Monday, December 17, 2007

P.S. Epoxy Paint and Tiling do NOT mix

One REALLY important detail left off the segment on TV3 (KTVK Phoenix) was that once concrete is painted with epoxy paint you CANNOT tile over it, unless you remove all that paint. Yuck! It would have been better to have known that before I painted my concrete patios with epoxy paint. Oh well. This paint job will not last forever and at some point I (or the next homeowner) will need to come up with another solution. I guess I will not concern myself with it today, though.

Another option I plan to research is whether you can have a vendor add concrete stamping over this epoxy finish. I know that I can add those interlocking tiles. That is always an option for down the road.

Update: the epoxy paint on the patio is now starting to slightly bubble along the edge just beyond where the concrete patching work was done. The problem is LYME trying to reach to the top of the surface -- it has merely found a new place to make the deposits since I have patched the damaged area. I have decided not to do all the faux painting because its obvious it will bubble up. This lyme problem will destroy all my hard work.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

05: Patio project: grout tape

Here is a product I found at JoAnn's Etc. It is actual 1/4" grout tape made by a company called Plaid. This is what I had planned to use on the patio project to mask out the grout lines. I had considered 3M's blue painter's tape, however the smallest width I was able to locate was 3/4" wide, which would have made for a chunky mortar line.

I had purchased 4 rolls for my approximately 200 square feet design.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

04: Patio Project: prepare the surface

The first step is to prepare the surface to be painted. I first removed all patio furniture and hosed it off thoroughly. The TV3 segment recommends Behr Concrete Etcher and Rust Remover to prepare the surface.

I happened to have a leftover "Bond-Lok" (Concrete Cleaner + Degreaser) from a Quikrete 2-part Epoxy kit I had purchased for painting my garage floor. The instructions advise applying it by pouring it with a non-metal watering can. After "watering" the patio with the cleaner, I used a standard push broom to spread it around. It turned white as soon as it hit the surface of the concrete -- similar to peroxide on a wound. I then hosed it off, avoiding the remaining garden adjacent to the patio surface so plants were not damaged.

The next step was repairing the pitted, crumbling areas of the concrete. (Please see the first post on this patio project for photos of the problem.) I used a concrete patch that is sold in a small tub. I ended up going through one tub I had on hand plus I needed TWO more! Wow!

Here is where I ran into a bit of a challenge. The consistency of the three tubs of Pre-Mixed Concrete Patch varied. The first was OK. The second was superb -- like the consistency of frosting. It just smooooothed on. The third was problematic. It was lumpy, thick and just did not spread well at all. I watered it down, mixed and mixed and mixed and added more water, and mixed some more. I did my best to patch with this. In hindsight I think I should have returned it to the store and gotten a fresh batch. But I figured I could sand it down to a smooth finish that would be suitable for painting. My friend and I had had success in smoothing the larger patio with my hand-held Black-and-Decker sander. The smaller bedroom patio had more damage to it than the larger main patio.

03: Patio Project: "faux" tile painting solution

DIY GAL NOTE: This post (4 of a series of 5) features a solution to a problem I have been addressing regarding two concrete patio slabs. Please refer to the earlier posts on this topic for a more thorough explanation of the problem, etc. Thanks for reading!

So the purpose of this project is to:
A) repair some concrete surface that was pitted and crumbling a bit
B) make it attractive... all while adhering to a budget.

Inspiration for this project came from a segment on 3TV (KTVK, Phoenix, AZ) with Suzanne Bissett and Home Depot. [Please note: There was a typo on the contact info on their web site: Home Depot, Val Vista and Broadway Roads, Interior Designer Teresa Follmer. For more information, call (480)-396-0227.]

Essentially it was a "how-to" for painting concrete to create a "faux" tile look. I watched the online segment several times and decided I would proceed this way. After all, if it does not work out, I can always use the interlocking tiles solution over it, right? This is an economical solution. I will walk you through my steps so you can see if it will work for you too!

Update: Be sure and view this post.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

02: Patio Project: possible solutions

DIY GAL NOTE: This post explores solutions to the previous post, which addresses a problem with two concrete patio slabs. Please refer to that post for a more thorough explanation of the problem. Thanks for reading!

