Dear Maintenance Men:

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Jerry L’Ecuyer & Frank Alvarez

Dear Maintenance Men:
I need to do some caulking in my apartment unit, both inside and outside the unit.  However, I am confused.  I stood at the home improvement center’s caulk section and stared for ten minutes.   I still don’t know what to buy!!!   Can you help explain the different types of caulks and where to use them?

Dear Frank:
Let us try to break down the most common of caulk types and when and where to use them. 

1:         Acrylic Latex caulk (painter’s caulk):  Inexpensive, easy to use, water cleanup. 
 Not for use in damp locations such as bathroom or kitchen or outdoors.  Designed to be painted over. 

2:         Vinyl Latex caulk:  Easy to use, water cleanup and can be used outside.  Not very flexible; use in expansion joints is not recommended.

3:         Acrylic Tile Sealant:  Easy to use, water cleanup.  The sealant is perfect for bathroom and kitchens and other wet locations.  It is mold and mildew resistant.  Paintable.

4:         Siliconized Acrylic Sealant:  Easy to use, soap and water or solvent cleanup.  Perfect for porcelain tile, metal and glass.  Similar to Acrylic Tile Sealant, but tougher and longer lasting.

5:         Pure Silicon:  Best for non-porous surfaces.  Long lasting, indoor/outdoor caulk.  Super flexible and strong.   Harder to use than any of the above caulks. Solvent cleanup. Mold and mildew resistant.  Could smell until cured.

6:         Butyl Rubber:  Best use is outdoors.  Messy to use.  Perfect for sealing roofs, valleys, gutters, flashing and foundations.  Moisture and movement tolerant.  Sticks to anything.  Cleanup with solvents.

7:         Elastomeric Latex Caulk:  Water cleanup. Longest lasting caulk. Great adhesion to almost all surfaces and can stretch close to 200%.  Elastomeric caulk is very tolerant to wide temperature and weather extremes. It is most often used outdoors. This caulk can bridge gaps up to 2 inches wide and deep.  The caulk dries very quickly, tool the caulk immediately after application.

Dear Maintenance Men:
I want to create a seating and relaxing area in the middle of my building’s courtyard.  My thoughts are to use decomposed granite and eliminate the current grass area.  How do go about installing the surface without making a mess or a future headache for myself. 

Dear Bryan:
Decomposed granite or DG for short is a great way to add a durable, natural and water wise surface.   A few things you need to know before you get started.    The key word in DG is “Decomposed”.  In other words, this granite is decomposing.  There are three options:  raw DG for flower beds, stabilized DG for walkways and resin-coated DG for driveways.   For your purpose you need to use a stabilized DG for walkways.  It has a binder mixed into the DG.  Non-stabilized DG is much cheaper, but will of course decompose, create dust when dry and slush when wet.    To properly install DG, dig down three inches overall and use a wood, rock or brick border to keep the edges of the DG from crumbling.  As an option, lay down a weed barrier cloth under the DG.  Apply DG in one and a half inch layers, water down (don’t flood) and tamp or use a heavy roller to compress the DG.   Wait eight hours between layers to let the DG settle.  Repeat the above for each subsequent layer. When installed properly, the DG surface will be rock hard, stable, dust free and will allow water to drain.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a resident who is complaining the garbage disposal smells.  I have tried running lemon slices and ice cubes to clean the disposal unit.   It works for a short time, but the smell comes back.    What steps do you recommend for resolving this problem? 

Dear Barbra:
The smell may come from a number of places.

1:         The first and easiest to check is the rubber splash guard that keeps things from falling into the disposal.  Remove the rubber splash guard and turn it inside out. Clean out the debris that have collected and wash with soap and water.

2:         Use a small toilet type bush with soap and scrub the inside of the garbage disposal. This will remove any slime build-up. (For safety reasons, shut the garbage disposal off at the breaker or pull the plug.)

3:         Remove the drain trap and clean out any sludge.   Many times the horizontal pipe between the trap and the wall may have hard deposits coating the inside of the pipe. The deposits will collect food and debris that may slow the drains considerably. 

4:         If you have a dishwasher, check the drain line leading from the air-gap or dishwasher to the garbage disposal.   It may be full of sludge that will cause a smell to come through the air-gap located next to the faucet.  Clean or replace any pipes with deposits or sludge. Check both drain lines for the above problems. 

5:         Now if you wish, run the garbage disposal with a few slices of lemon and it should smell good and stay that way.  Once in a while, throw some ice cubes in the garbage disposal unit to help scrape away any debris.

WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!!    If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: 

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment, please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at 714 956-8371  
Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance & construction for over 30 years. Frankie is President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and a lecturer, educational instructor and Chair of the Education Committee of the AAOC.  He is also Chairman of the Product Service Counsel.  Frank can be reached at (714) 956-8371 For more info please go to: 
Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker. He is currently a Director Emeritus and Past President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and past Chairman of the association’s Education Committee.  Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.