TPR Valves and Discharge Piping

Authors:  Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard, InterNACHI

Posted By Action Plus Home Inspections

TPR (temperature pressure relief) valves are safety devices installed on water heating appliances such as boilers and domestic water supply heaters. TPRs are designed to automatically release water in the event that pressure or temperature in the water tank exceeds safe levels.
If temperature sensors and safety devices such as TPRs malfunction, water in the system may become superheated (exceed the boiling point). Once the tank ruptures and water is exposed to the atmosphere, it will expand into steam almost instantly and occupy approximately 1,600 times its original volume. This process can propel a heating tank like a rocket through multiple floors, causing personal injury and extensive property damage.
Water-heating appliance explosions are rare due to the fact that they require a simultaneous combination of unusual conditions and failure of redundant safety components. These conditions only result from extreme negligence and the use of outdated or malfunctioning equipment.
The TPR valve will activate if either water temperature (measured in degrees Fahrenheit) or pressure (measured in pounds per square inch [PSI]) exceed safe levels. The valve should be connected to a discharge pipe (also called a drain line) that runs down the length of the water heater tank. This pipe is responsible for routing hot water released from the TPR to a proper discharge location.
It is critical that discharge pipes meet the following requirements.  A discharge pipe should:
  1. be constructed of an approved material, such as CPVC, copper, polyethylene, galvanized steel, polypropylene, or stainless steel. PVC and other non-approved plastics should not be used since they can easily melt.
  2. not be smaller than the diameter of the outlet of the valve it serves (usually no smaller than 3/4″).
  3. not reduce in size from the valve to the air gap (point of discharge).
  4. be as short and as straight as possible so as to avoid undue stress on the valve.
  5. be installed so as to drain by flow of gravity.
  6. not be trapped, since standing water may become contaminated and backflow into the potable water.
  7. discharge to a floor drain, to an indirect waste receptor, or to the outdoors.
  8. not be directly connected to the drainage system to prevent back flow of potentially contaminating the potable water.
  9. discharge through a visible air gap in the same room as the water-heating appliance.
  10. be first piped to an indirect waste receptor such as a bucket through an air gap located in a heated area when discharging to the outdoors in areas subject to freezing, since freezing water could block the pipe.
  11. not terminate more than 6 inches (152 mm) above the floor or waste receptor.
  12. discharge in a manner that could not cause scalding.
  13. discharge in a manner that could not cause structural or property damage.
  14. discharge to a termination point that is readily observable by occupants, because discharge indicates that something is wrong, and to prevent unobserved termination capping.
  15. be piped independently of other equipment drains, water heater pans, or relief valve discharge piping to the point of discharge.
  16. not have valves anywhere.
  17. not have tee fittings.
  18. not have a threaded connection at the end of the pipe so as to avoid capping.
Leakage and Activation
A properly functioning TPR valve will eject a powerful jet of hot water from the discharge pipe when fully activated, not a gentle leak. A leaky TPR valve is an indication that it needs to be replaced. In the rare case that the TPR valve does activate, the homeowner should immediately shut off the water and contact a qualified plumber for assistance and repair.
Inspectors should recommend that homeowners test TPR valves monthly, although inspectors should never do this themselves. The inspector should demonstrate to the homeowner how the main water supply can be shut off, and explain that it can be located at the home’s main water supply valve, or at the water supply shut-off for the appliance on which the TPR is mounted.
TPR Data Plate Information
  • The pressure at which a TPR valve will activate is printed on a data plate located beneath the test lever. This amount should not exceed the working pressure limit marked on the data plate of the water-heating appliance it serves.
  • The BTU/HR rating marked on the water-heating appliance data plate should not exceed that of the TPR, which is marked on the TPR data plate.
  • TPR valves with missing data plates should be replaced.

Although a TPR valve might never become activated, it is an essential safety component on boilers and domestic water heaters. Guidelines concerning these valves and their discharge pipes reflect real hazards that every homeowner and home inspector should take seriously.


Water Heater Maintenance

Authored by InterNACHI

Posted By Action Plus Home Inspections




Very few people know that in order to keep your water heater running properly and efficiently very simple maintenance procedures need to be performed. (These come with the instructions and are often overlooked.)

As water is pumped into your water heater tank dirt, sediment and various minerals settle on the bottom. Depending on your water quality these extra “ingredients” can add up rather quickly robbing your water heater’s efficiency and costing you in the long run. If left unchecked they can not only make your water heater work harder but also allow your tank to rust and slowly be eaten away until you need to replace the entire unit which is very costly yet easily preventable. And cheap to prevent! You just need a hose, bucket (optional) and gloves (optional too, but safer with.)

This Instructions will show you how to perform a simple yearly draining of your water heater to keep it running smoothly.

Step 1: Locate Water Heater

First off, you need to know where your water heater is. This should be very simple. It is often located in your garage.

Be careful! You are going to be dealing with gas/electricity and very hot water and steam.

Step 2: Determine if it’s Gas or Electric

This should be simple enough. Look around the tank itself and read any warnings and labels. If you can’t determine one sure fire indication is if there is a pilot light odds are it’s gas. Mine is gas operated.

Note: Read the instruction on the tank for turning off the gas and or electricity. Don’t just do it unless you know what you are doing.

Step 3: Locate Water Shut Off Valve, Pressure Release Valve, & Water Drain

The water shut off valve is located on the top of the water heater. It typically looks like the circular water valves used for front and back yards.

The pressure release valve is located on the top as well. It should have labeling near it. There is piping that leads out of the water heater and into the wall. On the other side of the wall should the the continuation of this piping. It is typically in the front yard or entry way. Make sure it is not obstructed. This is very important.

The water drain is located on the bottom. It is usually a simple spout that has threads so that a hose can be attached. (These threads will be needed for later.)

Step 4: Turn Off Heating Source and Gather Supplies

Now that you know where your water heater is and what it operates with (gas or electric) you are ready to perform it’s yearly maintenance. Be sure to turn off the gas to the water heater (if gas) or shut off the circuit breaker if electric. (Again, read instructions carefully.) I did this the night before. This saves the energy it takes to warm the water that you will soon be draining. No need to heat water you won’t be using.

Get a hose.

Get a bucket.

Get some gloves to protect you from possible hot steam and or water.

Step 5: Turn Off Water & Attach Hose

Turn off the water to the water heater and attach the hose to the water drain.

Step 6: Turn On Water Drain & then Open Pressure Release Valve

IMG_4090.JPG  IMG_4093.JPG

Next you will want to turn on the water drain to release the water from the water heater tank.

The water will drain from the hose and then slowly stop. This is because the pressure release valve needs to be opened to allow air into the tank. A vacuum has been formed and no additional water will be drained from the tank until the vacuum is opened up and removed.

Don’t worry if the water is a little dirty as first. That is from all the dirt and sediment that has built up. This is the reason why you are draining it. Get all that stuff out!

Wait 10 – 30 minutes to allow all the water to drain.

Step 7: Turn On the Water to flush the rest of the sediment out.

Turn off the water drain and remove the hose.

Take the bucket and place below the water drain.

With pressure valve still open turn on the water to the water tank and then turn on the water drain to allow the rest of the sediment to be flushed out. Allow a few gallons worth of water to drain. Be sure to check the water draining out and make sure it is clear. If it is then you are set to refill the tank.

Step 8: Refilling the Tank

Make sure the water drain at the base of the tank is turned off.Close the pressure release valve.Turn on the water to allow the tank to be filled.Once the tank is full you can turn the gas or circuit breaker back on. Caution: Do not turn the heating unit on until the tank is full. If the tank is not full it can cause heating damage to the unit.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your nice hot water that will be flowing and heating you more efficiently. You got a full year to wait and perform this maintenance again.

Note 1: If you want you can drain a few gallons a month from your tank especially if you live an an area with a lot of sediment in your water. You don’t need the hose. Just use the bucket for this month to month maintenance.

Note 2: If you experience any leaks in the water valves or pressure valves be sure that they are tightened correctly. There is a packing nut just below the knob that can be tightened if needed. If the leaking persists then there is a good chance they haven’t been used enough and need to be replaced. So be sure to perform this routine maintenance to keep the valve working properly as well!


Garage Doors and Openers

Authors:  Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard,

Posted by Action Plus Home Inspections

Garage doors are large, spring-supported doors. Garage door openers control the opening and closing of garage doors, either through a wall-mounted switch or a radio transmitter. Due to the strain that garage door components and openers regularly endure, they may become defective over time and need to be fixed or replaced. Defective components may create safety hazards as well as functional deficiencies to the garage door assembly. The following facts demonstrate the dangers posed by garage doors:

  • Garage doors are typically among the heaviest moving objects in the home and are held under high tension.
  • Injuries caused by garage doors account for approximately 20,000 emergency room visits annually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • The majority of the injuries caused by garage doors are the result of pinched fingers, although severe injuries and deaths due to entrapment occur as well. Sixty children have been killed since 1982 as a result of garage doors that did not automatically reverse upon contact.

