Watch Your Back!

grubby_little_hannahOK, Moms and Dads, has this ever happened to you?  It’s happened to me a number of times, but the most recent took place a few Sunday’s ago.  We were getting all 5 kids ready for 8:30 church one Sunday morning.  And, of course, chaos ensued. However, eventually, because we’re such with-it parents, we managed to get everybody, including ourselves, ready.

Breathing a sigh of relief, we started to make our way to the car, but before I did that, my youngest child–Hannah–came trudging over to me and explained that she needed a hug.  Ahh, that’s so cute, isn’t it?  Little kids who still love their dad so much they need a hug?  So I scooped her up, and hugged her.  And she returned the hug–big time–grabbing me tightly and then patting me repeatedly on the back with the overwhelming love only a child can give.

Well, when the hug was over, I ushered her out to the car and decided to give myself a quick once-over in the mirror–just to make sure I looked ok after the hectic morning.  Well, after a glance, I realized I was as good as I was ever going to look and so I jumped into the van and drove to church.

When we got there, we talked to some people, found our seats–this time in the front row of the balcony rather than our normal seats in the back–listened to the service, talked to some people on the way out and eventually came home.  However, changing out of my Sunday clothes and back into a t-shirt and jeans, I made a shocking discovery.  The back of my shirt was completely covered with gooey, dirty, cheeto’s-ee orange hand prints.  The front of the shirt was fine, but the back was filthy.

It only took me a second to put it together.  Hannah had hugged me before we left and rather than patting me on the back out of sheer love–she was just using the back of my shirt as a wash rag.  She cleaned her hands on my good Sunday shirt.  And then I went to church and walked all around, sat in the front row, talked to all kinds of people–lived it up and had a big time–all the while with my back covered over with slime and assorted gunk.

That’s happened to my wife and I many different times.  Sometimes it involves food, sometimes it’s from other things.  But the point is this:  we never catch it because we never think to check out our backs in the mirror.  And that brings me to the paint point that’s hidden away in all of this– see, I never thought to look at my back in a mirror before I went to church–it never crossed my mind.  I looked at myself in a mirror–at the front–to make sure I looked alright, but I never gave the back a second look.  A lot of us do this same thing with our homes.  Hang with me, here–this is profound–but you’ve got to hang in there.

See, we do this in our homes in this regard:  We take good care of our front doors–our main entrances. These are the doors people typically see when they drive up or drive by our homes–so we take care (at least most of the time) and make these entrances visually pleasing. We use flowers, a great door color, little welcome mats . . . all kinds of little things to make the entrance way appealing.

So, we pay a lot of attention to the front–the main entrance.  But you know what most of us completely forget?  The garage.

Now, this seems like a leap in logic, but it’s not.  See, the garage may be, in reality, the TRUE main entrance to our home.  According to a recent US survey, “71% of American homeowners with a garage use the garage to enter their homes.” Another survey stated that “45% of homeowners with garages use their garages as the main entrance to their homes.”

What the numbers are saying is this:  71% of Americans who own garages use the garage to enter their own homes.  45% of Americans who own garages encourage all visitors to enter their homes through the garage.

And yet, even though the garage is used repeatedly as an entrance to our homes, it’s often the last place we really think to do any “decorating”.  We put all our thought and effort into the front doors (and maybe even the garage door), but we don’t give a second though to the garage itself.  It never crosses our minds.

It’s just like my shirt scenario at church–the front was pristine, but anybody watching me walk away realized I was like pig pen of Charlie Brown fame.  I was a filthy mess.

So all that to ask a simple question:  if folks enter your home through your garage, what kind of impression do they get?  Is it a welcoming area?

And even if you’re garage is never used by guests, chances are your family enters the home–at least at times–through the garage.  Shouldn’t you have a nice, respectable entrance into your home?

The answer, of course, since I’m selling paint, is YES–you should have a nice entrance in your garage.  And the good news is, this doesn’t need to be an insanely expensive, complicated project.


