Questions & Answers

You may be starting a home project or be in the midst of one or have some experience you'd like to share. So here's a forum for that exchange. Jill and/or I can answer questions about certain problems or challenges but, remember, we're not licensed contractors (though we do consult with them). All you're asking is for our opinion. If you want to respond or add to any question or answer, just send it along and we'll add it as soon as possible (usually within a week). Also be sure to check out our how-to videos. Thanks. Ron & Jill

You can find this season's new questions and answers at the start of every category: click on the links for fast navigation


miscellaneous

floors

paint & paint stripping

wood refinishing

electricity & lamp repair

radiators

plumbing

plastering


Miscellaneous



Does the Old Wallpaper Have to Go?

I have taken the wallpaper off a lath and plaster wall. There is a thin layer of paper on top the main wall. Do I need to remove that layer.

Yes, that old paper is going to peel up and off sooner or later. Steam it off. Patch the wall with plaster to smooth it out. Then you’re ready to prime and paint.


Butler's Pantry

Hi, Ron and Jill: I really like what you did with the butler's pantry. I have one that is similar, with similar problems (it's a big mess, and is located between the kitchen and dining room so everyone sees the mess when they go into the kitchen. Could you please tell me the width of your butler's pantry? And the depth of the countertop? Mine is only 5 feet wide-- I don't know if there's enough room. Thank you, Ann H.

Hi, Ann: thanks for checking into House Love. Our pantry is 6 feet wide; the counters are about 17" deep. Since yours is 5 feet wide, I'd make the counters shallower, obviously -- say, 12-14" deep.

Our pantry is strictly for dishes so, yes, it can get quite messy in there. But we like how the pantry contains that mess. You could put a curtain over the doorway :)

Send us photos! Best wishes,

Advice for the Newbies?

As of October, I am the happy owner of a 1942 bungalow in Holly Hill,florida. I am very interested in maintainig its original integrity and charm but having never done any restoration I feel overwhelmed at times with projects and ideas...your story gives me hope that it will come together. Any pointers are whelcome...budget friendly.Thanks for the inspiration.
Allison





Hi, Allison: congratulations on buying your bungalow! We didn't have any experience when we started either, so take heart! Here are some things to consider:

  • Create a safe, warm, clean room for yourself so that, no matter how messy and torn up the rest of the house gets, you can always retreat to this room and catch your breath.


  • Always put yourself before the house. That means take care of yourself. Take time off from renovation work to go see a movie or museum. We like to go to open houses for inspiration. Also house museums.

  • Remember: you don't have to do everything yourself. If you can afford to hire experts, by all means do so, especially for things like electricity.


  • Start with tasks that seem do-able but most pressing. For example, you might want to weather strip your front doors to keep your heating bill down. Save cosmetic chores -- like paint stripping -- for much later.


  • If you've gone through a tough renovation job, like a couple of months on your kitchen, then take a break for a month -- it doesn't have to be Renovation All the Time!


  • You can get a lot of great DIY info. from videos on line. We like to watch several on a particular topic to make sure we're getting the best advice.


  • Start collecting books and magazines from the period you're trying to re-create in your renovation. Your private library will offer you plenty of inspiration.


  • And make contact -- as you have -- with other old house lovers. This creates a much-needed support network.


We hope this helps. Keep in touch -- and send photos, when you get some. Best wishes, Ron and Jill

How Can We Save Our Sanity?


I hope you are having a fabulous fall! Quick question for you: In the ten years you have been working on your project, have you always lived on-site? If yes, what do you do when you get weary of the perpetual mess!?

M. and I have been at it for 9 months now, and although we have made great progress we are still camping out with box towers in one room and using our camping dishes in the kitchen because nothing has been unpacked.

I think we may have hit a wall :0(

How did you keep the momentum up?!?! It is hard to ask our friends and family for encouragement because no one we know has lived through (and in) a project like this and I fear everyone thinks we're nuttier than a jar of JIF for taking this on!

Not looking for a therapy session or pity, just wondering -- what are some of the little things you guys did to keep your spirits up when exhaustion, dust, dirt and sore muscles wanted to bring you down? L & M

Hi, L & M: Yes, you are right -- as sympathetic as friends and family may be, nobody will understand exactly what you've been through and what you're going through unless they themselves have done this kind of work.

How did we keep our sanity? A few things -- Jill and I will take turns commenting:

RON: Jill insisted that all the closets be finished first so that we had some place to put things. Honestly, I didn't want to waste time on closets but, after I finished them, I saw that she was right. It got a lot of stuff out of the way.

Jill: I would add that it helped to stabilize one or two rooms -- these were like islands in a rough sea. In those rooms, everything was clean and orderly (more or less).

JILL: One big thing: Ron was working himself to exhaustion (he was getting 4 hours of sleep every night). I made him stop and take a vacation.

RON: I didn't realize it at the time but I was close to a nervous breakdown towards the end of our first six months. Once Jill got me away from the house, I spent most of that time sleeping and/or lying around. It helped me re-boot. So we built that in -- vacation time or quality time, just getting away from the house for a day (for flea marketing or whatever) really helps. We still do this.

JILL: After a certain point, you just have to pace yourself. You can't do it all and you really can't do it all at once.

RON: We learned to work in increments or at intervals. So we'd go hard for a month or two or even three and then we'd stop for 3-6 months. Whenever we stopped, we'd clean up the house as best we could so that we'd have a decent place to live. We still do this. Right now we're in the middle of a big project that's going to be messy for 6 months.

JILL: Except it's just in one room.

RON: Yeah, it helps to limit the scope of the work. Which reminds me: we did everything in stages. That means you work on one room to get it to a C-level of quality.

JILL: He means you work through the rooms just to stabilize them, not to perfect them.

RON: Then you circle back a year or two later and work on the rooms again -- to bring them up to B-level quality. And so on, until one year you're working on the rooms to bring them to A-level quality. This goes back to what Jill was saying about doing it all at once. Don't try to get any one room perfect. Get all of the rooms LIVEABLE first. Working on perfection is a long-term goal.

JILL: It's really important to get your kitchen working. The kitchen is the heart of the house. So make it a priority to get your kitchen together. We spend a lot of time in our kitchen.

RON: Another thing we did was make one room the junk/store room. It was where we kept all the tools and supplies so they weren't scattered all over the house.

JILL: Yeah, but they were still scattered all over the house.

RON: Well, we tried to keep the junk in one place but I DO make a mess.

JILL: No comment.

RON: It sounds like you two need a vacation for starters. If nothing else, just a vacation from work.

JILL: There are big projects and small projects. You might stop all the big projects, get the house cleaned up as best as possible, then--over the next 6 months -- focus on small doable things and then target one big project for the spring or summer.

RON: Nothing is more wearing than living out of boxes.

JILL: Yeah, that drove me crazy.

RON: So I'd put that at the top of the list -- get rid of the boxes. Clean up your closets, find some decent storage space in the house, and you'll feel better.

JILL: Even if you've just stacked most of the boxes in one room.

RON: But take out the things you use every day. You don't want to go rooting through boxes for your clothes every day.

RON: We hope that you get some rest soon so that you can come back to your house work with renewed energy.

JILL: Oh, one more thing: we're always going to open houses to see other cool old homes and what people have done to them.

RON: House museums too.

JILL: We've found that these finished houses give us a boost because they give us ideas about our own house.

RON: Sometimes they're really inspirational. They get me itchy to work on our house.

Best wishes and let us know how it goes!
Ron & Jill

FOLLOW-UP: Dear Ron and Jill,

I have to take a moment to offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you to you both. Not only did you send some good ideas, but I love that you really took the time to write and send a sincere answer.

