Q - I have checked my house and it needs to be caulked in many spots. When is the best time of the year to caulk and are there any special tools to make application easier and neater? M.V.
A - The spring and fall are the best times of the year to do your caulking. The joints and cracks that you are trying to seal are usually at the midpoint of their width in the milder weather.They are widest in the winter and narrowest in the summer due to thermal contraction and expansion of materials. If you properly caulk the gaps in the summer, the caulk would surely tear when the gap widens in the winter.
It is very important to use the proper type of caulk material for each area or you will just end up doing the job again next year. You will probably need several different tubes of caulk. For example, polysulfide has good expansion and adhe-sion but does not resist sunlight well. Silicone caulk is very durable, but many types can't be painted and it is expensive.
If you are not very experienced using a caulking gun, it may be difficult to get a smooth good-looking job. You might consider purchasing a re-chargeable battery-powered caulking gun if you have much caulking to do. It is easy to do a quality caulking job with these caulking guns.
One type of commercial-quality caulking gun can apply 30 tubes of caulking per charge. Another less expensive type uses a standard battery-powered screwdriver to operate the gun. The screwdriver mounts in the back of the caulking gun and rotates a drive screw. This feeds out the caulk evenly.
There is a new type of reusable rope caulk that is very easy to apply. It has four strands of tough fibers that are woven together and coated with a non-hardening tacky and waxy type of coating.
You can apply it to gaps and leaks around windows or doors each winter or summer and easily peel it off again for use next year. If the gap is very small, you can separate the fibers into smaller strip of caulk.
When caulking a narrow gap or joint between two materials outdoors, it is often a good idea to widen it a little. If a gap is too narrow, there may not be enough width of the caulk to handle the expansion of the gap with temperature changes. The caulk will tear and you'll have to do it again.
With a wider gap or one you have widened, install a backer rod (usually a polyethylene or polypropylene material) into the gap first. This keeps the caulk away from the back of the joint which would limit its flexibility. It also gives the back of the caulk bead the proper shape for expansion.
You can write to me for UTILITY BILLS UPDATE No. 395 showing information on the battery-powered caulking guns, a sample piece of the reusable rope caulk, and a buyers' guide of 10 common types of caulk. Write to James Dulley, The Deseret News, 6906 Royal Green Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244. Please include $1 and a self-addressed STAMPED BUSINESS-SIZE envelope.
Q - My 15-year-old refrigerator makes a loud squeaking noise that lasts from just a couple of minutes to about half an hour. Is this wasting energy and what could cause it? C.F.
A - This noise is probably from a small motor that is wearing out. Generally, when this happens, the only remedy is replacing the motor.
You should have it fixed. The small motors in your refrigerator drive the evaporator and condenser fans. Not only will the drag on the motor waste electricity, but necessary air flow from the fans is reduced, too.