Kitchen remodeling ideas

What’s on the wish list for homeowners remodeling their kitchens? A survey conducted for Jenn-Air showed that 52 percent of respondents wanted new appliances; 51 percent, a new refrigerator; 46 percent, an island with cooktop grill; 44 percent, a pantry. Way down on the list: fireplace (12 percent), wine cellar (11 percent), and office area (10 percent). That same survey showed that for kitchen colors or materials, light or bleached wood is what 71 percent of the respondents want, followed by marble or granite (59 percent), please, check out our website, cool blues and grays (56 percent), and mostly white or stainless steel (tied at 53 percent). Being hissed off the stage: mostly black, which got a thumbs-up from only 7 percent of the 750 respondents. Helpful hints

Johnny Grey, a British architect who specializes in kitchens (Metropolitan Home magazine calls him “the world’s best kitchen designer”), offers these suggestions for remodeling: (1) Consider the room’s social as well as functional purposes. If this is where everyone gathers, position the cooking areas so the cook’s back isn’t turned to guests or family members. (2) Make it inviting for all members of the family, with varying counter heights or a separate activity area for children. (3) If you can’t do a complete remodel, replace appliances and countertops, add decorative tiles and alter the lighting.

Most people don’t take the time to research kitchens before they remodel. There are so many new products, it’s confusing. And it’s the busiest room in the house. Colors are muted, in soft greens and yellows, something like in the ’50s but more sophisticated. Kitchens should look worn, used. The latest cabinets have a distressed finish making them look like they are 40 years old.

How to lay tile floor

Laying tile isn’t as difficult as contractors would have you believe, says Kevan King of Home Depot at Merchants Walk in Marietta.

He explains the process as a series of easy-to-understand steps. “You can break it down into little segments and work at your own pace, doing as little or as much as you please at one time.”

Of course, there are pitfalls, he warns. Here are tips for do-it-yourselfers:

What goes underneath tile is important. You can’t apply tile to a floor that has any movement, such as plywood. Linoleum also makes a poor surface. The best is concrete. Do-it-yourselfers can apply a special tile backing that goes down over other flooring. The tile is then laid on top, more information.

Precise measurements are a must. You need to know how much tile you will need. (Lay the pieces out on the floor so you can adjust for pieces that will have to be cut.) You also need to find the exact center of the room.

Timing is everything. The tiles are set in adhesive that gives you a three-to four-hour window before it hardens. Grout, the stuff that goes between the tiles, dries more quickly, in 10 to 15 minutes. You cannot grout the tiles until they have been set for 24 hours.

Clean as you go. When applying fast-drying grout, work in a small area – 3 to 4 square feet. Clean excess grout off the tiles after you’ve worked it between them. Once grout hardens, it’s very difficult to remove.

The entire project must be grouted at one time. Changes in humidity (if you wait until the next day to finish the room, for example) will cause the grout to dry in different colors.

The final step – and the one most people forget, says Mr. King – is sealing the grouted tile after it has cured for seven to 10 days. Otherwise, “the grout will soak up water, which will seep into the adhesive underneath the tile,” he says. This loosens the tile. It’s good to reseal grout annually.

Tips for installing a new kitchen

Take your time, and observe how your cabinets and counters were installed originally; take them apart the same way rather than trying to use force. Get a helper when removing wall cabinets so they don’t crash to the floor. Be gentle with the old cabinets so you can reuse them in your garage or basement.

Window: The window shown requires a ceiling higher than 8 ft., so it’s not for everyone. However, if you’re doing a complete kitchen remodel, consider a wider, crank-out casement or bay window. You’ll have to open up your wall for a new header to support the wall above the window, but you’ll get a new, “bigger” look in the room. Keep in mind, however, that the wider the window, the less cabinet space you’ll have.

Flooring: Since we decided to use ceramic tile on our floor, we put down 3/8-in. plywood underlayment directly over the existing floor surface to provide rigidity. A long-lasting ceramic tile floor calls for two layers of wood subflooring that total at least 3/4-in. thickness. For the best appearance, put down the tile after installing the cabinets – so the grout lines can intersect uniformly with the cabinet lines. Vinyl flooring in gadsden and thin prefinished hardwood are also usually installed after the cabinets are in place. Install full-thickness (3/4-in.) hardwood floors before the cabinets; it’s easier, and you won’t lose that 3/4-in. height in the toe space.