Inspectors should not attempt to fix any garage door defects they may encounter. They should call out defects in their reports and recommend that the door be examined by a trained garage door technician. The following components should be present during inspections and devoid of defects:

  • manual (emergency) release handle. All garage doors should be equipped with this device, which will detach the door from the door opener when activated. It is vital during emergency situations, such as when a person becomes trapped beneath the door or when a power outage cuts electricity to the door opener. Inspectors should activate the handle to make sure that it works, although they will have to reset the handle if it does not reset automatically. In order for the handle to be accessible and obvious, it must be…
  1. colored red;
  2. easily distinguishable from rest of the garage opener system; and
  3. no more than 6 feet above the standing surface.
  • door panels. Both sides of the door should be examined for the following:
  1. fatigue;
  2. cracking and dents. Aluminum doors are especially vulnerable to denting; and
  3. separation of materials.
  • warning labels. The following four warning labels should be present on or around garage door assemblies:
  1. a spring warning label, attached to the spring assembly;
  2. a general warning label, attached to the back of the door panel;
  3. a warning label attached to the wall in the vicinity of the wall control button, and;
  4. a tension warning label, attached to garage door’s bottom bracket.
  • brackets and roller shafts.
    1. Brackets. The garage door opener is connected to the garage door by a bracket that is essential to the function of the door opener system. Placement of the bracket where it attaches to the door is crucial to the operation of its safety features. It should attach 3 to 6 inches from the top of the door. This bracket, as well as all other brackets, should be securely attached to their surfaces.
    2. Roller shafts. Roller shafts should be longer on the top and bottom rollers. The top rollers are the most important. Without longer shafts, if one side of the door hangs up, the door may fall out of the opening.
  • door operation. The door’s operation can be tested by raising the door manually, grasping the door’s handles if it has them. Inspectors can make sure that the door:
    1. moves freely;
    2. does not open or close too quickly; and
    3. opens and closes without difficulty.

Note – Inspectors should not operate the door until they have inspected the track mounts and bracing. Doors have been known to fall on people and cars when they were operated with tracks that were not securely attached and supported.

  • extension spring containment cables. Older garage doors may use extension springs to counter-balance the weight of the door. These require a containment cable inside the spring to prevent broken parts from being propelled around the garage if the spring snaps. Most new garages use shaft-mounted torsion springs that do not require containment cables.
  • wall-mounted switch. This device must be present and positioned as high as is practical above the standing surface (at least five feet as measured from the bottom of the switch) so that children do not gain access. In addition, the button must…
  1.    be mounted in clear view of the garage door; and
  2.    be mounted away from moving parts.

Important Note – InterNACHI inspectors should always make sure to disable the manual lock on the garage door before activating the switch.

  • automatic reverse system. As of 1991, garage doors are required to be equipped with a mechanism that automatically reverses the door if it comes in contact with an object. It is important that the door reverses direction and opens completely, rather than merely halting. If a garage door fails this test, inspectors should note it in their reports. A dial on the garage door opener controls the amount of pressure required to trigger the door to reverse. This dial can be adjusted by a qualified garage door technician if necessary.

Methods for testing the automatic reverse system:

  1. This safety feature can be tested by grasping the base of the garage door as it closes and applying upward resistance. Inspectors should use caution while performing this test because they may accidentally damage its components if the door does not reverse course.
  2. Some sources recommend placing a 2×4 piece of wood on the ground beneath the door, although there have been instances where this testing method has damaged the door or door opener components.
  • supplemental automatic reverse system. Garage doors manufactured in the U.S. after 1992 must be equipped with photoelectric sensors or a dooredge sensor.
    1. Photoelectric eyes. These eyes (also known as photoelectric sensors) are located at the base of each side of the garage door and emit and detect beams of light. If this beam is broken, it will cause the door to immediately reverse direction and open. For safety reasons, photo sensors must be installed a maximum of 6 inches above the standing surface.
    2. Door edge sensors. This device is a pressure-sensitive strip installed at the base of the garage door. If it senses pressure from an object while the door is closing, it will cause the door to reverse. Door edge sensors are not as common in garage door systems as photoelectric eyes.
Safety Advice for Clients:
  • Homeowners should not attempt to adjust or repair springs themselves. The springs are held under extremely high tension and can snap suddenly and forcefully, causing serious or fatal injury.
  • No one should stand or walk beneath a garage door while it is in motion. Adults should set an example for children and teach them about garage door safety. Children should not be permitted to operate the garage door opener push button and should be warned against touching any of the door’s moving parts.
  • Fingers and hands should be kept away from pulleys, hinges, springs, and the intersection points between door panels. Closing doors can very easily crush body parts that get between them.
  • The automatic reversal system may need to be adjusted for cold temperatures, since the flexibility of the springs are affected by temperature. This adjustment can be made from a dial on the garage door opener, which should only be changed only by a trained garage door technician.

In summary, garage doors and their openers can be hazardous if certain components are missing or defective. Inspectors should understand these dangers and be prepared to offer useful safety tips to their clients

Serving the following cities:

Pro Secrets for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

By Nancy Fann

Posted By Action Plus Home Inspections

Professional painter John Dee shows how to give dark cupboards the glossy, smooth look of factory-finish cabinets without having to order new doors

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • 4 days to 2 weeks
  • About $200
  • Tools List

    • drill
    • paint scraper
      Paint scraper
    • putty knife
      Putty knife
    • shop vacuum
      Shop vacuum with drywall-dust filter
    • random orbit sander
      Random-orbit sander
    • chisel-tip paintbrush
      2½-in. chisel-tip with nylon-polyester bristles
    • eye goggles
    • dual cartridge respirator
      Respirator (fitted with organic-vapor cartridges)
    • rubber gloves
      Chemical-resistant rubber gloves (long-sleeve style)
    • Shopping List

      1. Low-tack painter’s tape

      2. Rosin paper

      3. 0.5-mil plastic sheet

      4. Tack cloth

      5. Liquid deglosser and abrasive pad

      6. Lint-free rags

      7. 100-grit silicon-carbide sandpaper

      8. Two-part polyester wood filler or autobody filler to fill dings or screw holes

      9. 220-grit silicon-carbide sandpaper to smooth primer between coats

      10. 280-grit silicon-carbide sandpaper to smooth paint between coats

      11. Sanding sponges, medium- and fine-grit12. Vinyl spackle

      13. Oil-based primer for use on smooth surfaces or tight-grained woods (cherry, maple, birch); or
      14. Brushing putty to prime and fill open-grained woods (oak, ash, hickory)

      15. Oil-based spray primer for touch-up

      16. Siliconized acrylic-latex caulk

      17. Oil-based paint Easier to clean and more durable than water-based, which softens when ex­posed to heat or oil.

      Josh GarskofThis Old House magazine


      painted kitchen cabinets

      If your kitchen cabinets are solid but dated and dark, a fresh coat of paint can go a long way toward transforming the space without draining your bank account. You can hire a pro to spray-paint them for a thousand dollars or more, but there’s a less costly, and less messy, alternative to consider: Use a brush and paint the cabinets yourself.

      “You don’t need to spray to get a smooth finish,” says painting contractor John Dee, who has worked on a number of This Old House TV projects. He often brush-paints cabinets anyway because it gives him more control and avoids the risk of paint spray ending up where it’s not wanted. (Surface prep is the same whether you spray or brush.) Brushing is time-consuming, he warns, and could take up to a couple of weeks to complete. But the result is a durable, glass-smooth finish that’s the equal of anything from a spray gun. “You just need to use the best materials and take the time to sand and do the brushwork right,” Dee says.

      Step 1: Prep the Room

      before photo of kitchen with dark wood cabinets, inset of John Dee sanding a cabinet door

      Before starting a kitchen paint job, empty the cabinets, clear off the counters, and remove freestanding appliances. Relocate tables and other furniture to another room. Tape rosin paper over the countertops and flooring, and tape plastic sheeting over the backsplash, windows, fixed appliances, and interior doorways (to protect the rest of the house from dust and fumes). Mask off the wall around the cabinets. Finally, set up a worktable for painting doors, drawers, and shelves.

      Pro Tip: In kitchens the key to a good paint job is surface prep. “Old cabinets are covered with everything from hand oils to greasy smoke residue to petrified gravy,” says Dee. “You’ve got to get all that off or the paint won’t stick.”

      Step 2: Remove Doors, Drawers, and Shelves

      John Dee removing cabinet door with a cordless driver

      Back out the hinge screws from the cabinet frame and remove the doors. Working methodically from left to right, top to bottom, label each one with a numbered piece of tape. Also, number the ends of cabinet shelves and the bottoms of drawers. Set aside the shelf-hanging hardware. At your worktable, remove the pulls and hinges and save what’s being reused. On the doors, transfer the number from the tape to the exposed wood under one hinge. Cover it with fresh tape.

      Step 3: Clean All Surfaces

      removing cabinet door with work gloves

      Open the windows for ventilation and put on safety gear. Scrub down all of the face frames, doors, drawer fronts, and shelving with an abrasive pad dipped in liquid deglosser. Hold a rag underneath to catch drips. Before the deglosser evaporates, quickly wipe away the residue with another clean, deglosser-dampened rag.

      Step 4: Fill the Holes

      filling old screw holes with a filler applied with a putty knife

      If you’re relocating the hardware, fill the old screw holes with a two-part polyester wood or autobody filler. It sets in about 5 minutes, so mix only small batches. (Dee adds a pea-size bit of hardener to a golf-ball-size glob of filler.) The filler shrinks a bit, so overfill the holes slightly. As soon as it sets, remove the excess with a sharp paint scraper. If it hardens completely, sand it smooth.

