution onto the walls and let it sit for 20-30 minutes, then scraped it off using a variety of different wallpaper scrapers and putty knives.

The paper came off with remarkable ease and we realized we were finally closing in on finishing the project. A second application of solution was applied to clean what residual glue was left after the wallpaper had been peeled away. After a final wipe down using a sponge and hot water, the walls were left to dry.

Removing wallpaper isn’t typically an easy or fun project, but with the right tools, a little elbow grease, and the right team of determined women (in our case!) you can get it done in a short amount of time.

For us, when all was said and done, we celebrated our accomplishment with a well-deserved Mr. Scribbs pizza and I found myself considering the next step in this renovation!

Supplies Used:

  • Extremely hot tap water
  • Fabric softener (Any kind works: We used the least expensive)
  • DIF Concentrate wallpaper remover
  • Hand held 2 gallon garden sprayer
  • 5-in-1 Hyde hand tool
  • Bucket of hot water
  • Large yellow sponge and bucket of hot water
  • Painter’s tape
  • Painter’s plastic
  • Ladder
  • Gloves
  • Lots of patience!!