Now that Spring weather has arrived and contractors begin their exterior building projects, we want to take a moment to remind everyone about the importance of ladder and scaffolding safety.


Follow Directions. First and foremost; follow the directions that come with your ladder. Ladders have load ratings, so be sure to follow the ratings and do not overload it. You can learn more about ladder Duty Ratings here:

Inspect Your Ladder.
Proper care and maintenance is a key component to ladder safety. Before each use, be sure to inspect your ladder to ensure it is in proper working order.

If any part or component of your ladder fails inspection. DO NOT USE IT and REMOVE FROM SERVICE until it can be repaired or destroyed (if not repairable).

If possible, store your ladder indoors. If you use ladder racks for your vehicles, be sure to rinse off road dirt or salt regularly, this will help increase the longevity of the ladder.

Assess the work environment. There are three basic materials for ladders: Aluminum, Fiberglass and Wood and they come in various forms for different uses. It is best to inspect the work area to be sure you are using the right ladder for the job. Consider obstacles, electrical sources, uneven ground and height when choosing the best ladder.


Much of the safety practices you should follow for ladder safety apply to scaffolding as well, but there are some specific measures that should be taken when using scaffolding. Below are some scaffolding safety basics:

Follow directions. As with all construction equipment, follow the directions that come with the scaffolding. Know the load capacity, and don’t overload the scaffolding with equipment, materials and crew.

Train the crew. Everyone who will be using the scaffolding or who will be working around it should know all the safety precautions to take. This includes set up, prep, bracing, use (like how to properly get on and off of the scaffolding) and even dismantling it when the job is done.

Assess the environment, set up smart and take your time. Make sure the ground is level and that there is no big elevation change. Look for obstacles like trees or electrical services. When assembling the scaffolding, be sure that the base is secured, legs are plumb, the cross members are level, and all ties and locking devices are secured.

Secure the scaffolding. Be sure to properly brace the scaffolding using brace retention or locking devices made for that specific scaffolding. Mixing of brands is not recommended. Scaffolding is rated/tested as a system not as mixed pieces.

Inspect the equipment. Be sure to inspect the scaffolding for wear and tear, defects or broken parts. Be sure to replace and/or fix damaged parts prior to use.

Keep it clean. Be sure to keep the scaffolding free from construction debris and unnecessary tools that may become dangerous obstacles.

Use Fall Protection. Fall protection should be used when working 6 or more Ft. above grade. Fall protection can be accomplished in several ways. Use the best method for your application.

For FREE ladder safety training- click here:

More Safety information available here:

 stacked ladders

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Those long sunny days are coming to an end, which means the days are shorter and the nights are cooler… your window for finishing up your outdoor painting projects is also closing. With weather like this, it is important to beware of exterior painting when those temperatures drop. Painting when the weather is too cold is a mistake that will leave you with unsightly consequences, and will lessen the life of the paint.

Premature failure due to the film freezing.  If the film is unable to coalesce correctly, the paint, at a microscopic level will look like alligator skin.

The paint will not bond to a substrate that is is frozen or below surface temp recommendation.  This includes the 24 to 48 hours after application depending upon Manufacturer Specifications.

In the morning, if the surface is not adequately dry or up to manufacturer’s recommended temperature you could potentially be sealing in moisture that will find its way to the surface.  Depending upon the amount of moisture migrating through the film, it could pop the paint off the surface and be filled with water.  It will look like your surface has water blisters.  Sometimes, if you pop the “water blisters” they will shrink back down; however, you have a pin hole in your film that will let water in over time.  The damage will have been done to have premature coatings failure.

Most manufacturers instruct homeowners to apply latex paints when ambient and surface temperatures are at least 50 degrees. Below 50 degrees, latex paints dry more slowly, especially when high humidity is present. This hinders coalescence, which can lead to poor film-forming, lack of surface adhesion and premature paint failure.

Some manufacturers offer latex paints that can be applied at temperatures as low as 36 degrees F. These specially formulated products contain coalescing agents that aid in film-forming during lower temperatures. When a manufacturer says Latex can be applied as low as 36 degrees F, the ambient temperature and/or surface temperature needs to stay above that for 24 hours for proper film forming  rk MILES does stock an exterior latex paint line and an exterior solid color latex stain line that is rated to 36 degrees.  They are both manufactured by California Paints.

Daylight plays a big role in the paint drying process. When the days are short, there is less daylight available to aid in drying. So, be sure to paint early in the day so that light is present to add in the drying process.

