March 3, 2020

Brick Sealants – A Product Guide

Bricks are commonly used to clad the walls of chimneys, homes and businesses. They are also a popular material for building stairs, steps, patios and sidewalks. Most brick masonry installations are held together with cement mortar between the bricks. This mortar is the “glue” that holds the whole structure together. Unfortunately mortar is also very porous, and will quickly absorb water and moisture. It is actually very common to see substantial amounts of water go completely through a brick wall or chimney and cause huge amounts of damage to the underlying walls, sheathing and insulation.

Efflorescence is also a big problem on brick. It is caused by moisture absorbing into the bricks and dissolving the natural salts and minerals inside. as the moisture evaporates from the surface, it then leaves the white powdered minerals behind. A brick sealer will greatly reduce water penetration and can often stop the effects of efflorescence completely.

Sealing your brick is easy, simple and will also protect the color of your brick while stopping water penetration into the brick and mortar. Most brick sealing is done with a high performance penetrating sealer that seals and waterproofs while leaving a completely natural sheen and appearance. These products work 100% below the surface to protect from within. They leave no film or coating on the surface, and will never flake or peel.

Brick Cleaning and Preparation

As with all projects, proper preparation is the MOST important step! Before a protective treatment can be applied, any non-compatible existing sealers MUST be removed and the surface completely cleaned and de-greased to ensure adhesion and penetration. In most cases, a thorough pressure washing is all that is needed before sealing brick that is clean and in good condition. If your brick has an existing sealer that has failed or is incompatible with the new sealer you want to use, you will need to remove the old sealer before re-sealing. Specific issues like efflorescence, rust stains or calcite should be addressed with the proper cleaners before applying any sealer or sealant.

>> Recommended Products

Foundation Armor – Concentrated Concrete and Brick Efflorescence Remover and Cleaner
It is designed to penetrate and remove efflorescence from concrete, brick and masonry surfaces. It works to remove the efflorescence and prepare the surface for the application of a sealer or coating. .

F9 BARC Rust, Acid and Fertilizer Stain Remover
Removes tough rust, battery acid and fertilizer stains from Concrete, Pavers, Brick, Vinyl Siding and many other surfaces. 1 Gallon.

F9 Double Eagle Cleaner / Degreaser
Concentrated professional strength cleaner. Removes oils, grease and contaminates from Concrete, Pavers, Brick and many other surfaces. 1 Gallon.

F9 Efflorescence and Calcium Remover
Quickly removes efflorescence, calcium, calcium carbonate and hard water stains from concrete, pavers, brick and more. 1 Gallon.

Nock-Off Industrial Coating and Sealer Stripper
Easily removes concrete sealers, paints, epoxies, urethanes and many other coatings. Environmentally safe and easy to use. 1 or 5 gallons.

Penetrating Brick Sealers

This is the type of sealer we recommend for most brick sealing applications. This type of sealer penetrates deep into the surface, sealing out water and contaminates. Penetrating sealants work 100% below the surface to protect your brick and mortar from within, while still remaining breathable. These sealers do not form a film or change the sheen of the surface. Some such as WB-75 and SB-100 leave a completely natural appearance, while others like Enhancer Shield provide color enhancement for more of that “wet look” many people desire. These sealers do not become slippery when wet, and can never flake, peel or chip like film-forming sealers. These are very effective, long lasting and offer easy application and maintenance. The life-span and level of protection you get from this type of sealer will depend on the quality of the product you choose. Penetrating sealers should never be applied over an existing sealer, unless the previous sealer was a similar and compatible penetrating sealer.

>> Recommended Products

Eagle Natural Seal – Penetrating Clear Water-Based Concrete and Masonry Water Repellent Sealer and Salt Repellent Penetrating silicone sealer for your concrete. It protects concrete from salts, freeze/thaw, chemicals and other elements, featuring a combination of deep penetrating silane and surface-protecting siloxane barriers. Your concrete will bead water and look dry even when wet.

SurfKoat WB 75 Penetrating Sealer
Invisible, Penetrating, Water Repellent Sealer for Concrete, Pavers, Brick, Stone and Masonry. Water-Based Silane/Siloxane. 1 or 5 Gallons.

SurfKoat Enhancer Shield Penetrating Sealer
Color Enhancing, Penetrating, Water Repellent Sealer for Concrete, Pavers, Stone and Masonry. Beautifully Enhances Color While Protecting Against Water and Salt Damage. Water or Solvent-Based. 1 or 5 Gallons.

SB-100 Ultimate Penetrating Sealer
Ultra Performance, Invisible, Penetrating, Water Repellent Sealer for Concrete, Pavers, Stone and Masonry. Solvent-Based Pure Silane. 1 or 5 Gallons.

Wet Look Water Based Urethane Sealers

We include this option because some customers demand a wet-look or gloss sealer for brick. If you MUST HAVE a wet-look product for your brick, this is our best recommendation. These urethanes are two-component products that chemically harden like an “epoxy” after you mix part:A and Part:B together. This makes them hard, durable and chemical resistant. Urethanes are also UV stable and will never turn yellow due to UV exposure. Since these urethanes are also water-based, they offer an easy and safe application. So far, we have only found one of these urethanes that performs to our standards, Seal-n-Lock SuperWet. SuperWet comes in a concentrate form, applies easily by sprayer, is legal for sale in all 50 states and is compatible for use over many types of existing sealers. To maintain protection and appearance, this sealer should have a maintenance coat every 3-4 years.

>> Recommended Products

Glaze ‘N SealClear Wet Look Green Concrete and Masonry Lacquer Waterproofer and Sealer
Green low VOC formula complies with the strictest air quality regulations. It protects and gives a fresh wet appearance to all decorative concrete, masonry, porous stone and more. The unique, proprietary deep penetrating, non-yellowing formula offers the ultimate stain protection in a high gloss finish indoors and outdoors. Ideal for driveways, patios and garage floors.

SealnLock Super Wet Paver Sealer
Our Most Versatile Product! High-Performance Urethane Paver and Concrete Sealer. Extremely durable and easy to apply. 2 or 5 gallon kit. (concentrate makes up to 15 gallons of sealer!)


February 17, 2020

My House Flooded…What Do I Do Now?

Like many recent hurricane victims, you may have found yourself coming back home to an unwelcome guest—flood damage. Perhaps you live in a high-risk flood zone and this is all too familiar territory, or maybe you evacuated just to be safe, never expecting to deal with any actual loss. But now that you know your house flooded, how do you start the recovery process while trying to file your claim? And what about rebuilding? Can you do it in a way that will protect your home from flooding again?