  • WASH THE WALLS.  If your walls are painted, go ahead and wash them with TSP (Trisodium Phosphate).  This is a great “pre-painting” cleaner that cuts through dirt and grease and rinses clean away.  If the walls are not painted, you might want to choose to use a shop vac and remove as much dust and dirt as you can.
  • FILL THE GOUGES.  After cleaning, go around the room with a good spackling compound.  We recommend Crawford’s Spackling Paste.  It’s a high quality spackle that’s easy to work with.
  • DEGREASE the TROUBLE SPOTS.  Most garages are going to have a couple areas where greasy handprints or smudges stain the walls.  Before you paint, make sure you hit these spots with a specific degreaser.  There are any number of these specialty products at RepcoLite–just stop in and we’ll direct you to the one that will work best.
  • SPOT PRIME.  If you have greasy smudges on your wall that you have to deal with (as in the above step), it wouldn’t hurt to spot prime those areas with BIN stain-blocking primer or RepcoLite’s own Zip Prime.
  • APPLY YOUR FINISH.  Once you’ve done all the prep work, it’s time to roll on your finish.  We recommend a high quality acrylic latex.  It doesn’t need to be an exterior product as most garage walls aren’t exposed to the elements.  However, you would likely want to consider an Eggshell finish at the dullest and possibly even a Satin Sheen or a Semi-Gloss.  The finishes with higher glosses will hold up longer and resist dirt and grime better than a flatter finish.

And there you go!  It sounds like a lot of work (I know), but it’s not as complicated as it seems.  Typically, you’ll find that the whole project will take only a single weekend.

4 Tips to Help You Decorate With Color!

14b_kitchen_tomatotangoCSP1145_harborgrayAC25_smallerHave you tried bringing color into your home only to find that it didn’t work?  That the colors didn’t look good together?  That they were too bold or too overpowering?  And then, when that happened, did you simply go back to painting in soft whites and neutrals?

This happens to a lot of people we run into at RepcoLite–they branch out into the world of “color” only to find that the colors they chose didn’t look very good.  Typically, many of those folks then assume that “color’s not for them” or that “they’re just not cut out to decorate in color” and they return to the safety of neutral.

If that’s you, then hold on for a second:  color adds interest and visual appeal to our decorating.  It can take a boring room and turn it into something that turns heads and starts conversations.  The trick is to use the right colors in the right quantities.

And here are 4 quick ideas to help you do that:


Many folks come into the store, pick out some color samples, scrutinize them, and then order a gallon or two of paint.  Then they go home and paint their walls only to find that when night comes and the room darkens the color’s way too dark on their walls.  Avoid this mistake by taking your color chips home and examining them in YOUR lighting and in all lighting situations.  Look at the colors at night in the rooms in which they’ll be well before you start rolling them out!


In the decorating process, many folks start with the paint.  They’ll come to the paint store and try to establish their paint colors before they step into the furniture stores or the carpet stores.  This is a mistake.  Folks will come in, pick a bold, bright color for their walls, and then later discover they can’t find a couch or carpet that looks good with those colors.  They then, mistakenly, assume that bold colors are just not their thing.  The problem isn’t bold colors, it’s the timing of the color choice.  Remember:  Paint is the most adjustable aspect of any home decorating project and should therefore, be selected after everything else is chosen.  First find your couch, your carpet, your wall hangings, etc. and then have the paint made to pull colors from those items.  Doing it this way makes decorating with color easy.  Doing it backwards makes decorating with color seem impossible!


Another thing to think about applies especially to those folks who are working their way through their house.  They start with one room, get it finished and then move on to the next one.  If this is you, plan your steps and your decorating with an eye on your next move.  Don’t find a beautiful, bold color for your living room, make everything work together beautifully only to discover that you have no idea what color will go with it when you move to your hallway.  Plan your living room with your hallway in mind.  Make sure the colors will harmonize as you work your way through the house.


