New Home Fire – 10x less time to escape than 30 years ago!!

Yes, you read that right, a new home fire is much faster burning than an old one.

Home fire escape times are 10x less  than 30 years ago, the link @ bottom shows why.

Not only does newer furniture and “manufactured” building materials release INCREDIBLY toxic byproducts during a home fire, they burn WAY hotter and faster than ever. That is definitely a safety concern! In the video (linked @ bottom), as the first fire burns  watch the thick, black smoke coming off of the “synthetic” materials. Then, look at the smoke on the same items in the second burn (with the older, wood and “natural fibre” products).

Home fire - rooms burn fast nowadays
Home fire – Concept and Photography by Matthew Albanese

Also noteworthy; the reporter (in the video) states that newer homes are built “better” and “safer”. However, he doesn’t mention that it is only when they are NOT burning! He doesn’t mention the toxicity either. Ever notice that many of the things we purchase nowadays say to unwrap them and let them “off-gas” before using? Some things don’t mention it, but if you smell something “off” that is exactly what it is doing. Letting off gas, usually not good gas (as if there is any).


Building Code

Most building material manufacturers and building codes adhere to a “Minimum Code” at the very least. Minimum code is just that, MINIMUM. Corporate marketing and profits should have higher priority than consumer safety. Manufacturers should be forced to make their products safer instead of faster and cheaper.

New Construction & Fire

As a home fire (in new construction) develops, the heat created breaks down the bond between the adhesives and wood (in plywood, particle board/OSB, laminated joists/beams etc), which causes them to FAIL, much more quickly than older, solid wood construction.

Roof trusses are generally a combination of separate pieces of small lumber with thin, steel gusset plates “stamped” on the joints. Due to their construction, they can fail in no time without actually burning!

Merely enough heat to slightly char the wood will allow the plates to fall off, and the entire support system crumbles. “Flash-over” happens when it’s so hot that everything combusts simultaneously. That’s just over 2.5 minutes in the “modern” room, but 30 minutes in the “antique” room!!
This is dangerous for anyone in the building, including firefighters who may need to enter for any reason.

Scary stuff – but definitely something to consider when designing/building and decorating.

Toilet Installation/Replacement

Your home may have a constant minor leak that will eventually take a chunk out of your bank account!


Be aware!

Toilet next to bathtub had rot due to shower-splash and toilet seal

You might think that the water on the floor between your toilet and tub/shower are due splashing or overrun from bathing/showering, but it could very well be from a leak in the flange/toilet seal.

If tiled, pay particular attention to existing grout lines around the toilet (if any), if they are darker than usual, or wet/dark from the toilet outwards (when the rest are dry) and you’ve not showered or bathed there in a while or there is no existing shower/bath in that room, then you may have a problem.

Also, keep an eye out for loose grout coming out from between tiles in the toilet area and/or cracked/broken tiles. If any, the floor may have been incorrectly prepared before tiling, or the tiles were incorrectly laid, or worse, the sub-floor is rotting due to a persistent leak – or any combination of the above.

If you have vinyl flooring and your toilet seems loose or is rocking more than usual, check to see if the floor feels excessively soft around the toilet.

If you have laminate flooring or carpet and your toilet seems loose or is rocking more than usual, check for expanding/swelling,

Rotted and buckled Laminate Flooring around toilet flange

mould or rot in the floor area directly around the toilet.

Hardwood, check for mold/rot, black/white or discoloured wood.

If you notice any of the above signs (and if there is access to living space directly below), check for water or water damage (bulging paint, cracks in drywall seams), stains, and or mold/mildew growth.

If any, you could have a big/costly issue on your hands.

If you are unaware of local building codes, unsure of your capabilities, don’t have/don’t know or can’t procure the correct materials or tools to get the job done, seek out a professional. The money you spend WILL save you money in the end (trust me).


Setting a Toilet

Before beginning, the following should be mentioned…

Building Codes

There are building/safety codes in most reasonably populated areas that should be adhered to.