I wanted whatever final solution I decided upon to make the patios more attractive, not just repair the damage. Budget was a concern. I researched several solutions. A few years ago I obtained an estimate from Armor Deck to coat it. Apparently my approximate 200 sq. ft. did not meet their minimum requirements. The cost to do this and my front porch and walkway would be over $1500.

Another solution a friend told me about was interlocking tiles. He found one option of modular wood decking at HomeDepot .com called Honey Deck [200 Square Foot Deck Package (10 Ft. x 20 Ft.) 15 cases of A pieces & 3 cases of B pieces.] for $775. It is secured onto the patio with Liquid Nails. Since it is sold in this package there would be no room for error with my project. I sure would not want to double that price! We discovered that this sort of project is not carried at my local Home Depot (nor did the staff have a clue as to what I was talking about.) also offers a similar product. Their VIFAH Premium Snapping Deck Tiles sell for $99 per box. Each box covers 20 square feet. The Pattern is made up of horizontal slats per tile.

The description on web site reads:

Quickly build any unique outdoor living space by simply snapping the deck tiles together without using nails, glue, or a hammer. Snapping deck tiles (sometimes referred to as interlocking deck tile) is a do-it-yourself product designed for the average homeowner. It quickly makes a solid hardwood floor on the patio, balcony, next to a pool or spa, or kitchen and bathroom areas in a couple of hours. No hassles of building a deck the conventional way. Most importantly, it is economically reusable - just simply snap and unsnap the deck tiles on one floor and re-snap them on another floor! You can build your floor within a matter of hours - not days - and enjoy it immediately. No glue, no screws, or hammers are needed!

The snapping deck tiles are made of the beautiful non-endangered Shorea, a hardwood growing naturally and plentifully in Vietnamese protected forests. In Vietnam, Shorea has been the wood of choice for centuries in shipbuilding, furniture, houses, and many other uses. Its hardness and the natural oils present in the wood make Shorea products extremely resistant to fungi, termites, rot and decay. In addition, the wood is also carefully kiln-dried prior to production."

Another solution that I have considered is some sort of tile... porcelain, saltillo, ceramic... something that is non-skid, sturdy. Since I live in the Sonoran desert in Phoenix, Arizona, there is no concern for ice or snow or severe cold or even a lot of rain. But the intense heat is a consideration.

All of these solutions are valid options... however I found a very interesting solution, which I will write about in my next post.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

01: Patio Project: the problem

The reason I started thinking about doing something with my two back patios is because of their appearance. The builder had poured two slabs for the two patios back in 1995. The main patio is 20'6" x 8' and the bedroom patio is 8' x 4'. I had a sweet, little flower bed between both patios.

Take a look at these photos and you can see my concern. My house painter noticed the problem. Her theory was that perhaps the subcontractor who poured the concrete had watered it down.

A neighbor saw it and believed the problem was because I was irrigating too close to the concrete slabs. Somehow the water was getting up under the slab -- whether from rain or from irrigation -- and chipping away at the top surface. Since it is the structural support for my covered patios, I knew I could not let this go on indefinitely.

The first thing I did is remove my flower bed and the irrigation system between the two patios to cease watering in that area.

In my next post I will explore different options I considered to solve this problem.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Just say "NO" to the ComSwitch 5500

Part of being a homeowner and a self-employed business person involves decisions and consumer purchases for home office electronics. I thought maybe I would save a little dough by eliminating my dedicated fax line ($24/month + tax). Silly me! I canceled my dedicated fax line, then designed and printed an announcement and new business card promoting my new business concept. These items had my updated contact info, which, of course, included NO DEDICATED FAX LINE. At a cost of approximately $600 for printing and postage, I promptly addressed, stamped and mailed these carefully crafted announcements and business cards to about 135 of my closest relatives, friends and business contacts. I figured, as these were in the mail, I would easily take care of the "minor" details of getting my home office organized to match what I claimed -- that I no longer have a dedicated fax line.

Never did I imagine that I would struggle with getting my home fax line to share my phone line. Can I get a witness???

I went to Staples to buy a ComSwitch 5500 on October 28, 2007. It lasted until December 2, 2007. God rest its soul. Five weeks, you say? Yes, that's right. Five weeks. I think that averaged about $15 per fax received. This black plastic box o' crap lasted five damn weeks. Not only did the ComSwitch 5500 die, but my not-quite-three-year-old AT+T corded phone connected to it "mysteriously" started having an annoying humming sound, making it virtually useless (unless your goal is to repulse callers).