Here are some helpful tips to support you as you navigate the days ahead—from documenting damage and tackling cleanup safely to taking preventative measures.

Tips for Filing a Claim

Make the Necessary Calls:

  • Call FEMA: Alert FEMA of your situation by calling them at 1.800.621.3362. They may have free help available to you. (See Helpful Resources section below.)
  • Call Your Insurance Agent: If you have flood insurance, now is the time to call your local insurance agent. They will begin the claims process and schedule an appointment for an adjuster to come to your home. Make sure to ask the adjuster’s name before they arrive.

Document Everything:

  • Video: Use your phone or a video camera to do a video walkthrough, documenting damage both inside and outside of the house.
  • Photos: Don’t skimp on the pictures—take a bunch and make sure you get close-up, detailed shots of the damaged items before you remove them from your home.
  • Flooring: If larger items like carpet or flooring are damaged, cut a piece out and set it aside to show the adjuster when they come.
  • Keep Records: Make copies of all the paperwork you give to your adjuster or insurance agent. Use your phone to take pictures of the paperwork if you can’t make a photocopy. Keep a record of all contact with the insurance company with dates, times and details of what you discussed.

Meet With the Adjuster:

  • Ask for their identification when they arrive.
  • Be prepared to request an advance or partial payment if needed
  • Be ready with your policy number, insurance information and records related to any damaged belongings or property.
  • Request your adjuster’s email address and make sure any communication is handled by email so that you have a written record.
  • Do not begin any repairs without written (or emailed) approval from the adjuster.

Good to Know: If you have a large claim, you can hire a public adjuster (an independent adjuster) who will work on your behalf to mediate the claim. Watch out for potentially high fees as some states have no caps on what public adjusters can charge.

Keep in Mind That the Adjuster Will:

  • Take measurements and photos, noting any direct flood damage.
  • Provide you with a flood certification number.
  • Give you a suggested Proof of Loss, based on their assessment

Good to Know: The adjuster will not approve or deny your claim, or be able to tell you if your claim has been approved.

Submit Your Proof of Loss:

  • Review your claim before filing—making sure there are no mistakes.
  • Sign and submit the Proof of Loss within 60 days after the damage—the sooner the better.(1) Private insurance companies may require a shorter timeline.
  • File for additional payment if repair work will be costlier than expected.
  • If you discover additional damage, you can add to your claim after you’ve filed. Contact your insurance agent.
  • Keep track of where your claim is in the process.

Good to Know: Keep in mind that you don’t have to accept the adjuster’s initial estimate of the damage. If you believe the estimate does not cover your loss, file a claim for additional damages.

Watch Out For:

  • Robocalls: During Hurricane Harvey, many flood victims received automated calls by scammers saying their flood insurance had lapsed and had to be paid right away to ensure their coverage stayed in place. But, according to FEMA, your insurance company will not use this method of communication to warn you of a possible or imminent lapse in coverage. Instead, they will give you ample warning via postal mail—30, 60 or even 90 days before your policy expires.(2)
  • Scammers: Watch out for contractors who offer low bids or ask for large amounts of money up front.

Recovering from a Flood

Take Extreme Caution on Re-Entry

  • Follow the advice of the local authorities before you attempt to re-enter your neighborhood or home.
  • Do not enter the home if damaged power or gas lines are visible.
  • If your house looks crooked or if it appears the foundation has shifted, do not attempt to go inside.
  • Before going into a room, check the ceiling and floors for signs of buckling or sagging—water may have weakened them to the point of collapsing.
  • If you hear a hissing noise or smell natural gas or propane, get out and call your local fire department.
  • Do not turn power on or off, especially when standing in water.
  • Even if you’ve lost power, do not attempt to go into a flooded basement unless the home’s electrical meter has been removed from its socket by a qualified technician.

Protect Yourself From Potential Hazards

  • Assume all flood water is contaminated, unless otherwise noted by authorities.
  • Be on the lookout for floating or hidden debris such as glass or chemicals as well as animals like poisonous snakes.
  • Avoid contact with contaminated water by wearing the proper protective clothing or equipment (waders, rubber or plastic boots, gloves, etc.).
  • Keep your hands clean by washing them with soap and clean, running or bottled water.
  • If your house is contaminated with mold, you may need additional protective equipment like goggles and respirators.

Tackle Cleanup Safely

  • Ventilate the Area: Open all doors, windows, cabinets and drawers for adequate airflow. If the house was closed due to flooding for more than 48 hours, do this before you begin any cleanup.
  • Pause on Using the Power: Don’t connect a generator or anything else to the home’s electrical system unless it has been deemed safe to use by a licensed electrician.
  • Mitigate the Damage: If there are immediate steps you can safely take to keep additional floodwater from entering the home, such as laying a tarp or boarding up a window, go ahead and take them—but make sure to snap pictures first. If at all possible, wait until the claims adjuster has assessed all the damage to make any extensive repairs.
  • Be Patient With the Basement: Rather than pumping all the water out of your basement at once, remove about a third of it per day. Removing it too quickly could cause the floors to buckle and the walls to collapse.
  • Remove Excess Water: Remove any standing water (outside of your basement) as quickly as you can. If an electrician has given you the green light to use your home’s electricity, use fans (unless mold has already begun to grow) and a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture.
  • Toss the Food: Throw out any unsealed food, as well as any food that was exposed to floodwaters. Contaminated food is not worth the risk. Toss it!
  • Remove: 
    • Remove any drywall or insulation (unless it’s closed-cell foam) that came into contact with floodwater, and clean the framing thoroughly—drying it as quickly as possible.
    • Rip out all carpets and padding that came into contact with floodwater. Hardwood or laminate flooring may be salvageable and only need to be removed temporarily. Make sure to save a sample of any ruined flooring to show your claims adjuster.
    • Upholstered furniture or window coverings should be tossed unless you hire a restoration company that can disinfect and deep clean them. Save a swatch of any affected fabric to show your claims adjuster.
    • Permanently scrap items that came into contact with floodwater that cannot be adequately sanitized.
  • Eliminate the Mold: Follow the EPA’s guidelines for any mold cleanup. 
  • Sanitize Everything: Scrub and disinfect flooring, appliances and kitchen surfaces with detergent. Be careful not to mix cleaning products—harmful fumes could develop.
  • Examine Appliances: Have your appliances examined by a qualified technician before trying to salvage them.
  • Replace Outlets: Have a licensed electrician replace all outlets or switches that were submerged.