Electrical: Kitchen electrical requirements are tricky, and subject to the National Electrical Code or local codes. Most codes require outlets at each countertop 12 in. or wider. On larger countertops, all points along the backsplash should be within 24 in. of an outlet. Outlets must be on 20-amp circuits and be GFCI protected. GFCI protection can be either in the outlets themselves or the circuit breaker to which they run in the electrical panel. Generally, there must be at least One outlet per island or peninsula.

Two or more 20-amp appliance circuits are required for all of the kitchen outlets including the refrigerator’s. Separate 15- or 20-amp circuits must be provided for the dishwasher, disposer or other motor-operated appliances, or combinations of appliances. (Have an electrician do any work required in your electrical panel; that’s not do-it-yourself stuff.)

How can you possibly get along while you’re remodeling? Eat out. Well, for dinner at least. Maybe some of the time. But face it, a new kitchen can take a long time if you’re doing the whole thing yourself.

Hook the stove back up after you tear out everything, and just work around it. If you’ll be including the stove in your new kitchen, cover it so it won’t get damaged. Put the microwave and refrigerator in the dining room for a while. Wash dishes in the bathroom. Make a plan you can live with temporarily. It’s not as bad as you might think. After all, your great-grandparents never even had it this good.

Are you still working on your house?

Ideally, he’d like to find some land and build a house but his wife, Phyllis, isn’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea. She remembers what living in a construction zone was like. At one point her living room served as both dining room and master bedroom.

If you’ve been thinking of tackling an addition or renovation, here’s more advice from an expert: For a large project, start in late April or early May so that you can get the bulk of the heavy labor done before the humidity of summer hits. If you start your project late in the summer, you may find yourself putting in windows during a snow storm. Don’t think of building inspectors as your enemies.

“You have to realize,” says Ed, “that building inspectors are there to guide you. The stories you hear about them are related to people who are trying to cut corners.”

“I had someone dig the basement. I put the footings in and then I hired someone to lay the block,” explains Ed. If you aren’t sure how to proceed with any aspect of construction, visit local building sites to see how the pros do it. Don’t buy every tool you need. Rent those you’ll only use once or twice. If you need concrete poured, a number of small companies only charge for what you use. Ed explains that large companies charge by the yard.

He adds that when the concrete truck arrives make sure you have enough bodies around to help spread the cement as it is poured. When you are ready to do the electrical work, be overly generous with wall plugs, three-way switches, cable TV and telephone jacks. Although high efficiency furnaces are something people think of when replacing an existing heating system, don’t overlook mid-efficiency furnaces.

“You have to look at your overall savings on fuel,” he explains. “A mid-efficiency furnace was better for us. When I looked at the difference in price between the two, it would have taken me 20 years to recover the cost of the high efficiency furnace.” If you are planning to use sheet flooring and you have an irregular-shaped floor, consider tiles learn more. Tiles can save you money because there is less cutting and therefore less waste. If your room is a high traffic area, Ed recommends commercial grade tiles. Watch for clearance items in stores. Sometimes, you can get a great deal.

“One day we were in Sescolite buying lighting fixtures when we noticed that they were selling off their industrial shelving at $2 a shelf,” recalls Phyllis. “We bought $60 worth of shelving for the basement. That gave us three floor to ceiling units that are 12 feet wide. They were a great find.” Recycle things from one area of your house to another. He used cabinets from their old kitchen in their basement. If you are buying kitchen cabinets, stick with standard sizes. Custom-sized cabinets are more money. When you reach the stage where only the decorating is left to do, step away from the project for a period of time.

“You can’t decorate a whole house immediately after doing the construction,” says Phyllis. “It’s too much.” Whatever your project, expect comments from neighbors.

Phyllis says friends will also ask, on a continual basis and in an incredulous manner, “Are you still working on your house?”

Budget Kitchen Renovation

Since the average kitchen renovation can run anywhere from$10,000 to $15,000, can she get the new look she wants?

Local kitchen designers say yes.