This last tip is important!  When you look at a standard color chip, you’ll see a light color at the top and a darker version of that color at the bottom with five or six variations in between.  The typical response many of us have to this way of displaying color is to assume that the top color is an off white.  From there, we gauge the depth of the subsequent colors on the chip.  The mistake comes in our initial assumption:  often, the colors on the top of the chips are already significantly darker than off whites.  So, while the third color on the chip may look–by comparison to the other colors–to be a “medium-toned” color, we are often surprised to see how dark it actually is on our walls.  So all that to say, one of the best things you can do is take that color swatch you like and hold it up to some standard whites or off whites to give yourself a good perception of the true depth of the colors–that way you won’t be too surprised when you get them on your wall.

Getting Rid of Mold on Your Ceiling in 3 Steps

Mold On The CeilingMold on a bathroom ceiling is a common problem homeowners struggle with on a regular basis.  However, the good news is that while it is common and while it can be a pain to get rid of, it CAN be dealt with–you just need to take the right steps.


You need to start the process of fixing the mold on your ceiling by remembering that mold is a SYMPTOM of a deeper problem.  Somehow, moisture is causing this mold to grow and thrive on your walls or your ceiling.  You need to figure out what is causing the moisture.  It could be your shower, it could be an ineffective (or non-existent) ceiling fan, it could be a leaky pipe or even a leaking roof.  Find the problem that’s causing the mold and fix it.  If it’s the roof, repair it.  If it’s the shower, cut down on the number or length of showers if possible.  If it’s the fan, put a new one in.  This is the first part and it’s a critical step.  If you DON’T do this, chances are the mold will just continue to be a problem.


Once you’ve dealt with the root source of the problem, it’s time to deal with the symptoms–the mold.  And the first step here is to kill it.  This is done by mixing a solution of 1 part Bleach and  4 parts Water in a spray bottle.  Once you’ve got this mixed, mist the bleach solution over the affected spots on your ceiling or walls.  (TAKE PRECAUTIONS HERE:  Wear old clothes, remove rugs, put down drop clothes, wear eye protection and DON’T MIX THE BLEACH WITH OTHER CLEANING AGENTS).  After you’ve sprayed the mold spots, allow the bleach about 10 minutes or so to work and then scrub the spots with a sponge or a scrub brush.  If necessary, hit the spots with a second misting of bleach.


Once you’ve killed the mold and mildew and let the wall dry down, you might be done. Yes, you read that correctly! You might not even need to paint! But if you do, the last step in the process is to roll a couple coats of a high-quality finish on your walls or ceiling.  We recommend first and foremost Benjamin Moore’s Aura Bath and Spa. It’s a tremendous product for you bathroom and, in our opinion, the best thing you could use. It’s specially formulated for bathroom and high moisture areas, offering excellent mold and mildew resistance. It’s also available in a matte finish. Which means you can say goodbye to those shiny bathroom walls! On top of that, it’s Aura. Which means excellent hide and coverage!

If you’re repainting, Aura Bath and Spa is a great choice. In fact, there’s really no reason to use anything else!

Mold on a bathroom ceiling is a pain in the neck.  My bathroom is living (literally) proof of that right now.  But, as I mentioned earlier, the good news is that the problem is fixable and, with effort, even preventable.  Follow these steps and you should find your way to a mold-free bathroom in no time!

8 Quick Tips Regarding Roller Covers

For those of us who paint everyday, there are little things we learn along the way–little things we do that makes the work go quicker, easier.  Here are a collection of 8 of those tips–check them out and make use of any of them that make sense to you!


People often try to save money by re-using an old roller cover.  The problem is, those old, washed-out roller covers never work well.  The fibers get clumpy after a good washing and typically they never return to a condition that applies a finish paint well.  So don’t compromise your paint job–the money you spent on paint and the time you spent working–only to end up with a poor finish.  Instead, spend the extra $4 or so and get a new cover for a new project!


