Ask The Mikes

Home Remodeling

Our team of home improvement experts is here to help with all of your home improvement questions. Each month, we’ll feature some questions from our customers to be answered by Mike Campbell, Mike Strom and Mike Ducato, three of our staff members who are committed to providing quality home improvement services. Well-established in DuPage County, IL, our offices are in Naperville along with 15,000 feet of showroom space.

We encourage our customers to contact us with any questions that our Mikes can answer. We look forward to hearing from you!

About The Mikes

Mike Ducato Mike Ducato – Vice President of Sales 

Mike Ducato has 30 years of experience with design, home improvement trends and solving design issues.  Mike Ducato works as a design consultant, assessing clients needs and wants and helps customers from concept to completion with home projects. He also visits job sites to assure quality control and coordinates with the Reliable Home Improvement design team members to ensure the best design is achieved.

Mike Strom – Production Manager  Mike Strom

Mike Strom has 30 years of experience in all aspects of construction projects. He is our team problem solver with customer satisfaction at top of mind. As a liason between architects, traders and customers, Mike Strom schedules all jobs, maintains customer contact on constant basis, oversees all trades and handles all problems that may arise in the field. Mike Strom is our go-to person for all field operations.

 

Mike Campbell – Operations Manager  Mike Campbell

Mike Campbell has more than 40 years experience with residential remodeling, customer service as well as a vast amount of knowledge in sales and home design. We can count on Mike Campbell to handle procedure development, process management, ensuring a timely process for our customers and ensuring customer satisfaction.

Featured Questions

Q. How do I repair cracks in my basement wall?

A. Mike Strom. Foundations are rigid and tend to crack over time. Minor cracks are normally not a cause for alarm. Major cracks, on the other hand, indicate that there is movement and can undermine the home’s structural integrity. If the cracks are severe and many, it’s best to hire a structural engineer to evaluate the problem.

A vinyl concrete patch is a good choice because of its elasticity. Mixed with a latex liquid, this can provide a good seal. It is, however, always recommended that you hire a professional who can inject the crack with an epoxy that will last for a long time and are usually guaranteed against re-cracking.

Read more about repairing wall cracks

Q. How do I choose the best type of paint for a high-moisture area (such as a bathroom)?

A. Mike Campbell. Due to the high levels of humidity and condensation that both kitchens and bathrooms are subjected to, they become prone to paint cracking, peeling and mildew. Painting with a semi-gloss paint is recommended. Semi-gloss paint is also very washable.

Q. What flooring is best for basements?

A. Mike Campbell. If you don’t like to take chances, you can’t go wrong with ceramic or porcelain tile. Unaffected by water or water vapor, ceramic or tile can be installed right over the cement slab in your basement. Another option is to glue down vinyl tiles or planks. There are a lot of choices here that emulate real wood and hold up well to water.

Q. Should I add a basement addition to an existing home? Is it worth it?

A. Mike Ducato. I hope you are willing to spend a pile of money for this. When you have very limited space such as city lots with narrow side lots and small backyards this might be a consideration since adding on is not an option due to a lot of restrictions. An average basement can run anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000. Now add to this the cost of relocating existing mechanics and the other possible structural considerations. The liability issue is also a potential consideration since cave-ins are certainly possible. Consider this alternative very carefully and get all the expert advice you can before embarking on this.

Q. What is the best method for removing wallpaper?

A. Mike Campbell. Wet it with a spray bottle of hot water spraying twice to loosen the paper behind the surface or just steam it off.

Read more about removing wallpaper

Q. How much insulation should I use in the attic?

A. Mike Strom. This area requires R 49 in a flat attic. If the room is vaulted you would use an R 38 between each rafter.

Q. Should I paint concrete?

A. Mike Strom. Concrete can be pained or stained using a sealer prior to doing so. Be sure to use paint or stain that is recommended for this application.

Read more about painting concrete

Q. Do all home renovations require a permit?

A. Mike Ducato. Any room addition, kitchen or bath remodel will require a permit. For all other renovations, it’s best to check with your local building department before embarking on any home improvement.