Humidity affects the drying time of all paints, but especially latex paints so you must also consider the effects of heavy dew. Most manufacturers recommend that at least two hours be allowed for paint to dry before sunset if cool temperatures and heavy dew are expected that evening.  Remember to give some time in the morning for any heavy dew to dissipate off the surface.

Finally, keep in mind that cooler temperatures may extend the time before the paint reaches serviceability or hardness. An enameled door requires more time before it can be closed without sticking to the jamb. A clear coating applied to a deck will need more time before you can walk on it. Primers require more time before top-coating. Knowing all of this may aid you as you go about your painting chores this Fall.


-Paint Pros at rk MILES


Classic Queen Anne style Victorian home, 1888. This home was used as the model for the broadway production of "Ragtime".

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We have been covered with a new, thick carpet of white all over our section of Vermont.  On a sunny day, it is beautifully bright and clean.  On a cloudy or snowy day, it can feel so cold and sad.  How can you bring more color into the winter landscape?  Here are some tips, from easy and temporary to a bit more of a commitment.

A quick, easy and fragrant fix is to pick up some flowers.  Spring colored tulips and daffodils are showing up at the market.  Fill even a few small vases and place around your home.  For more of a lift, there are  blooming hyacinths and primrose that have been forced for the winter.  Mass a group of these colorful plants in baskets or bowls and place on your dining table or window sills for a glimpse into Spring.Along the same lines, search out fresh scented candles.  Keep a candle on the kitchen counter and light it while cooking or cleaning up.  It is a great way to erase the odors trapped in our houses for the winter and provide a soft glow.

Another simple pick me up is to search out new, fun and colorful dishtowels or kitchen throw rugs.  These items tend to become a bit tired over time, and a refresh is a great way to bring color into your home.  Along these same lines, new pillows and a throw are another speedy update.  A popular solution is to have a collection of seasonal pillows and throws that you can change out as the mood or season suits you.  A ski house may call for a Nordic theme in the winter and change out to a woodland theme in the summer.

Lastly, in the big commitment category, there is a new paint color.  Perhaps you have been toying with the idea of an accent wall, or the powder room needs an good overhaul.  This is an opportunity to try a risky color or step up to a faux finish.

Margie Beckwith- Design Consultant
rk Miles- Manchester Center, VT

kringle candles

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Greetings and Happy Spring from Middlebury! Winter may still have its grip on all of us here in Vermont but I assure you that spring is coming! 

Over the last few months we have discussed some basic field repair techniques for power tools. The last of this three part series is going to deal with the power cord.

The power cord is the most important part of your tool when it comes to safety. A damaged, shorted, or frayed cord can cause improper tool function and electrical shocks.

To ensure workplace safety, Vermont’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA), and the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspect the health and safety of conduct and equipment used on jobsites. If an electrical cord for a tool is deemed unsafe, they cut the cord off, disabling the tool until a proper replacement is made. VOSHA/OSHA rules for the work site no longer allow “replacement” plugs to existing cords. The rules now require the replacement of the entire cord with a factory matching cord.

Finding the correct replacement cord and replacing it can be a hassle! If you want your tool to be up and running again and be worry free, without doing the work, we, at rk MILES, can get your tool running safely in a couple of days. (Most of the cords we get in for repair typically have frayed cords. We find a simple replacement of the entire cord is the best and safest option.)

If you want to do the replacement yourself, there are things to consider before you jump in.

Typically power cords are sold in gauges. A 14-2 label means the cord has two wires, and the 14 represents the gauge, or thickness of the inner wire. A 12-3 label means that there are three internal wires, (the third being a ground) each with a gauge of 12.

Power cords come in all different lengths, sizes and functions. Some tools have easily replaceable cords such as Festool and Milwaukee who used click lock features (see middle image, right). Most other cords are hard wired (see bottom image). Please note: Some cords may require a trained professional.

Make sure to check with your user manual or call us and we can tell you what the right cord is for your tool.

On the router pictured below the top was removed to expose the switch (which is where the power cord attaches inside the tool) Best way to remove the old cord is to simply cut it and then remove the small ends. The ends are usually held in with screws to the switch. If your switch does not have removable ends, then splicing with a wire nut is necessary.

Thanks for you interest in rk MILES and our blog! Look this summer for more tips and tricks on power tools and accessories. Later this summer we will be discussing pneumatic tools and their do’s and don’t. Remember rk MILES is concerned with your safety. Before attempting any work on a power tool unplug it from a power source or remove the battery. If you are uncomfortable performing any of the repair tips we have discussed, bring your tool down to rk MILES and we will get you back on track!