      Step 5: Sand, Vac, and Tack the Boxes

      sanding the old finish on cabinet frames and wiping with a tack cloth

      Sand all surfaces with the grain using 100-grit paper. To make sure no bits of dust mar the finish, vacuum the cabinets inside and out, then rub them down with a tack cloth to catch any debris that the vacuum misses. Dee says, “Hand sanding is the best technique on oak because you can push the paper into the open grain, which a power sander or sanding block will miss.”

      Pro tip: When using a tack cloth, unfold each new cloth fully, down to one layer, then crumple it to get the greatest dust collection surface.

      Step 6: Prime the Boxes

      John Dee priming cabinet frames

      Slow-drying, oil-based primers work fine on tight-grained woods like maple or cherry, or on man-made materials. But they just sink into open-grained woods such as oak, ash, mahogany, or hickory. Brushing putty, the pudding-thick, oil-based coating Dee used on these oak cabinets, fills the grain as it primes the wood. A couple of caveats: It should be applied with a good-quality nylon-polyester brush, which you’ll have to throw away after each coat. And it doesn’t become level as it dries; assiduous sanding is required to flatten it out.

      Starting at the top of the cabinet, brush on the primer or brushing putty across the grain, then “tip off”—pass the brush lightly over the wet finish in the direction of the grain. Always tip off in a single stroke from one end to the other. Give it a day to dry. (If using brushing putty, apply a second coat the next day and wait another day for it to dry.) Sand the flat surfaces with a random-orbit sander and 220-grit paper. Sand any profiled surfaces with a medium-grit sanding sponge. When you’re done, everything should be glass-smooth.

      Pro tip: Follow the underlying structure of the cabinet or door with the brush. Where a rail (horizontal piece) butts into a stile (vertical piece), for instance, paint the rail first, overlapping slightly onto the stile. Then, before the overlap dries, paint the stile. Where a stile butts into a rail, paint the stile first.

      Step 7: Caulk Seams and Fill Dents

      applying caulk to seams in primed cabinets

      Squeeze a thin bead of latex caulk into any open seams. Pull the tip as you go, then smooth the caulk with a damp finger. Fill any small dents, scratches, or dings with vinyl spackle, smoothed flat with a putty knife. Once dry, in about 60 minutes, sand again with 220-grit paper, vacuum, and wipe with tack cloth. Spot-prime the spackle, and any spots where the brushed-on primer is “burned through,” with a spray can of fast-drying oil-based primer. Wait an hour, then sand the primer lightly with 280-grit paper. Vacuum all surfaces, and wipe with a tack cloth.

      Pro tip: The hole in a caulk tube’s tip should be no bigger than the tip of a sharp pencil. Slice 45-degree slivers off the tip with a razor until you see the hole open.

      Step 8: Paint the boxes

      painting cabinets

      Work from top to bottom, applying the paint across the grain, then tipping it off with the grain. For cabinet interiors, apply the paint with a smooth-surface mini roller, which leaves a slight orange-peel texture. Sand all surfaces with 280-grit paper, then vacuum and clean with tack cloth. For the last coat, break out a new brush. When the final coat is dry, replace the shelf hangers.

      Pro tip: Brushes pick up dust, so always pour paint into a separate container to prevent contamination of the paint in the can. If any paint is left over, pour it back into the can only through a fine-mesh strainer.

      Step 9: Prep, Prime, and Sand Doors and Drawers

      sanding a freshly primed and painted door with a sanding sponge

      The strategy for prepping and painting doors, drawers, and shelves is the same as on the cabinets, except that all the work is done on a table to reduce the chance of drips, runs, and sags. Paneled doors pose some special challenges; here’s Dee’s approach.

      Follow the same prep sequence as for cabinets—clean with deglosser, fill the holes, sand, vac, and tack—and the same priming sequence: in this case, two coats of brushing putty. Smooth the flat surfaces on the panel and the frame with a random-orbit sander. On bevels or profiles, apply elbow grease and a medium-grit sanding sponge. Spackle and sand any dents.

      Pro tip: When priming or painting paneled doors, brush in the following sequence to get the best-looking surface in the least amount of time: start with the area around the panel, then do the main field of the panel, then finish with the stiles and rails around the edges. As you go, wipe up any paint that ends up on adjacent dry surfaces. This eliminates the chance of lap marks.

      Step 10: Spot-Prime

      John Dee sprays a fast-dry primer on spots with spackle or bare wood from sanding

      After vacuuming and tacking all the surfaces, spray a fast-dry primer on any spots with spackle or bare wood where the sandpaper “burned through” the primer. Wait an hour before sanding.

      Step 11: Apply the Finish Coats

      John Dee applying the finish coat to a cabinet door

      Remove all dust—first with a vacuum, then with a tack cloth—and apply the finish coat. Tip it off with the grain. When the first coat dries, power-sand the flats; hand-sand the profiles. Vacuum and tack every piece, then brush on the final coat.

      Pro tip: To prevent drips on outside edges, pull the brush toward them. To prevent drips in corners, first unload the brush by scraping off the paint, then paint by pulling the brush away from the corner. If a drip laps onto a dry surface, wipe it up immediately.

      Step 12: Hang Cabinets to Dry Between Coats

      cabinet doors hanging to dry

      Painting cabinet doors is a trade-off between perfection and speed. John Dee, a perfectionist, prefers to do one side at a time, keeping the faces flat so they don’t get runs. But that’s 48 hours of drying time per door—one day per side. Here’s his method for painting both sides in a day.

      Twist two screw hooks into holes drilled in an inconspicuous door edge (the lower edge for bottom cabinets, the upper edge for top cabinets). Paint the door’s outside face as above. Let it dry for an hour while resting flat, then tilt the door up onto its hooks and put a drywall screw into an existing hardware hole. Hold the tilted door up by the screw and paint the door’s back side.

      When you’re done painting, pick up the door by the screw and one hook and hang both hooks on a sturdy wire clothes hanger. Suspend from a shower curtain rod or clothes rod until the door is dry.

      Step 13: Put Back Doors, Drawers, and Hardware

      the finished kitchen with newly painted cabinets

      Wait for the final coat to dry, then put back the shelves. Remove the tape over each door’s number, install the hinges and knob, then hang it in the opening it came from. Replace the drawer pulls (or better yet, add new ones) and reinstall each drawer in its original opening.


How to Paint Doors, Windows, and Walls

By John Dee

Posted By Action Plus Home Inspections


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • A day
  • $25 to $35 per gallon for good-quality interior paint
  • Tools List

    • drill
      Cordless drill, for removing and replacing door and window hardware
    • paintroller
      Paint roller for painting walls and ceilings
    • paint pan
      Paint pan, for loading roller with paint
    • telescoping extension pole
      Telescoping extension pole with pole sanding head for reaching ceilings and the tops of walls without using a ladder
    • caulk gun
      Caulking gun, for filling gaps between the woodwork and wall
    • wire brush
      Brush, roller spinner, and wire brush, for cleaning brushes
    • nailset
      Hammer and nail set, for recessing nail heads
    • synthetic brush
      Synthetic-bristle brushes (2 ½-inch blunt, 1 ½-inch angled sash, “throwaways” for touch-ups), for painting molding, doors, and windows
    • putty knife
      Putty knife for applying spackling compound
    • five-in-one tool
      5-in-1 pinter’s tool for cleaning roller covers
    • utility knife
      Utility knife,
      for cutting tip of caulk gun
    • window scraper
      Window scraper and razor blades, for removing paint from window glass
    • drywall sander
      Drywall sander, attaches to shop vacuum for sanding joint-compound patches
    • paint strainer
      Paint strainer, for removing impurities when paint is poured from can into pot
    • bucket
      Bucket, to fit with liners and hold paint
    • wetdry vac
      Wet/Dry Vaccum with broom attachment
    • Shopping List

      1. PAINTone gallon typically covers about 350 square feet

      2. MASKING TAPE (1 1/2-INCH WIDE)for securing rosin paper to floor and protecting baseboard

      3. SILICON-CARBIDE SANDPAPER120-grit for bare wood or old paint; 220-grit for primer or between-coat smoothing

      4. LIGHTWEIGHT SPACKLING COMPOUNDfor filling holes and cracks in drywall and plaster

      5. DUST MASKfor protecting lungs when sanding

    painting a room

    Most people think they know how to paint, and usually the results are pretty good. But for painting contractor John Dee, “pretty good” isn’t good enough. After nearly three decades of rolling, brushing, and spraying paint he knows the subtle tricks for applying smooth, even coats to walls, ceilings, and woodwork, and for creating crisp boundaries between colors.According to Dee, there’s no magic to getting professional-looking results. Practice helps, and thorough surface preparation is essential. But the key, he says, is to paint in an orderly, systematic way. So whether he’s painting a multi-paneled door or a flat expanse of wall, he proceeds almost scientifically from one step to the next, with no shortcuts. “Your approach to the task, the order in which you do things, can speed the work or slow you down,” Dee says. “Here’s the approach that works best for me.”


    painting a room

    Tip: As a rule of thumb, work from the center out, and always paint rails before stiles.