Codes are different everywhere and one should always check with their local jurisdiction and it’s particular codes.

In reality, some building codes are absolutely ridiculous and force folks to choose between moral and legal responsibilities/actions when building or renovating a home.

I am by no means stating that if there are codes, that they are better for your individual living requirements, However, adhering to them may prevent you from personal damages; loss, fines, death or your insurance company denying a claim, should the need arise to make one.


Due to the fact that there exists an untold amount of toilet brands, models, styles, individual applications and materials that can possibly be involved in any given toilet installation/replacement, I may not cover every one in this article, but I will do my best to cover the basics at the very least. Tool requirements are obviously varied as well, so you’ll need to have ready those required for your particular application and materials.

If you have questions, just ask and I’ll do my best to answer in a timely manner.

That said, let’s get started…

Other than the initial assembly – when purchased new from the box (following the manufacturers instructions), and connection to a water supply, the most important part of installing a toilet is “setting”. Setting is the process of securing the toilet to the floor by means of the water closet (WC) flange (also known as a “closet flange” or simply “flange”) and a “seal”, which goes between the toilet and flange to prevent leakage of effluents exiting the toilet to the sewer drain system.


Assortment of various flanges

There are a myriad of flange types manufactured all over the world for numerous varied applications. Typically, flanges in North America are Toilet caulked to floor

made of ABS or metal and are normally anywhere from 3/16”- 3/8” thick, but again, depending on the location and application, there are variables. If your toilet flange is cracked or broken (but not causing a leak) there exists a multitude of “repair” products. There are also numerous adapters to; adapt older plumbing to newer toilets, extend the length of an existing flange, or to slightly move (off-set) a flange.

1/8″ lead flange folded over and sitting atop a 3/8″ riser plate (notice the lead tube which goes below floor surface)

In older homes you may encounter metal or lead flanges. A lead (pronounced “led”) flange is actually long lead tube, which is connected to the drainpipe below. It protrudes up through and above the sub and finished floor and is then bent or pounded down/out past the edges of the hole to form a somewhat flat, circular surface on which to install the seal. It can often be reused if it hasn’t been before – or perhaps reused once or twice, properly). If broken at floor level, you can purchase an adapter to solve the issue.

A flange should sit on top of the finished floor (the final, decorative covering), and should be screwed or bolted through the finished floor to the sub-floor, preferably using stainless steal or coated screws/bolts which won’t rust. Flange height can greatly affect toilet installation and type of “seal” required, if too low below or too high above the finished floor.

After flange installation, two “T-bolts” (see image below) must extend upwards from two slightly curved “keyhole-type” holes

T-bolts with “Break-away” section

(on the left and right sides of the flange when looking straight-on to the toilet from the front) in combination with two washers and two nuts, to bolt the toilet to the flange. I personally prefer the thicker brass bolts/washers/nuts (as opposed to any other metal) because they don’t rust or seize. There are varying lengths of T-bolt, and some have a “break-away” feature for ease of installation (explained later).

Only hand-tighten the nuts and slightly snug with a wrench or socket! Over-tightening can crack/break your toilet base, and also distort, crack or even break your flange. It is helpful to have someone sit on the toilet to compress the seal and make certain that the toilet is firmly on the floor when you are tightening the nuts.

For aesthetics, you can install a pair or colour matched plastic caps that hide the bolts, nuts, and washers, and also protect them from rusting. Just be sure to install the special plastic base washer on the toilet base before the metal one, then the nut, and tighten. You must then cut the bolts off above the nuts in order to fit the plastic caps.

Be careful how you cut the bolts!!

In some installations, there isn’t enough room to fit bolt cutters, a reciprocating saw, or even a small handsaw between the toilet and walls or other fixtures/obstacles. If you have a plastic flange, you don’t want to heat up the bolts or they can melt through it – nor do you want the bolts wiggling all around and loosening/stripping or breaking the flange, so a power saw isn’t the best choice.