We HAVE been trying for perfection in rooms, thinking we only want to do this once and then we can enjoy it. We also figured sanding plaster, drywall and floors will get dust and debris into all of our belongings and clean rooms so it is better to keep things packed in boxes and finished rooms empty for easy cleaning later. Turns out, the dust gets into everything regardless and chances are we will spring clean like we do every year anyways so . . . .WHAT WERE WE THINKING???

Right now I am working on finishing sanding the staircase. Once that is done, we are going to follow your advice and clean up as best we can and live in our house at its current state for a few months. We did go antiquing this summer on one day and it was a lot of fun. We have decided we need to sit down and pick a "date" night and stick to it! We love the idea of seeking out old homes and house museums for inspiration and motivation -- a much better date night idea than our current one: Go to the laundromat, load the clothes in washers, run to Coney Island for take-out food, throw clothes in dryers then eat dinner while they dry, fold clothes, go home. It was fun a first, reminiscent of our college days and younger dating years but I fear the novelty has worn off!

Again, thanks for the ideas and support. Best wishes on your new BIG project. We will eagerly await pictures on the HouseLove site.

God Bless! L & M


Where is Ron's Book?


Hi. I am interested in buying your book about fixing up the house, but haven't been able to locate it. Is it still available somewhere? Thanks Paula

Hi, Paula. Thank you for your interest in From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story. It hasn't been published yet because I'm still working on it. Best wishes, Ron

Update:

Ron's book is here!



The lamp lady on your newel post

I love your newel post "Lamp Lady". Where can I find one?


The lamp lady -- the newel post lamp -- shouldn't be too hard to find. A great number of these were made in the late 1800s and early part of the twentieth century. You can distinguish these from table-top lamps because of the small round (wood) base that they stand on. The figures themselves were made of spelter, an alloy that is mostly zinc (it's also called "pot metal"). It was a cheap substitute for bronze. Figures cast from spelter are fairly fragile. Often if they topple onto a hard surface, they will crack. If you find a spelter figure in an antiques shop, you want to be sure the seller knows the difference between spelter and bronze. Bronze is going to be very heavy, very smooth, and, if scratched, it will show yet more bronze below the surface. Spelter will show a silvery color.

We actually had another newel post figure just like this one but we sold it to a friend in the neighborhood. The first one we got from a friend who found it at an auction. We found our second one at an auction too. That's a good place to look obviously. You'll pay a lot more at an antiques store. Also look at online sales. In fact, if you do a search by entering "newel post lamp" you'll find a lot of offerings. If you're looking for bargains, auctions are the way to go. Our newel post lady cost us $75 several years ago. Good luck hunting! Ron & Jill

Are Copper Gutters Good for a DIY?


Hi, Ron, a friend of mine put me onto your house renovation site; amazing stuff. Thought of you in light of my front gutter coming down with ice. I live in a Victorian . . . and need to replace a section of guttering about 13ft on the ground level. I've been looking online and mixed reviews about whether guttering is something to do diy, especially the soldering for the copper.
Any thoughts? Trust you must have faced this problem with your place.
Thanks, Graham in Baltimore

Hi, Graham: thanks for checking out our site and getting in touch. First, there's nothing like copper gutters. If it's within your budget, get a pro to do the replacement. Two reasons: the pro has experience; and, if he's reputable, he'll back up his work. As you know, the gutter has to sit just right under the roof line and it has to drop just right to keep the water flowing. And, of course, it has to be secured well so that it will hold under most conditions (not storms like we just had). I'd save the aggravation and time for other DIY projects, like installing a door or wiring a new lamp. Good luck with your project. Send us a photo. And keep in touch. Best wishes, Ron

How To Clean Mucked-up Cabinet & Door Hardware


Hello, I have spent the better part of a whole day reading your blog.  It is fascinating and wonderful.  I also have a love for old homes and can see many possibilities. I have old hardware, door knobs and face plates that need to be stripped and/or cleaned. Does Jill boil them in just soapy water? Is there a particular brand of soap that works best, and is anything else added? How long does she boil it? What is the process after they are boiled? Thank you ahead of time for any assistance you can offer me. Sincerely, Johanna in the UK


Hi, Johanna: I boil rusted or heavily painted hardware (door plates and latches etc.) overnight in my crock-pot. I keep the heat on "low." I add only a squirt of dish detergent. Neither of us is sure if this makes any difference but I figure it can't hurt. In the morning, I lift out one piece at a time (careful, they're hot), then I place the piece on a metal tray and scrub it with a small fine-wire brush. The paint comes right off and so does the rust (if there's any left). If there are any little bits of paint left, I pick them out with pins or a dental tool. Then Ron sprays the hardware with a clear gloss lacquer. We never re-paint the hardware. If we don't want the hardware permanently coated with a clear finish, then we rub cooking oil on it to inhibit rust. I hope this helps. Good luck with your project! Jill

How To Remove Aged, Yucky Tile Adhesive


Hi. We just removed old vinyl tiles from the 12x12 kitchen floor. Covering the hardwood is black yucky tile adhesive. We tried adhesive remover. It was very toxic and didn't work. Any suggestions? Especially non toxic/green. We would like to stain and varnish after adhesive is removed. Saw your great video. Thanks. Dobra

Hi, Dobra: Jill and I had this problem in our kitchen. The tile had been laid in the 1920s and was under several inches of other tile. When we got down to the floor finally, we encountered the black, aged tile mastic--it's like hardened tar. We tried all kinds of solvents on it but nothing was much help. We got so frustrated we contemplated blowing it up but that wasn't pratical. Finally, Jill wet the adhesive with soapy water. Mind you, we did not soak the floor, just got the adhesive wet. You could lay wet towels over a stretch of the adhesive or you could spray bottle patches as you work. It does loosen up.

Then we scraped the stuff off with a razor scraper and some other paint stripping tools. One tool we used is called a "mutt." It's a large scraper attached to a shovel handle. It gives you wide coverage and lots of leverage. None of this is easy but it is do-able and just as effective as chemicals. Do NOT take sand paper to the adhevise -- that will just heat up the adhesive and gum up your sand paper. As a final clean-up--after you've scraped most of it off -- use rough steel wool soaked in rubbing alcohol (90% alcohol is best) to scour the floor. Then we went over it once more with a razor scraper. Good luck!
Ron & Jill



What to do with a Wet Basement?

Ron, I've got a wet basement and I don't want to spend a fortune getting it fixed. What do you suggest? Suzanne. Monkton, MD

Holy cow, Suzanne. This is a huge question. Let me start with some basics: if your basement is underground (fully or partially),then the first thing you want to look at is drainage around the house. Concrete and masonry are really porous, though they don't look it. Let me give you a very simplified drawing to illustrate the concept.

The basement wall could be sealed also, on the inside with a product like DryLoc and on the outside with any number of waterproofing products, the most basic of which would be tar.

If the leaking persists, then you'll want to install something called a "french drain" in the basement itself. The concept inside remains the same as the drainage technique outside: you'll dig a two-foot trench--just inside the wall, all along the perimeter of the basement; then you'll put in gravel, a perforated pvc pipe angled to a sump-pump at the back of the basement; then cover the pipe with gravel. The gravel trench acts as a barrier to break the flow of moisture across the basement floor.

There's a lot of info. you can pull up online about techniques. There are few things more unpleasant--and potentially hazardous--than a wet basement, so you're right to seek some remedies, Suzanne.




FLOORS



What Kind of Wood Putty?

I would like to know what kind of wood putty you suggest using.

Use an oil-based wood putty, not a water based. Read the directions on the can; if it says, "Easy clean-up wth soap and water," do NOT use it. An oil based product will be much tougher and give you much better results.

An Alternative to Polyurethane?

I like your method and appreciate your video because you are doing a job professionally using equipment most people can find / afford. Do you have suggestions on alternatives to polyurethane? Maybe teak oil or wax? What is the most economic solution there?