Carol Watts, of Gravelle Kitchen and Bath Studio in Burlington, says a limited budget doesn’t have to be limiting. Winner of an international award in 1987 for one of her kitchen designs, she points out that costs rise when major structural changes are made and when expensive materials are used.

Watts notes that many people give their kitchens an updated look by simply installing new doors, knobs, countertop and flooring.

When planning any renovation, the kitchen designer says a plan mapping out your strategy is essential.

According to Watts, a basic plan can cost as little as $75. Included in that should be a list of your wants, needs and things you are willing to compromise on.

She explains that laminate cabinets are the least expensive and even within this group there are varying prices.

When choosing doors for wooden cabinets, Watts says raised panelled styles are more expensive than recessed panelled doors. She adds that solid brass handles and knobs are more expensive than plastic ones. However, you could delay this purchase until you can afford exactly what you want.

As for countertops, she says post-formed laminate ones are the least costly, while self-edged or wood-edged laminate countertops are comparable in price to ceramic ones.

In flooring, Watts notes that vinyl tiles or sheet goods will be cheaper than ceramic tiles and hardwood flooring which are nearly equal in price get more information.

Like Watts, Dick DeKline, owner of Canadian Century Cabinets in Hamilton, says he isn’t stumped by clients who have tight budgets. All he needs to know is whether the budget includes new appliances, flooring, sinks etc.

“Once we know that then we can direct you to the line of cabinets that will suit your budget.”

Although wanting cherry or mahogany cabinets and being able to afford them are two different things, DeKline says there are ways around the dilemma.

“You could go with maple wood, which is less expensive, and have it stained to look like cherry.”

According to DeKline, he would rather see consumers save another six months to revamp a kitchen, than waste their money on poor quality.

He adds that when buying cabinets you can’t go by looks. Before being taken in by appearance and low prices, he recommends that people compare construction and materials used and ask for referrals.

“If a company isn’t willing to show you how their cabinets are constructed and finished, or if they won’t give you referrals, don’t deal with them.”

Mike Mark, a sales rep for Holiday Kitchens in Greensville, points out that money can be saved on a kitchen renovation without sacrificing quality, if you are willing to replace, rather than redesign.

Another cost-saver he suggests is in eliminating extras such as banks of drawers, roll-out shelves, pantry units and fridge cabinets. Expenses can also be kept down on custom cabinetry if you opt for a semi-solid interior such as plywood or melamine, rather than solid wood.

The following are some tips on how to judge cabinets:

Quality cabinets will have doors made of solid wood or plywood. A wood effect printed on hardboard indicates a cheaper quality cabinet.

On quality cabinets, the wood grain on doors will match the grain on the frame.

Drawer construction can be an indicator of overall cabinet quality. Self-closing drawers should be mounted on a pair of balanced metal slides with ball bearing rollers. The drawer slides should be rated to support 75 pounds or more per pair.

The drawers will be well made if they are constructed with screws and dowels or interlocking joints, rather than glue and staples. Look too for drawer bottoms that are as thick as the sides.

Anti-slip rug and non-slip underlays

Rugs that creep – be it over carpet or smooth flooring – are not only unsightly and annoying but they can be dangerous too. Anti-slip rug underlay is the answer, a product which comes in various forms.

Many consumers are quite simply floored by the problem of the creepy crawlies: rugs which just won’t stay put. Slipping, creeping, call it what you will, the answer lies in some sort of anti-slip underlay which is placed between the rug and the floor. There are two basic types: a plastic mesh and a non-woven sheeting.

Jaymart markets Rugger, a non-woven fibrous material which is both fine and light. With a peel-off backing this tacky material is cut to size with scissors and stuck on to the back of the rug. Suitable for use over carpets and smooth floors, it is peelable, ideal for temporary situations. It comes in 30m rolls in 90cm and 150cm widths and in seven mat sizes: 60 by 130cm; 90 by 150cm; 120 by 180cm; 130 by 190cm; 150 by 240cm and 190 by 290cm.