Rebuild the Right Way

  • Work With a Contractor You Can Trust: 
    • Check the Reviews: Think you found a great contractor to do the repairs? Do your homework, because the first person to show up may not be the best person. Ask for multiple references and online reviews.
    • Ensure They Have the Right Experience: Make sure the contractor you hire is experienced in the type of repair or new construction work you need.
    • Protect Yourself: Don’t be fooled by an out-of-town opportunist looking to capitalize on your loss. At the very least, make sure to use reputable licensed and bonded contractors to keep your rebuild or renovation from being a nightmare.
    • Ask for Recommendations: Can’t find a local contractor you can trust? Ask your insurance agent or your claims adjuster for recommendations.
    • Get Multiple Estimates: Think the price your contractor quoted is too high? Get additional estimates from other local contractors if necessary, and consult your claims adjuster or insurance agent before you sign any contracts.
  • Refuse to Settle: 
    • When it comes to work on your home, don’t accept shoddy workmanship or low-quality replacements for custom work on your house
  • Hold Onto Those Receipts: 
    • Even the cost for temporary repairs should be included in the total settlement, so hold onto all your receipts—no matter how small!
  • Make Floodproofing a Priority: 
    • If you’re rebuilding your home, consider building it at least 2 feet higher than what your area’s zoning requires.
    • If you’re repairing an existing home and you have a crawl space, basement or garage below your first floor, you can also look into floodproofing your home by adding flood openings at the base of its structure.
    • Another—although potentially much more expensive—option is to have your existing home elevated so that it’s above base flood elevation. You can also relocate it to a higher part of your property.
    • Instead of using regular insulation, use closed-cell foam insulation along with flood damage-resistant sheathing and wallboard.
    • When choosing flooring for the base level of your home, make sure it’s made of a nonporous material and you use water-resistant sealant or mortar.
    • Keep appliances like your AC unit or water heater elevated—up and away from possible flood damage.

Additional Resources

Monetary Relief: If you’re a victim of a major national disaster and do not have private flood insurance that pays for temporary displacement expenses, FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program will give you money for shelter, food or medical care as long as you apply within 60 days of the disaster.(3) To apply, go to DisasterAssistance.gov. Make sure to have your insurance information and your bank account information on hand.

Grants: For victims of hurricanes in presidentially declared disaster areas, FEMA is authorized to make grants to homeowners who do not have flood insurance under what is called the Individual Assistance Program. The grants have a $33,000 cap and are intended to provide assistance with housing as well as other serious disaster-related expenses and needs.(4) Historically, however, the grants average around $5,000.(5) Though flood victims do not have to repay the grants, they must meet certain conditions in order to receive one.

Tax Relief: If you are a victim of a disaster in a Presidential Disaster Area, be sure to ask your accountant at tax time if you qualify for tax relief from the IRS.

Flood Insurance: Are You Covered?

Before Hurricane Harvey even hit, Michael Camp—an insurance Endorsed Local Provider in Texas—was calling his customers in high-risk areas to educate them on what steps they’d need to take next, the importance of getting their claims filed quickly, and what they needed to do to document the damage.

But what if you don’t have flood insurance? Can you get covered if your house previously flooded? And what about the different types of flood insurance? How do you know which one is right for you?

Michael’s advice: “Don’t wait for tragedy to strike again. Now is a great time to go through your files, call your agent, and say, ‘You know, I never really looked at my policy. Does it cover this? What can I do to make sure this is covered, and what’s the price difference on adding flood insurance coverage?’”

Going Forward

In recent months, the entire nation has marveled as residents of cities that fell victim to flooding, and even those outside their borders, opened their homes and their hands to flood victims. Many gave (and continue to give) selflessly of their time and resources—working together to not only support their neighbors, but also to rebuild the cities they love.

We may not be able to stop natural disasters from happening again, but we can reduce our risk of them affecting us by following safety procedures, having a plan in place, and working with an insurance agent to ensure we have adequate coverage. Armed with a plan and resources, we too can be ready to put forth a strong, helping hand.

Helpful Resources:

Looking for a deeper dive into the information covered above? Here are some resources from trustworthy sources that you may find valuable.

General Info

Protect and Prepare

Cleanup and Recovery

Filing a Claim

February 3, 2020

February Lawn & Garden Tips

FIRST WEEK:
• Prune apple and pear trees now – but postpone peach pruning until mid-March.

• It’s dangerous to spray glyphosate (Roundup, etc) on bermudagrass, even if you think it is completely dormant. Make sure no green bermuda sprouts are near the soil surface.

• Look for blooms on your Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). Few other plants can supply the year-round interest of this evergreen ground cover.

• Redesign your lawn for easier mowing. Eliminate sharp angles and narrow turf areas. Use mulch, new flower beds or a groundcover like mondo grass there instead.

• Water poinsettia, Christmas cactus and amaryllis plants with houseplant fertilizer diluted to one-half strength. Don’t overwater!

SECOND WEEK:
• How much fertilizer or lime does your lawn or garden really need? The only way to know for sure is to call your county Extension office (1-800-ASKUGA-1) and get a soil test kit.

• Prune one-fourth of the branches from your overgrown fig bush. Removing any more will reduce the number of fruit this summer. Concentrate on saving the horizontal ones.

• Bring branches of spirea, forsythia and flowering quince indoors. Placed in a vase, they will bloom in just a few days.

• Remember to turn houseplants 180 degrees every two weeks to prevent uneven growth.

• Remove guy wires, stakes and trunk wraps from small trees you planted last fall.

THIRD WEEK:
• The brown foliage on pampas grass and maiden grass can be pruned away now. Leave only a “crew cut” of brown stems twelve inches high.

• Plant sweet pea now for fragrant flowers later. Plant English peas, onions, asparagus or elephant garlic for your spring vegetable garden.

• Overgrown Burford holly shrubs can be pruned severely now. Even if it is reduced to twelve inches tall, this shrub will resprout plenty of new foliage by summer.

• Plant a large container for your patio. A small boxwood surrounded by variegated ivy and blooming pansies would look very nice!

• Plant a winter daphne (Daphne odorum) near your home’s entrance or front walkway. The scent will greet you each day when you arrive at your abode this spring.