    Step 1: Sand flat woodwork

    sanding before painting a room

    After wiping down any dirty woodwork with a household cleaner, sand the trim, doors, and windows with 120-grit silicon-carbide sandpaper. Sand old paint so new paint can adhere. Sand bare wood to remove raised grain, level off wood filler, and ease over sharp edges.

    When sanding flat surfaces, hold the sandpaper in your hand to get into any slight depressions that a rigid sanding block would miss.

    Step 2: Sanding contours

    Dusting woodwork post sanding before painting a room

    On profiled moldings, use a soft sanding block or sanding sponge that conforms to the shape of the molding. Take care not to let the sandpaper touch glass; it will leave scratches.

    When the sanding is done, dust the woodwork with an old, worn brush or a shop vacuum. Then wipe it clean with a tack cloth.

    TIP: “Check paper regularly for wear,” Dee says. “It’s time to switch to fresh paper when you feel that your elbow is doing more of the work.”

    Step 3: Prime

    Priming before painting a room

    If walls and ceilings are bare plaster, coat with oil-based or all-purpose acrylic primer. Then prime bare, sanded woodwork to ensure good adhesion of the finish coats. It’s not necessary to prime previously painted surfaces if they’re in good condition.

    Follow the basic application, distribution, and tipping steps outlined in “Technique.” On doors and windows, follow the sequence detailed in “Paint by Number.”

    Allow primer to dry overnight, then sand lightly with 220-grit sandpaper. Clean up the dust with vacuum and tack cloth before applying final coats.

    TIP: Before using a brush, saturate it with water (for latex paint) or paint thinner (for oil-based paint). Flex the bristles so the fluid can reach up into the brush’s ferrule. Spin or tap the brush dry; it will be easier to clean, thereby extending its life.

    Step 4: Fill holes

    painting a room

    Use lightweight spackling compound and a putty knife to fill small holes or cracks. Push spackling compound in, then smooth the patch. Once the compound is dry, spot prime the patch or completely re-prime the walls, depending on size of the repair.

    On new woodwork, overfill nail holes with a water-based wood filler to allow for shrinkage, then allow it to dry before sanding.

    Step 5: Caulk joints

    Caulking the gaps before painting a room

    Caulk the gaps between the primed woodwork and the walls. Pull the caulk gun in a smooth motion as you squeeze its trigger. The goal is to apply only as much caulk as needed. Control the flow of caulk by adjusting the trigger pressure and the speed at which you pull the tip along. Smooth the fresh caulk with a wet finger.

    TIP: To avoid applying too much caulk, use a utility knife to carefully shave slivers from the tube’s spout until a hole emerges. Bevel the sides of the tip so it’ll fit snugly into gap between wall and trim.

    Step 6: Paint the Ceiling

    painting a room

    With a brush or pad, apply a 2- to 2 1/2-inch-wide band of paint along the edges of the ceiling; this is called “cutting in”. Try to make straight, even lines without masking tape. Wipe away any mistakes away with a rag.

    Dip a roller mounted on an extension pole into a roller pan filled halfway with paint. Run the roller over the pan’s shallow end until the roller cover is evenly coated with paint.

    Starting at one corner, mentally section the ceiling into 3-foot squares and use the basic steps outlined in “Technique.” Work your way across the width of the room, one square at a time.

    Step 7: Paint the Woodwork

    painting a room

    Brush the first finish coat onto the woodwork. For the doors and windows, follow the application sequence in “Paint by Number.” When the paint is completely dry, sand the paint lightly with 220-grit sandpaper, then wipe away any dust with a tack cloth.

    Next, apply the final finish coat. If you get paint on glass, wait for it to dry, then remove it with a window scraper. To prevent scratching the glass, wet the surface first with window cleaner.

    TIP: “You want to leave a narrow strip of paint on the glass to seal the wood from moisture. Hold the edge of a 6-inch-wide putty knife blade against the glass, with its flat side against the wood, and scrape up to it. You’ll be left with an neat, even strip of paint on the glass that’s the thickness of the blade.”

    Step 8: Paint the Walls

    Paint the walls

    When baseboard paint is dry, cover the top of the molding with blue masking tape. Using a brush or pad, cut in around the window and door trim first, then cut in along the baseboard and at the ceiling or crown molding.

    Paint the walls using a roller on an extension handle. Mentally section the wall off in squares roughly 3 or 4 feet wide, and work from the top down. Follow the basic steps outlined in “Technique.” Once the paint is dry, remove any nubs by scraping the wall with a putty knife. For glossier sheens, sand lightly with 150-grit paper, then wipe away dust with a tack cloth. Roll on the final coat, then remove the masking tape as soon as paint has set up; pull it slowly to avoid tears.


Secrets of a Perfect Paint Job

By James Glave, This Old House magazine

Posted By Action Plus Home Inspections

24 pro tips to ensure our walls and trim get a flawless finish


Never dip your paintbrush directly into the can—too unwieldy, too sloppy, too dangerous if the container slips or drips. For optimum control, pour paint into a small metal “cut bucket” with a liner and fill it only a third of the way. Bonus: Any paint left in the can stays pristine this way.
Ask just about any painting pro, and he’ll tell you that his trade has a real image problem. After all, everyone thinks they can paint—just watch how fast the color goes up on those done-in-a-day home-makeover shows. Grab a brush, a roller, and a couple gallons of latex, and you’re all set, right?Not quite. “The truth is, it is easy to do things poorly,” says Rich O’Neill, who chairs a craftsmanship committee within the Painting and Decorating Contractors Association of America. There’s no substitute for learning the proper steps, taking time to do the job right, and improving your technique as you go.But there are also a few tricks of the trade that homeowners can learn to ease the way. We’ve assembled a couple dozen of them on the following pages, gleaned from decades’ worth of accumulated wisdom from pros working from Seattle to Boston. Put their pointers to work, and you’ll notice a difference in your paint job years after the tape and tarps are put away.
Getting Ready1. A bigger, better swatch
Don’t expect a thumbnail-size color chip from the paint store to give you a sense of how a color will look on the walls. Colors are relative to one another and the objects around them—like, say, that new leather sofa. Instead, make your own megaswatch. Get a sample quantity of paint, brush two coats on a slab of foam core (its white surface acts like primer) at least three feet square, then put it up against the wall. You’ll get a much better sense of how your tint plays off your furniture and flooring. Eyeball the color at various times of the day and move it around the room to see how it looks in different light conditions.2. How many cans?
Before you set out for the paint store, take a tape measure and figure out how much surface you need to cover—and don’t forget the ceiling. Measure the longest wall, and square that number for the ceiling. For the walls, multiply the length of the longest wall by its height, then multiply that number by four. Double your numbers if you’re doing two coats. Or use an online calculator, like the one at; as a rule of thumb, one gallon covers about 400 square feet.3. Go for the good stuff
Invest in a premium paint. Why? Because cheap paint covers very well when it’s wet—the first, and in many cases last, time many people scrutinize their work—but not so well once it’s dry. “There is only room for a gallon’s worth of stuff in the can,” says Seattle-based painter Doug Wold, owner of Queen Anne Painting. “If you add more cheap pigment, you take out more expensive resin—and that’s what holds it together.” Always apply two coats, and allow 2 to 3 hours between them.

4. No muss, no dust
Painting prep usually involves scraping, sanding—and dust-making. “You might be shocked at how far dust travels, and what small areas it can get into,” says Rich O’Neill, owner of Masterwork Painting, in Bedford, Massachusetts. If you don’t want to invest in a spring-loaded-pole-style barrier system like that made by ZipWall (, put plastic up around doorways that lead to the work area and over furniture. Skip the flimsy stuff: Clear, heavier-gauge sheeting (2 to 4 mil) is reusable, easier to fold and unfold, and less likely to rip. Secure it with painter’s tape.

5. A clean sweep
Many of us are so anxious to get the paint up that we don’t take the crucial first step of thoroughly cleaning the walls—especially in the kitchen, where they may be invisibly decorated with grease, oil, and food residue. “If you don’t clean that off, you could be painting a greased cookie sheet,” says Doug Wold. “It ain’t gonna stick.” Same goes for the bathroom, the domain of airborne shampoo, hair spray, and cosmetics. Use a degreaser on tough areas; household cleanser should work elsewhere. Then rinse.

Know Thy Tools6. The mark of a good brush
Bristles should be “flagged”: tapered, —split, and arranged in multiple lengths to form a slim tip. Synthetic ones—especially a mix of nylon and polyester, like DuPont’s Chinex—hold and release latex paints exceptionally well. (It’s best to reserve natural bristles for oil-based finishes; water-based paints make them swell and lose their shape.) Unfinished hardwood handles are easier to grip with sweaty hands, and copper or stainless-steel ferrules won’t rust after you’ve washed the brush. You’ll want at least one 21/4-inch angled sash brush for cutting in trim, and one 3-inch brush for cutting in walls and ceilings.Buy the best ones that you can find—a good brush will generally run you $12 to $15. “People think nothing of spending $10 to go to a movie,” says John Hone, owner of Hone Painting and Restoration in Caldwell, New Jersey. “But they put themselves through torture trying to paint with cheap equipment.”7. Size matters
Your local home center or hardware store offers lots of standard 9-inch roller cages and covers for painting walls, but they’re not the only size to consider. Small foam rollers are good for door panels and wainscoting, and 14- and even 18-inch rollers hold enough paint to allow you to cover a lot of area faster—handy if you have a high-ceilinged great room to get color on. “Manufacturers make larger rollers, and there are people buying them,” says Chicago’s Mario Guertin, president of Painting in Partnership. “But only the educated ones.”