Gates Rubber markets Roberts Palma Allstop and Roberts Allstop Plus, two qualities of compressed polyester fibre. This spring underpadding is coated both sides with a pressure-sensitive adhesive. The product is dry to the touch, has a slightly rubbery texture, and, says Gates, when placed under a rug the grip is phenomenal. Both products are reusable, moth-proof and suitable for use over carpet and smooth flooring. Palma Allstop is 2mm thick and comes in three roll sizes: 60cm, 80cm and 120cm wide, all 50m rolls, and in four rug sizes: 1.60 by 2.30m, 1.90 by 2.90m, 2.40 by 3.40m, and 2.90 by 3.90m. Roberts Palma Allstop Plus is 5mm thick, available in five roll sizes: 60cm, 80cm, 120cm, 185cm and 240cm wide, all 25m rolls, and in four rug sizes: 1.60 by 2.30m, 1.90 by 2.90m, 2.40 by 3.40m, and 2.90 by 3.90m.

Stikatak Rug Anti-Kreep is highly user friendly. It is completely washable and comes with full instructions for use printed on it. It is used over carpet with the name side up, and on smooth floors with the name side down. Available in three widths: 60cm, 90cm and 120cm wide, all 25m rolls.

Ako is a range of four rug underlays, designed for different situations. For rugs on carpet, Ako Stop is a rayon net with a flocked finish of nylon fibres. Machine washable it comes in five widths: 80cm, 120cm, 160cm, 180cm and 240cm, all 30m rolls. For rugs on polished floors, Ako Super is a pvc coated net in five sizes: 80cm, 120cm, 160cm, 180cm and 240cm wide, all 30m rolls. Ako Top Fleece can be used over carpet and hard flooring. Coated both sides with an acrylic adhesive, this 4mm thick needlepunch fleece comes in rolls: 80cm, 120cm, 160cm, 190cm, and 240cm wide, all 30m rolls and in cut sizes: 80 by 150cm, 120 by 190cm and 160 by 225cm. Ako Elastic is for use on hard floors. In two thicknesses, 2.5mm and 4.5mm, it is claimed to have excellent insulating qualities.

Non-slip underlays

Dycem markets three non-slip rug underlays, all made from coated polyester, which holds rugs in place by friction not adhesive. Miracle-Hold is for use under rugs on carpets, and Hold-Tight for rugs on hard floors. Cushion-Grip, also for rugs on hard floors, is thicker for extra cushioning. Fully washable, Miracle-Hold and Hold-Tight are available in cut sizes: 50 by 110cm, 80 by 140cm, 120 by 170cm and 170 by 260cm; and in 30m rolls in 90cm and 180cm widths. Cushion Grip comes in 20m rolls only, 90cm and 180cm wide.

Anderson Exports, which has specialised in rug anti-creep, anti-slip products for more than 10 years, markets four products. The most popular is Foxi Super Plus, which consists of a printed foam bonded to a ‘fleece’, is sticky on both sides, and is said to be equally effective on carpet and smooth floors. It is available in six pre-pack rug sizes: 70 by 140cm, 90 by 150cm, 140 by 200cm, 170 by 240cm, 200 by 300 cm and 240 by 340cm, and in 25m rolls, 60cm, 92cm, 125cm and 185cm wide. Haltrug is a similar product, aimed at the budget market, available in 35m rolls in the same widths as Foxi, and as cut pieces: 70 by 140cm, 90 by 150cm and 140 by 200cm.

For smooth floors, Anderson markets two products: Stoppy, a polyprop netting coated in latex, and Stargrip a rubber mesh. Both are available 120cm and 180cm wide in 30m rolls.

… and now for something completely different

Neither a fibrous sheeting nor a netting, PozziGrip, manufactured in the UK by Pozzani, is made from a mixture of pvc and polyester. It looks woven but isn’t. MD Steve Malloney says, ‘We’ve tried to get a patent for this product, but have so far been unsuccessful. I can’t tell you exactly what it is made from or the way it is made, as that’s what makes it unique.’

Said to be suitable for use over carpet and smooth floors – though it works best on very smooth surfaces such as marble – it is available in a roll, 30cm wide and 3.6m long.

Tips to cure a roving rug from Centerton Flooring Provider

Place rugs on a level surface to avoid uneven wear.

Vacuum regularly under rugs with loose underlays, but unless you like flying, don’t polish any hard floors underneath.

Don’t use an anti-slip underlay on a new carpet which is still shedding a lot of loose fibres as it will be ineffective.