In cases like this (and in general) it’s best to use the “break-away style” T-bolts because they have a thin area at a standard height, which can be snapped off (with a pair of pliers) easily enough in tight quarters), or if left intact, their length is enough for a taller/thicker toilet base (or a lower flange).


There are many types of toilet/flange seals on the market, some are wax-based and others are wax-less. Although generally preferential, there are instances when only one is right for the job. Any seal made for the particular installation you have will work if it (and the flange) have been installed correctly. Most seals will fit a 3” or 4” drain flange, but always measure prior to purchasing a seal – because every flange in your home could be a different size.

Wax-less toilet seals generally last longer lasting than wax versions and can be stacked

(which makes it easier for just about anyone to “set” a toilet without leaks), but under no circumstances is it recommended to “stack” wax rings.

It is recommended however that wax-type seals be replaced every 13 to 15 years regardless of a leak. Reason being that; because it is a non-glycerine substance allied to fats and oils, it is prone to degradation from temperature variations (typically warming) and microbes/enzymes.

If your toilet is rarely used – like basement or spare-room toilets, the lack of “flushing” which commonly allows cool water to enter and cool the bowl and stiffen the wax, can warm the bowl and soften or even melt the wax. Depending upon room temperature (particularly if a heater or heat vent is nearby), the life expectancy of the seal can be seriously shortened. Microbes and enzymes work faster when warm/moist as well, also speeding up the degradation process.

Seal Types

Wax Rings

Wax seal on flange extension with “T” bolts

This is the most basic of all toilet seals, has been around for ages, is a very reliable (although it can be messy – like most wax seals) but is still a great choice in many circumstances. If the flange is a minimum 1/4” above the floor level (as it should be) then a wax ring is a reliable option, although nowadays most plumbers use newer/better versions. (Pictured at right is a wax seal on a white extension ring which has been caulked to seal it to the floor. You can see the “T” bolts on either side)

Wax Rings With Sleeve

Wax rings with sleeve (often called “deep seal bowl wax”) come in various thicknesses. If your closet flange is standard height, then a standard wax ring with sleeve will suffice.

Sandwiched extensions and wax wings are unacceptable

If your flange is floor level or slightly below then you can use an extra thick wax ring. If the flange is lower than a 1/4” below the floor level then you should use a flange extension to raise the flange height or remove and replace the old floor flange and set it to the right height. (Do NOT sandwich wax seals & extensions like in the photo @ left).

Felted Wax Rings

Felted wax rings are for wall hung toilets. The felt helps keep the wax in place to provide a good seal. Felted wax rings are also used for urinals; they are just smaller wax rings.

Wax-Free Gaskets

There are a few types of wax-free gaskets available for those who dislike wax rings. Their special rubber seals fit onto the bottom of the toilet, and then a deep seal flange goes into the drainpipe, sealed by an O-ring that prevents splash up. It also prevents noxious sewer gas from entering the room and can be reused multiple times. *Fluidmaster manufactures one such ring that adapts to 3” or 4” drains.

Wax-Free Foam Gasket

*Sani-Seal is a wax-free, very soft, treated foam gasket that can do one thing that is not recommended for wax seals; it can stack. These gaskets are big enough to seal a toilet with a flange height from 3/8” above finished floor level to 3/8” below, if more height is required they can be stacked. Unlike most other types of seals, foam gasket seals maintain a good seal even if the toilet base rocks/twists. Also, unlike wax rings that get mushed once and need replacement, this type of gasket allows a toilet to be set multiple times without replacing it.

Sponge-Style Gaskets

Sponge style gaskets can be used as an alternative to felted rings and are mostly used for wall-hung toilets and urinals. They can also be used for floor-mounted toilets if specified. Sponge gaskets come in various thicknesses, so be sure get the thickness that is right for your application.

After setting, there is a conundrum…

Caulking a Toilet to the Floor


There is certainly no shortage of debate among home-builders, plumbers, renovators and DIYers (Do-It-Yourselfers) on the topic of whether or not to caulk a toilet into place. Although the pros and cons on (either side) have merit, I personally feel that the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis, but be sure to check with local building codes (if you want to cover your assets).