FOURTH WEEK:
• Clean out bird boxes so they will be ready to welcome new residents in a few weeks.

• Build raised beds for vegetables, roses and herbs. It’s easy to do with four pieces of 2×8 wood planks. Choose lengths that fit your space; bolt them together at the corners.

• Reduce the size of your butterfly bush by two thirds to one half to encourage new growth (and big blooms) this summer.

• Time for the first fertilization of fescue for the year. Any brand of turf fertilizer will work well. Next application: April.

• Set your mower to its highest setting and cut off the tattered leaves of liriope (monkey grass). They will quickly regrow in March.

January 20, 2020

How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Deep-Cleaning a Dirty Floor

To rid your floor of caked-up grime and dirt, you may want to deep-clean it.

For floors with a surface finish:

  1. Use a pH-neutral, wax-free and petroleum-free floor cleaner. You can also make your own homemade cleaning solution with few drops of dish soap and a gallon of warm water.
  2. Wet a sponge mop with floor cleaner and wring out the excess liquid so the sponge is only slightly damp. Mop one 3-foot section of the floor using a circular motion to pull up excess dirt and then move on to the next section.
  3. Rinse the mop using water, wring it out and continue mopping the floor to soak up the remainder of the cleaning solution. As when washing, wring out the mop thoroughly to prevent over-wetting the floor.
  4. Dry with a soft, clean towel.

For floors with a penetrating finish:

  1. Strip off the old wax coating.
  2. Wipe down the floor in 2-foot sections using a clean cloth saturated in mineral spirits.
  3. Let it sit for five minutes on each section before wiping it off with a fresh, slightly damp cloth.
  4. Using a fresh, dry cloth, wipe away any excess moisture.
  5. Reapply solvent-based floor wax using a cloth or an electric polisher to buff the wax into the floor.

Removing Hard Food Stains

  1. To remove caked-on food from a floor with a surface or penetrating finish, push the tip of a plastic knife under the lower edge of the debris and slide the knife upward gently.
  2. If your floor has a surface finish, rub the area with a clean, slightly damp cloth and follow it with a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture.
  3. If the floor has a penetrating finish and a bit of wax coating comes up in the process, reapply solvent-based floor wax using a soft cloth and buff it in.

Cleaning Oil and Grease Stains

You can use trisodium phosphate on floors with both surface and penetrating finishes to break down oil and grease. Before using TSP, make sure to wear gloves and protective glasses.

  1. In a large bucket, mix 2 tablespoons of TSP in a gallon of warm water. Fill a second bucket with warm water only.
  2. With a clean cloth dipped in TSP solution, and wring it out. Gently wipe the stained area using a circular motion.
  3. Immediately rinse away the TSP with a different cloth dampened in the plain water.
  4. Dry the area with a clean, dry cloth.

Removing Wax, Gum and Crayon Marks

Ice works wonders on hard-to-remove debris like dried wax, crayon marks and gum for both surface and penetrating finishes.

  1. After filling a freezer bag with ice, place it over the debris.
  2. When it becomes brittle, scrape it off with a plastic spatula.
  3. If the floor has a penetrating finish and a bit of wax coating comes up in the process, reapply solvent-based floor wax using a soft cloth and buff it in.

Removing Pet Urine, Ink and Water Spots

Pet urine, ink and water leave some of the most challenging stains and involve a little extra legwork, but it is not impossible to remove them. The steps below apply to penetrating finishes only. Do not use sandpaper or steel wool on floors with a surface finish. Instead, use a hardwood floor cleaner and a scouring pad made specifically for this type of floor.

  1. Start by lightly sanding the wood with extra-fine sandpaper.
  2. Gently scrub the area with 00-grade steel wool dampened with mineral spirits.
  3. Wipe away the spirits using a new, water-dampened cloth.
  4. Use a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess moisture.
  5. Apply solvent-based floor wax (or other type of finish that matches the original) to the area with a soft cloth and buff it in.
January 13, 2020

Home Invasion Survival Tips

There are an estimated 3000 home invasions per day in America alone. These simple tips could help SAVE YOUR LIFE. Please share with your friends and family.

REMEMBER THE 4Ds – DETER, DETECT, DENY, DEFEND

DETER

Make it look like someone is home. Light it up. Bad guys hate well-lit houses. https://amzn.to/2TnhObI

Make your life seem unpredictable. Kids toys on the porch, dogs. “Beware of Dog” sign (even if you don’t have a dog). Don’t let burglars and would-be home invaders get a bead on your daily routine. https://amzn.to/36MoST4

Alarm stickers on your windows. Security signs in your yard. https://amzn.to/36UGXOU

DETECT

Get a security system. https://amzn.to/2ReHwfW

Make sure security cameras are placed properly. Best light for high-resolution images. Think it out.

Talk to your neighbors and agree to inform each other about suspicious activity. One neighbor who knows on the lookout could make all the difference.

DENY

Garage – Most burglars go through the garage door. Lock the door inside the garage that goes into the house. Most people leave this door unlocked. Trim or tie-up cable release to garage door so it can’t be hooked and disengaged.

Get a heavy wood slab or steel/iron door. https://thd.co/3a2Elk9

Replace all door, lock, hinge screws with 3.5″ wood screws. Also, put 3.5 inch screws every foot or so through the door frame on the locking side. Time is precious during a home invasion and this could gain seconds in your favor. https://amzn.to/2t5DeQ5

Install protective window film. It goes on like tint and can prevent your windows from being penetrated. https://amzn.to/2t6epn4

DEFEND

Have a meeting place inside and outside the house.

Have routes (primary and secondary) to the meeting points.

Communication – Make sure everyone can communicate with each other.

Tactical nightstand: Flashlight, weapon*, car keys (you can hit panic button), fully-charged cell phone. https://amzn.to/2TidxGm, https://bit.ly/2RgvjqP, https://amzn.to/2FOpOdH

* With it comes to weapons, the most important thing is to use something you’re comfortable with. Whether it’s a gun, knife, bear spray, brass knuckles, or a baseball bat—if you don’t know how to handle it properly it can end up in the bad guy’s hands.

December 30, 2019

Caulking Windows & Doors

Caulking exterior window frame.

Silicone caulk stays flexible and watertight and is the best material for outdoors.