8. A better sandpaper
Look for black sandpaper coated with silicon carbide—it won’t gunk up as quickly as the standard-issue brown kind, so it’ll last longer. Foam sanding sponges covered with the same stuff allow you to sneak into corners and evenly wrap around rounded trim—plus, they’re reusable. Just wring them out in water to clean them, then use them damp to trap more of the dust.

Which grit to pick? Use a medium grit (100 or 120) when you’re prepping walls that are already in decent shape; a coarser 60 or 80 grit to take the edges off paint that is chipped or peeled. Very fine (200 or 220 grit) sandpaper is best for smoothing surfaces between coats of paint.

Tape Tips9. Let it be your guide
Pros use miles of low-tack blue painter’s tape—mainly to protect surfaces, but also as a guide for cutting in walls or ceilings. “With older houses, flat surfaces can be so uneven you can’t be sure you are getting a crisp line if you paint over tape,” says Hone. “So just use it as a guide.” Cut in up to the edge of the tape, but don’t cross over it. Bring your fully loaded brush within about 2 1/4 inches of the tape, but go very light on that last 1/4 inch closest to the tape. “When you do that, you have a fighting chance that the paint won’t wick under the tape’s edge,” says Hone.10. The perfect stripe
Like the look of painted stripes? To put on a crisp band of color without any bleed, first lay down a line of blue painter’s tape, then run a small bead of latex caulk over the edge where the two colors will meet. “Wipe down the caulk until you have a very thin layer on the wall,” says Portland, Oregon, painting contractor Dave Siegner. “Then peel off the tape, and paint up to the line of caulk.” The thin bead will seal off the dry surface better than any tape. A few hours later, peel off the caulk.11. Score it
If you’ve masked off baseboards with painter’s tape, pull it off the same day as you apply the paint—but run a blade along it first, says Siegner. “Sometimes latex wall finishes are rubbery until they cure completely, and if they’re touching your tape you can pull away a piece of the paint from the wall when you go to remove it,” says Siegner. Score the edge of the tape between the top of the baseboard and the wall with a putty knife held at a 45-degree angle.

Teaming Up12. Halfway measures
If your budget is tight—and your painting skills are decent—ask a painting contractor if he would willing to talk about splitting the job with you. Brandt Domas, owner of Domas Fine Painting in Denver, Colorado, occasionally enters into such partnerships with homeowners. “We may go in and strip the trim, then people will do the paintingthemselves,” he says. “Or we may go in and do the prep repairs, or the high areas. We don’t always have to say ‘It’s all or nothing.'”13. A little help, here?
Pros always work with “wet edges.” Meaning they roll walls before the areas where they’ve cut in—or painted with a brush along the wall’s perimeter edges—have dried. “It’s best to have one person cutting in and another rolling walls right behind her to avoid ‘banding’ around the edges of a room,” says painting contractor Jim Clark, who’s worked on many This Old House TV projects. If you can’t lean on a buddy to help and you’re working alone, try to cut in only as much as you can roll while the paint remains wet.Smooth Talk

14. Bust the fuzz
There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing little squiggles of lint embedded in your freshly painted walls. To keep them at bay, wrap your hand in painter’s tape—sticky side out—and pat down new roller covers to catch any stray fibers.

15. Glob patrol
Never dip the roller so far into the paint that the the roller arm gets wet—this is a recipe for drips. And at the start of each workday, strain your paint into a clean bucket, even if you’ve sealed the lid tightly overnight. “If you skip this step, you end up with coagulated pieces of paint—we call them boogers or snots—on the walls,” says Mark Casale of Hingham Painting and Decorating in Massachusetts. And nobody wants that.

16. Give walls the once-over
To trap sanding dust on trim, you probably already know to run tack cloth—essentially, cheesecloth embedded with sticky resin—over it. But it’s also a good idea on walls. “I wrap tack cloth over the head of my pole sander and run it over the wall surfaces to pick up the dust,” says John Dee, a painting and decorating contractor based in Concord, Massachusetts. Most hardware and paint stores carry tack cloth, but if you don’t have one, use a Swiffer or a microfiber dusting cloth instead. It’s not a bad idea to vacuum walls with a soft brush attachment, as well. Just be sure the vacuum has a HEPA filter to keep the dust from recirculating back into the room—and back onto your walls.

Flawless Coverage17. The right sequence
Many homeowners paint the walls first, then move on to the trim while they wait for the first coat to dry. Homeowners should think more strategically, says Rich O’Neill of Masterworks Painting. “Paint all the woodwork first—the first and second coats—then move onto the walls,” says O’Neill. “If you toggle back and forth, your cutlines won’t be as sharp. When you do the woodwork first, you can ride the trim paint onto the walls a little, then cut over it in one go.”18. Through thick and thin
When applying your coats, don’t just focus on coverage, think about a uniform thickness as well. “Homeowners think that pro painters put on color, but they actually put on texture,” says Doug Wold of Queen Anne Painting. On woodwork, align your strokes to follow the grain. Try to avoid “fat edges”—the goopy cornices of paint that can hang over the edges of a door—and rope marks left by overloaded rollers. “If you don’t hold the roller uniformly against the wall, it can leave a ridge—just like on a ski hill, when groomers leave little ridges between their tracks.”19. Lay off already
After you’ve rolled a section of the wall, make a series of long vertical strokes—moving in one direction, left or right—up the full length of the wall. This last step, called “laying off,” distributes the wet paint across the surface in a nice even layer.

20. How to load a brush
Good bristles pull paint up toward the top of the brush and the metal ferrule. To keep from overloading your brush, dip the bristles not more than halfway into the bucket. Then gently tap the bristle ends against both sides of the bucket to remove any excess. Or do as Mark Casale of Hingham Painting and Decorating does. “Dedicate half of the pot as your ‘wet’ side, using the handle as an imaginary dividing line.” Tap one side of the brush on this side of the bucket, then turn the brush untapped-side up.

To get the paint on the wall, Casale recommends setting the brush a few inches away from where you’re cutting in, then moving it in to the cut line and drawing it straight up until the brush starts to drag. Then draw it back down in a line to level it out. Finally, move the brush upward with a light stroke to “tip off,” smoothing out any brushstrokes.

Clean Sweep22. Oops strategy
Should you accidentally drip water-based paint on your carpet, do not try to scrub it—the fastest way to embed the color in the fibers of the carpet. Instead, “keep the area wet, and blot it up,” says Tracey Kidd, of Kidd Painting in Mesa, Arizona. “If you spill a lot, blot up as much as you can, dampen the area, and call a carpet-cleaning company.” If you keep the spot wet, a professional carpet cleaner should be able to get the whole spill up.23. In praise of the comb-over
A thoroughly cleaned brush will see you through more renovations than even the strongest marriage might endure. Thoroughly wash your brush, immediately after painting, with mild soap and warm water. Then, under the running faucet, draw a metal brush comb through the bristles to pull paint from the core and away from the metal ferrule. Got some stubborn paint on the outside of the brush? Skip wire brushes, which can damage delicate bristles, and grab a nylon scrubbing pad from the kitchen sink to loosen it.24. Keeping your grip
The pros call a worn-out brush a “club,” which is about as precise as it sounds. “If your brush is worn-out, or flared, it isn’t any good,” says Patrick Dallaire of August West and Company in Portland, Oregon. When pros clean their brushes, they pat them dry, spin out excess moisture by rubbing the handle between their palms, then put them back in their original packaging to maintain their shape. Says Dallaire:?”If you’re maintaining your grip—what we call a painter’s toolbox—you’re ahead of the game.”

Picking the Right White
The single most popular paint color in the world might also be the most confounding. One problem is that there are just so many variations of the hue. But don’t assume they’re all the same. “If I were to lay some whites down side-by-side, you would immediately be able to see the differences,” says Ken Charbonneau, owner of Color Marketing Consultants in New York City.”The first step in picking a white is deciding whether you want a warm white or a cool one. Warmer shades of white incorporate an undertone of yellow—think French vanilla ice cream—or a touch of rust, pink, or brown. ­Cooler whites, on the other hand, suggest a hint of blue, green, or gray. Choose one or the other based on the existing tones most prevalent in a room. “Take a look at your brown-leather sectional, or your cherry floors, or your oriental rug,” he says. “These things are there, don’t ignore them.”More often than not, people lean to the warmer whites, which far outsell their crisper cousins. That said, there are those who prefer a cleaner, more modern white, says Becky Spak, a color-marketing specialist with Sherwin-Williams (a range of the company’s whites are shown at right). “Maybe they have a lot of stainless steel, or a more modern urban-loft look. Those are the folks who usually look to the cleaner, cooler whites.”Once you have the tonal family established, follow the same rules as any other color: Choose two or three shades, put up a row of sample swatches—be sure to do two coats of each, advises Spak—and eyeball them during the day and at night, with the lights on. Then go with your gut; odds are, one of your choices will either ­soften or complement the givens in the room.

Finally, consider staying ultra-stark on the often-overlooked surface overhead. A white with little or no undertone, or at most a slight gray cast, creates a neutral “sky” above and visually lifts the ceiling height. Says Charbonneau, “That’s really the place for the whitest white of them all.”