1- Can help to secure it from rocking/twisting;

Steadying aid fixed to toilet (not sitting on floor)

Due to it being bolted-down, the weight of the toilet itself, the water in it and the weight of a person, rarely is this an issue. However, there are occasions when it could be beneficial, such as when larger people sit/lean to one side when doing their “business”, or when attached apparatuses (like the one pictured at right meant to aid elderly/physically challenged individuals to sit/stand or steady themselves) are installed.

2- Prevents liquids (of any type) from getting underneath;

Which can cause mildew/mold growth and create germs/smells, or leakage into a lower cavity (if one exists and the flange has not been properly sealed to the floor).

3- Occasionally makes for a more “finished” look;

Blending a white toilet to a white floor without dark gaps, or when a floor isn’t quite flat/level – leaving irregular gaps between the toilet base and finished flooring (if you can colour match the caulking to the toilet/flooring).

Toilet caulked to floor


1- Rocking or removal of a toilet that has been caulked to a vinyl floor;

Vinyl flooring after toilet was cut away from caulking

Can stretch or even tear a “glued” finished floor away from the pre-finish floor (usually a thin sheet of very smooth plywood or other specifically designed for vinyl installation). If the vinyl is of the no-glue type, it can pull the entire floor right up. Any attempt to cut away the caulking can damage the finished flooring.

2- It takes longer to remove/replace the toilet (due to the above);

Creating higher cost for those who don’t/can’t “Do-It-Yourself”.

3- If done improperly it can make one hell of a mess (not all plumbers are good at caulking);

It is extremely hard to clean/remove silicone/silicone rubber, particularly if the surface it’s applied to is not absolutely smooth or non-porous (and even then), worse if it’s a soft vinyl.

4- It can create an “outline/ring” which can’t always be removed;

Residual silicone from a previous/poor installation may not be covered by the footprint of a replacement toilet base (if shorter/thinner) in the future, and leads to the following point…

5- The surface qualities of silicone/silicone rubber;

Have a tendency to collect dirt/debris making it look dirty/unsightly requiring more frequent and rigorous cleaning.

And lastly but most importantly (IMO)…

Toilet leaks are much nastier than regular water leaks and create serious mold growth

6- It does not allow possible effluent leaks between the toilet and flange to escape onto the floor;

View below floor level and above lower ceiling

Where it can be seen, allowing one to notice it and (hopefully) take measures to prevent extensive damage to the floor/ceiling below – if not on a concrete slab or if a lower level exists.

As you can see above, there are more “cons” to caulking a toilet to the floor.

One could argue that if/when done correctly (meaning the flange is completely caulked/sealed to the finished floor/sub-floor sealing any possible holes through which liquids/effluents can leak into a lower ceiling cavity or living space) it would eliminate any worry that a potential leak goes unnoticed because the toilet is caulked to the floor.

That said, in my many years of experience I have yet to see a builder/renovator properly seal a flange to the floor, and I have personally fixed dozens of leaks and repaired/replaced dozens of damaged floors (and ceilings) due to that fact.

Whether or not you caulk/seal the flange to the floor; always flush the toilet a minimum of 5 times and check for leaks when done.


Clients, Contractors and Contracts – a Responsibility Guide

Information for both Consumers and Contractors

Contractors have received a bad wrap in the last 25-35 years or so, and for good cause. Reason being that here has been a rash of half-assed, fly-by-night, hacker and fraudster contractors in the marketplace and it has undoubtedly left a bad taste in the mouth of consumers, and rightly so. But let’s not go painting them all with the same dirty brush.

Unfortunately the situation isn’t single-sided, there are plenty of good, honest contractors whose backs are up and whom have had to adapt and change the way they do business due to an insurgence of deceitful, crooked, sneaky and unscrupulous  consumers.

