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Cleaning Tips for Grout and Tile

April 25, 2018 / Posted by in Hints & Tips

Everywhere people are using vinegar to do a variety of cleaning jobs.  But, be aware, that vinegar can ruin grout.

The following information is from Tile Council of North America:

Cementitious grout, as you may have observed, is porous – it can absorb a stain. Looked at under a microscope, there is a large surface area to absorb stains. For this reason, many owners choose to seal their grout – usually the better the sealer, the more the grout joint is protected. Even better, if epoxy grout is used, it is virtually as stain proof as the tile.

Removing stains from cementitious grout is similar to removing stains from clothing. The same cleaners you might use on clothes to get out a stain should also work on grout.

Keep in mind though, that grout is based primarily of cement and sand. Sand, like glass, is unaffected chemically by most cleaners. Cement is not – rather it is alkaline based and is dissolved by acids. As baking soda and vinegar react, so do grout and vinegar.

Accordingly, it is better to clean grout with an alkaline cleaner (Spic and Span, Mr. Clean, etc.) than an acid based cleaner. There are also specialty cleaners available at most tile retailers that are designed for tile and grout. There are also cleaners with enzymes that attack stains similar to enzyme pre-soaks for laundry.

The same cleaner that works on the grout generally will work well on the tile. In fact, since the tile is usually so easy to clean, the tile can often be cleaned with water.

Just a few more important points: As the grout can absorb the soap as well as a stain, do not clean with oil or wax based cleaners (Murphy’s Oil soap, Pine Sol, etc.). These products will leave a waxy or oily film in the grout. Even good alkaline cleaners, if not properly rinsed, will leave a sticky soap film. This usually attracts dirt. In fact, truly clean ceramic tile without any sticky soap film will stay very clean as tile does not tend to hold an electrostatic charge (which can attract some kinds of dirt).

The absolutely best way to clean grout is to apply the cleaner and then vacuum (“shop vac”) up the dirty water. This lifts the dirt off the joint. Apply rinse water and vacuum that water up. This lifts off any remaining soap film.

Just to mention it, there are tile installers that remove very stubborn stains on grout with an acid (like straight vinegar or a stronger acid). There they have elected to dissolve the top layer of grout molecules so the stain is no longer attached to anything. While this works, it is not recommended by the grout manufacturers – needing to regrout is sometimes the result. Also, extreme care should be used when handling any acids.

Should you be unable to get your grout clean through conventional methods, you may also want to try steam. Some stains that do not respond to conventional cleaners will come clean when subjected to pressurized steam. As a last resort, some installers elect to cut out the grout and regrout. This is possible although care must be taken to not damage or loosen the tile. Generally it is not possible to grout directly over the old grout without cutting the old grout out. The same contaminants that made the old grout dirty may prevent new grout from sticking properly.

Do not use vinegar, Windex, or bleach on granite.

Go here for more tips:  https://whytile.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/WhyTile_TileTips.pdf

 

 

Indoor Air Quality Part 2

March 27, 2018 / Posted by in Hints & Tips, Uncategorized

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can still be found in many older homes. Inhaling tiny asbestos fibers can increase the risk of lung cancer and other lung diseases. Pipe coverings, flooring, shingles and roofs are likely places to find asbestos.

Check asbestos-containing materials regularly for damage from tears, water or wear. Don’t try to remove asbestos that is already in place; asbestos is best left undisturbed. If the material is damaged or you plan to remodel, protect your health by getting professional help.

Properly ventilating your home is one of the best ways to protect and improve air quality.

High levels of moisture in your home increase dampness and the growth of mold, which not only damage your home but threaten health. Dampness and mold are linked to increased wheezing, coughing and asthma attacks in people with allergies. Normal daily household activities — including cooking, washing and even breathing — produce water vapor, so having adequate ventilation is essential to remove moisture from the air.

Try these dehumidifying tricks to keep the humidity in your home below 50%:

  • Install and run exhaust fans in bathrooms to remove unhealthy moisture and odors from your home.
  • Make sure that vents exhaust air outdoors and not into other parts of your home.
  • Remove any mold damage or growth and fix all leaks.

