How-To Tuesday: Remove Old Tile Grout

Grout. It’s not one of the prettiest words in the English language. And when your tile’s grout gets all grimy and stained, it’s definitely not pretty. Luckily, removing old tile grout isn’t really a monumental task once you know what to do. Depending on the size of the tiled area, you can remove and replace old tile grout in as little as one afternoon. The job can be done manually, or you can make it way easier on yourself and buy an oscillating multi-tool. It’s inexpensive and well worth it. Using this tool, you can remove about fifteen square feet of grout on 4” by 4” tile in about an hour.

What You’ll Need

  • A rotary tool such as a Dremel, or an Oscillating multi-tool like the Ridgid Jobma  or Bosch Multi-X Oscillating Tool Kit
  • Safety glasses
  • Utility knife with a dull blade
  • Small flathead screwdriver
  • Shop vacuum

Step 1

Fit the oscillating multi-tool with the appropriate blade, which should be one specifically intended for tile or tile grout. Start by holding the blade horizontally or vertically, depending on the seam you’re starting with. Turn the power on and lightly press the blade to the grout. Don’t press too hard; let the blade do the work. It should cut through the grout easily.

Step 2

Angle the blade gently to remove more grout. Do this slowly and carefully so you don’t damage the edges of your tile. Resting your arm on a stable surface will help keep it steady and keep it from getting too tired. Use the Shop Vac throughout your project so you can actually see what you’re doing.

Step 3

Once you’ve removed as much tile as possible with the multi-tool, use a small flathead screwdriver to scrape out any loose pieces that haven’t been completely removed. If there are still stubborn bits that won’t come out, use your dull utility knife to remove them. You want the blade to be dull to start with because a sharp blade will dull quickly or snap off anyway. It also helps prevent any injuries.

Step 4

Once your old grout is completely gone, clean up your worksite to create a blank slate for the new grout. Our best tip is to steer clear of bright white grout. Dark grout is very “in” right now, but if you’d rather go lighter, try a biscuit or bone color. Stark white shows every little stain and spot much more quickly, making your tile and grout look and feel dirty even when they’re squeaky clean.

Whether your tile grout is old and moldy, it’s chipped and falling out, or you just don’t like the color, you can get rid of it fairly easily using the method above. Just remember the old special forces saying: slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. It might seem like a slow, tedious job, but taking the time to do it correctly means you’ll be saving time in the end.

Should You Use Your Home’s Equity to Delay Social Security?

Did you know that consumers between the ages of 62 and 70 can earn up to 8% more in Social Security for each year they delay taking disbursements? It sounds great at face value to get more money in the long run, but many people in this age bracket need that Social Security payment each month to supplement their income. They may have retired already and are living on a fixed income through a retirement fund, or they may still be working hard to support themselves and/or their families. You can see why it might be difficult for consumers to delay their Social Security payouts. To help put off taking their disbursements, some homeowners in this stage of their lives have been known to borrow against their homes’ equity through a home equity conversion mortgage (HECM), more commonly known as a reverse mortgage. In fact, some lenders even promote this tactic.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, however, has something to say about it. The CFPB warns consumers that the cost and risk of a reverse mortgage is greater than its benefit. In fact, says the CFPB, withdrawing home equity in this way could limit a homeowner’s options if they decide to move or have a financial setback. “A reverse mortgage loan can help some older homeowners meet financial needs but can also jeopardize their retirement if not used carefully,” says CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “For consumers whose main asset is their home, taking out a reverse mortgage to delay Social Security claiming may risk their financial security because the cost of the loan will likely be more than the benefit they gain.”

Other financial experts disagree with the CFPB’s take on this strategy, however, and call it a plausible option. In an article written for Forbes, Jamie Hopkins, co-director of the American College’s New York Life Center for Retirement Income, writes, “The CFPB’s analysis, misrepresentations, and inaccurate conclusions fail to provide a comprehensive review of potential benefits of Social Security deferral and proper use of home equity. Instead, the report unleashed an overly broad and inaccurate censure that could hamper meaningful discussion.”

Retirement researcher Wade Pfau gives a detailed rebuttal of the CFPB’s findings as well. “I am disappointed that this report was issued and heralded with a press release and other promotion by the CFPB,” says Pfau. His post gives multiple mathematical examples of what can happen to a homeowner’s portfolio if they do decide to delay Social Security with a reverse mortgage. Pfau challenges the CFPB’s report and suggests that there is value in the strategy.

“Using a HECM [home equity conversion mortgage] to fund Social Security delay does not create greater risk for retirees experience spending shocks or needing to move later in retirement,” Pfau writes, “because reduced distribution needs from the investment portfolio and the subsequent reduction in sequence risk offset the reverse-mortgage costs and preserve overall net worth.”