So here’s the thing, since the governing bodies and regulatory folks in the ivory towers have yet to implement any sort of equal playing field to hold those accountable (on both sides) to any form of acceptable justice, we as an industry need to educate ourselves and consumers on the correct way to do things in order to help keep the peace, and save face – at the very least.

Below is a short, educational guideline of responsibilities to those on both sides to save those less informed from yourselves (and others).

As always, please feel free to ask questions, add insight, report on incidents you have been a part of or give your side of a story. Every tidbit of extra information helps us all to ultimately understand each other and hopefully find better ways to do things. And please keep in mind that we will NOT tolerate any hateful, venemous speech in any form.

“None of us are as smart as all of us” -unknown


As a consumer,

ALWAYS get a MINIMUM of 3 estimates, that way you have a gauge as to price and duration, as well as a chance for discuss different viewpoints about your project that you may not have thought about.

More often than not, the estimate that is middle ground is the right one.

I can’t say this next part loud or often enough – It is your RESPONSIBILITY to properly vet any contractor or company that you are considering hiring for a project. That means CHECKING references. If they are worth their salt, a good, honest and reliable contractor/company will have no issue supplying you with a good list of references (which includes FULL NAMES and contact information). CALL THEM! Not just one either, call as many as there are on the list. The more the merrier as they say, chances are you’ll weed out any “fakes” if they exist. If possible, arrange to meet with a few (or all) of them to discuss any questions or concerns you may have and assess the work done. Although it may take some of your personal time, it is a very small price to pay for somewhat of an insurance policy. A happy customer will generally have no problem showing off the good work of their contractor, and they are often eager to have others see it. Remember, the idea is to NOT get caught in a scam or deal with a con.

The more research you do, the safer you are. If anything smells fishy, it probably is. Be a detective, look at the vehicle the contractor shows up in for your estimate and the clothes he/she is wearing, if well cared for, the chances are good that they will care for your project in the same manor. If they arrived to the appointment late, smelling like the ditch behind a truck stop, wearing torn, dirty clothes or parked an old, rusty, leaky vehicle on your newly paved driveway, these may very well be red flags. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau, or your local township/city offices to see if they are an actual registered company. A good rating (or no rating) from the BBB is usually a good sign, because whether or not a company has paid the outrageously overpriced fee for what the BBB does and becoming a member, the BBB will take notes/complaints about companies/contractors that are not affiliated with them.

If you are too proud, busy, lazy, or shy to research the contractor, then you lose the right to complain in the future if you get screwed.

Above-board contractors will not make excuses and will go out of their way to prove themselves if they want the work. Never be afraid to ask, it’s your project and your money. Make sure to get a DETAILED, SIGNED contract that has all their contact information on it and perhaps tax/business #’s as well. The more detail on a contract, the easier it is to see when something has been omitted, changed or added, and to file charges if need be. A step-by-step breakdown of any job can quantify the $$ you may be spending. For larger projects be sure to arrange (in advance) a payment schedule. As a general rule in construction, the materials and labour is a 50/50 split – but NOT always. Sometimes there is a lot of labour for a small amount of material and vice-versa. Also, it’s not uncommon for a contractor to request a holding fee to schedule a big project or 30-50% up front to cover the cost of materials (certainly with smaller companies) and sometimes a bit of labour (just in case). For larger jobs, a percentage of payment at the halfway point, on a weekly/bi-weekly or even on quarterly basis based of percentage of job completed is not uncommon either. Withholding 10% of the total until you are completely satisfied is also acceptable.

One must remember that smaller outfits who give free estimates must somehow cover the cost of travel time and fuel for jobs not undertaken and often don’t have lines of credit with a bank or credit with suppliers, particularly when starting out, so an up-front payment is often necessary. That said, they often have lower pricing and are more eager to do well and build a good reputation.

If we didn’t take on projects due to horror stories told by others, nothing would ever get done. Sure, there are fly-by-night outfits, but if you’ve done your research, your odds are much better that you won’t get taken.

FYI – If you find that the estimate is totally off (too high), it could be that the company/contractor is already very busy/doesn’t like you/your project and is highballing in order to purposely lose the contract. They could just be keeping face by showing up in the first place.

