QThe caulk at the base of our fiberglass shower keeps developing mildew. I clean it, apply new caulk, and it happens all over again in a few months. Any suggestions? -- Frank
AYou could be using the wrong caulk. It is best to use a "tub-and-tile" caulk in high-moisture areas such as showers and bathtubs. Make sure the caulk is labeled "mildew proof" or "mildew resistant." One of my favorites is Polyseamseal Tub & Tile Adhesive Caulk (www.polyseamseal.com), which is highly resistant to mildew. I also prefer acrylic-latex or water-based caulks, such as Polyseamseal, rather than silicone for this type of job. These caulks are easy to apply, smooth and relatively easy to clean up.
Tub-and-tile caulks are available in caulking-gun cartridges and smaller toothpaste-type tubes. I recommend the smaller tubes for most do-it-yourselfers who plan to do a single shower or tub. Small tubes are easier to handle in cramped shower and tub spaces, and there is usually less waste.
The best bet is to remove the old, mildewed caulk entirely before applying the new caulk. Pry an end of the caulk ribbon loose with the tip of a sharp knife and pull gently. Many caulks can be pulled off in long strips. Clean out remaining bits of caulk with the knife or the tip of a small screwdriver. Clean the joint with an old toothbrush and detergent solution.
Any traces of mildew should be removed by scrubbing with chlorine bleach. Read the directions for the specific caulk carefully for additional cleaning tips. Let the joint dry thoroughly and apply a new bead of caulk, smoothing it with a wet fingertip.
It is important to let the caulk dry thoroughly before getting water on it. Drying may require 24 hours or more.
Some simple maintenance can also help keep mildew from appearing on shower or tub caulks. After drying yourself following a shower, use your towel to wipe down the shower or tub walls. Be sure to wipe along the caulked area to remove any moisture.
Keep the door of the shower or tub enclosure open to help ventilate the interior. An exhaust fan in the bathroom, to carry moisture outside, will also help control mildew and mold.
Can you provide some guidance for building a simple platform bed? Is there a book or video I can buy?
-- J. Fleming
A simple platform bed is just a four-sided box with wood strips across the top to support a mattress and box spring. Almost any strong wood can be used, but it is easiest to buy boards 10 inches or 12 inches wide to form the box; then cut them to length to fit the mattress.
Assemble the box with screws and glue, then construct a ledge inside the box to hold the narrow boards, or slats, that will help support the mattress and springs. The ledge can be pieces of 1-by-4-inch wood screwed to the inside of each side. The ledge should be the same distance from the top edge of the box as the slats are thick, forming a flat top surface. Space the slats, which can also be 1-by-4-inch pieces, about 12 inches apart.
There are a few books on beds that should help you. One is "Beds," by Jeff Miller (Taunton Press, 1999). Some information on platform beds, including some sources of plans, is available at the Web site www.platform-beds-r.us.com. Some platform beds have headboards, storage space underneath and other variations.
I removed the carpet from a room where I want to put a smaller area rug. The wood floor is dark. Is there some way to lighten it without sanding? -- E. Phillips
The floor is probably dark because the wood was stained to a dark color, then sealed. Dirt and age can also darken a wood floor. You can probably brighten it some by using a wood-floor cleaner, sold at most home centers.
Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions cannot be answered personally.