Those little gaps around your door and window frames can cost you a lot of money. They allow cold air to waft into your home, and no matter how well the walls are insulated, you’ll feel cold unless you kick up the heater a notch, which could kick up your energy bill by as much as 20 percent. And that’s in addition to damage caused by moisture attacking the wall framing if it finds its way in through those cracks. It’s pretty easy to seal those cracks with caulk, although you may need to work on a ladder, and that has its inherent hazards. To do a complete job, you should also caulk around indoor window and door frames, and because that usually doesn’t call for ladder work, it’s even easier.

Caulking does involve a certain amount of skill, but it’s a skill the average person can quickly develop. Necessary equipment includes a caulking gun, a knife, a paint scraper and some rags. You also need caulk, of course. Many types are available, so it helps to research them to determine the best for your particular purpose. In general, choose silicone caulk for exterior use and pure or siliconized latex for indoors.

Collect Supplies to Caulk Your Doors and Windows

Once you start the caulking job, it’s best to continue until it’s done without interrupting things to go to the hardware store, so make sure you have enough caulk on hand. The coverage from a tube of caulk depends on the width of the gaps you have to fill, but assuming the average gap is less than 1/2 inch wide, a single tube is enough for about three or four door or window frames. Because of the variability of gap width, you won’t find coverage listed on the caulk label, but you’ll find everything else you need to know, including the color, material, setting time, mildew resistance and best place to use the caulk. If you’re not sure how much you need, it’s better to overestimate. You can always return what you don’t use or save it for the next time.

Caulking a door.

Caulk guns vary in quality. Rather than trying to save money by going for the least expensive one, consider paying $10 to $15 more to ensure you do the best job possible with the least mess. If you have a choice between a notched and smooth plunger, choose the smooth one. It develops more pumping power, and the quick-release lever is more reliable than the one on a notched plunger. That’s why these types of guns are advertised as dripless, although they are only dripless if you remember to push the lever. Better-quality guns also have a tip-cutting mechanism and a wire rod for piercing the tube seal so you don’t have to carry around a long nail for this purpose.

Smoothing the caulk after you apply it is called tooling, and it’s an important part of the job. You can simply use your finger for this, which is why you need plenty of rags, or you can use a spoon. If you don’t mind spending an extra few dollars, you can also buy a plastic tooling tool, although it’s debatable whether this does as good a job as your finger.

Tooling new caulk.

credit: Mike’s Painting & Home Improvement, Inc. Your finger does a better job of tooling than anything else you can use.

Prepare to Caulk Doors and Windows

Whether you’re working indoors or outdoors, you have to remove any existing caulk before you apply fresh material. If you don’t, the new caulk won’t seal properly and it will fail in a short time. You can usually get old latex caulk off with a paint scraper, but silicone caulk is more difficult to remove. You can find products that promise to soften or dissolve silicone and make it easier to remove, but in many cases, you’ll end up cutting a significant portion of the old caulk off with a sharp knife. It’s a tedious job, but you have to do it. Clean up all the loose specks with a damp rag when you’re done.

Cut a caulk tube tip.

If your caulk gun has a cutter, simply insert the tip into the hole in the handle of the caulk gun as far as it will go and pull the trigger. Otherwise, use a utility knife to cut the tip off the tube. It’s best to cut at a 45-degree angle about a third of the way from the tip. This reduces mess: The size of the opening ensures the bead isn’t too large and the angle guarantees that all the material flows into the gap you’re filling. Once you’ve cut the tip, insert a nail or the rod on your caulking tube to break the seal, insert the tube in the gun, pull the trigger a few times until the rod contacts the plunger on the bottom of the tube, and you’re ready to go.

Tips for Efficient Caulking

Once you get the hang of caulking, you’ll find it to be a fairly effortless activity. In fact, the less effort you expend, the better is the job you’ll do. At first, though, you may have to get used to the rate at which material exits the tube so you can adjust the speed with which you draw the gun along the crack. This is why it’s a good idea to start in an inconspicuous spot, such as the top of a door or window frame. Always draw the tip away from the material you just applied. If you push into it, you’ll just get an unsightly and problematic build-up of gooey material.

Whenever possible, apply a bead in a single continuous motion from one end of the gap to the other. Keep steady pressure on the trigger to maintain a uniform flow of material. If you miss a spot or you have to fill a large gap, finish the bead, then go back and apply more in the places that need it. Don’t forget to press the release lever every time you finish a bead. It’s a good idea to wrap a rag around the tip to catch any material that falls out.

Tool each bead as soon as you finish applying it. Simply run your finger—or whichever tooling implement you choose—over the fresh caulk in a single, continuous motion, then wipe the excess material off your finger or the implement with a rag. When you’re using latex caulk, it’s a good idea to keep the rag damp, but use a dry rag when applying silicone, butyl or any other material that isn’t water soluble.

December 27, 2019

Moving Soon? You Need This Checklist

Your wrist may be sore from signing two inches of mortgage documents, but the real fun begins now! You need to transfer your family’s medical records, host a garage sale, discontinue the utilities — oh, and pack up all your earthly possessions and get them from Point A to Point B. It is possible to get it all done without losing your cool: Follow our 8-week timeline to get from “We’re moving!” to “We’re home!”

8 Weeks Before

Sort. Walk through every room and open every drawer; decide what to take to your new home and what to get rid of. Make a list of “keep” items that will require special packing or extra insurance coverage.

Purge. Donate items you no longer want, or host a yard sale.

Hire movers. Research moving companies. Always ask for the mover’s U.S. Department of Transportation license number; whether the company is bonded; and whether the company is licensed for interstate moves, if you’re moving out of state. Request in-home estimates to receive the most accurate pricing.

Contact your children’s school. Notify the school that you’re moving, and obtain copies of your children’s records. Contact new schools for enrollment and record-transfer procedures.

6 Weeks Before

Make travel arrangements. Book hotel stays if you’ll need lodging on the road or before your new home’s ready; book any necessary flights.

Order packing supplies. Purchase standard boxes in various sizes; bubble wrap; packing paper; packing tape; and specialty containers, such as wardrobe and dish-pack boxes.

Contact your doctors. Obtain copies of medical records for all family members, or have the records sent to your new physicians. Haven’t found new ones yet? Ask your current doctors for recommendations.

Contact insurance agents. Find out whether your move necessitates changes in your medical, dental, vehicle or personal property insurance.

4 Weeks Before

Start packing. Begin with items you use only rarely or seasonally (e.g., fondue pot; pool toys); save items you use frequently (e.g., TV remote; your toothbrush) until just before moving day. Snap photos of valuables and pack them separately; you’ll carry those items with you.

