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Dear Dale:

Let's Caulk One Up for a New Product

July 13, 1986

Question: I own a four-unit apartment building, which I try to maintain myself, calling in professionals only for major jobs. One of the tasks I really hate is caulking the tubs and sink in every apartment when a tenant moves out. The house is old, and the gap between the tub and ceramic-tile wall seems to get larger every time I have to do it. What type of caulk do you suggest, and do you have any tips for doing a neat job?

Answer: Sounds as if your tenants are falling away about as fast as your caulking. So maybe we can help plug the gap.

First of all, your caulking should be lasting for extended periods of time with many of the new silicone products on the market. Red Devil makes one called Lifetime that comes in a selection of colors for colored bath fixtures or matching the tile.

I use the back of a plastic teaspoon, dipped in water, to smooth the caulking after applying it in long strokes.

For getting a neat job, a reader some years ago gave us this tip: Put masking tape along the tub and the tile, then after smoothing it, remove the tape and you'll have a straight line.

Another tip for getting a better bond is to fill the tub with water before you apply the caulk. The water weights the tub and thus expands the gap a bit. Then after the caulking is applied and the water is let out, the tub lifts slightly for a better seal.

But the good news for you may be a new product called Magic Bath Seal. It's an ideal do-it-yourself product, because it requires no special tools or gadgets--just a tape for measuring and scissors or a razor blade.

The package, which has a suggested retail price of $11.95, contains two 65-inch strips of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), two end gaps and two corner molds, all available in a choice of six colors.

The strips have rubbery edges with adhesive already applied, and they've been treated with a mildewcide. One inch of the 1 1/2-inch-wide strip is pressed against the tiled wall, closing the grout lines, and the other edge is pressed along the tub for a perfect seal, according to Peter Naumann, vice president of sales for Magic American Chemical, the manufacturer.

He points out that the product is sold on a satisfaction guaranteed basis, and the package contains a toll-free number to call if there's a problem.

Naumann says the Magic Bath Seal is already available in Southern California at Home Depot stores and San Diego Paint & Glass Co. and will soon be available at Ole's, Builders Emporium, National Lumber and other home centers and lumber companies.

Q: I've seen lawn furniture made of plastic pipes, and I was thinking I could possible do something like that to make a rack for a hammock, which was given to me by someone in Guatemala. Can you tell me how to go about making something like this?

A: Best thing to do is get a printed plan. Classified Crafts offers just such a plan for a 3x11-foot hammock stand. Detailed instructions cost $4.95. Send check or money order to Classified Crafts, Department C 90053, P.O. Box 52189, Tulsa, Okla. 74152-0189. A catalogue of other plans is available for an additional $2.95.

IN THE MAIL: Comments about removing tinted film from windows by applying Windex or other ammonia products and covering them with plastic wrap for a few hours brought forth other tips from readers:

K.S. in Granada Hills says he was frustrated by this problem for years but finally came up with such a simple solution that he has to pass it on to the world. He says to "spray the film with a generous coat of foam-type oven cleaner." (He used Easy-Off.) "Let it stand for about 10 minutes and simply wipe film off with a wet kitchen sponge. Voila! Sparkling, clean windows."

On the other hand, A.H. of Oceanside asks us to pass along the following information, which she found "is the only thing that works: "Simply heat the film with a hand-held hair dryer and peel off, using a razor blade to catch the edges. We tried (the ammonia method)," she says, "but it didn't work for us. The hair dryer is the answer."

Dale Baldwin will answer remodeling questions of general interest on this page. Send your questions to Home Improvement, Real Estate Department, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Baldwin cannot answer questions individually. Snapshots of successful do-it-yourself projects may be submitted but cannot be returned.

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