Dry cleaning solvents are strong chemicals, and can be toxic to breathe. Let dry cleaned items air outdoors before bringing them inside. Hanging them on an outdoor clothesline will prevent many of these chemicals from entering your home.

Keeping the air clean within the walls of your home starts with the walls themselves.

Lead-based paints can still be found in homes built before 1978. Any peeling, chipping or chalking of lead-based paint can increase the risk of unhealthy lead exposure. Young children risk delays in mental development, lower IQ and behavioral problems from inhaling lead paint dust. Some of those damages can be permanent.

Remodeling that requires sanding, scraping or removing walls will release paint dust into your living space. However, you can reduce the risk if you take the proper steps. The Environmental Protection Agency offers these six recommendations:

  • Keep areas where children play as dust-free and clean as possible.
  • Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition; do not sand or burn off paint that may
  • contain lead.
  • Do not remove lead paint yourself.
  • Do not bring lead dust into the home.
  • If your work or hobby involves lead, change clothes and use doormats before entering your home.
  • Eat a balanced diet, rich in calcium and iron.

Get professional help for peeling paint or remodeling if your home was built before 1978. Older homes likely have lead-based paint on the walls, doors and trim. Inhaling the lead paint dust can be harmful to your health and professionals can help you stay safe.

Fireplaces and wood or gas stoves in your home can produce carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particle pollution, as well as other toxic air pollutants.

Use a fireplace or wood stove only if you must have it for heat. If you must use a wood or gas stove or fireplace, make certain it is fully vented to the outside.

Formaldehyde is a nearly colorless gas found in many home products. Disinfectants, adhesive or bonding agents, insecticides, urea formaldehyde foam insulation and particle board may all contain formaldehyde. It is a carcinogen and can cause health problems that include coughing, eye, nose, and throat irritation, skin rashes and asthma-like symptoms. People with asthma may be more sensitive to formaldehyde.

Keep formaldehyde away from your home by choosing wood panel products that are not made with urea formaldehyde glues, lumber or materials. Cigarette smoke is also a major source of indoor formaldehyde — another reason to ban smoking from your home.

Pesticides used to curb household pests can allow harmful chemicals into your home and may cause added health dangers to children and pets. Still, some pests can trigger allergic reactions and worsen asthma.

Practice integrated pest management to keep your home free of pests and harmful chemicals alike. Integrated pest management includes simple things like blocking holes and keeping food in tightly sealed containers. Cover your trash cans and keep your floors and counter free of crumbs. Use bait traps if necessary to catch pests. Only use chemicals as a last resort and get professional help.

Consumer products can produce harmful air pollution indoors. Hair and nail products, cleaning products, art and hobby supplies and other common products can increase the levels of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. Some of the VOCs in these products include substances linked to cancer, headaches, eye and throat irritation and worsened asthma.

Look for products which are marked “low VOCs” and be sure to open windows and use exhaust fans when using these products.

If you or someone you live with has asthma, you know that most homes contain a wide assortment of irritants and allergens that can trigger dangerous attacks. Take a comprehensive approach to identify and fix problems in order to maintain a healthy home. Studies show that doing just one or two things — like using mattress covers alone — won’t make much of a difference. Make sure you ban smoking from your home, keep the humidity level below 50% and regularly look around your home for problem areas or the specific trigger that causes problems.

Cooking can be a big source of indoor air pollution, especially if you have a gas stove. Scientists who measured indoor air quality found that cooking a single meal on a gas stove can produce levels of nitrogen dioxide that the EPA considers unsafe to breathe. Nitrogen dioxide can worsen asthma and increase your risk of respiratory infection.

Ventilate your kitchen stove directly outside or open a kitchen window when you cook. Keeping exhaust — including cooking odors and particles — outside of your home prevents dangerous fumes and particles from harming you.

Avoid using carpet whenever possible. Carpet traps unhealthy particles — including chemicals, dust mites, pet dander, dirt and fungi — and vacuuming can make them airborne.