Decoding the Strip Chip
That’s what that narrow row of darker-to-lighter shades of one color is known as in the trade. The darkest shade anchors the card, then it is “let down” into lighter versions that contain less color pigment and more pure white.

So how come some colors start to look redder or bluer or somehow different as the shades get lighter? “That’s really a trick of the eye,” says Carl Minchew, director of color technology for Benjamin Moore. “It’s your perception of the color that changes. The color pigment remains the same.”

Color perception is influenced by several factors, including the quality of the light around you (is it yellowish incandescent light or bluer fluorescent light?) and the “simultaneous contrast” factor—what other colors surround the one you’re looking at? A white background will make very vibrant yellow look less bright but more intense. Against a mahogany surface, the same color will look lighter and brighter.

Paint colors tend to appear more intense on the wall than on a tiny little rectangle of paper, so the strip chip does allow you to preview what a ­deeper value might look like. And if you’re nervous about a given color, going one step lighter can be a safer bet—you’ll probably get something in between once it’s up on the wall.

If you’re really at a loss, try this: Find a strip where you can live with the darkest-color chip; then you know you’ll like the colors at the middle and the top of the range.

“Don’t hang off your ladder like a monkey” and Other Tips from the Paint DoctorBruce Schneider knows paint. He worked as a pro for 12 years befrore taking over training for brush maker Purdy 17 years ago—and in his spare time heads up the apprenticeship program of the Finishing Trades Institute. Here are a few tricks he’s learned along the way.1. To prevent paint spray on baseboards when rolling walls, wipe them down with a wet rag to keep spatter from sticking. When you’ve finished rolling, run the damp rag along baseboards once more to wipe away any droplets.2. Breathe out or hold your breath while cutting along trim or where walls meet—”It’ll help you keep a straight line.” Up high, be sure to stand squarely on your ladder instead of overreaching.

3. When cutting in on textured walls or ceilings, vibrate your hand a little to get bristle tips into uneven surfaces.

4. To avoid fatigue, switch hands when cutting in—think of the brush as an extension of your arm. And don’t push too hard when you’re rolling.

5. Finally, don’t run your brush or roller dry. “When you can see through the paint—what painters call ‘holidays’—you’ve gone too far.”

How to Epoxy-Coat a Garage Floor

By Jennifer Stimpson of This Old House magazine

Posted By Action Plus Home Inspections

Epoxy not only tops off the pro look of a garage but also resists oil stains, beads water, and wipes clean like a kitchen counter. Do the job in 3 days

  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • 9 hours over 3 days
  • About $120 to $160 per bay


You finally got the tools hanging neatly on an outlined pegboard, and all the paint is organized in carefully labeled cabinets. But now your car is jealous, sitting like a lump on the oily, dirty concrete slab. You still need to put the finishing touch on the garage cleanup: a colorful, shiny epoxy

floor coating that will have you—and your car—feeling like you’re driving into a showroom every time you come home.

Epoxy not only tops off the pro look but also resists oil stains, beads water, and wipes clean like a kitchen counter. Color chips and custom paint colors hide annoying imperfections in the concrete, and antiskid additives give you the grip you need on a snowy day. As This Old House technical editor Mark Powers shows on the following pages, you just need a weekend to sweep the dirt out and paint the epoxy on. Then the garage will finally be a space worth driving up to—and showing off.

Gray Flannel Epoxy Garage Floor Coating with granite color flecks, from Quikrete


overview of the step by step

Floor Finish Overview

Applying an

epoxy coating to a concrete floor is as easy as painting walls, but as with painting, the success is in the prep work. Once the calculations, color choices, and cleaning are taken care of, the actual application will seem like the easiest part.

To bond well, epoxy requires an even, slightly rough, and totally clean surface. That means patching any potholes and cracks and allowing them to cure fully. Concrete must be at least 60 days old and not sealed for the epoxy to adhere. You can tell if your floor already has a sealer if water beads on it or if you get to Step 2 in this process and the etching solution doesn’t foam; if that’s the case, you’ll need to take off the sealer with a chemical stripper or a special machine. (Painted floors can be recoated if there’s no peeling.)

Stripping the floor, however, does not clean it. Any grease or dirt will compromise the epoxy adhesion, so cleaning and etching is a step that should not be rushed. Different manufacturers offer different types of cleaners, so check out the ingredients before you choose what type is best for you. Chemical cleaners vary widely, from harsh degreasers and etchers to safer but less effective organics. You can cut down on the elbow grease by renting a machine called a floor maintainer for about $40 a day.

Epoxy coatings typically come in kits with everything you need. Once you choose one, determine if you’ll need to order extra supplies. Manufacturers may suggest two coats of the epoxy paint and top coat, but most standard kits only supply enough for one coat. If you choose to add color flakes, which will help hide concrete’s inherent imperfections, determine how heavily you’ll broadcast them across the floor so you don’t come up short. Also, if your garage’s foundation rises above grade at the bottom of the walls, you may want to consider coating another few inches up the vertical surfaces to make cleaning the garage easier. Then decide if you want to include an antiskid additive, granules that give the finished floor a sandpaperlike surface. This may be a good option in rainy or ice-prone regions.

Once the floor is clean and ready for its coating, it all comes down to timing. Choose a day to do the work when the concrete won’t be damp from rainy weather and when the temperature is between 50 and 80 degrees; otherwise the application can bubble and peel. Then, once you mix the epoxy paint and hardener, you only have about 2 hours to work with it, so you’ll need to plan out in advance how best to paint yourself out of the garage, starting in a back corner. The hardest part is waiting: The typical drying time between each step is 12 to 24 hours. And once the whole floor is done, you still have to hold off parking the car on it for another 72 hours.

Step 1: Prep and wash the area

prep and wash the area

Using painter’s tape, stick plastic sheeting to the walls along the edge of the foundation, or at the height to which you will apply the epoxy up the walls. Sweep the floor thoroughly to remove dirt and dust. Using an old paintbrush, dust out corners and seams. If your floor was not previously painted, skip to Step 2.

For painted floors: Using a floor maintainer fitted with a light-sanding pad, scuff the paint to degloss it. Sweep away the dust. Then, using a bristle broom, scrub down the surface with an all-purpose cleaner. Rinse the floor thoroughly and let it dry for at least 4 hours. Continue with Step 3.

Tip: To check if the floor is clean, stick a strip of duct tape to it once it’s dry, then peel it away. If you see any dust or particles on the tape, clean the floor again.

Step 2: Etch the floor

etch the floor with etching sloution and water

For new or bare concrete: Mix the etching solution with water in a plastic watering can, following the manufacturer’s directions. Make sure to wear protective gloves, rubber boots, and safety glasses when working with the chemicals.

Wet the floor with a garden hose. Pour the solution over a 10-by-10-foot area in the corner farthest from your exit point. Using a bristle broom, scrub the area in one direction, then go over it again in a perpendicular direction.

Continue etching the floor in small sections. Once you’ve finished the entire garage, rinse the floor with a garden hose, starting in your first corner and moving forward. Continue rinsing until the water runs completely clear. Allow the floor to dry at least 4 hours.

Tip: Stubborn, dark discolorations may be the sign of a set-in oil stain, which will require additional scrubbing with fresh solution.

Step 3: Mix up the epoxy paint

Mix up the epoxy paint

Open both the

epoxy paint and epoxy hardener cans. Begin stirring the epoxy paint, then slowly pour the hardener into it. Make sure to scrape out every last bit of the hardener into the paint.

Carefully stir the two components for 3 minutes until they are fully blended. Place the lid loosely back on the can and set it aside, away from the sun, for 30 minutes. The can may feel warm to the touch as the chemicals react with one another

Step 4: Paint on the epoxy

Paint on the epoxy using a 3 inch paint brush

Once the epoxy formula is ready, you must use it within 2 hours for it to cure properly, so work quickly. Always keep the garage well ventilated as you work.

Pour the epoxy into a roller tray fitted with a liner. Using a 3-inch paintbrush, cut in a line of epoxy around the border of the area to be covered, and paint it into seams and corners.

Step 5: Roll the epoxy paint

Roll the epoxy paint with a 10x10 inch roller

Move to the corner farthest from the exit. Using a 3/8-inch-nap roller fitted with an extension handle, roll a 10-by-10-foot section with

epoxy paint. The epoxy should feel slightly thicker and stickier than normal house paint. Rewet the roller and go over the section in a perpendicular direction, again feathering out uneven lines. Continue covering the floor section by section.

If you plan to use two coats, finish the entire floor, allow it to dry 12 to 24 hours (longer in humid or cold weather), then recoat it in the same manner.

Tip: Keep a wet edge as you move from section to section so there won’t be clear seams when the paint dries.

Step 6: Apply the color flakes

Apply the color flakes by sprinkling them lightly onto the epoxy-coated garage floor

As you apply the top coat of paint, stop after every section to put down the color flakes while the area is still wet.

Distribute the flakes over the area by first sprinkling them lightly, then slowly building up distribution until you have the right coating. Take a handful of flakes and shake them through your fingers the way you would sprinkle grass seed.

Work your way from the back to the front of the garage in conjunction with rolling on the epoxy. Once the entire floor is coated, allow it to dry for 12 to 24 hours (longer in humid or cold weather).