I wouldn't put oil on a floor because it will attract and hold dirt. Wax is dangerous because it creates a too-slippery surface. The most economical solution is to use polyurethane. It's cheap and long-lasting. As an alternative you could use shellac, what wood workers have used for about 200 years. It's tough and all-natural.

How to Get Rid of Linoleum Adhesive?

We have a small office room in a 1929 house that seems to have been covered in linoleum adhesive at one point. It's very thick and hard in spots. Can we avoid using a chemical stripper and get by with sanding? Or should we try a power planer?

Hi: Most mastics for linoleum are water soluble. Do NOT use chemicals. You can dab the adhesive with a wet/damp towel -- water only, soak it a bit, one area at a time -- then scrape it up. Experiment with a variety of scrapers. This should work. Good luck with your project!


Hardwood Floor Replacement

Hi, Ron
Just got a new condo and I'm currently putting in hardwood flooring. 1) We're (me and the dad) are planning on putting in solid hardwood and the bottom floor is concrete. We were going to put in plywood and nail over that. Any suggestions? In your Youtube video, Ron, you didn't stain the hardwood after sanding the hardwood floor. Should I just sand then put the polyurethane coat over it? Thanks for any help. The Youtube video was helpful (the one where you repaired your friends floor by sanding and recoating)
Ayon
Hi, Ayon: What you propose sounds right: give yourself a subfloor (3/4" plywood) to nail into. There are a number of ways to attach the plywood to the concrete. You'll have to inset the bolts (into the plywood) and use washers (under the bolt head) to anchor them. I do not recommend masonry nails, even though they'd probably work fine.

yes, you can sand, then coat with polyurethane. No need to treat the wood in any way. That said, if this is new wood, you'd get more consistent results if you coated the wood with a pre-finish sealant.

Best wishes,
Ron

What Kind of Belt Sander?

Hello, Ron
Your video on refurbishing a hardwood floor has inspired my husband and I to attempt one ourselves, thank you. Could you please tell me what to look for in a belt sander? Specifically what caliber motor, and any other factors that may be important to consider?
Victoria
Hi, Victoria: thank you for checking in. You want a high quality belt sander that has a 3 x 21" belt. Check out the Hitachi SB 8V2 or the Milwaukee brand. You want something of that quality. Let us know how it goes! best wishes,
Ron

How Do I Make This Wood Match?

I began stripping all the woodwork in my 1916 farm house.....beautiful wood under all that goopy paint. BUT, it's all different. Some is Douglas Fir, some is oak, and some is Maple (I think). How do you "tie it all in" to make it look like that was on purpose? I don't want to do all this work if it's going to just look weird. Love the blog!! Dayan

Hi, Midgy: thank you for taking time to visit us. Yes, woodwork in farm houses was almost always painted. Nonetheless, as you've discovered, they used really nice wood -- often whatever they could find, which is why you've discovered such variety. We recommend choosing a dark stain (and finishing with satin polyurethane). If the stain is dark enough, it will give you a uniform look, no matter what the wood. We've done this in a number of projects. So, try a test area and see what it looks like.
If you're not satisfied with the look of your stained wood, we'd still strip it all. That way, your new paint job will look really crisp and lovely.
Send us some photos, if you've got them. And keep in touch!
Best of luck with your project! Ron and Jill

How Do You Refinish Parquet Floors?

Your house looks beautiful ! I purchased a old Victorian Home in Newark NJ last year and was wondering how you re-finished your Parquet entry floors ? Did you use a sander and if so, what kind ? In one of your videos you urge people to go with the grain of the wood, how do you follow the grain when the floor pattern varies so greatly ? Any feedback will be appreciated & thanks for the inspiration !!!
Dayan
Hi, Dayan: thank you for visiting us at Houselove. Newark has some fabulous neighborhoods! Send us photos of your house, if you've got them. As for your floors: use an orbital sander. We're going to post a video about this soon. Try 80 grit paper for starters if the floor is rough, then move to 120, and then 220 -- something like that. If you only need to remove surface dirt and scuffs, start with 120 grit. Let us know how it goes. Best wishes, Ron and Jill

My hardwood floor will not shine up again.

What options do I have if liquid wax was used on a poloyurethane finished hardwood floor?
Jim


Hi, Jim: As you know, polyurethane floors are a final finish -- they are not meant to be coated with anything. Some people make the mistake of waxing a polyurethane floor -- with the result of making it dangerously slippery. Others, as in your case, attempt to put a liquid wax coating on a floor, not understanding that grocery-store products like liquid or no-wax coatings are very short-lived and often succeed in dulling a floor (as the product ages or builds up) instead of enhancing the floor.

So, you want to get that liquid wax coating off. Easiest way to do it is to "screen" your floor with an orbital sander. The experts at your local equipment rental place will explain how it's done. A screen is not as hard on the floor as sandpaper -- it's a way of refreshing the finish. Actually, I have screened my floors with a 220 grit sandpaper on a belt sander, just lightly going over it to remove the very top layer of dirt and stains. Then wipe it down (I use rubbing alcohol), then coat the floor with a high-gloss polyurethane. one coat will do. Your floors will pop!
Ron

What Can We Do about Screws in Our Wood Floor?


I have watched your video on refinishing a hardwood floor. We have taken our old carpet up and removed all tack stips etc. There are over 100 screws in the floor, our guess the floors were very squeaky. What can we do with the screws to continue with the refinishing process? Vicki

Hi, Vicki: thanks for checking in with us. Short answer: you're going to have to take out those screws, then sand the floor. We do NOT recommend putting the screws back in. Here are your options:

1) BEFORE refinishing the floor, take out the screws, then repair the floor properly. This might entail taking up the floor boards and even replacing some. We are going to do a floorboard repair video this winter, so check back with us. In the meantime, do an internet search for "floor board repair" or "wood floor repair" and see what comes up. You should NEVER have to screw down a floor board.

2) Quick and dirty approach: Take out the screws, refinish the floor, then replace the screws.

3) Less quick but still dirty: Take out the screws, refinish the floor, then replace the screws BY COUNTERSINKING THEM so that they are flush with the refinished floor.

Good luck with your project! And let us know how it goes. Ron

FOLLOW-UP: Thank you for your recommendation. We did take all of the screws out. We sanded the floors, filled the holes with wood filler, and have sanded again. We are staining this weekend, and hoping for a beautiful finish. I enjoy your site. Thank you again. Vicki

Do I Have to Get Rid of This Carpet?


I was told that I should remove carpet from a house that has sat empty for 3 years. The house is only 6 years old. It hasn't been wet, there hasn't been any heat or cooling in it for these past years. Is this true??? Pat

Hi, Pat. I consulted with a contractor friend and we both agree that there's NO reason to remove that carpet if it's as you describe. Good luck with your project! Ron


Do I Have to Stain the Wood Floor Before Applying Polyurethane?


Quick question: Can I polyurethane over a floor which has been sanded but not stained. I want to keep it looking the way it is. Jes

Hi, Jes: Yes, you never have to stain wood before finishing it. Some people may suggest applying a coat of "pre-stain wood conditioner," which is just a clear coat that fills in the wood pores so that your stain or finish goes on more smoothly. I've never used it. I like the light tone of un-stained wood. Just make sure that your surface is well sanded and clean (wipe it clean with 90% rubbing alcohol). Good luck with your project! Ron

How Do I Get Black Stains Out of My Wood Floor?


I recently removed carpet and found hardwood floor. I want to restore the hardwood but there are some deep black stains. What is the best way to remove the stains. Janet

Hi, Janet: Sounds like your floor has water stains. We had plenty of those in our house. 1) Best approach is to sand the floor to see how much of the black comes out. We got rid of most of ours in the entryway. Look on our first-floor page: http://houselove.org/first.php to see a photo of the before and after.