If you do have carpets, use a HEPA (high efficiency particle air) vacuum cleaner to ensure better air quality.

Hard surface flooring, like wood, tile or cork can be readily cleaned by damp mopping.

Retirement

January 22, 2018 / Posted by in News & Notes

We have been in business since 1985 in Roscommon, MI.  Thank you for your confidence in Barber Construction over the years.  It has been a pleasure working with you and making new friends. 

As of October 2018, we will be retired.

We are currently booked through October.  For other contractors, please visit our local Home Builders Association:  www.hba-northcentrallakes.com for a list of contractors, suppliers, and subcontractors.

We are not sure what retirement will bring for us, but a new adventure is on the horizon.  Perhaps traveling more, warmer weather in winter, sailing, or just plain relaxing.  Tom thinks he may get bored, but all the retirees I’ve talked to say they keep very busy.  I’ll willing to give it a try!

Tom & Wilma Barber

Some Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks

November 8, 2017 / Posted by in Hints & Tips

Rubber bands:
To get a better grip on a stripped screw, use a wide rubber band between the screwdriver and the screw head.

Keep slippery tops and strappy dresses from sliding into a heap on your closet floor by looping wide rubber bands over the ends of their hangers.

Place a heavy duty rubber band across an open paint can to wipe your brush on, and keep paint off the side of the can.

Eyeglasses Case – Hard side

Snag a spare one to stow jewelry when traveling.  Other great uses?  For your MP3 player and earbuds, contact lense kit, small sewing kit, small first aid kit, etc.

Laundry Pre-treater

Not only does it help with stains, use it to loosen and get rid of sticky labels on washable hard surfaces.

Sticky Note

Before you toss one of these paper reminders, run the sticky side between the keys of your computer’s keyboard to collect crumbs, dust and other grime.  Run with sticky side against the top of the keys, then turn note around to get the bottom of the keys.

Plastic Lid

Create a “coaster” for a metal cans that will rust with the top of a small sour cream, potato chip, or other food container — and end rusty rings on surfaces.

Flowerpot Saucer

Use one of these trays in the bathroom for storing the toilet plunger.  Looks good and it collects drips.  Or, use the entire flower pot, just be sure it is big enough around for the plunger.

Pillowcase

When storing coats or special-occasion clothes, cover each item with an old pillowcase (cut a hole in the closed end to slip over a hanger).  It won’t hold in mildew-causing moisture and your clothes can breathe.  Turn your pillow case inside out and put your folded sheets inside.  Now all your bedding is in one spot.

Mesh Produce Bag

Use the plastic mesh bag that your onions or oranges came in as a no-scratch scrubber for a gunky pot or pan. Wad up the bag, scour, then throw the bag away.

Toothbrush Holder with Makeup Brushes

Keep your makeup brushes neat and gunk-free by stashing them, bristles up, in a clean toothbrush stand, old mason jar, or other cute container.

Coins in Pill Jar

Once the meds are gone, this tube-shaped container is ideal for stashing quarters in the car for tolls parking meters, or car washes.

Folded Shower Curtain

Stash an old shower curtain in your car’s trunk to line it when carting messy plants, picnic coolers, or beach gear.

Rubber Gloves

Get fur off the furniture faster: Use slightly dampened rubber gloves and run them over upholstery to quickly collect pet hair.

Old Soda-Can Tab

Make more closet space!  Expand your clothing capacity by slipping one end over a hanger’s hook, then suspend a second hanger from the tab’s other end.

Bread tags

Use bread tags to label the cords at your desk or entertainment center – It makes it so much easier to determine what cord go to what.

Seven Tips for Keeping a Healthy Home (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development)

September 14, 2017 / Posted by in Uncategorized

Keep it Dry:   Prevent water from entering your home through leaks in roofing systems, rain water from entering the home due to poor drainage, and check your interior plumbing for any leaking.

Keep it Clean:   Control the source of dust and contaminates, creating smooth and cleanable surfaces, reducing clutter, and using effective wet-cleaning methods.