Read more about home permits

Q. How I can prevent mold?

A. Mike Strom. Dry any wet areas immediately. Pay particular attention to exterior doors that gather moisture from bringing pets in from the outside.  Improve air flow in your home. Open doors between rooms to increase air flow to bedrooms, closets, etc. Leave your shower fan on for at least ten minutes after showering. Monitor the humidity in your home. It should be between 30 to 60 percent to avoid the possibility of excess moisture which will invite mold.

Read more about preventing mold

Q. Should I paint over wallpaper

A. Mike Campbell. There are a lot of factors here to consider. What condition is the wallpaper in? Will the moisture from the paint cause the paper to lift?

And yet if you do remove the paper will you create more damage to the drywall and/or plaster. Removal of the paper is always the first choice

but if you choose to paint over consider that you will see the seams from the wall paper and also have to live with the texture of the paper that will show in your new paint job.

Q. How do I fix water stains

A. Mike Campbell. You didn’t say where the water stains are. I will assume they are in the ceiling for discussion purposes. The first thing you must do is to mix up a solution of bleach water. If you use a spray bottle put about a 1/2 cup of bleach and the rest water. spray and clean the area and let dry thoroughly.

This will prevent any mold from forming.

Now you need to apply a product such as Kilz primer to the stain. This product is available in a spray can making the job easier. Now go ahead and paint after the primer dries. The newly painted spot may dry lighter than the rest of the ceiling. If this occurs, you may want to paint the rest of the ceiling for a uniform finish.

Read more about fixing water stains

Q. What can I do to keep my pipes from freezing this winter 

A.  Mike Ducato. Disconnect all outside hoses to prevent freezing. If there is a shut off for the hose in the basement or crawl shut these off as well. open the cabinet doors below the sink to promote air flow to the pipes. Keep the garage doors closed whenever possible particularly if there are water pipes present. Finally keep a hair dryer handy just in case of a frozen pipe. This will thaw the pipe out and allow water to flow again. If you notice any split in the pipes before you thaw them, call a licensed plumber immediately.

Q. What is the best strategy for choosing colors in a kitchen? Should I go with warm hues or cool colors?

A. Mike Ducato: The best strategy for choosing colors in your kitchen is personal preference.  When deciding between warm or cool colors, think about what colors you gravitate towards.  Much time is spent in the kitchen so it is more important to select colors that you like rather than being “on trend.”   Cool colors are the trend right now, however, you can find warmer tones in an updated color palette as well.

Read more about choosing the best color for your kitchen

Q. Do you recommend water-saving toilets and shower heads? How do I pick the best model for my home?

A. Mike Campbell: We do recommend the use of water saving toilets and shower heads.  On average, 20-25 percent of water usage in a home is from showering and the average person uses 27 gallons of water a day from just flushing the toilet.  The benefits of using these products in your home include water conservation and lower water bills.  Water saving toilets and shower heads can drop household water usage by as much as 40 percent.  In selecting these products, research specific brands and models on the internet for comparisons and reviews.

Read more about water-saving toilets and shower heads

Q. Freestanding vs. Built-in bathtubs: What do you recommend and why?

A. Mike Strom: There are pros and cons to both bathtubs.  For example, freestanding tubs offer more options in style and design but are typically more expensive than built in tubs.  Built in tubs are better in smaller spaces and offer more surrounding storage for towels and soaps but are not as visually impactful as a freestanding tub.  Choosing the right tub has a lot to do with your existing space and your budget.

Q. How do I select the most flattering lighting in the bathroom?

A. Mike Ducato: Flattering bathroom lighting is dependent upon multiple sources of lighting to eliminate any shadows.  Lighting sources should include fixtures around the mirror, overhead lighting and lighting above tubs and showers.

Q. Should I have a garbage disposal installed in my kitchen?

A. Mike Campbell: This is somewhat complicated in that a disposal provides a quick way to get rid of small scraps. However, the downside to this is the average of 900 gallons of water it takes to dispose of excess food every year. More and more people are choosing to turn the unwanted food scraps into compost for plants and gardens. In a world of ever shrinking water supplies, this may be a better and more environmentally friendly choice.