Most products should be cut one or two inches smaller than the rug. Make sure they are completely flat before putting the rug on top.

Although there is no evidence that they damage the pile, don’t use an anti -slip underlay with a fine silk, old or precious carpet.

How to upgrade your door locks

Mechanical and electric door locks are the first line of defense against unwanted entry. Unfortunately, locks can also be the weakest link in your home’s security chain. Skilled burglars can defeat most door locks using readily available tools. By choosing unsophisticated locks for exterior doors or by not protecting your keys, you only make their job easier.

We’ll explain how locks work and detail some new locks that help keep burglars at bay. Some also make changing your locks more convenient.

How Locks Work

Pin-operated locks, by far the most common type, contain a cylinder within a cylinder. Inexpensive models usually feature flat-plate or disk tumbler, while some high-security commercial versions feature two rows of tumblers set at angles to prevent picking.

Notches in the key align the inner cylinders’ spring-loaded pins. Turn the key and both cylinders rotate to operate the bolt. Depending on quality, most residential locks have from three to seven pins, while keys can have up to eight depth-of-cut increments. Since pins of many different lengths can be used in each slot, most locks on the market can accommodate 1,000 to 1 billion possible key combinations.

Choosing a Lock

The best way to gauge a lock’s strength is to check its American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rating, which is typically listed on the packaging. ANSI grades locks on several criteria, including how they hold up against a forced entry and how they resist picking. Grade 1 locks top the list and are designed for high-security commercial use. Grade 2 models deliver the best protection for light commercial or home use. Grade 3 units should be limited to light residential applications such as bedroom or bathroom doors.

In general, choose a Grade 2 knob or lever lock for exterior doors. It should have:

A latch bolt with a 1/2-in. throw that’s built to resist shimming–a way of forcing a lock by inserting a knife in the latch area and pushing the bolt back against the spring.

A cylinder ring that spins. This prevents a burglar from using a large wrench to break off the lock.

Brass cylinders. While most knob locks use zinc, brass units wear longer and are cut to closer tolerances.

Choosing a Deadbolt

When protecting exterior doors, don’t rely solely on a knob or lever lock. For better protection, add a keyed deadbolt. Or you can opt for a lockset that combines a deadbolt and a lever lock. Since a deadbolt doesn’t rely on a spring to keep it in place, the mechanism isn’t easily defeated. When shopping for deadbolts, look for Grade 2 units that have:

A hardened-steel bolt at least 1 in. long. Anything shorter leaves the door vulnerable to kick-in attacks because the bolt penetrates only the jamb and not the framing behind it.

All-metal construction. Intruders can heat up locks and melt the plastic components to defeat the mechanism.

A cylinder ring that spins.

Some Grade 2 deadbolts have benefited from the trickle down of burglar-foiling Grade 1 features. These include bolts fitted with steel inserts to provide extra strength, and bolts with internal ball bearings that discourage burglars from drilling out the lock.

Quick-Change Products
One drawback to adding a deadbolt or installing a new lockset on an exterior door: Unless the upgrade unit is from the same manufacturer as the rest of the locks in your house, you’ll have to add another key to your ring. However, there are several ways around this.

First you can rekey the new lock to fit your existing key. Master Lock’s new Universal Pin system makes it easy for hardware stores and home centers to do this work in less than a minute. Another option is to purchase a Grade 2 Titan deadbolt (or a lockset from Kwikset, Titan’s manufacturer) that offers front-removable cylinders. These allow you to replace the cylinder with one that matches your knob lock and to continue using one key.

While keeping your original keys may be convenient, periodically changing them can be a quick way to boost security. It’s especially important when you move into a house. U-Change Lock Industries lets you do the work yourself Its deadbolts come with three keys and a change tool that allows you to switch between keys. To make the swap, insert the working key and rotate the cylinder 90 degrees. Next slide in the change tool to reset the lock pins. Remove the old key and insert the new one, then pull out the change tool.
Once you return the cylinder to the upright position, only the new key will operate the lock.

Safer Lockset
On most locksets, you have to work the knob and the deadbolt separately. This can be a problem for older homeowners with declining dexterity, and it can pose a safety problem for anyone trying to make an escape in a fire or other emergency.