Keep it Safe:   Store poisons out of the reach of children and properly label.  Secure loose rugs and keep children’s play area free from hard or sharp surfaces.  Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and keep fire extinguishers on hand.

Keep it Well-Ventilated:   Ventilate bathrooms and kitchen and use whole house ventilation for supplying fresh air to reduce the concentration of contaminants in the home.

Keep it Pest-free:   All pests look for food, water, and shelter.  Seal cracks and openings throughout the home; store food in pest-resistant containers.  If needed, use sticky-traps and baits in closed containers, along with least toxic pesticides such as boric acid powder.

Keep it Contaminant-free:   Reduce lead-related hazards in pre-1978 homes by fixing deteriorated paint, and keeping floors and window areas clean using a wet-cleaning approach.  Test your home for radon, a naturally occurring dangerous gas that enters homes through soil, crawlspaces, and foundation cracks.  Install a radon removal system if levels above the EPS action-level are detected.

Keep it Well-Maintained:   Inspect, clean, and repair your home routinely.  Take care of minor repairs and problems before they become large repairs and problems

Indoor Air Quality Part 1

August 24, 2017 / Posted by in Hints & Tips

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that people spend 90% of their time indoors, but that indoor air quality can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Indoor air pollution can threaten the health — and the lives — of everyone in your family.

The single most effective way to keep the air in your home healthy is to keep things out of your home that cause air pollution, including cigarette smoke, excess moisture and chemicals.

The second most important strategy is to ventilate to pull dangerous pollutants out of the house. Run the exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen. Open your windows. Make sure you have a good exhaust system in place for appliances and stoves.

Some indoor air pollutants can kill. Among the most dangerous are these three:

  • Carbon monoxide: 400 die and thousands are sickened annually.
  • Secondhand smoke: 7,500-15,000 children are hospitalized or sickened with respiratory tract infections, and older adults with cardiovascular or lung illness are at higher risk of health problems.
  • Radon gas: It’s silent. It’s odorless. It’s found in many American homes, and it is the second biggest cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoke.

Each year, second hand smoke sends 7,500-15,000 children aged 18 months or younger to the hospital. Hundreds of thousands of children will develop respiratory tract infections from second hand smoke this year. Older adults and people with lung and cardiovascular diseases are also at higher risks of respiratory problems from cigarette smoke exposure.

Never let anyone smoke inside your home. The Surgeon General states that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. Ask smokers to take it outside to protect the health of you and your family.

Carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of over 400 people each year and thousands of others become ill or seek medical attention after exposure to the odorless gas. Sometimes the early symptoms resemble the flu, but look for these differences: if more than one family member has symptoms — even your pets — and you feel better away from home, you may have a carbon monoxide problem. Carbon monoxide levels can rise very quickly in unventilated areas without anyone noticing the colorless, odorless, toxic gas.

Protect yourself by installing a carbon monoxide detector near your sleeping rooms. Also have all fuel burning appliances inspected by a qualified technician once a year to keep the deadly gas away from your home.

Carbon monoxide exposure can cause weakness, nausea, disorientation, unconsciousness and even death. Each year, hundreds of people become ill and die after carbon monoxide poisoning at home. Some 15,000 must go to the emergency room after exposure to the toxic gas.

Burning gas or other fuels indoors can produce dangerous levels of indoor air pollution and deadly carbon monoxide. Protect your health by turning off carbon-monoxide emitting motors in garages and sheds. Fumes from cars or lawnmowers left running in enclosed spaces, like attached garages, can endanger the health of you and your family. Malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances that emit carbon monoxide can cause life-threatening problems. Use only gas stoves and heaters indoors that vent directly to the outside air. Never use charcoal grills indoors. Never let anyone smoke indoors—cigarette smoke is another major source of carbon monoxide.

Paints release trace amounts of gases for months after application — even though they appear to be fully dried and the smell is gone. These gases are called VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, and can include highly toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

Use “low-VOC” paints, varnishes, waxes and other chemicals.  If painting indoors, open windows and use exhaust fans to remove gases. Do not store open paint containers indoors.