OR, they feel you are “stuck between a rock and a hard place” and will pay whatever just to get the job done, or figure you’re just a sucker – it happens, often. They could just be misguided and have high hourly charges in order to pay for their recent trade education, new business vehicle (and business vehicle insurance), tools, uniforms, liability insurance, Workman’s Compensation Insurance, contracting license(s), health insurance, and a plethora of other things that any GOOD, RESPONSIBLE contractor SHOULD have to protect himself, his family and his clients.

If you are apprehensive or not knowledgeable about a project and/or how to go about it, hire a consultant. At the very least it can save you a great deal of financial distress – not to mention aggravation, sleepless nights, health issues and ruined relationships.

As a contractor,

it’s your responsibility to do your research on the client as well. Be a detective; examine the property, the building(s), any vehicles and the state they are in. Do they look well kept? If so, they most likely have the money for upkeep. Does the perspective client seem overly picky or have they complained about other contractors who have failed them? Do you honestly believe you’ll ever be able to satisfy them? When asked for a holding fee for scheduling or deposit for materials on a larger job, do they balk at the idea? Ask if others have worked for them and who they are (in case of a new home check with the builder). Perhaps ask why those companies are not returning (if in a similar industry/trade), this gives you information you can look into that could save your assets. Check online to see if they are under investigation, have liens on property, or are in being sued by others. Do they seem absolutely clueless or perhaps overly educated and savvy of the project? Either one could be a sign they’re playing you. Most clients have done some research and know at least a little about what they want done and the process (but not always). If they know too much, why are they not undertaking it themselves? Keep an open mind and eyes wide open too. Be sure to make a detailed contract with any notes, clauses etc, even for “common sense” stuff, because we all know there is very little of that around nowadays. The more clear and detailed your contract, the less a client can claim they didn’t understand – and be sure they sign the estimate/contract to show that they have read and understand the terms. All to often I have heard stories of contractors who decided that they would get to paperwork and signatures later, only to lose in court of law when a crooked client takes advantage.

I too was stung – maybe more than once. Fool me once – shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me.

As to the subject of liens, they are only good if; there is something of value to liquidate, the person/people are not in prison (or if you can find them) or if there is enough to go around (after others involved have been compensated). “You can’t take blood from a stone”.

In closing…

“Good work is rarely cheap, and cheap work is rarely good” – not mine, but I love it.

Nowadays, most well equipped and experienced trades in medium to large cities are charging $50 to 75/hr., and some upwards of $100. If one is asking less, it’s probably because they don’t have much experience, aren’t insured, don’t possess the right tools for the job or a combination of the above.

How to Caulk like a Pro

How to Caulk like a Pro – tub and shower areas specifically

Like anything, practice makes perfect, and this is no different.

If you’re only doing it this one time, it won’t be perfect. But, it will be far better than if you weren’t In-The-Know…

It would be best if you read over this a few times first. And prepared everything you need beforehand.

A standard 30”x 60”, tiled tub/shower enclosure takes roughly 45 minutes to caulk well (like a professional). That is on new, clean surfaces (or after proper preparation if previously caulked). Preparation however, can, in some cases, can take upwards of 4 hours.

After completion, you SHOULD NOT use the tub/shower for a full 12 hours. This will allow for a proper cure as a rule. However it can vary depending on brand of caulk and ambient temperature/humidity.

ONLY use 100% pure silicone caulking

It is specifically designed for wet environments like tub/shower area. The caulk should have a vinegary smell to it when open – this smell is only temporary.

If joints transition between wet and dry areas (tub/surround to drywall or similar surfaces that can/will be painted/stained), use a latex or “siliconized” latex caulk that is PAINTABLE. If all you have is clear caulk, you’ll end up seeing the paint colour through the caulk. Should you decide to repaint at a later date though, you’ll still see the previous colour through the caulk.

*NOTE*, silicone CAN NOT be painted unless you peel, scrape, sand, apply primer/sealer and re-paint!