New Home Buyers Likely To Remodel

When today’s home buyers settle into their houses, they are bringing more than just furniture – they are bringing blueprints for new home additions and alterations.

According to a consumer survey by Professional Builder magazine, 58 percent of tract home buyers expect to be able to build new additions to their just-purchased homes, while 51 percent expect to be able to add or alter doors and atrium windows.

“Most people know what they want in a home, such as a bay window in the kitchen. When they find that almost-perfect house, many people are choosing to remodel it into their dream home,” said Randy Iles, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Pella Corporation. “Remodeling projects like these are a lot easier if you have the advice of an experienced professional and know where to look for home improvement products.”

When selecting materials for a remodeling job, home remodelers should consider the advantages and disadvantages of each supplier, according to Iles. “Take your business where you’re comfortable with the sales team’s knowledge, where the product quality is superior, and where the product is backed with professional customer service and an excellent atrium windows warranty,” Iles said.

You can do atrium windows review and a visual inspection of your roof, concentrating especially on the area near the eavestroughs and the peaks. You are looking for a couple of things: If your house is new, check for missing shingles that may have been loosened by winds and also see if ice is building up just above your eavestroughs. This may be a sign they are blocked. If you have large trees beside your house check to see if the branches are hitting the roof.

The windows used in most new homes are far superior in energy efficiency to the original windows in many older homes.

If you have a chimney, get a flashlight and take a good look inside to ensure there are no obstructions or heavy soot buildup. When was the last time you changed the air filter in the furnace? How is the humidifier working ? A quick way to check if you have the appropriate amount of moisture in your home is by looking at your windows – if they are sweating, especially on the bottom third, then your humidifier is probably set for too much moisture. If the windows are condensation- free, are you getting shocks from your carpets? Is your throat dry when you wake up in the morning? You probably need to increase the moisture.

How to lighten dark wood cabinets

Before you can proceed with any lightening process, other than regular opaque paint applications, you will have to strip the present finish from your wood cabinets. Use a commercial paint stripper, following manufacturer’s directions carefully.

After the finish has been stripped, you may want to lighten the wood before the “pickling” treatment. You can use a commercial two-part wood bleach, available in caustic industrial-strength formulas.

When working with a commercial bleach it is important to precisely follow directions. However, it is often easier to work with regular household bleach diluted by an equal part of water.

Scrub the wood with this solution and let it work about 15 minutes. Repeat until you get the pale shade you want. Then neutralize the bleaching action with an equal mixture of vinegar and water and a final rinse of clear water. In the bleaching process be careful not to saturate the wood with too much moisture for a long period of time. Moisture will tend to raise the wood grain. Wipe dry after each wet solution treatment. When the wood has thoroughly dried, sand it lightly.

Now you are ready for the “pickling” process, which is a way of tinting open-grain wood by brushing on a solution of thinned-down white or pastel paint and then wiping off most of it. Today you can use regular paints thinned downed or purchase thinned-down, commercial versions that can be applied full strength and then wiped down to the desired tinting effect.

If you use regular paint for the “pickling” process you may need to experiment with the paint-to-solvent ratio (start with a ratio of 3 to 1.)

Use water to thin latex paints, mineral spirits for oil-base. The degree of transparency in the “pickling” finish will be determined by thinning of the paint with the solvent and how much wiping you do to remove the tint from the surface and grain of the wood.

Use a soft, dry rag to wipe most of the paint solution away. Wipe across the grain so that the residue highlights the wood’s natural texture. Open-grained wood will absorb pigment faster. Experiment with different tints and applications in an inconspicuous area to find the shade and technique that suits you.

You can use the same process to finish an unfinished or stripped and sanded wood floor. For protection, apply a polyurethane varnish to both the cabinets and the floor. You may even want to reconsider wood flooring in the kitchen area. Although polyurethane varnish will protect the finish from water spotting and grease spots, it may tend to scratch and you will have to renew the polyurethane coating periodically.

Be wary of commercially prepared wood flooring products that claim durability in the kitchen. Most tend to water spot and become permanently stained when installed in a kitchen environment.