Rain and high humidity can bring moisture indoors, creating dampness, mold and mildew — big problems for healthy indoor air. Dampness alone — not just mold — is associated with higher risk of wheezing, coughing and asthma symptoms.

Check your roof, foundation and basement or crawlspace once a year to catch leaks or moisture problems and route water away from your home’s foundation. Fix problems as quickly as possible to prevent unhealthy dampness from entering your home.

Asthma is the leading serious chronic illness of children in the U.S. Help keep asthma triggers away from your house by fixing leaks and drips as soon as they start. Standing water and high humidity encourage the growth of dust mites, mold and mildew — some of the most common triggers that can worsen asthma. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner when needed, and clean both regularly.

Pet allergies can come from an animal’s saliva, urine, feces and dead skin cells, so no pet is “hypoallergenic.” If someone in your family has pet allergies, keep your pet outdoors. Moving your pet from indoors to out can help reduce exposure to these allergens. However, cat allergens can stay in place for 20 weeks or more.

If you must keep your pet indoors, keep it away from sleeping rooms. Clean floors and upholstered furniture frequently (two or more times a week) to reduce exposure to pet allergens indoors. Unfortunately, two often-recommended actions do not seem to work: neither washing pets nor using indoor air cleaning devices helps.

Dust allergies are actually allergies to dust mites — microscopic pests that need moisture to survive. Scientists have also concluded that breathing dust mite allergens can cause asthma in children. Dust mites feed on human skin and live in bedding, pillows, mattresses, stuffed toys, upholstery and carpets.

To fight dust mites in your home:

  • Keep humidity levels below 50% indoors. Use a dehumidifier if necessary.
  • Intensive vacuuming and steam cleaning of upholstered furniture may help.
  • Remove carpets.
  • Using dust-mite-resistant covers and washing your bedding in very hot water may help as part of a comprehensive approach, but don’t rely on those steps by themselves.

Uses for car wax, who knew?

July 21, 2017 / Posted by in Hints & Tips

Repel Dirt & Dust

Polishing your dustpan causes dirt and dust to slide right off.  Do the same for ceiling fan blades and air vents.

Fog-Free Mirrors

Prevent your bathroom mirror from fogging up after a hot shower by applying a small amount of car wax, letting it dry, and buffing with a soft dry cloth.

Shine Your Bathtub and Shower

Shower doors, shower walls, and bathtubs are notoriously difficult to get clean, and even harder to keep that way.  There’s no getting around cleaning them, but polishing them with car wax will make them shiny and help to repel mineral deposits and grime, so your cleanings will be easier and less frequent.   When the water stops beading up it’s time to reapply.  Do not apply was to the floor of the bathtub, it will be too slippery

Shiny, Spot-Free Fixtures

Rubbing car wax onto your bathroom and kitchen metal fixtures will help keep them shiny and help prevent water spots.

Tile Backsplash

If you wax the backsplash tiles behind your stove and sink, grease will wipe right off

 Lubricate and Protect Your Tools

Apply a coat of car wax to your tools to stop them from rusting.  Rubbing a little paste on the hinge of scissors will help to keep them from jamming so they’ll cut cleaner and function better.

Keep Snow From Sticking

When it’s time to clear the driveway and sidewalks after a snowstorm, apply two coats of car wax to your shovel before you begin.  This will stop snow from sticking to it.  If you use a snow blower, wax the inside of the chute.

 Prevent Metal Corrosion

Mailboxes, doorknockers, and outdoor light fixtures are all subject to tarnishing and/or corrosion

 Clean Window Frames

After cleaning the frames of your aluminum windows, polish them with car wax.  This will keep them cleaner much longer.

 Cure For Sticky Drawers, Windows, and Closet Doors

Rub a small dab of car wax onto the tracks of sliding closet doors, drawers, and windows to help them open and close more smoothly.