A 3/8″ roller cover is ideal for most interior surfaces and most paint finishes.  3/8″ covers work for standard textured ceilings and yet they’re smooth enough for your walls.  These covers carry enough paint to be easy to use, but they typically don’t carry so much that they spatter and drip everywhere.  However, bear in mind that there are shorter-napped and longer-napped covers that are specific for certain situations.  Before you buy any cover, we recommend that you explain your project to the expert in the paint store and let him or her steer you to the right cover.


RepcoLite carries a wide assortment of small, specialty rollers.  These are perfect for painting everything from the panels in a paneled door, to reaching those tight areas behind your radiators or inside your cabinets.  When you find yourself in a tight spot, don’t forget that these options are available!


Building on the idea just mentioned, it’s important to point out that the finishes left by those little roller covers can be different from the finish left behind by your standard roller cover.  This can potentially make a difference in the appearance of your overall project.  The difference can be minor–and it can be severe.  The best way around it is to remember that all of those little rollers–at least the ones we have at RepcoLite–match up in nap and finish with their larger counterparts.  If you used a 3/8″ roller for your walls, make sure you pick up a 3/8″ roller cover for your small roller.


So far, we’ve only talked about roller covers, but a big part of the ease and functionality of a roller cover is the frame you put it on.  If you buy the best roller cover, but then mount it on the cheapest frame you can get your hands on, chances are the experience will be less than stellar!  Roller frames are not disposable–they last from job to job.  Add to that the fact that a good, high quality frame is typically about $4 – $6 more than a cheapo and it’s really a no-brainer.  Drop the extra $4 once and you’ll reap the rewards of your decision every single time you paint!


Folks don’t always realize this, but brand new roller covers are typically covered with lint and cut-off fuzzies. It happens during the manufacturing process and, if you don’t remove these fuzzies before you start painting, you’ll typically find yourself removing them from your wall after you’ve rolled them on in a coat of paint.  To remove them, simply tape some painter’s tape down on your counter–sticky side up–and roll your cover over the tape.  Do this several times to make sure all the lint and loose fibers have been removed.


Sometimes, filling a new roller cover up with paint can be a pain.  You roll it in the tray but the second it hits the paint, it stops rolling.  You end up with a bunch of paint on one half of the cover and nothing on the other.  Oh, you can get the whole thing covered, but it takes some work.  To avoid that hassle, try this:  moisten the roller cover with water (for latex paint) ahead of time.  Either run it quickly under a tap or mist it with a spray bottle of clean water.  Once it’s wet, roll it out on a dry rag to remove the excess moisture before moving it to your paint. (Don’t roll it out on newspaper as the newsprint could come off on the cover!)


If you get done painting for a night, but plan to start again the next morning, don’t waste time cleaning out your cover.  Simply pull it off your roller frame and then wrap it tightly in Saran Wrap.  Once it’s wrapped, store it on your counter or in your refrigerator. DON’T STORE IT IN YOUR FREEZER (unless it’s oil-based paint). This process should keep your roller ready for use for a day or so.

Be aware that if you leave it much longer, it runs the risk of drying out and–especially in humid situations–getting a little moldy.

Keeping Your Caulk From Drying Out

wax_ringI’ve got a number of tubes of caulk in my basement, on my shelves, that are dried out. And that number is 10. Yes. Ten 1/2 full or 3/4 full tubes of caulks of assorted colors and types that have all dried out.

I discovered this the other day when I, of course, needed to do some caulking. And, of course, I didn’t buy any caulk because I knew I had at least $40 worth of caulk on my basement shelves. However, when I went down there to get it, I quickly realized that all of those tubes were no good.

I had used them earlier and had never sealed them correctly to prevent them from drying out. And, as a result, they dried out.

Well, I know that I can at times be pretty dumb when it comes to home improvement stuff, but I also know that I’m not the only one. So, I thought I’d share with you two great ways I discovered after that experience that will help you keep your caulk ready to use.