Use an orbital sander, rented from a home improvement store. These are not hard to operate and the rental people will give you advice about your floor.

2) The other approach is to use wood bleach. You still have to make sure your floors are sanded the way you want them. Then go after the stain with bleach. The problem with wood bleach (buy it at any home improvement store) is that it will take ALL of the color out of the wood. Then you will have to re-stain that part of the floor. It will never quite match the rest but it will look better than it did.

I did this to remove a severe totally black water stain on oak parquet. I didn't get the match quite right but it looks almost normal.

Good luck with your project. Let us know how it goes! Jill

Should I Use a Belt Sander on My Floors?


Hi Ron and Jill, my name is Trevor and I stumbled upon your website looking on youtube for floor sanding videos. First off I have to say that your house and what you have turned it into is just a work of art, and has really inspired me into doing some nifty work on my own house. I will try and keep this short, but I have a question about sanding hardwood flooring.

OK so this house I have just purchased has original hardwood flooring, and the finish has been completly worn off. There are some (what look like burn marks) and I realize that I will most likely not be able to get them all out but is there a way to possibly lift the darkness of without gouging the floor?

Also I realize that using a belt sander takes much more time then a drum, but I have 3 bedrooms, a living room and a dining room that I need to do. Any advice on a system that may speed up the process? Or do you suggest for best results to strickly belt sand?

Well thanks again, and I look forward to seeing what else you folks have to post in the future. Trevor


Hi, Trevor: thanks for checking out our Houselove site.

1) As for your floors, the belt sander is much too limited for sanding more than one room. You need to rent an orbital sander. These are much easier to use than drum sanders and they can cover a large area. When you use the orbital sander, follow the same procedure I describe in our video.

The black stains on your floor are most likely from water. 2) Sand over these as you sand over the rest of the floor, then see what you've got. We had some severe black water stains in our entry; sanding pretty much took them all out.

3) If sanding doesn't get the black stains out, then you might have to use some wood bleach (available at most hardware stores) . There's no easy process for doing this. You'll have to experiment. Andl you may have to stain the bleached section to get a closer match to your original floor color.

We offer a lot of advice about floors on our advice page: http://houselove.org/QA.php, so be sure to check that out if you haven't already.

Good luck with your project -- and let us know how it goes. Best wishes, Ron



Sanding Floors


Ron, I enjoyed your video on youtube about sanding floors. I have a quick question. I have a living room and dining room that ajoin each other.If I put down polyeurothane in the dining room first and then after that dries, finish the living room, would it be obvious that the two areas were done at different times? Moving all the furniture is the problem here.

Another question.I'm planning on using 100 grit to sand my floors. Basically to take off the old polyeurothane. I think there are just a couple of coats from when the floor was first put in. You think that will be fine? Also I'm worried about dust. Since this is a medium grit will dust be the usual problem it is for people sanding? I'll use a Clarke e z sander. They have a separate shop vac that attaches but none of the rental stores carries it. Do you think hooking up a different brand shop vac would work? Thanks. Robert

Hi, Robert: that's no problem. I do it all the time. The main thing is to do the floors the same way -- that is, the same number of coats, the same kind of polyurethane, etc. I've been doing our house in stages, as it's needed. Sometimes I do the stairs, then the hall, then the room.

Yes, any shop vac will do as long as you get a good seal between the sander and the vac (so that no dust is spitting out). You'll have to finish the floor with a higher grit, like 150 or higher, to get a really smooth finish. Good luck!Good luck with your project! Ron

The Mystery of the Popping Floors:

I live on the 1st floor of a 3 family house about 100 yrs old. It is very poorly insulated and you can hear your neighbor's conversation if they are speaking loudly. Not much repairs have been done except the recent replacement of a delapadated porch. You could not make two steps without the floorboards squeaking, so I finally convinced my brother to fix it. Now the squeaking is replaced by a lot of popping when you step in those areas and cracking when you walk through the archways. For instance,I notice that when I step in the entrance of my kichen, there is a popping sound on the opposite wall. . . .I know that some places where the wood joins, if you manipulate it with your toes, it is springy, . . . If you hold down a loose board with your toes and someone walks across it, it feels like the floor is giving way under your feet . . . . I was planning on buying this house from my brother, but now I am not so sure. What is happening . . . and how can this be fixed?
Dawna in Connecticut


Dawna, my best guess is that the floor joists have sagged and so there is space between the joists and the floor boards. The joists are the support beams under the floor and these are attached to the frame of your house. Over time, the house has "settled," making the joists bend down at the ends. This kind of sagging happens in all old houses, which is why floors in old houses are never level and rooms in old houses are never square.


Run your mouse over this image -- it gives you an idea of how your floor boards rock. The popping is the floorboard smacking against the new nails because the nails won't hold the floorboard tight against the sagging joists. The cracking is probably the floorboards stressing against each other as they try to rock up.


It's really not a serious problem but it will take work to repair. You'll have to pull up all of the floorboards and put shims on top of the joists to level them out. Then you can re-lay the floorboards. While you have the floorboards up, you can insulate (sound proof) between the floors. Remember, when sound-proofing you need air space between the insulation and the floor--you do not want to pack the space with insulation because packed insulation carries the sound instead of dampening it. So here's an opportunity to take care of nagging problem and get some more privacy. Good luck!


How Should I Refinish These Floors?


I live in a house with oak floor from the 50's Now the polyurethane is peeling and the floor is getting dark stains from floor traffic. What do you think is the best way to sand and reseal the floor. I have 3 rooms to do and each room is roughly 12 x 15
Thanks, M.R.

Hi, M.R.: best thing for your job would be an orbital sander. These are easy to operate (unlike drum sanders) and they'll do what you need. Since you do not have damaged floors, all you need to do is sand off the old polyurethane and old dirt. Your local DIY rental store can advise you on how to use the orbital sanders. There are also plenty of videos on line about this.

We recommend at least two coats of high-gloss polyurethane to finish your job
See our video for details: How to Sand and Save a Wood Floor. Good luck with your project and keep in touch! Best wishes, Ron



Paint and Paint Stripping


How to Refinish this Wood Trim?h3> Hello Ron:
I wanted to thank you for your very helpful video on how to refinish woodwork! I have been looking and looking for a video like that to help me, and now I am all excited to get back to work (the project hit a standstill for awhile). I have some questions that I am hoping you can help me with because I am very new to this sort of thing.

I live in a Victorian house (church parsonage) built in 1904. I am trying to restore the wood trim because it is all painted over, but I am not sure how I will know if I am ready to stain. The stain is going to be dark like the Rest of the house, but once I get the paint off, I am not sure how much more I am supposed to keep sanding and scraping. How will I know when I am ready to stain? The problem is that one I got the white paint off the wood in a few spots, there are some places where it looks like I got down to the wood, but I am not sure if I did because there is some kind of a grayish layer/ "film" left behind from when I started with a chemical stripper. When I used the heat gun, I know I hit bare wood because everything came off.

Also, what tools should I be using to get in the dips and groves of the baseboard and trim? I have been trying to look online for what to use, but haven't found enough info on what I need to purchase or where to purchase it.

Again, thanks for your video! It was very helpful. :) I hope you can help me.
Nicole Powell

Hi, Nicole: thanks for visiting us at House Love.

When stripping wood, you want to get it down to the raw wood -- no paint left whatsoever. If any paint is left, your refinish stain will not take to those areas and the paint will show through, ruining your finish: it's that grayish film you mention. You can always do a test stain to see if you've got all the paint up, making sure it doesn't show through. Then, if you have to, you can sand out that test area. For those impossible to strip spots and grooves, we paint over them so that they will blend into the stain, as I described in our video

Here's a link for paint-scraping tools: https://www.stortz.com/OnlineStore/categoryid/1863/paint_scrapers.aspx
I like to get mine from flea markets and garage sales, so I'm waiting for spring to do that.