Label, label, label. Mark each box with its contents and the room it’s destined for in the new house. The only exception: Don’t list contents on a box that contains valuables, to avoid theft.

Inventory. Keep a running list of each packed box, its contents and what room it belongs in. Later, you can match this against your moving company’s inventory sheet.

Measure. Ensure that all of your belongings can make it out of your old home and into your new one; measure any tall, wide or oddly shaped items, as well as any doorways or tight spaces they’ll need to fit through, so there are no surprises on moving day.

Update your computer. Download any necessary software updates and ensure that all of your files and photos are backed up to an online cloud storage service or an external hard drive that you’ll carry with you.

Make arrangements for pets. Book a pet sitter or care facility for moving day. If you’re moving out of town, make travel plans for your furry friends and ensure your veterinarian has authorized your pets for the journey.

Contact utility companies. Instruct existing utilities to disconnect services the day after your move; direct new utilities to install services at least a day before you arrive.

Consider storage. If your new home won’t be ready when you leave your old one, research storage options in your new community.

Clear the freezer. Start using up frozen food items that will be a hassle to move. Then, tackle the pantry and fridge.

Visit an auto mechanic. Get an oil change, tire fixes and any necessary tune-ups to ensure that your car survives the move.

Change your address. Visit USPS.gov or your local post office to officially change your address. Leave your forwarding address with a neighbor, just in case.

Alert important parties. Notify your employer, banks, credit card companies, subscription services, friends and family of your move.

2 Weeks Before

Confirm the movers. Contact the moving company and double-check your plans. Make sure the insurance in place is enough to cover your valuables.

Clear out. Empty out storage units, safe deposit boxes and any other off-site storage spots. And don’t forget to pick up your dry cleaning.

Take time off. Evaluate how many work days you’ll need to make the move, and then request time off from your employer.

Clean the rugs. Have area rugs cleaned; they’ll arrive rolled and wrapped from the cleaner, ready to unroll at the new house.

Pay it forward. As you pack, gather warranty information, manuals and other house-specific information in a binder for the new owners.

1 Week Before

Finish packing. Aim to complete the general household packing a couple of days before moving day.

Pack your bag. Your last bag should contain at least one change of clothes — or more, if you’re moving out of state — for each person in the family, as well as all of the basics (e.g., phone charger, toilet paper) you need to survive for a few days without the items on the moving truck.

Visit the pharmacy. Refill any prescriptions you’ll need for the next month, and arrange to transfer prescriptions to a pharmacy in your new community.

Unplug. Disconnect and clean any large appliances (e.g., washing machine, fitness equipment) you’re moving; contact a professional to disconnect gas lines. If you’re moving your fridge, defrost the freezer and clean it at least a day before you move.

Make your last donation. Arrange for a final pickup of all remaining items in your “donate” pile.

A Few Days Before

Confirm the movers … again. Triple-check arrangements with the moving company. Verify how much you’ll owe on moving day, and what forms of payment are accepted. Ask for a cellphone number for the day-of contact, and confirm the crew’s arrival time. Prepare written directions to your new home and hand them to the movers on moving day.

Get the keys. Arrange to receive the keys to your new home, or schedule the realtor or landlord to meet you on moving day.

Donate food. If you’d rather move fewer boxes, donate nonperishables to a local food pantry.

Disassemble furniture. Place screws, brackets and fasteners in a small plastic storage bag, and label it. Even better: Tape the bag to the furniture’s underside.

Get rid of it. Most movers prohibit moving boxes that contain paint, aerosol cans, matches, alcohol and other chemicals. Properly dispose of these items, or plan to move them yourself.

The Don’t Pack List

Keep these items off the truck and close to you on moving day:

  • Important documents (e.g., passports, marriage license, birth certificates, any records containing bank account information or Social Security numbers)
  • Checkbook
  • Credit cards
  • Medication
  • Phone and charger
  • Laptop and charger
  • Toilet paper
  • A change of clothes (one for each member of your household)
  • Snacks and water (for kids and pets)
  • A child’s special toy or blanket (if they can’t bear to pack it)
  • Jewelry
  • Flashlight
  • Tape measure
  • Toolbox
  • Trash bags
  • Paper towels
  • Cash
  • Any other valuables, heirlooms or irreplaceable items

Moving Day

Current Home

Say goodbye. Take time to say a proper “so long” to your old house before things get hectic. Children, in particular, benefit from some closure: Walk through the house recalling fond memories you have, and talk about what fun you’ll create in your new home.

Meet the movers. Greet the moving crew and ensure that all workers are representatives of the moving company you hired. Be sure the moving truck’s U.S. Department of Transportation license number is the same as the number on your estimate.

Supervise the load-in. Assign a helper to watch the moving crew stack your belongings inside the truck, keeping an eye out for damage.

Clean the old house. Tidy up rooms as the moving crew empties them, or consider hiring a cleaning service.

Keep valuables with you. Be sure the movers don’t mistakenly load boxes containing your laptop, jewelry, passports and other irreplaceables you should keep near you at all times.

Make a final walk-through. Lock your old home’s windows and doors, turn off lights and ceiling fans and make sure nothing’s left before you leave for good.

New Home

Roll out the carpet protector. Lay down plastic carpet protector at the new house, if your movers haven’t already done so.

Show the moving crew around. Point out specific rooms so boxes end up where they belong.

Watch for damaged and missing items. Your movers will make an inventory sheet, called the “bill of lading,” that notes the condition of your items, including damage to any boxes or furniture.

Pay the movers. Complete the transaction using the payment method you agreed to when you confirmed the move. If the moving crew did a good job, a tip of 10 to 15 percent of the total fee is customary.

Get it in writing. Before the movers leave, sign the inventory sheet — and make sure the mover in charge signs it, too. Get a copy for your records.

Do an initial clean. Vacuum and mop floors before you set down furniture; wipe down countertops; and do a deep clean of tubs, showers and toilets.

Assemble furniture. Grab your toolbox and start reassembling furniture; don’t wait until your helpers have gone home.

Start unpacking. If you notice any damage to your boxes, set them aside until the moving company can return to inspect them. Take photos of the damage for your records.

December 23, 2019

Home Safety for the Holiday Season

The smell of freshly baked cookies and the sight of twinkling lights throughout your neighborhood can only mean one thing – the holiday season is here. Decorating your home, opening stockings by the fire, lighting the menorah, or toasting to the New Year with friends and family are festivities many people look forward to every year. 

