Saturday, June 18, 2011

Laminate Floor Care

We put in a laminate floor just over two years ago, which I absolutely love. We opted for slate-look tiles rather than the oh-so-popular wood planks. I've got enough wood in this house with the blue pine walls and wanted a stone-look floor without the cold hardness of regular tile. So laminate it was.

Well, just this past week, I learned how to take care of it. Fortunately, I'd been inadvertently doing everything mostly right but thought I'd post this info in case anyone needs to know. I'll give the expert advice I found and then a synopsis of what I'm doing. As always, follow the care instructions provided by the flooring manufacturer if those differ from the following generic care advice.

Expert Recommendations

First, protect your floor. Make sure you have felt pads under chair legs and use throw rugs in front of the door to catch most of the grit. Also, take your shoes off at the door. Clean up wet spills immediately. Don't slide heavy furniture across your laminate.

Second, vacuum, sweep or dust mop regularly. Clean with a microfiber cloth and plain water, water and vinegar, or special laminate cleaner. Do not wet mop and NEVER use soap, ammonia, or any harsh or abrasive cleaners. Also, do not wax or polish.

My Real Life

I actually have those plastic glides on the legs of my chairs and they've been fine so far. I do have commercial grade laminate, however, and the stuff seems nearly bulletproof (tested by yours truly by raking across a scrap piece with a sheetrock screw). I do have rugs in the entry and in front of the kitchen sink. We always remove our shoes in the entry. I get right on spills, such as the pint jar of hot blackberry jam that hopped off the counter and shattered on the floor and the puddle that formed when the freezer door got left open. Oh, and I have slid both my chest and upright freezers across my laminate a couple of times with no damage but would advise against this unless absolutely necessary (like standing water beneath your freezer).

I've done really well on caring for the laminate, although it's been inadvertent I must admit. I hate to sweep and always vacuum so I get an A+ for effectively removing grit from the surface. But that's about the extent of my floor care routine. I do wipe up spills as they occur (infrequent) but don't have a regular mopping schedule. Hallelujah! Beings I'm not supposed to mop, this procrastination has worked to my advantage. I did get a microfiber cloth and cleaned the whole thing tile-by-tile and was amazed how much dirt I got off the floor, mostly along the edges. Who knew? Another thing I love about my laminate is it has texture and pattern and NOTHING shows. How cool is that?

Laminate Floor Care Links

TLC Laminate Floor Care
Laminate Flooring Care

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rentals and Retirement

No doubt about it, owning rentals is a key part of our retirement plan. Not only do they generate a little income now, they can also provide free housing for us when we "outgrow" our ability to manage comfortably in our remote paradise. So owning rentals is a good investment for us in both the short and long term.

We choose to manage all aspects of our rental property, including maintenance. Translated into common terms, this means my husband and I just spent a full month painting and doing a variety of other improvements. And did we finish all five cottages? NO! But two are done and they look really cute.

Here's what happened -

First we set out on our painting adventure with a high level of optimism and slightly rose-colored glasses. We've been down this road before so we know everything takes at least twice as long as you think it will, so we doubled our time estimate. So far, so good.

Then we estimated paint quantity. At a coverage rate of 400 square feet/gallon, I calculated that we'd need about 15 gallons to paint all five cottages (they're small - only 24x28 each). We'd already decided on a very pale yellow (the same color we painted my big house before I sold it) and bought three 5-gallon buckets of paint. Again, so far, so good.

Then we started spraying on the paint. Well, this is where we had a reality check of sorts. You see, the gray siding has grooves and the grooves have edges that were not sealed up when the buildings were sprayed gray several years ago. So when the first wall was finished, we had yellow with gray stripes. Hmm. Not pretty - in fact, awful.

The only thing to do was grab brushes and prime all the grooves to seal them up. So we primed the grooves and repainted the first wall. Then we primed the grooves on the other three sides and sprayed on the paint. Much better! Except one small problem . . . We managed to put about 12 gallons of paint on the first house.

Now for plan B . . .

By this time I was less enamored with all the houses being yellow. I figured if we've got to buy more paint anyway, we should do them all different colors but with white trim and brown porches - kind of like a neighborhood rather than a complex. My next house color choice was sage green and guess what? We happened to have a bunch of leftover exterior green paint that was about the right color but too dark, so we just bought 10 gallons of white and mixed in enough green to get the color we wanted. Sure beat having to choose a color from those little paint chips!

The second house was easier because we already knew we had to prime the grooves. But we decided to prime the whole thing instead. And we used some different left over dark green so got our base coat for free and got rid of unwanted paint at the same time. How clever are we?

So now two of the five are done. When will we get to the others? Good question. It's much easier to paint when they're vacant and the others are not. One we keep unrented for our own use, however, so we could paint that one without disturbing any tenants. But it's not the one I want to see painted next. At this point, we're all painted out anyway so I guess we can decide which house to paint next when we actually have the time and inclination.