METHOD 1: The Wax Ring Method

The first way is my favorite and I owe credit to a wood working blogger I discovered here.  This method is very simple, very cost effective, a little gross (when you think about it), and very cool.  Here it is:

  • Buy a wax ring for a toilet from a hardware store.  (Should be under $4 in price.)
  • Take the wax ring and put it in a small container that you can seal.  (you could use a tape cannister, possibly film cannisters, or anything along those lines.  The goal is to put the wax in a container that you can seal so it stays pliable, but also so it doesn’t get all over the place and make a mess).
  • When you’re done caulking for a day or for a month or whatever, simply open up this cannister with the wax and press the tip of the caulk into the wax (preferably a couple inches).

The wax will fill the nozzle perfectly and will create a perfect seal.  When you’re ready to caulk again, simply pop the tube into your gun and squeeze the trigger.  The wax seal will be expelled just ahead of the caulk–which will still be perfectly good!

METHOD 2: Latex Gloves

Another method I’ve read about for sealing up a tube of caulk in-between jobs is this:

  • Start by taking one of those little latex “doctor’s” gloves and then cutting the finger off.
  • Drape this “cut-off finger” over the nozzle of the tube of caulk and then wrap some tape around the base to seal it.
  • When you’re ready to use it again, simply pull the seal off and your caulk should still be usable.
  • Now, while both of these methods are inexpensive and should work well, I still like the simplicity of the wax  ring idea.  I don’t have to mess with tape, I don’t have to worry if I got the little finger thingy taped down tightly enough, etc.  And, best of all, when I want to use the caulk again, I just pop it in the gun and pull the trigger.  I don’t have to mess with pulling tape off after it’s been sitting on a tube for 4-5 months.

If you do any amount of caulking, give one of these methods a try–either one is way better than the old “put a nail in it” method and will produce much better results!

Finding the Right Contractor in 10 Easy Steps

The following has been adapted from “Ten Tips for Hiring a Painting Contractor” by the Paint Quality Institute.

Have you ever tried to find the right contractor to do some work in your home?  Have you ever lived through some of the home-remodel horror stories we hear about from time?  I read about one the other day:  a couple bought a historical home in a fancy historical section of some fancy little town somewhere–not around here–but still, a nice, quiet upscale neighborhood.  They bought a nice house and then hired a couple contractors to come in and do some work to perfect their new home.

Well, they brought one company in to do some work digging out the basement and underpinning the foundation.  (Yes, I’m sure you can see where this is going.)  This contractor, it turned out, didn’t know quite as much about excavating as he had suggested to the couple.  Subsequently, he excavated so thoroughly around the home that one of the basement walls collapsed.  Which of course, caused parts of the house to collapse.  Which, of course, caused the rest of the house to collapse.  Which, consequently, was so catastrophic that it caused parts of a neighbor’s house to collapse.  Everybody made it out alright, but what a mess–what a nightmare!  And what a way to start a relationship with a new neighbor:  “Hi.  I’m Tim and this is my wife Alice.  We just moved in and knocked our house down on top of yours.  Can we use your restroom?”

At any rate, that’s an extreme example, but we’ve all heard about other situations that, while not as horrific, were still horrible, painful and depressing for the folks involved.  And because of that, many of us get nervous at the very thought of hiring somebody to do any kind of work in our home.  We wonder if we’ll hire the right company.  We wonder how we’ll know that the company we do hire is honest.  We wonder how we can be assured they’ll do quality work and on and on and on.

Well, because of that, I figured we’d breeze through a great list of tips based on a similar list produced by the the Paint Quality Institute.

So, without any further ado, here are 10 Ways to Make Sure You Hire the Right Contractor:

Number One:  PREPARE

Before you sit down with your contractors to talk about the work, sit down with your spouse and compile a list of the work you expect to be done on a given project.  This gives you a list of specific items you can hand to each contractor to make sure nothing’s forgotten and also, to make sure they’re quoting on the same work.


