Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Painting Grasscloth Wallpaper

Question: I am looking for suggestions for painting over grasscloth wallpaper. Is this possible? If so, how?

I've painted quite a bit of this material in the past! You can pick whatever color you like and still enjoy the texture associated with grasscloth. If you are looking for a smooth finish, you will need to completely remove the wallpaper. It can be difficult, so you may want to hire a contractor who specializes in wallpaper removal.

If you decide to paint:

1: Make sure all wallpaper is securely adhered to your walls. Any loose seams or bubbles will need to be glued down. You don't really need special glue for this. Lift the loose seams and squirt in a little glue. Sometimes you can use a glue syringe to inject glue into an air bubble.

2: Wipe everything down with a damp sponge. The texture can hold a lot of dust and dirt that accumulates over the years. Failing to do this may cause the dirt to be smeared around when you are painting.

3: Mask all adjacent trim and protect the surrounding area just as you would when you paint any other wall.

4: Using a 1/2" roller and a good brush, apply 2 coats of a cheap flat paint. This paint acts as a primer, but will also give a fresh, even color to the walls. If you are painting with dark colors, you may want to consider tinting this primer a couple shades lighter than the final color.

5: VERY IMPORTANT! Let the surface dry competely between coats! If you get the wallpaper too damp, it may cause the paste to release creating more bubbles and loose seams! You do NOT want this to happen.

6: After you verify that your surface is still sound (the wallpaper should not be falling off the walls!) you are ready to apply your finish coats. Using the same equipment as you used for the primer, apply at least 2 coats of paint to your walls. As always, I recommend using an eggshell or satin sheen paint. They are much tougher and easier to clean, needing only a good wiping down. Depending on the texture, you may want to use a flat paint. Flat paint will reduce the appearance of the texture. Ultimately, use a good quality paint and you'll be fine.

Any questions? Don't hesitate to contact me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Energy Efficiency Guidelines for Federal Tax Credits!

As many of you know, the government is working hard to give us some of our money back (I know, don't laugh too hard!). The government has reinstated and even INCREASED the amount of the tax credits for 2009. Unfortunately, you are out of luck for 2008.


Since I am a window contractor, I am going to concentrate on the window rebate that is available to you.

Many people think that if a windows carries the Energy Star logo, then it qualifies. WRONG! They slipped this one by us! A window that was just fine a year ago, doesn't qualify for the rebate, but still can carry the Energy Star logo. Confusing? You bet!


All new windows come with a sticker that shows the window's performance data. It's similar to a window sticker on a new car where it shows the estimated MPG data. The numbers on this sticker are very important.

SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient): The SHGC is the fraction of incident solar radiation admitted through a window, both admitted through a window, both directly transmitted, and absorbed and subsequently released inward. SHGC is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The lower a window's solar heat gain coefficient, the less solar heat it transmits.

The current acceptable limit set forth by the government is: Less than or equal to .30

U-Factor: A measure of the rate of non-solar heat loss or gain through a material or assembly. It is expressed in units of Btu/hr-sq ft-°F (W/sq m-°C). Values are normally given for NFRC/ASHRAE winter conditions of 0° F (18° C) outdoor temperature, 70° F (21° C) indoor temperature, 15 mph wind, and no solar load. The U-factor may be expressed for the glass alone or the entire window, which includes the effect of the frame and the spacer materials. The lower the U-factor, the greater a window's resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value.

The current acceptable limis set forth by the government is: Less than or equal to .30

As you can see on this label, this window WOULD NOT qualify for the rebate!

Many window manufacturers DO NOT currently meet these limits! Make sure you do your homework!

All manufacturers will be meeting these parameters very soon. Guess what? It costs more to meet the guidelines and it causes the window prices to rise. With one hand they give a credit, and the other hand takes it away. Oh well, that's our government!

