Caulking, Seating Area, Holidays

“ Remember: Preventive Maintenance is cheaper than Emergency Maintenance.”

Dear Maintenance Men:

I need to do some caulking in my apartment unit, both inside and outside the unit. However, I am confused. There are so many kinds of caulk and I just don’t know which to buy to do the jobs I need done. Can you help explain the different types of caulk 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 bathrooms or kitchens 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 bathrooms 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 percent. Elastomeric caulk is very tolerant to wide temperature and weather extremes. It is most often used outdoors. This caulk can bridge gaps up to two 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 I 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 one-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 Apartment Owners and Managers:

We are getting close to the holidays, which means more people at your apartment buildings. Chances are, some of those residents will be inviting guests for dinner over the coming holidays. For some of these residents, this will be the first time this year they will turn on the oven! What are the odds you are just starting your own dinner or you are sitting down with your own guests when an emergency call comes to you on Thanksgiving Day from one of your residents. That call might be about a clogged sink or non-working oven with an apartment full of guests waiting for dinner. This scenario can ruin both your and your residents’ holiday. The answer is: Preventive Maintenance.

Remember, the holiday season starts with Halloween and the demand on your properties only gets worse from there. Check each stove and oven for proper operation as many residents only turn on their ovens at this time of year, and the problem may be as simple as a pilot light being out. Also, check the oven’s temperature calibration with an oven thermometer.

This time of year sees a higher than normal use of the plumbing so it may be a good idea to snake sending a note to each tenant on the proper use of the garbage disposal will be useful. Note what they should and should not put down the disposal unit. A few items to include on this “No-No” list are: banana peels, potato skins, coffee grounds and any stringy food. Also make sure they turn on the water before using the disposal and put down small amounts of food at a time. Instruct your residents to not use the disposal as a trash can and then turn it on when full. It will clog.

Christmas and other holidays also mean more people than usual walking on your property. Is your property safe? What are some of the liabilities to worry about? Check trip and fall hazards. Do you have sprinkler heads sticking up above the grass near sidewalks? Use pop-up heads to solve this problem. Look for sidewalks that have been pushed up by tree roots. This can be solved with a concrete grinder or replacement of the section and removal of the tree root. Cut any low-hanging tree branches and look for branches that may break in heavy winter wind or rain.

Check your decking for cracks or damage and inspect the exterior stairways for wear and tear. Inspect all your garage door springs as winter wind and rain may make them heavy causing the door to close or fall unexpectedly. As a precaution, always replace both garage springs at the same time and throw away any used springs. Never install used garage springs. Check all property lighting and timers. Remember: Preventive Maintenance is cheaper than Emergency Maintenance!


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 a licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer and educational instructor for the Apartment Association. Frank can also be reached at For more info please go to: Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker and has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.