Jon Glinski
rk Miles- Middlebury


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Everyone knows that shopping can be a chore for that guy in your life. They aren’t that helpful in telling us what they REALLY want. So if you have a DIY kind of guy in your life, here are a few pointers to help shed some light on the dos and don’ts of gift giving this Holiday Season.


DON’T buy him another holiday sweater, it may be festive and warm, and you KNOW he’ll look great in it, but that sweater will gracefully find itself buried in the back of his closet along with its likenesses not long after the Holidays are over – never to be seen again.DON’T buy him clothes to change his look. You might THINK he’ll look better in those skinny jeans and that tight-fitting shirt, but he will not wear them (willingly).DON’T buy him scented ANYTHING. Cologne, Soap, Candles- he may think you are trying to tell them something else other than that you care.DON’T buy him another tie… let’s face it, when our guys HAVE to wear suits, they don’t want to stand out even more with a Donald Duck necktie.

DON’T buy him fancy socks. Though you are getting closer to getting him the practical stuff he really wants, simplicity is key.


DO buy him Gadgets! Not last year’s model- it has to be the latest and greatest. A new Makita Cordless tool with a state-of-the-art Lithium Ion Battery? Yes, he wants that . Or if you have a woodworker in your life- go all out on anything from Festool Power Tools.  He’ll love these types of gifts and owning the latest and greatest tools gives him bragging rights amongst his friends.

DO buy him tools to make those projects around the house easier – like an oscillating multi-tool (Fein & Rockwell Brands would be a hit!). These tools make short work of any project- they are versatile,  he may just WANT to finish that project you have been hounding him about for years. Accessories like tools belts, laser levels and LED flashlights are always a hit too!

DO buy him a Grill! Even though it is winter- Christmas is a perfect time to splurge on that new Weber Grill he’s been eying all year or even a Big Green Egg!  He’ll want to grill throughout the year (though, maybe he’ll need a Carhartt winter hat to stay warm!)

DO buy him Carhartt. Carhartt work wear is a tried and true gift. You can choose from a huge selection, of styles and products- and who knows, you might still be able to get him to wear what you want him to without him even realizing it- it’s a win-win!

Finally- DO buy him Gift Cards to stores he likes. Be creative in wrapping so he still has presents under the tree, but he won’t have to fake excitement when he unwraps them!



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Dreading holiday entertaining this year?  Dragging out the same old tired decorations?  We are all looking for that new and all-important quick update before the holidays.  Big or small, there are a variety of projects we can take on for a quick and easy fix.The good old standbys are still ring true: add some new pillows and throws for a splash of seasonal color.  Jewel tones and autumnal colors can quickly change a room over to warm and cozy.  A new rug for your entry or mudroom can easily update the space as well as catch muddy footprints.  Another use for a colorful rug is as a table runner and then highlight that by incorporating seasonal produce into table and mantle decorations.  Also, don’t forget the importance of scent to invoke warm memories of past holidays.  Beautiful scented candles do double duty, they cast a lovely light and smell wonderful.If you are up for a larger project and are tired of looking at the same old blank space behind your stove or between your cabinets, consider filling the space with Aspect metal tiles or Facade metal panels.  The tiles come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.  The panels resemble the stamped tin ceilings and wall panels found in old houses.  Both are simple to install, cover up a multitude of problems and add a lot of drama for the effort.Whatever you are doing, be sure it has the stamp of your personal style.


holiday decor
Basic CMYK


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Have you ever looked around and wondered why the siding on old barns lasts so long and seems to hold paint until the pigment has totally faded, while at the same time the paint on your house is falling off and the trim is rotting only a few years after replacement – must be the paint or inferior wood; most likely, it is neither of those issues. The primary reason natural siding and trim materials last so long on old, un-insulated buildings is that they are well vented on all sides.

When wood is well ventilated it generally stays dry with a moisture content of less than 19 percent. Under these ideal conditions, siding and trim will not support wood decay fungi (which requires moisture of 20-25 percent). Unfortunately, standard and accepted residential building practices over the past 40 years have generally disregarded this important fact that wood likes to stay dry.

The unfortunate fact is all siding and trim installations can leak, and moisture can get trapped in the very tight space between the siding or trim and the building paper and plywood behind it. This trapped moisture can come from inside or outside the building, from leaks, or even from moist air from normal household activities. When liquid moisture gets trapped in wood, the moisture content goes up and decay fungi grow.