While there is plenty of fun to be had during the holiday season, there’s also an increased chance for something to go wrong if you’re not cautious or well prepared. From home fires and snow damage to theft and home burglaries, there are plenty of problems that can arise. Keep these home safety tips in mind this winter so you can be as safe as possible for the festivities to come.

Holiday Light Safety

Few traditions are more beloved than stringing lights throughout your home during the holiday season. While lights can certainly put you in the holiday spirit, they can be one of the most dangerous decorations. In fact, holiday lights are responsible for around 40% of Christmas tree fires. Before decking the halls, consider these precautions:

  • Replace light strands that are old, fraying, or have exposed wires.
  • Never plug more than three strands into one extension cord.
  • Never string together multiple extension cords.
  • Use light clips rather than nails or screws as they can conduct electricity. 
  • Secure loose light strands to avoid pulling or tugging by pets or children.
  • Use LED lights over incandescent lights; they use less energy and are less likely to start fires from emitting too much heat. LED lights can also save money on energy bills.
  • Never run lights through doors or windows.
  • Turn off lights when you leave your home, or be sure to keep lights on a timer.
  • Keep your tree properly hydrated; dry and dying trees are more likely to result in fires.

More often than not, you’ll need to use a ladder if you plan to decorate outdoor trees, the front of your home, light posts, or any other structure far from the ground. When using a ladder to hang outdoor lights:

  • Wear slip-resistant shoes.
  • Choose the proper size ladder; don’t attempt to stand on the top of the ladder or stack one ladder on top of another.
  • Work with a partner to hold the ladder as an extra safety measure.
  • If possible, avoid using metal ladders to prevent an electric shock.

To further prevent accidents during decoration set-up or take-down, consider hiring a professional holiday decorating service in your area. This can be especially helpful if you don’t have the proper tools and equipment to do so yourself. 

Fire Safety 

The risk of home fires is highest during the holiday season, so installing smoke detectors becomes even more critical during this time of year. If you already have these installed, be sure to test them and replace the batteries if needed. Now may also be a good time to upgrade to a smart smoke detector that sends alerts directly to your phone.

Candles

  • Always put out candles if you intend on being out of the room for an extended period of time.
  • Keep decorative candles and/or menorahs at least 3 feet away from flammable objects and out of reach from kids and pets.
  • Never put real candles on Christmas trees. 
  • Ensure candles are placed in a sturdy holder and on flat surfaces.

Heating 

  • Have a professional chimney sweep and furnace inspection annually.
  • Avoid hanging stockings, garlands, or other dangling holiday decorations near heating sources like fireplaces or space heaters while they’re in use.
  • Don’t toss wrapping paper into the indoor fireplace.
  • Ensure your home has a properly functioning carbon monoxide detector near every sleeping area. 

Cooking 

  • Always watch what you are cooking. Unattended cooking is the most common cause of fires in the kitchen. 
  • Have a fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen.

Christmas Trees

  • If you decide to get a live tree, be sure it’s watered sufficiently and frequently. If you opt for an artificial tree, ensure that it’s flame retardant.
  • Place trees as far away from heat sources, such as fireplaces or space heaters, as possible.
  • Once the holiday season has ended, or your live tree becomes too dry or dead, dispose of it right away as it can quickly become highly flammable.

Fireworks 

  • Only light fireworks away from your home and buildings, as well as bushes, trees, or other vegetation.
  • Don’t relight fireworks that fail to explode. 
  • Follow all local laws and regulations. 

Home Security

While the holiday season is supposed to be about spreading joy, theft and burglary rates are known to spike during this time of year. To prevent your home from being a burglar’s next culprit, step up your security game and consider these home safety tips:

  • If your tree is visible from a window, don’t display gifts under it.
  • Make sure you are home for package deliveries if possible. If you can’t be home, consider sending high-value items to the post office instead. 
  • When bringing home gifts, always unload your car in the garage with the door closed and don’t leave gifts in your car overnight. 
  • Make sure doors and windows are always locked and secure.
  • If you’ll be traveling, put lights on timers and let your family members or most trustworthy neighbors know so that they can keep an eye on your property, shovel your driveway, or pick up your newspapers to maintain the impression that someone is home.
  • Never post about travel plans on social media.

If you don’t have a home security system, now may be the right time to invest in one. With the rise in home automation choices available, it’s become easier and more affordable to keep a remote eye on your property. There are plenty of smart home tech devices that can help you keep your home safe and secure this holiday season; such as smart locks, video camera doorbells, and security cameras. If you plan to be away and don’t have someone to look over your home, there’s also smart home lighting, thermostats, and sprinkler systems that can be controlled from anywhere. 

Cold Weather Safety: Winterize Your Home 

Snow may be beautiful, but the winter months can be a hazard for your loved ones and your home if you’re not careful. Icy driveways, ice dams, and frozen pipes are just a few problems that can arise. Before the deep chill of winter sets in, be sure to winterize your home.

  • Swap out screens for storm windows, and be sure to seal gaps around doors and windows with weather stripping.
  • Clean up debris around the landscape of your home as well as the roof.
  • Check all exterior vents and be sure they’re closed.
  • Prevent ice dams from forming on your roof by minimizing the amount of snowmelt; clean your gutters and keep your attic cool and ventilated. Icicles can be a sign that an ice dam is forming.
  • Carefully remove icicles that are within reach; if they’re too high up or don’t easily knock off, hire a professional to remove them to avoid potential injuries. 
  • Keep your driveway and sidewalk clear by shoveling off snow, or using a snowblower, and applying a deicer. 
  • Drain all remaining water from outdoor faucets or sprinkler systems to protect your pipes from freezing.  

Your habits on the road matter in the winter, too. Prepare your car by ensuring you have snow brushes and ice scrapers, and consider putting salt or kitty litter in the trunk in case you encounter icy driveways or roads. Make sure to stock your vehicle with all the staples, such as first aid kits, road flares, and a jack. If you’re concerned about breaking down in the cold, store a few extra blankets and coats as well. For those in areas prone to very heavy snowfall, such as Minneapolis, don’t forget about snow tires and chains. 

December 20, 2019

END OF THE YEAR LAWN & GARDEN TIPS

Bird feeders bring lots of colorful activity to a yard in cold weather. Most bird experts recommend black oil sunflower seed for general feeding. Thistle seed and suet cakes attract birds you might not have seen before. Put out a variety of seeds and keep watch for unique species.