Good luck with your project: let us know how it goes. And send photos! Best wishes,
Ron

Stripping Paint From Wood Trim

Hello,
I wanted to thank you for your very helpful video on how to refinish woodwork! I have been looking and looking for a video like that to help me, and now I am all excited to get back to work (the project hit a stand still for awhile). I have some questions that I am hoping you can help me with because I am very new to this sort of thing.

I live in a Victorian house (church parsonage) built in 1904. I am trying to restore the wood trim because it is all painted over, but I am not sure how I will know if I am ready to stain. The stain is going to be dark like the Rest of the house, but once I get the paint off, I am not sure how much more I am supposed to keep sanding and scraping. How will I know when I am ready to stain? The problem is that one I got the white paint off the wood in a few spots, there are some places where it looks like I got down to the wood, but I am not sure if I did because there is some kind of a grayish layer/ "film" left behind from when I started with a chemical stripper. When I used the heat gun, I know I hit bare wood because everything came off.

Also, what tools should I be using to get in the dips and groves of the baseboard and trim? I have been trying to look online for what to use, but haven't found enough info on what I need to purchase or where to purchase it.

Again, thanks for your video! It was very helpful. :) I hope you can help me.

Nicole Powell
Hi, Nicole: thanks for visiting us at House Love.
When stripping wood, you want to get it down to the raw wood -- no paint left whatsoever. If any paint is left, your refinish stain will not take to those areas and the paint will show through, ruining your finish: it's that grayish film you mention. You can always do a test stain to see if you've got all the paint up, making sure it doesn't show through. Then, if you have to, you can sand out that test area. For those impossible to strip spots and grooves, we paint over them so that they will blend into the stain, as I described in our video

Here's a link for paint-scraping tools: Storz & Son

I like to get mine from flea markets and garage sales, so I'm waiting for spring to do that.

Good luck with your project: let us know how it goes. And send photos!

Best wishes,

Ron at House Love

A Mask for Paint Stripping?

A question--do you recommend some kind of mask when you use polyurethane, and if so, what type? I'm concerned for my animals too. If it's a good idea, how long do you keep Frieda away from the fumes? Thanks!

I use a respirator (it has two filters, one on each side of the mask). The fumes are most noxious while the poly is wet. I keep the pets out of the room until it's completely dry.



Problem With Dark Varnish

I am stripping the paint off of pine woodwork inside my home. I am using citistrip gel and most of the paint and varnish is off BUT a few spots of dark varnish are showing. Do I need to slave to get these off or will it be covered up when I put the new dark varnish on?
The dark varnish will show through if the new varnish is lighter. Try scraping off the remaining spots of dark varnish with a razor scraper or very sharp paint scraper. See our video for details: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe5n8pSyeoI Best wishes, Ron

Paint Stripping Tools?

Thank you, your paint stripping video is one of the most helpful tutorials I've seen! Do you have any other recommendations on where to find stripping/scraping tools? Thanks, Lauren

Hi, Lauren: you can find good, cheap tools at thrift stores, like Goodwill. Also flea markets and garage sales offer the best deals. But try Craigs list too. Auctions sometimes have old tools. I prefer old, even antique, tools because they're well made. Cheap new tools won't last. Good luck with your project!

Lead Paint Danger?

Hi, Ron
I just watched your video on stripping paint off old door frames. Great stuff! I don't have the tools for that, though. The paint we have now is probably from the mid-70's, if not older. I intend to go over it with a sander before I repaint it, but am afraid of the paint containing lead. Do you think it does? What would you recommend I do? Thank you!
Ned
Hi, Ned: that paint is surely lead-based. I would not sand it! If you wear a respirator, then ventilate the house afterwards, you can burn it off with a heat gun (heat guns are cheap to buy -- get one from a flea market or craig's list). Otherwise, I'd remove it with chemical stripper.

Best wishes,
Ron /

What is That Paint Color?

Hi, Ron
Am wondering whether you'd mind sharing the name of the green paint color you used in the kitchen. It's similar to what I'm looking for and finding the correct green is so difficult to do. Thanks so much!
Tracie
Hi, Tracie: thanks for keeping in touch. The green you're talking about is in the kitchen, right? We had that formula mixed with Brehr paints. It's a satin enamel. the formula reads like this:
Colorant: OZ 49 96 B
lamp black 1 28 0 C
yellow oxid 2 24 0 D
thalo green 1 27 0
I guess the paint people know how to read this!
Best wishes,
Ron & Jill

What Are You Using to Cover Those Spots?

Really enjoyed your video on stripping wood trim! Thank you! You've given me the courage to accept that things in an old house are not perfect, and that instead of spending two hours trying to remove a few spots of paint (which is some of which I've been doing), to simply cover it up with paint!

Question: What type of paint did you use to hide the remaining unstrippable paint, before staining?
NK
Hi, NK: thanks for visiting us. Since you're going to be covering this paint with polyurethane or some other kind of clear topcoat, the type of paint doesn't really matter. Remember, you're applying the paint to raw wood (or a primer over the raw wood). You can use any enamel -- flat or gloss. I'd go with flat, though (it's less expensive too). Good luck with your project!
Ron and Jill

Paint Stripper?

Hello ron, i have a question for you. i have been taking the paint off of my trim and molding, only about a week into it (here and there). i was told to use some stuff called "citriorange". it works decent, but after seeing your video on taking paint off with the heating element and gun, i am going to do that now instead. if the paint isn't 100% off from the citri orange areas, how do you suggest "cleaning" the wood to make it smooth and ready for paint? if sand paper, what grit?
Mark
Hi, Mark: thank you for visiting us at Houselove. We've used the orange chemical stripper. Once it's dry, you can remove the rest of the paint with a heat gun. Then you can clean the wood with coarse steel wool soaked in grain or 90% alcohol (do NOT use denatured alcohol). Then you can scrape it with tools. Best of luck with your project! Ron and Jill

Follow-up:
Hey, thanks! I got that lamp fixed, but now am working on another one and your advice is very useful. I ended up fixing one of the six-way lamps myself, but the other one I had done. I just couldn't figure out the wiring on that one because someone had changed it and it was a big mess. Now they are great and both work! I like doing goony stuff like that. Again, thanks so much for the reply! Ruthie

Lead Danger!

We just found out our house has lead in it..but its too pricey to redo the walls floors..everything. Any ideas on how to put new walls and floors in for cheap?
Lead doesn't have to be a big deal, unless you have children. Do you have children?

The main thing about lead paint is that you have to contain it -- paint over it. And then keep it from chipping. That's all. Just paint over the paint you have. Use a heavy duty primer, like KILZ, first.

How is there lead on your floors? Are they painted?

Send me more details and I can give you more answers.

Getting Off 10 Coats of Paint

We are trying to strip 10 coats of paint off old kitchen cabinets. The top coat is very sticky and comes off like bubble gum and is very difficult to remove. We have tried various kinds of strippers and even tried sanding. That first layer of paint is just awful do you have any suggestions?
Annette

Hi, Annette: Thanks for visiting us at Houselove. The only thing to do with paint like that is burn it off with a heat gun or heat element. We have found that heat works best on all tough paint. Have you used heat? Never sand paint that thick -- it's a lead dust hazard. Let us know how it goes!
Ron and Jill

A Green Paint Stripper?

I'm stripping an entire staircase--the paint (latex overcoat and probably a primer coat) and the old original (1932) varnish--off spindles, banister, newel post, moulding, risers, treads. I want to take it back to bare wood and then apply a cherry stain and poly overcoat. I've got a heat gun that does the trick, but it's labor intensive. Can you recommend a good non-toxic (green) stripper?
Thanks. Dave

Hi, Dave: I've heard really good things about soy-based stripper: do a search on "soy paint removal gel" and you'll find a lot of products. We don't use any strippers any more (we never liked the ones we tried) but soy is one I might try if faced with a particularly daunting job. Take before and after pics! Yours, Ron

How Do We Strip This Paint?