Tip: While most companies package their flakes in cans with a shaker top, broadcasting them by hand may be easier to control. Practice your technique on a tarp outside the garage.

Step 7: Prepare the top coat

mix the hardner and top coat

Pour the hardener into the clear top coat, making sure to scrape out all of it, and stir the mixture for 3 minutes until it’s completely blended. Place the lid loosely back on the can and set it aside, away from the sun, for 30 minutes. One minute before you are ready to

apply the top coat, stir the mixture for an additional minute. If you plan to use antiskid granules, add them now.

Step 8: Apply the top coat

apply the top coat

You’ll only have about 2 hours to work with the mixture. Using a clean paintbrush, cut in at corners, edges, and seams. Then, using a 3/8-inch-nap roller, start at a point farthest from the exit and roll on the clear coat in 10-by-10-foot sections as you did with the

epoxy paint. Work first in one direction, then in the perpendicular direction on each section, making your way forward until the entire floor is covered. The coating will appear white or milky at first but will dry clear. Allow 24 hours drying time for foot traffic and up to 72 hours before parking a car—longer in humid or cold weather.

6-Point Plan for Getting the Best Contractor

Authored by This Old House

Posted By Action Plus Home Inspections

Are you thinking about remodeling or doing a project around the house that will require a contractor?  The following guideline will surely help.

1.  The Selection Process

Conducting the Interview
Once you’ve settled on three potential contractors, arrange a time for each one to take a look at the project. You’re looking for someone with a good reputation who has the skills and experience to deliver a quality job at a fair price, sure, but that’s not all. The contractor and his crew will be spending a lot of time in your house, so ask a lot of questions.

Ask about anything you don’t understand, including terminology. He might refer to “bullnose” or “ogee” when discussing countertop edges, and if you don’t know the difference you might not get the shape you want. Ask about things you do understand, too — it’s a great way to assess the scope of someone’s knowledge. Gather information in one interview and use it in the next. If Contractor Jones says, “I’d replace that trim rather than trying to repair it,” ask Contractor Smith, “Do you think it’s worth repairing that trim, or should we just replace it?” There may be more than one right answer in a given situation, but the response will tell you if the contractor has the training, experience, and judgment to make decisions you’ll feel comfortable with.

Getting References
Ask any contractor you’re considering for at least five references; contact at least three. (“But ignore the first one, It’s usually the brother-in-law.”) The closer the projects are in scope and style to your own, the better. Get previous clients to give you details of the contractor’s dependability and workmanship, how he handled problems, whether the budget stayed intact, and if work progressed on or close to schedule. Bottom-line question: Would you hire the same person again?

Assessing the Bids
The low bid isn’t likely to be top-quality construction, and the high bid isn’t a guarantee of the best work. Some contractors submit a high bid if they don’t really want the job or don’t have time to come up with a more accurate proposal.  The ones in the middle are the most realistic.

Discuss up front how the contractor expects to be paid. Payments for large projects are typically spread out over three to six intervals, based on various completion benchmarks. The first payment is a deposit and seals the deal. The last is usually 10 to 15 percent of the total, delivered upon your approval of the project. Beware of anyone who demands cash payments; you won’t have any proof of how much you’ve handed over. A contractor who asks for his full fee up front is probably a crook.

2.  Contracts and Questions

Creating a Contract (and Yes, You Do Need One)
Every project, no matter how small, should be covered by a contract. It should include the basics — start date, end date, cost — as well as a clause stating the work will conform to all applicable building codes. The project description should be as detailed as possible. For example, a deck contract might specify: “Demolish old deck. Build new 10-by-12 deck.” Better would be: “Remove old deck, dispose of debris. Excavate site as needed, install new footings, posts, and handrails to code. Decking to be 2×6 cedar, custom knotty grade, nailed per code and finished with two coats of penetrating sealant.”

10 Essential Questions You Need Answered
The bigger the project, the more answers you need up front. Here’s a checklist of 10 essential questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line.

>> Timing
How long will it take? A good contractor can tell you when he can start and when he can finish, weather permitting. Find out if he’s working on multiple jobs at the same time, or if he will have to hire unfamiliar subs to handle the additional business. A schedule stuffed with too many projects may leave yours without his full attention.

>> Experience
How many projects like this have you done before? Whether it’s a whole-house remodel or just a built-in bookcase, an experienced contractor has already faced the typical problems and knows how to solve them. If he’s been working in the area for a while, he’s also more likely to know about local building codes and customs, and where to get the best materials forthe most competitive prices.

>> Supervision
Who’s keeping an eye on my project? Someone has to coordinate and review the work of the subcontractors while it’s going on, not afterward, when corrections may be impractical (and surely will be more expensive). Find out who will be the daily eyes on your job. That person should have the authority and willingness to resolve minor complaints, as well as be able to communicate effectively with you.

>> Permits
Will you obtain all necessary permits? If a contractor wants you to pull permits for any part of the job, it may cause problems down the line. Some towns require that the person who gets the permit is the one responsible for the work. Also, a handful of places, including New York City and North Carolina, have established funds to reimburse homeowner losses caused by faulty workmanship. The money may not be available if you pulled your own permit.

>> Collaboration
Have you worked with my architect before? Working with an architect calls for a level of cooperation that not every general contractor enjoys, especially if the architect is serving as a project manager. An established relationship between the two can help move the project along, whereas a frosty one can sink it.

>> Housekeeping
How will you protect my house and my family during construction? If the roof has to be removed to add a second story, exposed rooms must be protected from the weather. What would you rather hear: “We’ll throw a tarp over it” or “We’ll use 6-mil reinforced sheeting supported on a temporary framework and secure the tarp with battens nailed to the edge of the roof”?

>> Change Orders
What happens if I change my mind about something? All the details that looked so great on paper might not look as good when the project begins to take shape. Conscientious builders use written change orders to manage the process. The order describes the change and what it will cost, and both you and the builder sign it. Be wary of anyone who says, “We usually just figure it all out at the end.”

>> Liability
Do you carry liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance? If a worker is injured on your job, he or she should be covered by the contractor’s insurance, not your homeowner’s policy. Check with state or local authorities and find out what the minimum coverages are. Ask to see proof of insurance, such as a certificate with a current date. If you have any doubts, check with the carrier directly to see if the policy is in force.

>> Warranty
Do you guarantee your workmanship? Some builders consider themselves done after the final inspection. Others will come back to take care of any problems that crop up in the months following completion. You can also specify a time period for minor follow-up repairs in the contract.

>> Contact
How can I reach you? If you notice a problem, the best chance to resolve it is to contact the builder immediately. If the builder isn’t on site every day, will you end up leaving message after message on his voicemail? Find out if he’s reachable by cell phone. And after your first meeting, try the number to thank him for the visit — and to double-check that it works.

What to Do If Things Go Wrong
Many “problems” are simply misunderstandings that can be resolved through discussion. If that doesn’t work, put your concerns in writing and ask the contractor for a written response. Consult your contract. A good contract will not only specify materials and standards for workmanship but will also note how disputes should be handled — for instance, by an independent mediator or through a more formal process of binding arbitration. If no dispute resolution method is spelled out, contact the local contractor licensing authority and ask about filing a formal complaint.


How To Spot a Crooked Contractor

By Natalie Rodriguez of This Old House magazine

Posted by Action Plus Home Inspections

National Association of Home Builders can help you spot a crook

As we’ve all seen in news reports, natural disasters attract predators en masse. Of particular concern are phony contractors, who knock on the doors of distraught homeowners and offer to repair damaged roofs or remove fallen trees. They take a hefty deposit, but never return to do the work. Of course, these fraudsters don’t just come round after bad weather. The following tips from the National Association of Home Builders will help you spot a crook under any conditions.

Beware of a contractor who:
+ Refuses to give you a copy of his license and certificate of insurance, which should include liability and worker’s compensation.

+ Has popped up out of nowhere, literally. You can’t verify any of her references or that she even has a fixed business address.

+ Rubs you the wrong way. Trust your instincts,. If something doesn’t feel right about the person, then it probably isn’t.

+ Is so eager to get things started that technicalities get brushed away—but not the fee. He’ll say you don’t need to sign a contract and try to get you to pay for the project up front.

+ Asks you to write a check directly to him for products, such as cabinets and windows, instead of to the company supplying the items.

+ Offers a bargain in exchange for using your home as an example of her work or tempts you with a low price that’s only on the table if you sign that day.

+ Tries to get you to buy stuff you already have. Don’t get talked into paying to install a new HVAC system if you like the one you have.

+ Asks you to pay for work that hasn’t been done yet or for materials that haven’t arrived. If you don’t see it, don’t pay for it.

+ Uses scare tactics to get you to sign off on extras. Your walls won’t crumble because you didn’t get that ultra-expensive siding.



All About Garage Doors

Authored By InterNACHI

Posted by Action Plus Home Inspections

No longer an afterthought, they’re stronger, more weathertight, and brimming with character. The experts at This Old House help you pick a new garage door to complement your home

illustration of sectional garage door anatomy

Anatomy of a Garage Door

A sectional door, the most common variety, rolls up and down on steel tracks.