Hopkins and Pfau may both disagree with the CFPB’s blanket statement, but they agree that this financial strategy should be judged on a case-by-case basis. Every homeowner has different circumstances; there’s no one financial planning strategy that will fit all of the people all of the time. The key to successfully cashing in on the benefit of delaying Social Security is to consult your financial planner. Together, you can look at the facts and fill in the blanks with your personalized details. Don’t take a blanket statement at face value. Let the experts help you decide whether taking advantage of your home’s equity is the right choice to help you defer Social Security payments and get that extra 8% in the end.  

Friday Five // February 22nd, 2019

Hooray for Fridays! It’s time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening around the Charleston area throughout the weekend. Attend a comic convention, celebrate Mardi Gras at the beach, see a kids’ classic cartoon come alive, and more. Whatever you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a safe and happy weekend!

Head to the Omar Shrine Temple at Patriot’s Point this Saturday and Sunday for the 11th Annual Captain’s Comic Expo, presented by Captain’s Comics and Toys. The 2019 expo is bigger than ever, with a 17,000 square foot venue, and two full days of comics, toys, art, costumes, special guests, and more! See over one million comics from the 1930s through today, and participate in cosplay fun all weekend. Advanced ticket sales have ended, but there are still plenty of tickets at the door. Kids ages 10 and under and free with an adult ticket.

Laissez le bon temps rouler…Folly Beach style! Celebrate Mardi Gras at the beach with Folly Gras, taking place this Saturday from 10am until 4pm. Dressed in their Folly Gras finest, folks from all over the Lowcountry take to Center Street to spread Folly Gras cheer. Festivities will include a parade at 11am; dozens of arts, crafts, and fashion vendors; live music; free kids’ activities; and of course, lots of mouth-watering food and drinks. Follys’ participating restaurants and bars will serve up New Orleans-inspired dishes on the street and inside their establishments. Enjoy $5 Deep Eddy cocktails all day at participating locations. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance at the link above or at Folly Beach City Hall for express entry. Admission is free for full-time Folly Beach residents (with a valid ID) and for kids 12 and under. Animals, coolers, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and similar items are not permitted at Folly Gras.

Potterheads of the Lowcountry unite! Muggles and wizards alike will gather at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert. Experience the full film projected in HD on the big screen while a full symphony orchestra performs the unforgettable score live. Performances take place at 7:30pm on Saturday and 1:30pm on Sunday. Tickets are $50 to $80 each, depending on seat location. Feel free to dress as your favorite character, put on your hand-me-down dress robes a la Ron Weasley, or don your best Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff attire.

There’s a brand new generation that’s found a love for an updated classic, The Magic School Bus! Kids and parents can see one of their fave book/cartoon series come to life on the stage at the Gaillard Center through The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System. Hope on the bus for a ride in this new musical adaptation based on the original book series published by Scholastic. When the class gets lost on the way to the planetarium, Ms. Frizzle saves the day by blasting into outer space for an epic interplanetary field trip. But when rivalries both old and new threaten to tear the students apart, our young heroes must learn to pull together or risk getting forever lost in the solar system. Performances take place on Saturday at 1pm and 3:30pm.

Join Home Team BBQ on Saturday for their second annual block party for a cause, Rock the Block 2019, benefitting Hogs for the Cause. Enjoy food from some of the region’s best chefs and drinks from local breweries and distilleries. The kids will love bouncing the day away in the jump castle while you rock out to live music from some amazing artists, including Elise Testone with the Led Zeppelin Tribute, Kevn Kinney, and Great Peacock. This is a free event, with proceeds from food and drink purchases and a suggested donation at the door going to Hogs for the Cause, a non-profit organization that provides grants to help alleviate the financial strain on families as they band together in their fight against pediatric brain cancer.

How-To Tuesday: Give Particle Board Furniture a Much Needed Makeover

Particle board furniture is a great choice when you have a tight budget, and there are actually some really cool, budget-friendly options out there these days. But as we all know, particle board doesn’t always withstand the test of time. It peels, chips, and warps much more easily than solid wood furniture does. If you have some fixer-upper particle board pieces that are in dire need of a makeover, we’re here to help! Follow these easy step-by-step instructions, and you’ll be showing off your refurbished, semi-custom particle board pieces in no time flat.

What You’ll Need

Sanding Block




Paint Roller and Tray

Wood Filler

Optional: stencils, wallpaper, paper for decoupaging

Prep for Painting

First, repair any chips or cracks with wood putty and a putty knife. If you have spots that have bubbled up due to water damage, you can remove them with a sharp razor blade and fill with wood putty. You’ll need to let the wood putty or filler dry overnight, so make sure to do it ahead of time. Once it’s completely dry, sand the area with a high grit sandpaper until it’s smooth. Note: be careful about the cost vs. worth ratio here. If a piece is badly damaged, repairing it could actually cost more than simply replacing it.