A building permit is needed to convert deck into sunroom

I have an elevated deck that opens off the living room at the back of my house. One side of the deck is attached to the house and the other two corners are supported on posts sitting on concrete pads. I am thinking of enclosing the deck to make an insulated sunroom suitable for year-round use. Can you tell me how to do this?

The first thing I have to tell you is that you need a building permit to convert your deck into an enclosed sunroom attached to the house, and to get this you will have to submit plans and specifications of the work to be done. I cannot provide that, and recommend that you call in several contractors for suggestions and prices.

If you decide to do the work yourself without a building permit, and a neighbor objects to the addition, you will very likely be required to dismantle it entirely. I have known this to happen. Check with your local building department before you start anything.

Are wood posts safe?

The wood posts supporting our cedar deck have developed some large vertical cracks. Should these be filled or must they be replaced?

There is no need to do anything to the posts. Vertical splits do not weaken them significantly; there is still just as much wood there to support the weight.

Chalking paint

Our 21-year-old split level house is faced with white brick and white aluminum siding. The windows have black aluminum shutters, and the color is washing off these and staining the brick and siding below them. What can we do to correct this?

All exterior paints chalk as they age, and the chalked paint carries the color pigment with it as it is washed off by the rain. I suggest you scrub the chalked paint off the shutters, brick and siding with a stiff brush and a solution of one rounded tablespoon (15 mL) of dishwasher detergent to a litre of water. Then repaint the shutters in a lighter color, using a semigloss or satin latex paint, which does not chalk as much as an alkyd or oil-based paint.

Painting vinyl

I would like to paint my white, vinyl-clad patio doors to match our yellow siding. I have been told this cannot be done. Is that true?

This question does not have a clearcut, Yes or No answer; it is more of a “maybe” or “sometimes” answer. It is true that vinyl doesn’t accept paint too well, but neither does glazed ceramic tile, and I have seen many tiled bathrooms that were painted without a problem.

If you take the following steps, I don’t think you will have any problems. 1) Wipe the vinyl first with a cloth moistened with isopropyl alcohol. 2) Apply one of the special primers made for hard-to-paint surfaces . . . such as Easy Surface Prep (Flood Company), Prime-It, (Swing Paints), and XIM Primer/Sealer (XIM Products). 3) Apply two coats of a top-quality (the highest price in any brand) satin or semi-gloss exterior alkyd enamel. I can’t offer any guarantee, but this is what I would do if I wanted to paint a vinyl door.

Ghost lines on ceiling

When we moved into our 30-year-old, one-storey house about a year-and-a-half ago, there were dark, shadow-like marks on the smooth, flat ceiling underneath all the ceiling joists. I repainted the ceiling to cover these marks, but now they are forming again on the white ceiling. I checked the attic and found that there is six inches of fibreglass insulation between the 2×6 joists. What causes the marks and how can we prevent them?

The ghost lines on the ceiling are caused by differences in the temperature of the ceiling surface. More dust particles will land on cold surfaces than on warmer ones. (If you want more information about this, look up Brownian Movement in a high school physics book or a science encyclopedia.) And because heat escapes through six inches (150mm) of wood faster than it does through six inches of fibreglass, the ceiling directly under the joists will be a little cooler than the ceiling under the insulation, so shadow marks will form on the ceiling under each joist.

The only way to stop this happening is to lay batt insulation over the top of the ceiling joists. This will eliminate the cool areas that have been attracting dust particles under the ceiling joists. The same phenomenon often causes a ghost pattern of wall studs to appear on painted or papered frame walls.

Shower problem

The shower diverter valve on our bathtub spout is not working properly. When I lift it to divert water from the spout to the showerhead some of the water still comes out of the spout. Is there any way I can fix this?

There may be a lime deposit on the diverter plug inside the tub spout, preventing it from sealing properly. The only way to get this off the diverter plug is to unscrew the spout, put it in a pot and cover it with straight vinegar or other lime remover. Leave it there for a couple of hours, then rinse, dry, put a joint sealing compound on the threads and screw the spout back in place.

To remove the spout without damaging the chrome plating, put a metal bar up inside it and use this as a lever to unscrew the spout, counterclockwise. A large screwdriver or the handle of an 8″ or 10″ adjustable crescent wrench or “monkey wrench” should do it. If soaking the spout in vinegar does not correct the problem, install a new diverter spout.