Rather than a bottle of wine, bring a houseplant as a gift to holiday parties. Amaryllis, ornamental pepper, Christmas cactus, or kalanchoe will be appreciated for weeks to come.

Pull mulch at least six inches away from tree trunks. Many professional landscapers pile it high and don’t pull it back—setting a bad example for all of us.

Water trees and shrubs you planted this fall. Evergreen plants in particular need regular watering, even in cold weather. Apply 1 gallon per foot of height.

Don’t leave your lawn mower out in the rain. Water can get in the gas tank and prevent starting next spring. It is best to drain the tank completely or run the mower until it is out of gas. Always use ethanol-free gas in small engine machinery.

Purchase pots of paperwhite narcissus, African violet, or gloxinia for your office and home to bring color and a touch of perfume to the air.

Forget the powders and potions! What a Christmas tree needs to stay fresh is a constant supply of water around its base.

Plant woody vines like Carolina jessamine, wisteria, and cross vine now. Make sure to place them next to a sturdy arbor and loosely tie the young vine to it with twine.

Houseplants don’t need many nutrients in the winter. Use houseplant fertilizer at half strength. Don’t water them unless the soil feels dry one inch deep.

Remove the faded blooms and bloom stalks from amaryllis but allow the leaves to remain. Water only when the soil feels dry.

Fireplace ashes can be scattered over your lawn. They will provide a bit of phosphorus and potassium plus counteract soil acidity. Spread no more than ten lb. per 1000 square feet every six months.

December 16, 2019

CHOOSING NATURAL FIBERS FOR RUGS AND CARPETS

Rug Fibers Derived from Plants

Sisal

Sisal is an extremely long, strong, and durable natural fiber harvested from the leaves of the agave plant. The stiff fibers of this eco-friendly option are spun into yarns, which are woven into rugs and carpets.

Naturally tan, beige, or cream-colored, sisal fiber readily absorbs dyes, resulting in rugs and carpets in nearly any color. However, this trait also means they can stain easily.

Tough? Yes! Soft? Not so much. Sisal isn’t the best choice for lounging on the floor or play-time for little ones, due to its scratchy, prickly texture.

Cat owners may find that their kitties like to sharpen their claws on this fabric, which will snag it.

Due to its strength and durability, sisal is an excellent choice for high-traffic areas, including halls, entrances, and commercial office spaces.

Jute

One of the most affordable natural options, jute is a soft fiber with extremely high tensile strength, natural luster, and uniformity. It is harvested from the tall stalks and outer layers of the fast-growing jute plant.

Also known as “burlap” or “gunny cloth,” jute is grown in many countries. However, most of the world’s supply originates in India and Bangladesh.

The long fibers (three to 13 feet) are strong, eco-friendly, biodegradable, and recyclable. Unlike some natural fibers like cotton, jute doesn’t require fertilizer or pesticides during cultivation.

Jute is also called “the golden fiber,” due to its natural shade of light tan. It can, however, be dyed into many other colors.

One of the softest natural fibers, jute is best suited for bedrooms, family rooms, and lighter traffic areas.

One potential negative is that jute fibers may shed. They’re also vulnerable to yellowing when exposed to direct sunlight.

Seagrass

Seagrass fiber is harvested from—you guessed it—grass planted in paddy fields flooded with seawater!

This fiber is naturally water-repellent but is susceptible to mold and mildew damage if used in damp areas like bathrooms or kitchens.

Seagrass is stain resistant, making it an excellent choice for spill-prone areas and for folks who are housetraining pets. Seagrass’ stain resistance also means it’s nearly impossible to dye and is only available in its natural light tan color.

Seagrass fibers won’t fade in direct sunlight. It’s anti-static and sturdy but offers minimal cushioning.

Coir

Coir is a natural fiber harvested from coconut husks. The longest fibers are selected, soaked (for months!), and eventually woven into yarn that is used to make rugs and carpet.

Rough and bristly, coir is not recommended for use in areas where people will sit on the floor, walk barefoot, or where children may be playing. Extremely durable and naturally insect repellant, coir is well suited to high-traffic areas.

Coir rugs are usually handmade and provide excellent noise insulation. They will, however, fade in direct sunlight and tend to shed over time.

Coir is not as mainstream as other natural carpet fibers, so it may not be easy to source.

Rug Fibers Originating from Animals

Wool

One of the most durable natural fibers, wool is harvested by shearing sheep.

Wool fiber is often chemically treated during manufacturing, so research your brand and check labels. Organic and chemical-free wool rugs and carpets are also available.

It’s an excellent insulator that limits the transfer of heat and cold from interiors to exteriors. Like your favorite pair of merino socks or base layer shirt, wool carpeting will help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, naturally.

Wool can be dyed in an unlimited range of colors and shades. Because it’s easy to dye, it’s also easier to stain with dye-like substances (red wine, juice, tomato paste, etc.). Otherwise, wool is naturally soil resistant and repels the oily stains other fibers tend to attract.

Wool is also naturally flame retardant. However, it will fade in direct sunlight. Plus, it’s expensive and requires special handling. For instance, many cleaners are too harsh for wool and, since it retains water, wool is prone to mildew.

Aside from the cost, wool wears exceptionally well and resists “crushing.” With proper care, it will usually outlast its synthetic counterparts and look great for years—even decades!

Silk

Silk is a natural fiber harvested from the silkworm larva’s cocoon. This is the most expensive natural fiber used in rugs and carpets. Because it is so pricey, silk is sometimes woven with wool to lower the cost.

Pure, 100-percent silk carpets and rugs are luxury goods with a material-defining sheen, a delicious softness, and a delicate temperament.

Silk rugs can be damaged by hot water, detergents, steam cleaning, and vacuums that use revolving brush attachments.

Costly, delicate, and easily stained, silk rugs are best suited for low-traffic areas. They are often hung on walls rather than being placed underfoot.

Other Considerations

Often, two or more natural fibers are combined in rug and carpet production, intended to deliver the best qualities of each strand or reduce costs. Online reviews for specific products may give you a better sense of buyer satisfaction.

If you are interested in natural fibers to avoid the toxic fumes that occur from the “off-gassing” of volatile organic compounds, make sure the manufacturing process does not introduce potentially dangerous dyes and chemical treatments. Also, be sure your installation uses non-toxic padding and non-toxic adhesives.