Show Notes: Wood Stain Buying Guide – On the House

Show Notes: Wood Stain Buying Guide

By on July 25, 2014
deck finishing with The Carey Brother formula

Wood Stain Buying Guide

 When greener isn’t better

Wood stains must meet environmental rules that lower volatile organic compounds. VOCs can cause acute symptoms such as headaches and dizziness, and some may be carcinogenic. But manufacturers admit that removing VOCs from wood stains and treatments without reducing performance is a challenge. Solid wood stains that have made our winners list still looked good after the equivalent of up to three years on a deck. All of our picks meet or beat federal limits for VOCs of 350 to 550 grams per liter for stain. Several also meet stricter regional California limits of 100 grams per liter for stain. Some offer mildew resistance.

Best choices for older decks

Before 2004, most decks were made of lumber pressure-treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) to fend off rot and insects. But concerns that arsenic, a toxin, could leach into the soil led to the introduction of other preservatives. If the wood in your deck is pressure-treated with CCA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends using a semitransparent stain, which tends to penetrate the wood and seal in the arsenic, preventing it from leaching out. Solid treatments also seal well, but they may flake or peel and require sanding, which would spread arsenic-laden dust from CCA lumber. If your deck is made of CCA lumber and its finish is flaking, we suggest calling a pro equipped to safely remove the old finish, dust, and debris.

How to choose

Insist on top finishes. Your painter’s favorite stain might not be a top pick in our tests. The contract should specify the brand and line of stain, its cost, and how many coats the pro plans to apply. (Figure on a coat or two.)

Use the right materials. Using the wrong brush, roller, or technique can mar the final result. Stick with synthetic brushes for water-based stain because natural bristles are hollow and can lose their rigidity as they absorb the water in the finish. For rollers, use one with a 1/4-inch or shorter nap. You need to apply a thin enough layer that it adheres to the wood without pooling. Excess will flake off, resulting in spotting.

Prep decks carefully. Washing and sanding are typical first steps to staining a deck. But remember that sanding a wood deck treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) releases toxic arsenic into the air and surrounding soil. Call a pro if your deck was built before 2004 and its finish is flaking. If you’ll be pressure-washing a newer wood deck, read instructions before starting and cover adjacent landscaping with plastic sheeting. The pressure needed is typically 1,500 PSI; a wide-angle spray tip of 25 to 40 degrees creates a relatively wide spray that protects the wood. Angle the spray and keep it between 6 and 12 inches away from wood surfaces.

Thank you to Consumer Reports


A Very Smart Power Strip

The Isolé IDP-3050 consists of an eight-outlet power strip with surge protection and a personal occupancy sensor that utilizes passive infrared (PIR) technology. When the sensor detects occupancy, it turns on controlled outlets. When the space becomes vacant, the sensor turns off these outlets automatically after the preset time delay expires.

Anyone who can plug in a power strip can plug in and set up Isolé.

  • Plug computers and any other equipment that must stay on all the time into one of the two “uncontrolled” receptacles.Plug task lights, computer monitors, printers, radios, calculators, electric staplers and non essential electrical loads that contribute to “phantom” power use into one of the six “sensor controlled” receptacles.
  •  TThe occupancy sensor plugs into the power strip with a telephone style connector and activates the “sensor controlled” receptacles as soon as the space is occupied. The sensor can be mounted underneath a desk using the self adhesive surface. An adjustable time delay of 30 seconds to 30 minutes ensures that the “sensor controlled” outlets remain on while the space is occupied, and turn off after the area is vacated and the time delay expires. 

The Isolé surge suppressor has a lifetime warranty and a $25,000 connected equipment warranty.

 A Very Smart Power Strip


How To Choose A Home Water Filtering System

Find out what’s in your water. Before you choose a filtration system, you need to know what it is you are looking to remove. You can get a copy of your area’s annual water quality report from your water utility.

Figure out what type of filter you need. NSF International, an independent, accredited organization that helps set standards for water safety and tests and certifies systems, has a comprehensive chart that specifies the type of filter you’ll need to remove the contaminants in your water.

Decide the filter’s location. You can choose either a whole-house (also called point-of-entry) filter, which filters the water before it enters your home, or a point-of-use filter, which filters the water just before you use it. Point-of-use filters include faucet and undersink systems, pour-through water pitchers and water bottles.

Find a filtration system that is NSF certified. The single most important thing to look for when you are shopping for a water filtration system, whether it is for your whole house or it’s a simple pitcher, is that it is certified by NSF International

Inspect your current system. If you have a water filtration pitcher or other purification system that was purchased many years ago, it may be time for an upgrade. Regulations have changed in recent years,


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