1. Torsion Spring
Counterbalances door’s weight so that it can be lifted easily.

2. Track
Guides door up to ceiling and back.

3. Roller
Rides inside track. Steel ones are noisy; nylon is quieter.

4. Hinge
Connects horizontal sections.

5. Section

6. Lock Bar
Engages with track to prevent door from opening.

7. Weatherstripping
Seals door edges against air infiltration.


What’s it cost?
For steel and wood, the two most popular materials, expect to pay $250 to $2,500 and $1,000 to $10,000, respectively. Prices do not include installation.

DIY or hire a pro?
While some makers sell directly to homeowners, installation can be dangerous and should be left to a pro.

How long will they last?
Warranties on craftsmanship and materials (not finishes) range from one year for some wood doors to lifetime for some steel ones.

How much care?
It depends on the material and its exposure to the elements. Wood requires regular recoating to prevent decay. Steel only needs repainting if it rusts. Fiberglass and vinyl can be painted if they fade; glass needs only an occasional washing. Hire a pro to inspect the mechanical parts annually.

Type: Sectional

illustration of sectional garage door

The most popular type, these doors have horizontal hinged sections that are rolled straight up and then back along the garage ceiling, often assisted by a spring-balanced motorized door opener. One ¾-horsepower opener can raise a door weighing as much as 1,000 pounds and spanning 20 feet. Built-in weather-stripping seals out the elements.

Type: Swing Out

illustration of swing out garage door

Two doors hang from hinges on either side of the opening. To resist sagging, each door must be well built and should be at least 1 foot taller than it is wide. Best for mild climates because snow drifts will prevent them from opening. Can be operated manually or with a special remote control. Good at sealing out the weather.

Type: Sliding

illustration of sliding garage door

Like barn doors, these hang from rollers that ride along a track at the top of the opening. Doors hung this way can be quite massive and yet are easy to operate in all kinds of weather, manually or with a remote. Track length is about twice the door width. This is the least weathertight garage door.

Type: Bifold

illustration of bifold garage door

Like closet doors, pairs of hinged vertical sections fold back against the sides of the opening. Bifolds aren’t as heavy as swing-out doors and don’t open out as far, but snow buildup could still prevent them from opening. Must be manually operated; no remote opener available. Can’t be sealed as tightly as swing-out or sectional doors.

Material: Metal

metal garage door

Strong, long lasting, and virtually maintenance-free, steel is the most popular option and comes in a wide variety of designs. More likely to rust in seaside locations. Look for dent-resistant 24-gauge sections. Aluminum is light and doesn’t rust but costs more. Foam-insulated doors can have R-values as high as 17. Prices range from $250 to $2,500.

Material: Wood

wood garage door

Offers the widest selection of styles, shapes, and decorative add-ons. Paint-grade doors often use engineered woods and wood-fiber boards. Stain-grade doors are built of solid stock. Requires the most maintenance. Can be insulated to R-10. With prices up to $10,000, wood is usually the most costly option.

Material: Fiberglass or Vinyl

fiberglass garage door

Fiberglass can look like painted or stained wood, but it isn’t as heavy, won’t decay, and doesn’t dent or rust like steel. Vinyl doors have a stiff foam core that provides good insulation. Design options for either material are limited. Colors are subject to fading, but these doors can be repainted or stained. Good near the seashore, but they may crack in cold weather. Both can be insulated to R-12. Fiberglass starts at $1,500, vinyl at $600.

Material: Composite

composite garage door

Cellulose fibers fused with resins create a material that won’t crack, warp, or rot like wood, or rust or dent like metal. Each section has a foam core for stiffness and insulation. This low-maintenance material is also used as trim over wood and steel doors. Can be insulated to R-8. Prices start around $1,500.

Material: Glass

glass garage door

Panels of tempered glass (or a tough plastic) mounted on a rustproof aluminum frame fill garages with light. Choose clear, frosted, or opaque single-pane or double-pane panels. Wood-clad frames are also available. Because of their weight, glass doors require heavy-duty springs. The R-value for single-pane glass is a minimal 1.5; double-pane glazing is R-4. Pricing is similar to composite doors.

Getting the Door

garage doors

No matter what size or shape your opening, there’s a door to fit your budget and taste.

What to measure. Before you shop for a sectional door, the only type that comes in stock sizes, measure the height and width of the opening to see if you need an off-the-shelf or a custom size. Most stock sectional doors cover openings 7 to 8 feet high and 9 to 16 feet wide. Doors for much bigger openings and nonsectional doors are custom built, so have a pro do the measuring.

Where to buy. Find stock and semicustom doors for standard openings at home centers, window-and-door retailers, and garage-door distributors. The salesperson can recommend an installer, who should double-check everything before you place the order. Order custom doors directly from a manufacturer or through its distributors.

How long it takes. Stock steel doors can be delivered as soon as the following day or up to two weeks after the order is placed. Semicustom steel takes three to six weeks; a custom wood door, eight to nine weeks. Professional installation takes about half a day, regardless of type.

What’s included. New tracks, rollers, spring, and hinges are typically part of the door’s purchase price. Installation and removal of old doors are not. Expect to pay $100 to $500 to have the new door put in and $75 to $200 for the old door to be taken away.

Paint or Clear Coat?

garage doors painted green

No matter which you choose, keep in mind that a factory-applied finish ensures that your door arrives ready to install and will hold up better than a DIY- or pro-applied finish. For an exact color match, or to save a few bucks, order a primed or unfinished door.

Paint. It’s the most durable finish and the most colorful. Use it to visually tie the doors to the rest of the house. If you want a custom color or want to freshen a faded factory finish, you can apply two coats of acrylic latex over any door material, even fiberglass and vinyl. Sand and reapply the same type of paint every five to six years.

Clear coat. This is the way to celebrate the beauty of high-quality wood doors. It once took eight to 12 coats of spar varnish to get this look. These days, makers use high-build translucent alkyds, like Cetol Door & Window, which need only three coats. To maintain, apply a new top coat each year.

Style: Neo-Colonial

neo colonial style garage door

Looking like formal wall paneling, this door is in tune with the fluted columns, divided-light windows, and other colonial elements on this newer house.

Shown: Cambridge sectional insulated steel with composite overlay trim, $1,400;

Style: Traditional

traditional style garage door

Wood arch-top doors with divided-light windows and herringbone panels have the look of a Victorian-era stable.

Shown: Northwest Door Heritage Classic model C008C sectional insulated western red cedar, starting at $3,000;

Style: Craftsman

crafstman style garage door

A two-tone color scheme highlights the rectilinear shapes popular in the Arts and Crafts–style architecture.

Shown: Coachman Collection model CD12 sectional insulated steel with composite overlay trim, $2,400;

Style: Mission

mission style garage door

Iron strap hinges, handles, and decorative nailheads, known as clavos, evoke Spanish-Colonial style entry doors.

Shown: Mediterranean Collection model 6000A sectional in alder, $4,500;

Style: Modern

modern style garage door

Stripped to the essentials, this translucent glass door is reminiscent of a Japanese shoji screen.

Shown: Avante Collection sectional with frosted glass in a bronze, anodized-aluminum frame, starting at $1,500;

Style: Rustic

rustic style garage door

This informal style, with lots of knotty, rough-sawn wood, calls for an equally relaxed wood garage door.

Shown: Carriage House Door Co. model 3020K insulated wood sectional with reclaimed barnboard, $5,000;

Accessories: Pergola

garage accessory pergola

This classic structure shades the doors while providing support for a handsome garland of clambering vines, like clematis and honeysuckle.

Similar to shown: Attached pergola in cellular PVC, starting at $8,000;

Accessories: Lights

garage with accessory lantern lights

Sconces mounted above or to the side of an opening add a welcoming glow while making it easier to locate a handle or a keypad opener in the dark. For convenience, equip the lights with a motion detector so that they’ll switch on when you approach.

Similar to shown: Camelot model 1705BK cast-aluminum sconce, $440 each;

Accessories: Hardware

garage with accessory hardware

Decorative handles, latches, and hinges help give modern sectional doors a swing-out door look. They resemble wrought iron, but they’re actually made of no-rust cast aluminum with a black powder-coat finish. Find them online at or through garage-door dealers.

A. R.H. Hunt Clavos by Amarr, $10 per pair
B. Canyon Ridge Sliding Bolt by Clopay, $27
C. Spade Strap Hinge by Clopay, $66 for four
D. Santiago 12-inch Fleur-de-Lis Twisted Pull Handle by Amarr, $150 per pair
E. Santiago 5-inch Ring Handle by Amarr, $150 per pair

Safety Check

kids playing in front of garage

If, like most folks, you have a sectional door perched above your home’s busiest entry, make sure it’s secure.

Periodically test the opener’s photo eye by waving a stick across its beam as the door comes down. The door should automatically go back up. Also, check the pressure-sensitive function by lowering the door onto a roll of paper towel. The door should reverse itself when it touches the roll. In either case, if the door doesn’t back up, call a pro.

If your opener and remote are more than 15 years old, it’s time for a replacement. Ones made before 1995 have fixed security codes that can easily be accessed by would-be intruders. New ones have rolling codes that change with every click of the remote. As a further precaution, shut off the opener’s power switch whenever you leave on vacation.

A staved-in garage door puts an entire house at risk. Extra bracing and beefier hardware can earn a door a wind-load rating between 90 and 150 mph. If you live in a high-wind zone, check on the rating required by your local building codes before you buy a new door.