“Nonsense,” you say,  “my parent’s house was built in the 70s and there hasn’t been much rot and the paint looks pretty good.” This could be, and the likely reason is another culprit in this rotten wood, paint peeling mystery. Older homes are generally less “tight” than homes built today. The down side to this is older homes tend to be more drafty; the upside is they also move more air through the walls which allows drying. Homes in recent years, built with plastic sheeting behind the sheetrock and building paper of some sort behind the siding, really don’t allow much air to move inside a wall or behind siding. While you have improved the insulating value of the wall you have greatly reduced its potential to dry out once wet; wet wood leads to rot and decay.

And what about the peeling paint? Paint is nearly vapor impermeable, in other words, water in either liquid or vapor form will not easily pass through it; this is what you want after all. The problem comes when moisture is trapped behind siding, as explained above, with no place to go and no way to dry out. Once that moisture reaches the backside of the paint it has no place to go. Eventually accumulated moisture will literally pop the paint off of the house, sometimes in sheets. Repeated paint jobs produce no better results. Preparation and proper product are also critical in the painting process, but if it is coming off in sheets, it is likely moisture.  So what do you do about this?


A rain screen is simply a technique of creating a space between your siding and your building’s weather resistant barrier. The purpose of the space is to drain accumulated water and to allow airflow to improve the drying process.

All of the natural wood and wood-composite products on the market today will perform much better when vented with a rain screen application. There are many products to choose from that vary in price and durability. Ask your builder what products are the best for your project or stop by one of our four locations to speak to our building materials experts for more information about siding & trim options and proper installation techniques.


  • Many of your siding and trim product choices will require maintenance on average of every 5 years; re-painting or re-staining.
  • All of these products will perform much better if they are vented using a rain screen application (see detail).
  • If you are replacing rotted siding or trim, or if you are struggling to keep paint on the side of your house, you will continue to get rotted siding, trim and peeling paint if you don’t create a proper air channel or rain screen. The problem is not the product, but the application.
  • The process of creating a rain screen in new construction is complicated. The process of creating a rain screen in a renovation is even more complicated. Ask your builder what is right for your or stop by our store just ask.
  • Overhangs are a siding and trim’s best friend; the bigger, the better.
  • Gutter systems are a close second.
  • Hard surfaces like steps, patios and decks cause water to splash back on the skirt boards, siding and doors. Start the clock, these will be the first areas to look tired, lose finishes and eventually start to fall apart.
  • Make sure water from the roof is directed away from the sidewall. We sell inexpensive diverters that do the job.
  • Use only Stainless Steel Fasteners with Cedar and we
    recommend Cortex Screws for PVC applications- see us for details.
Peeling Paint
Red House Roof
 Click on image for larger detail.


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Greetings from rk Miles tool department! Summer is over and the hard work you have completed around the house and on the jobsite has done a number on your power tools! All of those beloved power tools you have been using have wear parts that need service. Through this 3 part series we can get that tool back in the field with some simple tools and little bit of know-how from rk Miles. In our last installment we discussed carbon brushes and their role in the power tool. Now, onto switches.Today we will be discussing the switch or VSR (Variable Speed Switch) and its role in the power tool. There are two types of switches: Regular on/off switches as found in circular saws, routers etc., and VSR switches, found in any variable speed tool such as a cordless drill. Standard on/off switches, sometimes called toggle switches, are usually the type of switch that will go bad with little to no warning. One minute the tool works fine, the next time the switch is pulled nothing happens… Very frustrating. There are no serviceable parts in toggle switches, which means the unit needs to be pulled and replaced.

VSR switches will start to show signs of wear. Unlike the toggle style switch, VSR switches can be defective and still work. A defective VSR switch may last years for turning on and off the tool at full speed but can lose all its ability to regulate the speed of the device. The switch will develop “dead spots,” making the tool turn on erratically or not at all. The “dead spots” that develop in the switch will make certain speeds of the tool not work at all. Eventually the switch will make operation of the tool impossible. Again at this point the entire switch needs to be replaced.

When replacing a switch make sure the battery or cord is disconnected. All of the screws that hold the tool together will need to come out. Once inside make sure to make note of where all the wires go. With today’s modern cell phones, taking a picture with your camera-phone is a great way to document how the wires should go. Usually a switch is held in with two screws, however more may be present. When replacing a switch only use hand tools for tightening screws because getting the screws re-tightened to just snug is all you will need.

While your tool is opened up- this is a good time to clean the inside of it. Dust dirt and debris can work its way into the tool. Too much dust and dirt can cause the tool to overheat and, as we discussed in the last article, too much heat causes most tools to fail. Clean the dust out with a little compressed air. Do not use any cleaners or chemicals as there are exposed electrical connections present.