Clear caulking is usually best – provided there are no big gaps or ugliness in locations to be caulked. Otherwise you’ll see it through the caulk, in which case a color-matched caulk should be used.

Ultimately, you don’t want to highlight the caulking, it’s only there as a sealant – although some folks have been known to use it to cover poor workmanship.

The process

First, clean the hell outta any area to be caulked (with high % content of rubbing alcohol or pure, white vinegar). Be certain to dry it completely afterwards. Another reason alcohol is better/easier is because it evaporates faster.

A hairdryer or heat gun works wonders to speed up the drying process, just be careful not to overheat and melt, burn and/or discolour any surrounding materials.

Do not touch the freshly cleaned surface before applying the caulking – to maximize bonding.

Caulked Shower Controls
Nice tub and tile with caulked fixtures

Remember, a properly caulked joint needn’t necessarily be large to create a good seal.

Use ONLY a MINIMAL amount of caulk – a bead of 1/8” is usually all that is required if the mating surfaces have been prepped correctly. A 1/4″ bead is about average.
It is possible to apply a second coat if absolutely necessary, but only after the first layer has fully cured. Silicone won’t stick to itself, so you must have it bond to the surfaces on either side of the bead.

*WARNING, too much can make things really messy and is a bitch to remove.

If you do muck-up, you should wait until it has fully cured before attempting removal.  More bad than good can come otherwise.

The Tools

Caulking can be applied via a “caulking gun” with a rigid tube of caulk inserted, or with a softer, squeezable tube. The smaller, squeezable tube is best for tight areas where the standard, larger caulking guns won’t fit (like behind the faucet on many sinks).

If using a “gun” applicator; when stopping a “bead”, relieve the pressure on the drive piston by pressing the release lever at the back of the gun to minimize “oozing” of any caulk from the tube, and remember to place the dispensing tip over a piece of scrap paper or rag – just in case (try to do this just ahead of the intended stopping point).

Before starting, remove any obstacles that can impede your access to the area to be caulked if possible.

Keep a couple of old rags handy for wiping fingers etc. as they are much better than tissues or paper towels because the latter will come apart and stick to your fingers during the process. Lint free cloths/rags are best. Also, keep a small container of water close by for “tooling” the caulk after application (licking your finger works too, but there could be an occasion when you forget to wipe your finger before sticking it back in your mouth and it’s not pleasant – trust me).

Start at the top

and work downwards, beginning with the large back wall sides, then the end walls and tub joints. That way if there was/is any crap left behind after the cleaning process it won’t fall down into the fresh caulk. Once you reach the end of the joint (or meet the end of the first half of a longer joint), relieve pressure from the caulking tube and pull it away.
Put the tube of caulk down where the dispensing tip is on or above a piece of paper, tissue (or something disposable) so any drips or oozes don’t get on anything.

Only apply caulk to one joint at a time, “tooling” each one immediately following application. For longer beads/joints (such as the long horizontal joint where the back wall meets the tub or the long vertical corners of shower walls for instance), start from one end and work your way to the middle, stop, then do the same from the opposite end. Once you reach the spot where you stopped previously, just continue slightly past it (to blend it) while relieving pressure on the tube/trigger.

You will need to wipe and wet your finger before “tooling or blending” the 2 halves together.

DO NOT tool with a dry finger – UNLESS you are actually trying to remove caulk.


Wet a finger (you choose the appropriate digit – depending on the location, area and size of the joint). Very gently press it into the center of the caulked joint between the 2 surfaces, starting at one end.

Keep an even pressure across the bead on both sides of the joint and go as far as you can comfortably, stopping before you either have to change angle/position, or if you see/feel a build-up of caulking below your tool.

If you get build up forming, it’s possibly because you’ve applied too much caulk, too much pressure, had too little water on your finger, or a combination of 2 or more of the above. Wipe off the excess on a rag (being careful where you put it down and how you pick it up afterwards).