Our new home--an 1890 Queen Anne Victorian--is by far not in bad a shape as your home was when you purchased it, but there are some things that we would like to restore. The major thing would be to remove the paint from the interior window seals, doors, and wood carvings . We can't decide what would be the best way to go to get this project started. We do not want to damage the wood below the painted surfaces with the process of paint removal, because we don't want to repaint the wood after we remove the paint. We like to only remove the paint, and than hopefully buff the wood up a little with polish etc.

All the information on the internet is so confusing …there are hundreds of paint removers out there, and they all claim to be the best. None of the products advertised mentions if the wood below the painted area will be damaged. Would you have any advice how to get started? Andre & Bobbi, Atlanta, GA

Hi, Andre & Bobbi: There's a lot to say about stripping paint (I devote quite a bit of time to it in my book). But here's a short answer: infrared heat is the way to go. We bought a Silent Paint Remover from Air-nailers. There are a lot of brands out there. They all do the same thing, housing two quartz heating tubes in a handled container that you hold up to your painted surface. These are the same quartz elements found in space heaters. They don't get hot enough to make the paint toxic (though you should wear a mask). And they heat a large shoe-box-sized area evenly.

If your woodwork has been painted over varnish, the heat will make the paint bubble and almost lift off. You have to practice a while with various tools to get the knack of lifting the paint off. Hot paint smears easily--you want to get under it and pry or flick it off. The removed paint (which cools quickly) will be as brittle as corn chips. The stuff can be ground to dust very easily, so you want to sweep it up as soon as possible.

We follow the heat treatment with a heat gun for the stubborn areas, then a rough steel wool dipped in high-content (90%) rubbing alcohol or grain alcohol. And then a light sanding.

No matter what you do, you will end up gouging and/or roughing up the wood. So you will have to do some sanding. That means you'll have to refinish the wood. I can talk about that too (at another time), if you'd like.

Another technique I use is a razor scraper. After the initial strip, I rub down the wood with the alcohol-soaked steel wool, I let the alcohol sit for a couple of minutes, then I scrape the wood with the edge of the razor blade. As soon as I get a minute I'll draw a picture of this and post it here. I scrape with a downward motion, firmly holding the scraper near the blade to get the most leverage.

The razor-scrape method has worked really well for me because it shaves off the slightest surface of the paint-saturated wood.

The main thing is to try a variety of tools and techniques. And wear a mask. Feel free to ask questions. And send us some pictures. Best of luck. Ron

P.S. Check out our video on paint stripping:
"How to Strip Paint from Wood"

FOLLOW-UP FROM ANOTHER REHABBER: I don't have an infrared heat gun, but love my regular heat gun for removing paint. The only problem I have is with windows - the heat breaks glass. After this happened to me twice, I just stopped using the heat gun on the windows and re-painted them. Kathleen. Baltimore, MD.

RESPONSE FROM RON: Yes, those heat guns get really hot. Jill and I have devised a couple of ways to work around this. Tape over panes of glass with cardboard covered with aluminum foil (shiny side out). Another method is to simply hold a piece of thin plywood (quarter inch) over the pane as you blast the trim with heat. Both methods have worked well for us. Thanks for sharing. Ron

What's that Machine You Use to Strip Paint?


Where do you buy the big heat gun ( or what ever it is called) to remove paint from wood? Is it best to take the wood trim off when removing the paint or can you leave it on? Sally

Hi, Sally: Hi: here's the product we're using: http://www.air-nailers.com/spr/index.jsp

And, no: do NOT take off the wood trim. It is way too much trouble and, chances are, you will break more than one piece trying to remove it.

Thanks for visiting us. Keep in touch and let us know how you're project is going. Ron

Refinishing Wood


A Wood-Stripping Challenge

I am stipping the paint off of pine woodwork inside my home. I am using citistrip gel and most of the paint and varnish is off BUT a few spots of dark varnish are showing. Do I need to slave to get these off or will it be covered up when I put the new dark varnish on? Annee

Hi, Annee: the dark varnish will show through if the new varnish is lighter. Try scraping off the remaining spots of dark varnish with a razor scraper or very sharp paint scraper. See our video for details: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe5n8pSyeoI Best wishes,
Ron


How Do I Sand This Wood?


Great site... I had a quick question regarding sanding wood... more specifically an old stair case. Although I consider myself a novice I know this, sand along the grain of the wood... but here is the problem. The grain of the wood of my stair case is not ordinary. the grain does not run paralell to the next grain of wood and they are not straignt lines. They are circular, wavy, rippely... everything but straight. How would I sand it?

If I have a surface which on the right is what I will label "perpendicular grain" which runs straight to the middle where it encounters grain which is Arching towards the bottom left... I would sand in the following manner- For the Perpendicular the sanding should be straight right to left and the arching portion my hand should "follow the arch"? Jesse T.

Hi, Jesse: It sounds like you have wood with quite varied graining. I can understand your confusion. If you've seen quarter sawn oak or maple ("tiger maple"), you might wonder how anybody can follow the grain in those woods. But there is an easy answer for sanding wood that holds for almost all lumber: lumber is cut so that the grain follows the length of the piece. That's pretty much universal.



Look at your floor boards, for example. The grain follows the length of each board. So you'd sand from one end to the other, following the length of the piece Your stairs are similar. Just sand length wise. It doesn't matter what the grain looks like.

Remeber to finish with a "fine" paper (200 grit or more). Good luck with your project! Ron



Refinishing Stairway Spindles/Balusters


Hello Ron, Hope this message finds you and Jill well. I want to thank you for your video post on how to strip paint. It has been very, very helpful this week! I am curious, however, how did you guys redo the spindles on your staircase? I know a lot of them were missing and damaged so you had new made, but the ones that remained - how did you refinish those? I have 25 spindles on our staircase that have not been painted but need to be redone.Suggestions, as always, appreciated.Thanks and have a wonderful weekend! Laurel Zoet

Hi, Laurel: thanks for checking out our video. We had to have new balusters (spindles) made for the staircase to replace the ones the fraternity destroyed. We took measurements for all the ones that were missing, then we took one of the original balusters as a model and gave these to a wood turner, who copied the original. Some wood turners have machines that can do copies -- instead of the wood turning doing each one himself on a lathe. It's pricey to get this done, no matter what the process, but sometimes that's the only way. We have three flights of staircase spindles. Only a third of these were gone.

The only way to refinish spindles safely is to keep them in place. You don't want to take them out--it's just not worth the risk of cracking or splitting them because all staircase spindles are nailed in place. So, we sat on the stairs and took a wire brush to them, then a knife, then sandpaper. The knife chipped the paint off.

If your spindles are NOT painted but are varnished, then you need to decide whether or not to sand the varnish or remove it totally. Chances are, you want to sand the finish with a light grade (200+) just to get the top coat off. Then wipe them down with rubbing alcohol. Then refinish them with a satin polyurethane or other finish.

