Question - What's an easy way to remove wallpaper from real plaster?
- Evelyn Roman, Needham, Mass.
Answer - If you have only one room to strip, hot water may be enough. I suggest keeping it really hot on the stove and applying it with a roller. Keep the hot water off the floor and any other surfaces except the walls. After awhile, scrape a test area, then go to work.
You can try an additive to warm water. One is called E-Z Gel Wallpaper Remover, which is sold in wallpaper shops. It sticks to the paper, not the floor. Another is Dif Gel, also sold in wallpaper stores.
If you have several rooms to strip, then I suggest renting a steamer. As for easy ways, none is, but the steamer is the easiest.
If the paper is vinyl coated or painted, none of the above will work because the vinyl or paint prevents the penetration of the steam or water or additive to allow the stripper to soften the paste.
You can score the paper by drawing a hand saw's toothy edge down the wall horizontally, making many score marks in a row. Also, there is a gadget on the market, made by Zinsser, called PaperTiger. This tool has several toothed wheels that go in different directions, scoring the paper as you go along. It's a great name for a good tool.
Question - The seal of some of my double-glazed windows has broken, fogging the windows, which are 15 years old. The dealer is out of business. Is there a way to replace those sashes?
- Tracy Sluicer, Millis, Mass.
Answer - The dealer might be out of business, but is the manufacturer? The windows are out of warranty, but if you can determine the manufacturer, it could provide just the sash for a fee, but at least the sash would be the same. If not, any replacement window company should be able to find a sash that is a similar style and fits properly.
Question - I want to paint my old paneling, but without the grooves showing. How about putting a skim-coat on the paneling, which should fill the grooves quite well?
- Lou Rowean, Walpole, Mass.
Answer - I don't think a skimcoat will work very well on wood paneling; the paneling will expand and contract with moisture content, and could work off the skimcoat or crack it. Besides, the grooves should have a nylon mesh tape applied to prevent the skimcoat from ghosting into the grooves, and that is not practical.
I suggest this: Apply joint compound to the grooves, smooth it out with an extra wide smoothing blade. Let dry, and lightly sand; then repeat. The handyman says this is essential to success, because he did it only once to some grooves in his paneling and they ghosted through. Once the grooves are filled, prime and paint the whole wall. Or apply size and put on wallpaper.
Question - I used a water-based primer to paint what will be a front door. The primer is a Behr product and smells like a skunk. How can I get rid of that smell?
- Dick Marshal, Dedham, Mass.
Answer - The more you ventilate, the less the smell, until it will be gone. To cover the odor, paint with one or two coats of finish paint. To hasten the elimination, repaint it with an oil-based primer and finish off with any kind of paint you like.
Question - My retaining wall is bulging a bit, which is a pretty horrendous problem because the wall is 10 feet high and my neighbor is on the low side. Trouble is, no one knows whose it is, and my neighbor figures it is I who must pay for repairs. How can I determine whose wall it is?
- R.W., Brighton, Mass.
Answer - Hire a surveyor to determine the border, for a fairly hefty fee, but it can't be helped. Border determined, then you and the neighbor can negotiate, maybe. It sounds as if it is a shared wall, no matter where the border is, and it's a shame you can't get some cooperation.
Question - During an excavation, the backhoe dug up a beautiful 4-by-6-foot slab of granite, which I would like to use as a yard ornament. But I would like it polished, dark and shiny. Who would do this? Would sandblasting smooth it out? Would oiling help?
- Joseph Ahearn, Derry, N.H.
Answer - Granite is polished by making it as smooth as possible to reflect light, usually by grinding on a flat surface. A monument carver could polish it, but the cost might be prohibitive. Sandblasting won't work because it would roughen the finish, reflecting less light.
Let nature take its course; weather will make it smoother and shinier. And, you can use oil. Make a mix of 1 part boiled linseed oil and 1 part paint thinner, and paint this on the stone. Wait 15 minutes and wipe it off with a dry cloth, or at least all that is going to come off. Left on the stone, the solution will stay sticky. Dispose of oily cloths safely by burning them; left around, they will spontaneously ignite.
One more thing: When you site the rock, make sure it is snuggled into the earth, not standing on top of the ground like a balancing rock. This way it will look like a part of the landscape and be more aesthetically pleasing.