So now I needed to replace my phone and chose a new $85 Panasonic phone (KX-TG1033S with new DECT 6.0 technology). (BTW, I love this new phone set!) While setting up the new phones, my friend and I could not get the ComSwitch 5500 to work. After four hours of troubleshooting with my friend's skilled expertise -- he has 14 years experience in technical support with a telecommunications company -- we threw up our arms in complete frustration. We were able to have ComSwitch answer the call, but not have caller ID, or else set it up for caller ID and have the ComSwitch hang up on callers. Neither was acceptable. The game plan was for me to call customer support the following day. They will help, right??? After all I paid $65 and its only five weeks old. Certainly Command Communications would care about their customers and its reputation as a quality company.

HA! In a nutshell, even though I have one damaged AT+T phone with a loud permanent humming, and I can no longer get the ComSwitch to work with Caller ID without dropping calls, technical support basically says "tough luck." Once they found out I neglected to plug in my phone cord into a phone/fax surge protector, Eric, the Command Communications technical service rep, had the evidence needed to blame me, the negligent customer. After all it was on PAGE ONE of their owner's manual in the "blah, blah, blah" section (although not in their diagrams). Oh to be fair, he offered to let me ship it back to them in Colorado for inspection (at MY expense, of course), but warned me that if they discovered it had been fried by some sort of surge into my phone, my warranty would become invalid. Oh, so I would be out the $65 for the ComSwitch 5500 AND the cost to ship the piece o' crap back to them? Yea, right!

I have been in my house over 12 years and have survived as many summers of sometimes violent, desert monsoon storms. I have NEVER had a phone fry because of some sort of power surge through the phone line. I have never bothered to plug in the phone (or fax) into a phone/fax surge protection device. I have plugged the electrical cords into the electrical surge protector, but it never occurred to me to protect the phone line. My bad, I suppose. If Eric's theory is correct, my AT+T phone and the ComSwitch went kaput because of this supposed surge. If that is true, Eric, than how do you explain the ComSwitch working before I replaced my $65 three-year-old AT+T phone with a new $85 Panasonic phone? (And, yes, the Panasonic is now plugged into the surge protector, thank you very much.)

Eric asked me if I placed the ComSwitch 5500 near other electronic devices. He reminded me that these devices are very sensitive to other electronic equipment (incidentally my AT+T manual noted this too). Really? How is it that manufacturers of office equipment envision people using their products alone, away from other electronic devices? Have they never visited a home office? Let's see... there are phones, fax machines, ink jet and/or laser printers, scanners, modems, routers and maybe even a TV. Do they envision each of these items in their own private room? Interesting concept. Perhaps I could store my ComSwitch 5500 under glass, like a museum display. Fat chance!

Back to Staples, where I bought it -- that is where this piece o' crap went. Yea, they have a 14-day return policy on technology, however Staples took it back with no questions asked. Somehow I don't think I was the only one to return this device. What a relief. Thank you, Staples!

Now I am left figuring out some other solution that does not involve Command Communications.

Lowe's vs. Home Depot

I am sure this is not going to be the final blog entry on this comparison. I count myself lucky -- at least sometimes -- that I live in an area urban enough to be within two miles of both Lowe's and Home Depot, not to mention Ace Hardware and much, much more. This means I have choices galore.

Good slogan!

In the past I held the prejudice that Lowe's was more expensive, for some reason. Perhaps the store seemed nicer, the people friendlier, less warehouse noise -- I guess that was just perception regarding prices. However, I am not so sure that is true. But there are many commodities to consider -- money, time, energy. What I am sensing is that there is a big difference in how the two companies are managed. Whatever the upper management is doing must be trickling down. (Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way... Case Study Addict: Home Depot: Hactivism). I am noticing a much more friendly and helpful attitude from Lowe's. While I know no one who works for Lowe's, I have two good friends who have worked, or do work, for Home Depot -- one of which is an assistant manager at a Home Depot in Oregon. What I am learning in listening to his experience, is that the staff is worked long hours and not appreciated for it. The same was true for another Phoenix area friend who worked in the kitchen design area of a Phoenix Home Depot. She said the job was a challenging one. Both friends are hard-working, diligent and pleasant people.