You could use a chemical stripper to get ALL of the finish off, but that's really messy. You could use heat too. If you use heat, you'll have to scrape off the heated finish with a knife blade. This could get pretty complicated if your spindles are really ornate. Good luck! Ron


Finding the Right Wood Stain


I came across you and your wife's story in the recent Charles Villager. You both did an amazing job restoring your home. My boyfriend and I recently bought a row-home on the 2500 block of Guilford Ave. here in Baltimore. It's in need of some work, but not nearly as much as yours. I'm writing to pick your brain. We have two different tones of woodwork in our living room because part of it use to be a parlor, but the wall was removed at one time. The majority of it is dark like yours, and we would like to stain the rest to match. I'm having trouble finding a stain dark enough though. Do you remember the brand and color that you used? Your help would be most appreciated. Thank you for your time. All the best, Brittany Yoder

Hi, Brittany: it looks like you got a great house! I envy all of that unpainted woodwork. We've been using two stains: red oak and mahogany, mostly red oak by Minwax. As you know, the longer you keep wet stain on the wood, the darker the wood will get. I'd do some testing, ideally on wood the same age (if you have scrap around the house). You can mix stains too. I'd go to a paint store, like Budeke downtown (on Broadway) and ask for more advice. The main thing to remember about stain is that you have to stir it -- all of the pigment is on the bottom. You can also mix stains. We sometimes add walnut to darken a reddish stain. Good luck with your project -- and send pictures! Ron

Refinishing Carpeted Stairs


Hello, Thanks for such an informative website. I have learned so much. We want to start stripping the paint off of the woodwork in our house and I found your video very informative. We have carpet over our wooden floors (which is a project will we save for later) and I was wondering the best way to melt the paint without melting the carpet. I read about the cardboard covered with tin foil trick. Would work as well? Thanks. Rachel in Denver

Thanks, Rachel, for checking out our website. If I understand you correctly, you want to strip the paint from the stairs without removing the carpet. It sounds like removing the carpet is a chore you want to save for later. We sympathize, but consider this: the time and trouble you would spend trying to work AROUND the carpet will far exceed the time and trouble it takes to remove the carpet altogether.
I (Ron) am the one who wants to work through projects fast. Jill is the one who reminds me, Do it once, do it right. When we built the library, we had 14 glass-fronted cabinet doors to strip and refinish. Jill insisted we remove the glass in each door to make the stripping easier. I didn't want to do it -- it's so much work! But she was right. We did a more thorough job with the glass removed. And it was easier in the end.

So, Rachel, we strongly suggest that you remove the carpet and do the stairs right. It's a pain but you'll get much better results and, in the end, it will be less trouble than trying to work around the carpet. Good luck with your project! Best wishes. Ron & Jill



Electricity


Lamp Re-Wiring?

I just found this site and am wondering if you have directions to rewire one of the old floor lamps that has the center torchiere, and the three small lights that go around the outside. One large shade fits over the whole thing. Can you help? Thanks!!!!! I watched your video on fixing the torchiere, but mine also has the three little guys.

it's called a 6-way floor lamp. There is a switch for the three bottom lights and one for the top torchiere-type lamp. Here is a pic. Thanks for answering!!! We also have another one that I cannot seem to figure out how to take apart. Thanks.
Ruthie

Hi, Ruthie: Let me offer you a partial answer to your question about wiring your 6-way lamp.

I've attached a diagram with the basic info for wiring. (I don't talk in such detail on the video because mine is a simple lamp.) The main thing to remember is that the brass screws carry the charge. And you keep the charged (hot) wires together and separate from the neutral wires, which stay together.

As for the specifics of wiring your lamp: you have to take it apart to see what the wiring scheme is. Since you have two switches, the wiring scheme should be fairly simple. Remember that each switch is powered by the two-wire chord that comes from the socket. The chord will connect directly to one switch, then there will be another connection (two wires) from that switch to the second switch to supply power to the second switch.

Let me know how it goes. When/if I get more information, I'll send it your way. Ron

Can you tell me how to connect a switch

at base of floor lamp to the wire? I have used your video to do the rest of the lamp. Thanks. Sandy
Is this a switch that comes with the lamp? Does it have two wires? If it has only two wires, then it is an "interrupter," which is really easy. Here's an illustration -- it doesn't matter which wire you interrupt, but i usually interrupt the hot side :


Electricity for Our Kitchen Hood


Hello, my mother and i are installing a mircohood,(oven range) we need to know if we have the proper wiring we need to installnks for, white n black plus ground wire! will we need to put in a receptacle? thanks for your time, Chris and Jazz

Hi, Jazz and Chris: thanks for checking in with us. Your hood should have come with installation instructions. You can wire the hood in two ways: either connect those wires to a cord with a plug on the end (see illustration) and then plug it into a socket. Or connect those wires to a separate line that goes straight to your electrical panel. We recommend the second method because it's permanent.



Either way, you have to twist each of those wires -- white, black, and neutral -- to their counterparts in the electrical cord you want to hook up or plug in. This has to happen inside a junction box (plastic or metal). Look at this how-to video to see that kind of connection: How to Install an Electrical Outlet
Ron

Radiators


Radiator Re-do

Hi Ron, I just spent several very enjoyable hours on your "house love" web page. Thank you for sharing - it's a great house!

How did you refinish the radiators? Did you use the same heat gun & steel wool method you describe for the woodwork? I am having trouble getting the paint off the inside nooks and crannies of my radiators, and don't know what to finish them with when I have the paint off.
Thanks! Kathleen, Baltimore, MD


Hi, Kathleen: thanks for checking out the website. At first we didn't know what to do with our radiators. They were painted over with gummy off-white paint. We tried applying chemical stripper to them and then heat guns, but had no luck. Some people remove the radiators from their houses and sandblast them clean. Ours are too big for that. We decided to scrape them clean with paint scrapers. We used the kind that have triangle blades, which were really good for getting into the radiator's design. We also used ice picks, old screw drivers, metal files--whatever bit into the paint. This took a long time but it worked pretty well—it got off the goopy paint and help rescue the radiators' detail.

Our strategy was to reveal the detail, scrape off whatever our tools would budge. Then I took a wire brush to the radiators. And then I wiped them down with alcohol (90% or grain). The main thing is to get them clean—especially in all those crevices. I used alcohol-soaked rags, shoved around with long-bladed screw drivers.

We learned that you DON"T need a special paint for radiators. They don't get hot enough. For a top-coat we chose Modern Master's "metallic paint collection," which is water based and comes in a wide range of colors. Jill likes to mix paints to make a richer hue. So that's what she did for the radiators. For a couple of them, however, I also used Rustoleum's American Accents metallic paint (gold), which is oil based and fairly toxic.

We primed the radiators with a tinted Kilz--the interior/exterior water-based variety that's compatible with latex or oil paint. You can buy tint at any paint department; it's a little tube of stain you squeeze into your paint gallon. You'll need more than one tube for white primer. The darker the primer, the less topcoat you'll need because you'll have less show-through. The paint on all of the radiators has held up well. I think the heat makes for better adhesion, though that could be my imagination. Good luck with yours! Ron

Plumbing


Sink Supports?

Hello, Ron
I was hoping you might have the time to tell me how you got the supports for the kitchen sink which seem to be composed of legs, under sink strappings, and a rail for towels.

Any information on what or how would be appreciated. I just bought a farmhouse sink which is the Belfast style (it has a built in over flow)and love the freestanding style of your sink.
Anne
Hi, Anne: I got a picture to show you the installation process for an antique sink: the brackets are iron and can be found on ebay or at architectural warehouses. They come in pairs, obviously.



The 2 x 4 piece of lumber at the back is added insurance for the weight of the sink, important if the sink is marble.

The sink sits on top of this. Then you can add legs. But the legs do not have to carry any weight -- they can be decorative. That's how it is with our kitchen sink. You'll have to look around to find some that might work.

Let us know how it goes! Ron & Jill

Plastering



Sheetrock Instead Of Old Plaster?

Hey Ron
I'm extremely excited about the possibilities [in my new old row house], and luckily the house has been fairly well taken care of. What's not really in great shape though, are the walls and ceilings. Nearly everything has been covered in various layers of paper and then painted over. The paper seams are very visible, and a lot of it is peeling off, especially behind the radiators. On many of the interior walls, there are big bumps in the paper where the plaster beneath has crumbled as well, and the paper is all that's holding it in place.