Calculating your actual rebate goes something like this: You get 30% of the window COST with a limit of $1,500. This does not include installation! This means you would have to spend $5,000 to max out your rebate. Remember, the $1,500 limit includes ALL projects that qualify for the rebate. For many homes, this will be no problem.
Stay informed!
Of course I install windows! If you live around the Kansas City Area, you can find me here:
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Exterior Painting: What to look for: Part 1 (The Assessment)

Well folks, it's that time of year again! Time to take a walk around the the exterior of your home and make sure everything is in good shape. All too often we take the outside of our homes for granted. After all, we just had it painted a couple of years ago. It should still be fine, right?

Well, maybe!

Find some time on a nice and sunny Saturday of Sunday (or whatever day you have off!). It only really takes half an hour or less to do it and it can be WELL worth it. You know Ben Franklin's old saying: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It's as true on your home as it is for your health.

Here are a couple of things you should look for as you walk around:

1: Condition of the paint. Sometimes this is pretty easy. Does it look uneven? Is it noticeably fading? Is there any peeling? Look at this picture, it's pretty obvious that paint is looking a little lean.

In addition to the obvious peeling, run your hand across the painted surface. Did you get some white residue on your hand? If so, this is called "Chalking" This is a sign that it's time to repaint. The paint film is breaking down and losing it's protective qualities. It's usually accompanied by a "washed out" look. Chalking is a normal part of paint aging. High quality 100% Acrylic exterior paints don't do this as much as lower quality paint. This is why you do NOT skimp on the quality of your paint!

2: The Caulking. This can be a tough one. There are many places where caulk belongs and many places where it does not. I won't cover all of that here, but I will in a future post. Caulk is designed to be a flexible sealant that helps to keep water and air from intruding into your home. The two most important places to look are around your windows and doors and above all of your horizontal trim boards. There should be NO gaps or cracks at these joints. Cheap caulk (also known as "painter's caulk" for some reason) will crack within a couple of years. It's just nor very flexible. I like ti use Urethane Modified Latex Caulk with a 55-year rating.

3: Siding and Trim. If you have wood trim or any siding made from wood or wood products, you probably have a problem somewhere! Much of these problems are caused by poor installation methods or poor finishing. Many of these problems can also be caused by defective or missing caulking. Look for buckling in the siding, moist or rotting wood, excessive insect activity, etc.

You can clearly see the buckling in the siding in this picture. Unfortunately there is really nothing that can be done to fix this besides replace the damaged siding. Many times this doesn't create any problems, but it can also open up gaps to allow water to get in. Generally there is no damage to the framing. It's usually a pretty easy fix, we do it all the time.

This is typical of "hardboard" siding that is so prevalent in the Midwest. You can see the bottom has taken on water and has deteriorated beyond repair. Simply painting the bottom edge a few years ago would have prevented this. Now it will need to be replaced.

More hardboard siding, this time it's lap siding. It's not immune to damage either! Much of this damage was caused by a gable vent that wasn't installed or flashed properly. Unfortunately, the solution is complete replacement. You never know what's behind lap siding! If left untouched, the backer board and the framing may rot resulting in additional repair cost.

4: Windows. Windows are a notorious weak spot of a typical home. They can be drafty, letting air in and out, but they are also highly susceptible to rot. It's usually easy to spot and most is repairable with the right knowledge and skill level.

Most rot occurs along the sill, usually at the edges where it meets the brickmolding. Brickmolding is a fancy name for the decorative trim around the window. Many times this joint is not caulked very well, or has separated with the settling of your home. Many windows can be repaired, but the ones in the picture will need to be replaced. Sometimes that's just the best way to fix the problem.

It's a little hard to see, but the sill on this double-hung window is badly rotten. Normally, this is relatively easy to fix. Unfortunately, the middle window sash is rotten as well. This window had to be completely replaced. This goes to show you that if you spend a little money on maintenance and prevention you won't have to spend a lot on replacement. The repair would have cost less than $500.00. The cost to replace and finish the window were over $2,000.
Stay tuned for more tips on what to look for when thinking about exterior painting and repair. Take a look around your house and check out your home's health! When you notice one of these problems, it's better to take care of them sooner, rather than later. If you live in the Kansas City area, feel free to contact me. My website address is