But I digress...

Like any home improvement project there are multiple items to pick up as you get into the project. For these items I have visited both Lowe's and Home Depot. The project that I am currently in a holding pattern on is the "Faux" Tile Patio Painting project. Why? Because I am getting all sorts of conflicting information. Have I ruined my patio by using Quikrete 2-part Epoxy Paint as the first major step? Gawd I hope not. That was hard work! And just a reminder, the reason I painted my patio floor with epoxy paint is because of the special segment on TV3 and Home Depot. Yes, I said Home Depot.

Also I plan to ask a Dunn Edwards representative, which just opened a new paint store within 2 miles of my home, my "complex" and involved questions and hope for a person who cares and has knowledge. Wish me luck. I will report back...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kitchen Floor Project

Here is a pic of my new linoleum kitchen floor tiled with easy-to-install linoleum tiles. It was a $100 project, give or take, for my small kitchen.

The toughest job was preparing the floor by removing the old linoleum. The top layer of linoleum peeled off fairly easily. However, the paper backing and the glue remained "stuck" on the concrete surface. That required scraping. I found that soaking the residual paper backing and glue with some water and a rag, allowing it sit about a minute and then scraping assisted in getting rid of all that gunk.

There was also some effort in clearing away the old caulk along the baseboards. After that was cleaned I prepared the floor by painting on a primer designed to help with the adhesion of the self-stick tiles. It was Henry brand 336 Bond Enhancer - Self Stick Tile Primer. It is described as "A specialized Liquid Latex Primer for preparing surfaces for self-stick tile and flooring adhesives." I found it at the nearby Lowe's. It was watery milky stuff. Not too bad to apply, though. The package recommended a roller. Since it was a small room, I just painted it on with a brush. (Make sure you have your windows open for proper ventilation.)

Laying the tile was the fun part. The tile linoleum product is from Home Depot: 12" tiles by Traffic Master (Home Depot's in-house brand). The color is "Beige Slate." Since my kitchen is small (only about 60 sq ft needed for the tile-able area.). I only needed two boxes of 30 tiles, plus a few spare, which are sold individually for 99 cents at my local Home Depot.

I first mapped out the tile pattern on the living room carpet so I was sure not to repeat any patterned tiles. The room is an odd shape with angled cabinets and a nook for the refrigerator and stove so I had to use my best judgment when determining where to work from. The tile manufacturer recommends making a chalk line of the center intersection point of the room. I ended up lining up one of the tiles with the edge of the cabinet that is just to the left of where you enter this small kitchen.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Insulate Your Garage Door

Here's an easy project that I tackled in October: insulating my garage door.

The obvious advantage is improved insulation of the garage, making it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. I have found it also helps deaden some of the street noise of passing vehicles.

I went to Lowe's for my supplies for this project. I decided NOT to buy the pre-packaged garage door kit(s). Not only was that kit more expensive, but it would have made a less precise finished product. Instead I bought 1.5" thick Insulfoam R-Tech Expanded Polystyrene in 2' x 4' sheets for about $3.50/sheet. I measured each panel and the polystrene was cut with a JIGSAW (not a utility knife) for a crisp, tidy cut. This is key for a no muss, no fuss job. The thickness was a purrrrfect snug fit for my garage door frame. With some of the scraps I was even able to frame around the windows. The center panels between windows were held in place with some scraps of industrial-strength Velcro that I had available, and some "T" (sewing) pins attached at an angle to the base panels (see close-up picture).

From the Insulfoam website:

"Insulfoam provides you with one of today's most recognized exterior wall insulation underlayments, Expanded Polystyrene R-Tech. R-Tech is a film-faced product designed to be a durable, lightweight, rigid foam panel that adds significant long term R-value insulation to your walls. The Film facing front and back minimizes waste caused by accidental board damage and helps to keep the board intact despite minor breaks. R-Tech is easy to handle, cut and install without the difficulties of foil or paper facings and glue. Excellent resistance to moisture for lasting retention of insulating performance."

This project was just $45 for a two-car garage door, and took an afternoon to complete.