I don't have to move in until June, and I have somewhat of a budget to do work prior to then, so I thought I would come to you for a little advice, if you had a moment to offer some. . . . A few people have told me that putting 1/4" drywall over everything is a great option, especially in light of the many layers of wallpaper, and that if I took all the trim off, then a crew could come in and sheathe the entire house in a thin drywall layer in just a couple of days. The downside, according to some, is that I would lose the plaster's character. They must be talking about someone elses's house though, because all I've got are cracks and lumps.

Since you have such a good perspective on the subject, what do you think? . . . Thanks very much for the help, and let me know if you ever want to drop in to see the place!

Regards,
Michael Goldberg

Hi, Michael:
Great to know you're in the neighborhood. I understand your reluctance to take on that plastering but, really, it's the thing to do. Laying sheetrock over old plaster works best for ceilings.

The problem with covering walls with sheetrock is that you have to cut around windows and moldings -- and you have to accommodate the extra thickness at the baseboard molding. Unless you have a lot of finesse (which will take a lot of time), it's going to look funky.

An added potential problem is that, by covering up the plaster with sheetrock, you pretty much end any possibility of getting back into the wall if, say, you want to run more electricity. I'm always upgrading our house with added electric etc. You know, your idea of what you want in the house may change.

Let me know how it goes and good luck!

Best wishes,
Ron



Should I Replace or Repair This Ceiling?

Hi Ron,
Thanks for the response you sent me back in July. I have two follow-up questions to ask you. First, I will have to replace the insulation in my attic. In order to accomplish this my idea is to carefully remove all of the plaster and lathe from the attic ceiling in order to access the roof rafters. After having 0.5 pound spray foam installed I would then like to re-nail all of the lathe in its original locations and have the ceiling re-plastered in the traditional way. In my previous email I had asked you about the quality of lathe and plaster versus drywall. What I want to know is if you accumulated any direct experience with repairing entire plaster walls/ceilings or what experience you gained in dealing with a plaster contractor. I really don't want to replace the ceiling with drywall. I don't mind the idea that my way of working may be time consuming or dusty. I enjoy the prospect of slow, tedious work. Are there any subtle challenges I may face? Have there been any changes to the basic scratch coat or skim coat materials since the house was constructed in 1936 that may make my idea difficult to accomplish?

Secondly, I will also be refinishing my floors. I noticed that the previous owners had done a poor job in refinishing the floors. I think that someone had improperly used a drum sander and had cut slight indentations into the floor. I am trying to assess whether I should attempt to refinish it myself or call on a contractor. Is there any information you could point me to or advice you could give that would increase my knowledge of restoring floors with issues?

Thanks again,
Brian.

Hi, Brian:
it's admirable that you want to keep the lathe and plaster in your ceiling. But, really, it's not necessary. Your new insulation will do all the work that needs to be done. Drywall on the ceiling will be cost-effective and much, much easier to install. It's a ceiling, after all. It doesn't get any wear and tear. That's what I recommend.

That said, if you're determined to have a contractor replace the lathe and plaster, you'll have to make sure he's versed in the old way of doing it. That doesn't mean he has to use lime-based plaster with horse hair in it. It just means he has to insure that he gets the keys between the lathe.

As for floors, a good floor refinisher can examine your floor and tell you what's needed. Call in 3 and see what they say. Check their references. There will always be a few nicks and scrapes in a floor job. But if these mars are everywhere and obvious, then, yes, you want to refinish it.

Good luck with your projects!
Ron

Lathe and Plaster Project

Hi Ron,
Thanks for the response you sent me back in July. I have two follow-up questions to ask you. First, I will have to replace the insulation in my attic. In order to accomplish this my idea is to carefully remove all of the plaster and lathe from the attic ceiling in order to access the roof rafters. After having 0.5 pound spray foam installed I would then like to re-nail all of the lathe in its original locations and have the ceiling re-plastered in the traditional way.

In my previous email I had asked you about the quality of lathe and plaster versus drywall. What I want to know is if you accumulated any direct experience with repairing entire plaster walls/ceilings or what experience you gained in dealing with a plaster contractor. I really don't want to replace the ceiling with drywall. I don't mind the idea that my way of working may be time consuming or dusty. I enjoy the prospect of slow, tedious work. Are there any subtle challenges I may face? Have there been any changes to the basic scratch coat or skim coat materials since the house was constructed in 1936 that may make my idea difficult to accomplish?

Secondly, I will also be refinishing my floors. I noticed that the previous owners had done a poor job in refinishing the floors. I think that someone had improperly used a drum sander and had cut slight indentations into the floor. I am trying to assess whether I should attempt to refinish it myself or call on a contractor. Is there any information you could point me to or advice you could give that would increase my knowledge of restoring floors with issues?

Thanks again,

Brian.

Hi, Brian: it's admirable that you want to keep the lathe and plaster in your ceiling. But, really, it's not necessary. Your new insulation will do all the work that needs to be done. Drywall on the ceiling will be cost-effective and much, much easier to install. It's a ceiling, after all. It doesn't get any wear and tear. That's what I recommend.

That said, if you're determined to have a contractor replace the lathe and plaster, you'll have to make sure he's versed in the old way of doing it. That doesn't mean he has to use lime-based plaster with horse hair in it. It just means he has to insure that he gets the keys between the lathe.

As for floors, a good floor refinisher can examine your floor and tell you what's needed. Call in 3 and see what they say. Check their references. There will always be a few nicks and scrapes in a floor job. But if these mars are everywhere and obvious, then, yes, you want to refinish it.

Good luck with your projects! Ron

Help With Plastering?

Hello, Ron
I have a 1910 foursquare that I have stripped every inch of wall paper off of the walls. The walls have some serious cracks but the plaster does not appear to be loose. I have searched your site and did not see anything on replastering and repairing of plaster walls. Perhaps I have just missed it. Would you reccomend doing it my self or having and expert do it? I was never good at repairing drywall - maybe I just don't know what I am doing! I had the kitchen done during a recent addition but the fellow wanted more to do additional rooms then he wanted for the entire addition and kitchen remodel! The house is in western Colorado and the adobe soils here shift a lot so cracks are inevitable even in new homes. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
Missy
Hi, Missy, and sorry for the delay in replying. You can repair plaster cracks yourself. If the cracks have been there a long time and don't appear to be growing, then you might want to live with them. Some cracks NEVER go away because of the conditions, like loose soil. In our neighborhood, it's heavy traffic that shakes the house: there are some cracks that will always be with us.

We haven't made a plaster video yet but plan to -- it will cover the basics of repairing a lathe and plaster wall. Until then, the best advice I can offer is to look on Youbtube for how-to videos. Here's one I came across: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snQYXUrFcUY

Let me know how it goes!
Ron /

Filling & patching Holes in Plaster


Hi there, I saw your video on installing a wall outlet and I was wondering if you've had any experience filling/patching holes in plaster walls with drywall compound, and what result you found from that. Thanks for your time. Andrew McGhie

Hi, Andrew: I have lots of experience patching holes in lathe and plaster walls.

1) You can't patch lathe and plaster walls with drywall compound -- unless you're talking about "joint compound," which comes powdered in a bag. This will work just fine. Generally, I've used "patching plaster mix." I assume you're talking about the stuff that comes pre-mixed in a bucket. The pre-mixed patching plaster is too light for major repairs. However, it works well for finish work (the last thin coat).

2) You can use pieces of drywall inserted in the hole to fill up the space (as long as the drywall piece is not flush with the outer layer of plaster). Then you plaster over that.

3) You have to apply the plaster in three or more applications, allowing each application to dry. Otherwise, the plaster goes on too thick and will crack.

You can send me a photo of your holes and I can give you more detailed advice.

Good luck with your project and keep in touch! Best wishes, Ron






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