*If you remove your finger for any reason, wipe and wet it again so it will glide effortlessly across the bead/joint.

When tooling, don’t be afraid to wet finger often, but don’t “soak” the caulk.

Once you have finished, don’t touch or get it wet again until fully cured.

Good luck, and happy caulking!


Permits – Cover Your ASSets

“Building Permits are USUALLY a good thing”

However, lately permits are becoming more and more of a cash-grab for government agencies (some are down right ridiculous too).

That said, whether required or not, there are a number of incredibly good reasons why you SHOULD get a permit and/or have an inspection done by a professional when doing any substantial renovations to your home (even a simple bathroom update might require one).

Because homeowners are allowed to do repairs/upgrades themselves doesn’t it’s a good idea to do so. Most don’t have the knowledge, experience or tools for the undertaking in the first place, and then often don’t use the appropriate materials or follow codes (building, fire/safety, etc), let alone get permits to do so.

Regardless of skills etc, in most cities/towns the law require that homeowners get any and all applicable permits BEFORE doing any modifications that affect structure, or utility (you should always check with your local authority for details).

Unfortunately if that’s how you roll, it won’t necessarily only be you who suffers if something goes wrong down the line. Poorly executed projects can cost lives, create health and financial issues, lawsuits, heartbreak, and a myriad of unwanted experiences that nobody should have to deal with – at any time.

Permits are an insurance policy on you and your insurance.

When you apply for a permit, it’s more than just documentation (which by the way, can be VERY useful for future reference), it’s also a way to ensure things are done correctly/safely. It means your insurance claim won’t be denied – in the event you need to make one. Let’s face it, insurance companies will look for ANY reason NOT to cover you (regardless of what your agent said when you signed on the dotted line).

Most permits generally include 2 inspections in the price – a rough inspection and a final inspection. And whether it’s for foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing – whatever, a permit can save your ass.

Having the inspections means that if the work being done (by you or others) isn’t up to snuff (minimum code or fire/safety standards), it will be flagged and require correction before getting a stamp of approval; making it safe for you, your family, your guests or whomever purchases the home after the fact. That in itself should be enough to convince most to go “by the book”, but it’s often not the case.

Inasmuch as your “Friendly Insurance Agent/Broker” says that s/he is doing the best they can to protect and cover you/your family in case of emergency, the shareholders of that company don’t give a rats ass about you, and will do whatever it takes to save their bottom line. Since their bottom line is affected by payouts, you can be damn sure they’ll find any reason/loophole to get out of paying a claim. One of those reasons is fraud – lying to them.

I’ve heard it a thousand times, “I’ll do it myself, and just tell_____ that is was that way when I purchased/moved in…

Almost every piece of construction material manufactured today has various codes marked on them in numerous places. Those codes include information that the product adheres to certain construction/safety standards, and also a Date of Manufacture. The date code shows EXACTLY when a product was manufactured, and even if it’s not visible, a quick look at the material and a few specific measurements will tell a great deal about it’s age.

If your house burns down (while you are living in it or after it selling it) and the cause is found to be faulty wiring (for instance), an immediate investigation is done to find out how old the home is, when the wiring in question was manufactured, and if all applicable permits and inspections were done at the time of installation. If the wiring is newer than the home, an investigation into permits pulled after the fact will be done. If no permit/inspection documentation can be found which correlates to the date of manufacturing on the materials in question, any insurance claim(s) may very well be denied. Not only that, but if the resulting fire led to damage or loss of others’ property, or worse, injury or fatality – criminal charges and lawsuits could possibly ensue.

With or without insurance, you could still be criminally charged and sued if you had anything at all to do with it, and trust me – the insurance companies and applicable authorities will know who was living in the home when the work was done.

So, whether you DIY (Do It Yourself) or have others perform the work, you should ALWAYS ensure that all applicable permits have been pulled and inspections are completed. Be certain to get a LICENSED AUTHORITY to sign-off on the work (putting their stamp of approval on it), taking the responsibility away from you and covering your assets.

Better safe, than sorry.