Don’t limit yourself to working with the first company you contact.  Talk to multiple contractors and get quotes from each of them.  And don’t be afraid to let your contractors know that you will be getting different quotes.  You don’t need to be rude about it, or use it bully someone into giving you a bottom of the barrel price, but it never hurts to be honest and let them know that they should put “their best foot forward” so to speak.


And by “analyze” I don’t mean simply look at the price tag and decide from there.  I mean analyze every aspect of the quotes.  If one of your contractors gives you a quote that says “Paint Living Room for $400”, you owe it to yourself to dig deeper.  Especially if the other quotes came in higher.  Make sure you find out what the contractor means when he says “Paint Living Room.”  Does that mean 1 coat of paint?  Does it mean 2?  Does it mean he’ll prep the walls?  Fill nail holes?  Patch dings?  Move your furniture out?  Paint around it?  Etc.  Look at the quotes, and compare the work that’s being done–don’t just look at the price and go with the cheapest.


Before any work starts in your home, make sure you sit down with the contractor and talk about timing.  How long will the project reasonably take?  When will he be able to start?  How long will he work each day?  And, most importantly, what happens if the work is not finished on time?  Hammer out the solution the contractor will offer if the work takes unreasonably longer than expected.  Don’t wait to start talking about this until there’s a problem–that’s way too late.  Deal with this ahead of time–before you’ve even hired a contractor–and get it in writing.

Now, with that said, I want to encourage you to focus on my line about the project taking “UNREASONABLY LONGER” than you expected.  Problems will arise in almost every remodel project–things you couldn’t have predicted.  If your contractor is working diligently through these complications, don’t hold him to unreasonable expectations.  Use this concept as a safeguard to protect yourself from a negligent or disinterested contractor, not as a means to wring money out of a contractor who’s doing his/her best in a bad situation.


Most contractors will warrant their work for about a year or so.  Find out what your contractor will warrant and for how long well before you hire him.  When your paint has peeled six months after the work was completed is NOT the right time to explore the warranty options.  The time to do that is well before any money leaves your hand!


Every good, trustworthy contractor out there will GLADLY supply you with a list of references–names and numbers of folks he’s worked for in the past.  And when he does supply you with this list, CALL THE PEOPLE.  Just because you’ve received a list of names from your contractor doesn’t mean that those people liked the work she did for them.


In so many other situations in life, we should never judge by outward appearances, but when it comes to business, appearances matter.  If your contractor shows up looking like he just crawled out of bed, hadn’t shaved for 3 weeks, and possibly has been living under a bridge somewhere, understand he will likely bring this same level of professionalism to your job.


In the same way that personal appearances matter, so does business etiquette.  Did your contractor return your calls in a reasonable amount of time?  Did she make it on time to all your appointments?  Was she professional in speech? In dress?  In the manner in which she talked about addressing your concerns?  If you run into a contractor who can’t make it on time to meetings, can’t return your phone calls in a reasonable amount of time, and so on . . . I’d run away quickly.  If that is the best he can muster when he’s trying to secure your business, how much less is he going to bring when he’s actually got your money?


Work out these details ahead of time as well.  Some contractors have certain products they want to work with, but typically, you’re going to be much better off (your job will last longer, will apply easier, wash up better, etc.) if you make sure you use high quality (RepcoLite) paint!


Now, this is a no-brainer, but don’t hand over the full amount of money until after you’ve had time to inspect the finished work.  Oh, you may need to give some money up front for supplies, paints, etc., but don’t hand over a final check until everything is finished.  Don’t do that even if your painter shows up and tells you the “guys will be finished tomorrow and I was just in the neighborhood, could I get the check now?”  Nicely and politely say “no.”  Even if you trust your contractor.  Even if your contractor is your Brother-in-Law.  Handing money over before a project is finished is a recipe for disaster.  Don’t do it!

And there you go–10, long-winded tips to make sure you end up with the right contractor.  Any comments?  Any feedback?