Sand the Entire Surface

Once the repairs have been made and you have an even surface, it’s time to sand the entire piece. Don’t skip this step. It might not seem important, but the glossy finish of particle board furniture won’t allow the paint to adhere well, and you’ll find your brand new paint job chipping in no time at all. Using a high grit sandpaper, sand the entire surface, using just enough pressure to remove any old finish. Be careful not to sand too hard on the edges, or you could chip the laminate and have to start over again.

Start with a Coat of Primer

We know you want to get straight to the actual painting and start the transformation, but this is another step you really shouldn’t skip. You’ll thank us in the end when you don’t have to add multiple extra coats of paint. First, choose the right primer. If you’re painting over dark particle board, go with a gray primer. If the piece has a lighter finish, go ahead and use a white primer. Or if you already have white primer on hand and want to paint over a dark finish, mix some of the paint color you’ll be using in with the primer. Go ahead and add a coat of primer with a paintbrush, making sure to get every nook and cranny, then let dry completely.

Sand the Primed Surface

Yes, you do need to sand the surface again. When it comes to covering particle board, you want the paint layers to be thin. If they go on too thick, it’s more likely that the paint will scuff or chip when items are placed on top later. Just give the primer coat a light sanding so the paint will go on smoothly and adhere well to the surface. Remove any dust with a lint-free rag after sanding.

Roll on the Paint

Finally, the fun part! Use a roller for painting your piece. This will ensure that the top coat goes on evenly without any brushstrokes showing through (unless you like the look of brushstrokes!), but you’ll need a brush to get into corners and other awkward spots. One coat might be enough to cover as long as you primed properly, but if not, make sure to let the first coat dry completely before adding another one.

Finish Your Piece

Once you’re satisfied with the paint job and it’s completely dry, you might want to make additional changes to enhance your piece of furniture. Add some cool new hardware to drawers or doors. If your project is a bookshelf, think about adding some colorful wallpaper or fabric to the back or the shelves for a touch of interest. Stencil a pattern on top of the last coat of paint. Do whatever makes you happy, and enjoy your new piece of particle board furniture!

Real Estate Myth: Home Improvement Is ALWAYS a Good Investment

Investing in home improvement is a good thing, right? Well, not always. While there are tons of projects you can do to increase the value of your home, there are many that aren’t worth the money you spend on them. Beware of the following home improvement projects that might not be worth the investment. If you plan to do one of them because it’s something you want for yourself, go for it; but don’t expect to see much return on your investment when it’s time to sell your home.

Swimming Pools

We understand. Swimming pools are just plain fun. But if you expect your pool to be a great selling point that will net a higher asking price when you go to sell, think again. Pools are expensive, high-maintenance, insurance nightmares, and they can actually scare some buyers away. Even if a buyer loves your house but won’t use the pool, they’ll have to drop a good amount of money to get rid of it. If you want to put in a pool for your own personal enjoyment, that’s fine, but understand that you probably won’t make the money back that you spend on installment and maintenance.

Luxury Kitchens

Kitchens are one of the biggest selling points in a home, and it’s lovely when they’re all renovated and ready for use upon move-in. But there is such a thing as over-improving. If you’re a professional chef or baker and need special a kitchen setup, go ahead and upgrade your kitchen all you like for your own usage. But don’t expect to see a huge return on a super luxurious kitchen unless the rest of your home and neighborhood equally as luxurious.

Outbuilding Improvement

Outbuildings like sheds or detached garages are great for storage, and they’re super convenient for converting into studio or office space. If you’re going to convert an outbuilding into something else, though, be careful of how much you spend to do so. It won’t count toward the square footage of your home, and it definitely won’t make you any more money on the sale price.

Additional Rooms

Adding rooms to your house will increase your square footage, thereby increasing your overall asking price. But if you don’t keep the renovation or addition under the average price-per-square-foot for your neighborhood, you definitely won’t recoup the amount you spent to add on.

Too Much DIY

In a Pinterest and YouTube world, it’s easy for some people to go overboard in the DIY department. If you’re into doing things yourself, be careful about what you’re doing and the quality of your work. Professionals charge what they charge because they know how the work should be done. When it’s time for you to sell, a home inspector will make a note of any poor or amateur workmanship. Any time you choose to do something yourself instead of consulting a pro, you run the risk of paying the price—literally—when you have to have it redone before selling.

Expensive Materials

If you’re going to spend a lot of money on materials, please don’t skimp on the labor. It’s easy to make expensive materials look cheap when poor craftsmanship is involved. On the other hand, a true craftsman can make cheaper materials look like a million bucks!




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