Once your switch is installed and the case put back together, test your tool. If it does not work, the next step is to check all of your electrical connections. Going online and typing the model number of your tool into a search engine should give you a schematic of the tool like the one shown here. If you get stuck with your tool and nothing seems to help… stop by rk Miles and we will be glad to help you!!

Remember, trained professionals are the ultimate caretakers of your equipment and this guide is to be used to get you out of a jam and just give you a little information as to how your tools work. As a general rule always remember…. Work smart and make safety a priority! Have fun out there!

Jon Glinski
rk Miles- Middlebury



drill guts
 drill parts

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Expecting company this summer?  Is your quest room is looking a little tired?  How can you make your guests feel special? There are any number of easy solutions and many you may already have around your home.Summer time begs for clean white sheets and bright pillows and rugs.  A few colorful pillows and a coordinating throw rug go a long way to perking up a room.Don’t forget the sun is rising quite early this time of year.  New shades or curtains may be in order.

rk MILES carries a great selection of ready-made roller shades in a variety of textures and colors available now.  Soft, flowing curtains are another simple way to add style to a guest room.A small vase of fresh flowers is always a lovely finishing touch.  Pick them from your garden or stop at the farmers’ market.  Add a container of drinking water and glasses and you are ready to welcome guests.




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Written By: Jon Glinski – r.k. Miles – Middlebury, VT
Most people today own some sort of electric or battery operated tool. If you are one of these owners who use and abuse your tools, breakdowns can come unexpectedly and at the worst time. Getting your tool back up and running can be easier than you may think. Does your tool have a funny smell when it operates? Sparks when the motor starts or stops? Does it seem to have a lack of power? Have you noticed that it just does not have the performance it did when you first bought it? If so there are some simple maintenance items that may help you get out of a sticky situation and get that tool back in the field.Whether it is the carbon brushes, a switch, or a power cord — all three of these items can cause a power tool to malfunction. Your tool may not even have stopped working all together it may just be working intermittently. With a couple of simple checks you can diagnose a simple problem right in the field or tell when its time to hit the repair shop. Let’s get to it!


Every electric tool has carbon brushes. Always found in pairs, carbon brushes are what power your tool and put the electric current to the motor. Brushes are user serviceable and typically a flat head screw driver is the only tool you need to replace them. Brushes perform other functions within the tool as well. If your tool is equipped with an electronic brake it is the job of the brushes to slow the motor down with a small pulsing reverse current. Cycling a thousand times a second it can bring a spinning saw blade to a dead stop in less than a second. When brushes wear out this function can get weak or stop all together. Most people who use their tool less frequently, such as a homeowner, may never have to replace the brushes. Contractors and handymen on the other hand, who use their beloved tool all day long, five days a week, will be replacing brushes if they wish to keep the tool properly maintained. Brushes are a very cheap maintenance item and having a extra set on hand can be invaluable.

When tools are worked hard and start to generate heat or smoke STOP WORKING IMMEDIATELY. Heat builds up and can start to deform the brushes and possibly crack them. Motor damage will soon follow! Heat is what wears out brushes the fastest. The brushes can, when overheated, glaze over and cause the tool to malfunction.

A glazed and or worn out brush will have tell-tale signs…..

1. Lack of power
2. Weakening or failure of the electronic brake system
3. Sparks and or smoke *
4. Intermittent operation (start and stop)**

*When you notice a tool start to smoke, unplug it from the power source or remove the battery – this is a good time to go grab a bite to eat and let the tool cool down. It may be possible to continue work after the tool has cooled off but I would recommend checking it over first.

** intermittent operation can also be a switch or cord. I will be covering these topics in the following two installments of this series.

Now that we know the tool has a problem let’s take a look at the brushes and some typical brush locations. I could write all day long on the types of brushes and their holders, but a picture says a thousand words so here are some for you. Basic tools such as a screwdriver and pair of needle nose pliers are all you need. And remember ALWAYS REMOVE the BATTERY or UNPLUG the POWER TOOL BEFORE SERVICING BRUSHES

Your tool may differ from the ones pictured here. Consult your owner’s manual and it will tell you the type of brush and its location. If you are unsure of where your brushes are and how to replace them bring your tool to r. k. Miles and we can help you. (I think this is the whole point of the exercise!!) With proper maintenance your tool can last a lifetime. Please be careful when trying to perform any service on power tools.)

Remember, trained professionals are the ultimate caretakers of your equipment and this guide is to be used to get you out of a jam and just give you a little information as to how your tools work.


Jon Glinski works at rk MILES’ Middlebury store. Look for Part 2 of his Tool Repair Blog to come!

Questions for Jon, call or email him: 802-385-1134 direct



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