Read more about garbage disposals

Q. I want to remodel my kitchen, but I have no idea where to start. What do you recommend?

A. Mike Ducato: One of the best ways to start is to collect magazine pictures of some of the things that you like, and in some cases things that you may not like as well. The National Kitchen and Bath website is an excellent resource for ideas and guidance. A visit to a local showroom is always a good start as well. At Reliable, you can find 15,000 sq. feet of showroom that showcases full size kitchens and baths as well as expert advice from our many designers as well as licensed architects. We welcome you to visit us, and if you’d like, we will provide you with a free estimate, design and consultation at your home.

Q. What type of tile should I use on my bathroom floor and shower?

A. Mike Campbell: Porcelain would be my choice for the following reasons:

  • It’s the least porous type of tile
  • Limited maintenance and the most choices available.

Here at Reliable, we also use an epoxy based grout to ensure water tight integrity and stain resistance for many years to come.

Read more about bathroom tile

Q. What’s the best way to ventilate my bathroom? Do I need an exhaust fan?

A. Mike Strom: The one way to vent your bathroom is by opening a window or skylight if they exist. Being in the Chicago area in the winter not too many people open windows for ventilation. The best year round way to vent your bathroom is by an exhaust fan. Building codes require minimum 50 cfm intermittent ventilation for bathrooms. A rough rule of thumb for sizing the exhaust fan is to calculate the square footage of the bathroom. Eight feet wide by ten feet long equals eighty square feet, you need 80 cfm fan. Exhaust fan should be turned on before starting shower and remain fifteen to twenty minutes after turning off shower. You can select an exhaust fan that has a timer or has a humidity sensor. Placement of the fan will also make a difference in performance and should be closer to a source of humidity generated.

Read more about bathroom ventilation 

Q. What should we be doing to get ready for the summer? Our house is 10 yrs old and we want to keep up with any maintenance projects that we should be considering.

A. Mike Campbell:  If you have a steel garage door, it’s a good idea to apply a coat of car wax on the face.  As a painted surface, the garage door is susceptible to discoloration and fading. By applying a coat of your  favorite car wax every summer, your door will maintain its beauty for many years. This also applies to storm doors and windows as well.

Read more about summer home maintenance

Q. Do I need to clean the leaves off my roof?

A. Mike Strom: Most definitely! Leaving leaves and branches can cut your roof’s life as much as in half. Should you notice any tree branches rubbing against your roof, have them removed and trimmed back by a proper licensed contractor to insure the integrity of your shingles for many years to come

Q. When is the best time of year to do my house’s maintenance?

A. Mike Ducato: Spring and fall are the best times to consider your maintenance projects. Replacing filters, changing smoke detector batteries are a great job for spring and fall. Cleaning your dryer vent is something that also should be done in the spring and fall. Proper maintenance will extend the life of your dryer  and more importantly avoid a fire from built up lint.

Q: How often should I change my furnace filter?

A. Mike Campbell: Generally speaking for a traditional fiberglass furnace filter, once every three months should be enough. Factors you should consider: do you have pets? Do you smoke or live with someone who does? Once a month should do the job to keep the toxic air at bay in your home should this be the case. As a remodeler we recommend once a week especially during the drywall process where airborne dust can find its way into everything you own especially the furnace.

Q: How do I keep my grout from discoloring?

A. Mike Ducato: It is of the utmost importance to seal newly installed grout to prevent discoloration over time. Excess water used in the installation can cause this as well. The best way to insure against discoloration is to make sure you’re using grout that has not exceeded it’s shelf life and follow manufacturers suggestions for recommended additives while preparing to install your new grout. Finally, should you have discoloration, mix two cups of bleach to a bucket of water and apply with a brush to clean and restore your grout. Afterwords, apply a good sealer. Remember that oftentimes the more the sealer costs, the more probable it will do the best job. Your local tile store should be able to recommend a quality sealer and one that’s not too difficult to install. The last step is to fill the corners with silicone based colored caulk to match the tile for a water tight job.

Read more about grout discoloring

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