Rehabbing, Redwood and Smokers


Dear Maintenance Men:

I have just finished rehabbing a rental unit. I replaced counter tops, cabinets, baseboards and so on. Even though the unit is freshly painted with new carpets, the unit still looks unfinished. The base boards don’t always follow the wall contours exactly and the cabinets also have small gaps where they meet the wall. What can I do to make my work look professional?


Dear Julia:

We are going to let you in on a “professional” secret and it is called painter’s caulk! Painter’s caulk typically comes in a tube and is applied with a caulking gun. Run a small bead of caulk along the baseboard and with your finger push the caulk between the wall and the gap you are trying to fill. Using a damp sponge or rag, wipe up any excess caulk. Painter’s caulk can be used to hide a multitude of installation sins. Almost anywhere two dissimilar materials meet, painter’s caulk can help hide the transition. Painter’s caulk is not limited to just baseboards, use it to make cabinets and door trim look custom installed. Fill nail holes without making a big flat spot on your wall. If you have ever tried to mate two pieces of trim or coving at a 45-degree angle and your cuts are not quite square, use painter’s caulk and no one will know. All gaps will magically disappear.

Dear Maintenance Men:

My building has redwood fencing and patio decks. Both the fencing and decks are in good condition, however, the “red” in the wood has faded with exposure to the weather. The wood looks grey now. How can I bring back the redwood look back without buying new wood?


Dear Josh:

A redwood deck or fence may be young and fit, but they do tend to grey prematurely. Luckily, the solution is not too hard. There is a chemical called oxalic acid which will help give the wood its youth and vitality back again. Most hardware stores will stock a product called cedar and redwood cleaner/brightener. It may be under the brand name of “Olympic Cedar and Redwood Deck Brightener”. Be sure your deck or fence is clean before treatment by using a TSP and water solution. (TSP is a heavy duty powder cleaning solution available at any hardware store or supermarket.)

After cleaning, be sure to read the deck brightener product’s instructions before use. For safety wear gloves and goggles. Mix the product’s solution with water into a pump up sprayer. Wet the deck or fence with the solution and using a nylon brush or broom, scrub the wood evenly, working harder on stained areas. Let the solution stand for about 30 minutes and rinse off with a strong stream of water. Let dry and the wood should look brighter. It might not look brand new, but it will look much better.

Dear Maintenance Men:

My current vacancy was long occupied by a heavy smoker. Every surface is sticky with brown nicotine and the smell of smoke is overwhelming. How do I get rid of the smell and keep it from coming back?


Dear George:

Cigarette smell is very hard to remove even after painting and cleaning the carpets. Chances are if the resident was long term, the carpets, drapes or blinds will need to be replaced. Remove the carpets, pad and tack strips. The tack strips are wood and can absorb and release the smell of smoke, urine, etc. Thoroughly clean the floors with soapy water mixed with bleach. After cleaning the floors, it is not a bad idea to paint or use a primer to coat the flooring. One of the best ways to remove the nicotine residue from the walls is using old fashioned elbow grease! Again, wash the walls with soapy water using a brush or rag. Adding TSP (a powdered cleaning solution available at most hardware stores) or using a degreasing agent will help in the cleaning.

If you have flat ceilings, wash them, too. If you have “acoustical” or “pop-corn” type ceiling, that’s a problem. By its nature, acoustical ceiling material cannot be cleaned. Encapsulating the acoustical ceiling with spray paint may solve the problem.

You will need a primer coat and a minimum of two coats of paint. If the smell is still present, give it another coat of paint and let the unit air as much as possible. Don’t forget to wash the windows and window frames. You will be amazed at how clean the aluminum or vinyl windows will look after a good cleaning.


Feel free to contact Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., at 714-956- 8371, for maintenance work or consultation; or JLE Property Management, Inc., at 714-778-0480 for management service or consultation. Jerry L’Ecuyer is a licensed contractor and real estate broker. Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988. Frankie Alvarez is the Operations Director of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., and can be reached at 714-956-8371 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Websites: and and

Contact AACSC

Apartment Association,

California Southern Cities
333 W. Broadway St., Suite 101
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 426-8341

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