 Patio Furniture Protection

Apply to metal, plastic, or molded furniture to protect and add shine.

 Shine Table Tops

Car wax is good for shining your plastic and Formica tabletops.

 Gas Grills

Apply to the outside of the grill to make it easier to clean.  Be sure not to do in the hot sun.  This will protect from fingerprints, rust, and the elements.

Tips for keeping your home cool

June 20, 2017 / Posted by in Hints & Tips

Be sure your weather-stripping and caulk around all entrance doors and windows is in good condition.

Attics must be ventilated properly.  Determine whether your attic ventilation is adequate.  Reduce air conditioning needs by installing an attic fan.

Set the cooling thermostat as high as comfortable.  The higher the setting, the more energy you will save.  Install an automatic setback or programmable thermostat that starts your air conditioner shortly before you get home.

Draw blinds, shades, or drapes to block the sunlight during the hottest part of the day, espe­cially on the south and west side.

You could save up to 25 percent by upgrading your air conditioner.  Make sure your central air conditioning system is the right size for the area you want to cool.

If you have central air conditioning, clean leaves and debris from around the unit.  Install your air conditioner in the shade.  Clean/replace the filter regularly.

A ceiling fan cools fast and costs less than air conditioning.

Operate your stove, oven, dishwasher and clothes dryer in the morning or evening when it’s cooler outside.  Instead of using your oven, consider cooking in a frying pan, grill, crockpot, or toaster oven.  I have a small counter top oven that I really like.  Because it is smaller, it heats faster and cooks faster.  You do have to adjust your recipes baking times.  It beats heating the large oven, especially to cook a meal for two.

Exterior Painting

May 19, 2017 / Posted by in Uncategorized

Yearly maintenance will keep the exterior of your home looking good and protected.

  • Check for blistering, blemishes, or peeling paint.
  • Inspect your caulk. Cracked or dried out caulk should be repaired right away.
  • These areas may cause moisture to enter and then you will have even more problems: soft or rotten wood, mold, or mildew.
  • Pressure wash to reveal the bad spots in paint, caulk and wood. Cleaning the exterior will also get rid of grim, mold and mildew.
  • Keep plants, shrubs, and trees away from your home. They can cause excessive moisture  and damage your siding.

When painting, the temperature must be over 50 degrees, even at night.  Here in northern Michigan, clients often get excited that their project will be finished soon, as it is getting warmer out.  Winter is gone, and Spring is here.  Even if the daytime temps are over 50, it is the nighttime temps that cause a problem.  It must be warm even at night for painting.  It is nothing to have 65 during the day, but 25-30 at night.  So have patience, your paint job will last longer when done properly.

Unfinished Attics are Remodeling Opportunities

May 16, 2017 / Posted by in Hints & Tips

Need more living space or storage room? If the answer is yes, look up! If you have an unfinished attic, your problem may be well on the way to being solved. Attic space already has a floor, walls, and roof, so it is an opportunity waiting to be used.

To be a good candidate for remodeling, attic space needs three important ingredients:

  • appropriate headroom
  • easy access
  • adequate floor joist support.

Headroom is of primary importance. Building codes require at least 7 1/2 feet of headroom between the peak of the roof and the floor. If you don’t have this space, you can also raise the roof (which is a project for an entirely different column—and budget.)

Another important factor is how the attic space can be accessed. Will you have to carve the space for a stairway from an existing room? Or might your best choice be a pull-down staircase? (Building codes don’t allow the use of a pull-down stair for main access) Think about the traffic patterns that will develop to and from the converted attic space.

One of the most important aspects of using your attic is the strength of the floor joists. Most ceilings are not designed with joists that can withstand the weight that a floor must handle. This means that the ceiling joists must be reinforced, which could be a complex process.

Before you begin, let’s talk about the options. While you might be able to tackle some remodeling projects yourself, attic remodeling requires greater expertise. An attic conversion can provide your home with a uniquely designed space to serve a range of functions— an extra bedroom/bath suite, guest room, office, family room, exercise room, or hobby room. Look up and you’ll never look back!

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