The home improvement project is one man’s dream and another man’s nightmare. My projects are prolonged nightmares because I rarely start and finish them in the same day, month or even year. It takes me a long time to finish because I start too many at once and they seldom go well. If you’re keeping count, the address sign do-over, the closet organizer that gave me a headache, the backsplash backbreaker, the exterior paint project that took 3 years, the garage door repair that didn’t repair anything and now the aching caulk joints. Get ready to learn something. I know I did.
My home improvement projects follow a predestined sequence.
- conceive an improvement or repair project
- start the project long after conception. My project gestation period is about 9 months to one year. (it’s similar to giving birth).
- realize during execution it isn’t progressing as planned
- stop, swear alot and blame the dog! (this step is required for every successful or unsuccessful project)
- salvage the errors and finish part of the project while simultaneously learning a great deal
- regroup with new knowledge and reattempt the project
- finish the project with improved results (probably 9 months to a year later)
My current project is caulking the exterior thresholds on the three patio doors a contractor installed 18 months ago. The thresholds are 3/4″ to 1″ higher than the adjoining porch surface. The gap between the threshold and porch allows conditioned-air to escape the home and I want to stop the air leak.
The project started perfectly (a rare treat for my projects) but soured during the finish work.
- vacuum the joint to remove all laitance that may interfere with the bond
- install a backer rod appropriately sized for the joint; In my case 1/2″
- caulk the joint…
Step 3 is where the project erupted!
Problem 1: irregular finish joint. My finger was too small to properly tool the 1″ wide joint. Extra project 1 — retool the joint
Problem 2: the black caulk creeped over the mortar joint and onto the tile. Extra project 2 — control the caulk spread
Problem 3: i wiped the excess caulk on a paper towel. The caulk penetrated the paper towel and stained the tile. Extra project 3 — clean the tile.
Solution 1: control the caulk spread. I grabbed painter’s tape and taped the edge of the tile to contain the caulk. It worked, but my finger was still a lousy tool — see Solution 2.
Solution 2: tool the joint. I sought a smooth curved object to use as a tool. I tried a ball, a spray can cap and a test tube before finding a piece of pipe insulation. The pipe insulation worked great and would have worked better if the caulk didn’t cure while I searched.
Solution 3: clean excess caulk. i used a piece of cardboard behind the paper towel to absorb the excess caulk and scrubbed the tile with a poly brush to remove the stain.
I’ll start the project tomorrow, exactly the same except I’ll tape the joint edge first, I’ll work in smaller sections and will use the foam tool for the finish joint. Now it should work as I originally envisioned.
My projects often start well, disintegrate in the middle and recover in the end. Needless to say, I learn a great deal from poor execution, but just once it would be nice for a project to finish without a major learning experience.