Maintenance DIY: Landscape Lighting, Base Molding, and Bathtub Caulking
walkway at apartment building

July 21, 2022 |

Updated August 1, 2022

4 minute read
Q: I want to install some low voltage landscape lighting in the courtyard of my apartment building and I need some advice. Should I go with a wired system or a solar powered system? 

A: Good question! Solar looks so attractive, and it is very easy to install. You can’t get more plug and play than sticking the light fixture in the ground and waiting for the sun to charge the light. Unfortunately, as great as solar seems, it does have some drawbacks. The light produced can be dim and may not last the whole night. The fixture must be in direct sunlight to recharge. If you want to use it to simply mark a path; it will do a good job, but if you want it to light up the path, it does not have enough power. 

To light up a path or area, a wired low voltage system is best. You will need to determine how many lights you will use and the wattage of the bulbs in each fixture. The wattage information will help you determine what size transformer and wire to use. Lightbulbs range in wattage from 4 watts to 50 watts. Do not exceed the bulb wattage as dictated by the transformer. As an example: A 300-watt transformer will support 12 25-watt light fixtures or 30 10-watt fixtures. Transformers range from 88 watts, 100 watts, 200 watts and 300 watts. There are transformers that list their wattage as high as 600 watts and 900 watts. Typically, the 600- and 900-watt transformers allow the use of multiple cables from one transformer. As far as what gauge wire to use, again, wattage will determine the wire size. For example, if the max is 150 watts, use 16-gauge wire; if it is 200 watts, use 14 gauge wire; 300 watts, use 12 gauge wire. Given these figures, it’s important to note that using LED landscape lighting will dramatically change the amount of transformer power you will need. It’s highly recommended to use LED fixtures in your landscape lighting designs. 

Q: I have noticed the base molding in the living room and leading into the kitchen is starting to come off the wall. The corners are splitting, and it is starting to look very rough. What do you think is causing this? I don’t see any water anywhere. 

A: It’s a good bet you do have a water problem somewhere. Chances are it will be traced to the refrigerator. There might be two issues you can look at: First, check that the drain line for the defrost cycle is not clogged; second, if the refrigerator has an icemaker, that the line is not leaking. Chances are the icemaker line has a hole or the drain line is leaking, and the walls are sucking up the water. That is why you don’t see any standing water. Look under the fridge or pull out the fridge and look at the water line. It should be a small, quarter-inch nylon or polyethylene line; often they are white or translucent in color. If the water line goes though the cabinets to the kitchen sink, follow the line and look for rough spots or kinks in the line. Because these small water lines often leak for a long time before they are discovered, your walls may very well be saturated. The swelling baseboards are an indication they are full of moisture. 

The repair for this leak goes far beyond repairing the pinhole leak in the icemaker line. You will need to remove the drywall to allow the walls to properly dry. Chances are you will also have a major mold issue inside the walls. You should seek professional help for an evaluation of the potential mold issues involved. Please note when replacing icemaker or filter lines, only use tubing specified for that use. Ask for icemaker tubing, it will be marked icemaker compatible. 

Q: I’m attempting to remove old caulking from around a bathtub. Are there any tricks or chemicals to help with this job?

A: Most bathtub caulking is either silicon or latex-based. If originally properly installed, it should stick pretty well. Most household chemicals will not affect the caulking or help in its removal. The best method is to use a razor knife to cut along either side of the bead. Then pull the bead out by hand as you cut. The balance of the material can be removed with a flat razor, either along the old bead or perpendicular to the bead. After all the material is removed, use a damp rag to remove any loose bits. Before installing the new caulk, be sure the area is clean and dry. You can use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up any water left from your cleaning.   


Do you have DIY maintenance questions? Send them to Dear [email protected].