Q: I have a laminate floor on which a liquid covering has been placed. Now it has smudged and spotted. I think I need to strip it back to the original surface. Suggestions for a product? I fear that anything too liquid will seep through the seams and raise the laminate surface.
A: Liquid covering is a term for any finish: polyurethane varnish, old-fashioned varnish, wax, shellac and others I don’t even know about. Maybe you smudged and spotted it by walking on it before it hardened. At any rate, if the laminate surface is wood, sand it very lightly to get rid of those blotches and spots and apply two coats of a water-based polyurethane varnish. If it is some kind of plastic, clean it with a strong detergent.
Getting rid of flies
Q: Just like clockwork every summer, I get a lot of black flies. This has been going on for at least four years. Some are small, but this year they are big. I kill six to eight flies a day, sometimes more. How can I get rid of them? They seem to stay by the kitchen window.
A: They might be ordinary house flies. Kill them and put up flypaper as well. Don’t use insecticides inside the house.
They could also be cluster flies, which tend to hang around windows seeking warmth. But appearing in midsummer is not typical of cluster flies, which are born and come out of the ground in late August. It’s a tough time to be born, because they must seek shelter soon to keep alive as the cold weather descends. So they stay warm by clustering on windows, especially in attics. Kill them as you would ordinary house flies. There is no magic wand. Just eternal vigilance.
The cure for rust
Q: I have a set of steel spiral stairs going from the pool deck to a porch that has been in place about 25 years. Originally, I had put treads on them made from pressure-treated decking and fastened with screws up through the steel treads. These worked well for about 12 years, but they eventually cupped from the moisture sitting underneath them. I steel-brushed the treads to remove loose rust, applied a rust restorer and Rust-Oleum primer and paint, and reattached the treads, which had dried and flattened. Two years ago, the treads were clearly shot, so I removed them and refinished the steel treads using a Loctite Extend rust treatment. I looked for rubber treads, but could not find any, so I left the painted steel steps uncovered. They continued to rust.
I am considering making new treads of composite decking, which should not cup from moisture. What will keep the steel treads rust resistant?
A: The composites can work to resist cupping, but if pressure-treated treads worked for 12 years, they’re pretty good, too. For the steel, which I think is wrought iron, try this: Sand off as much rust as possible, then coat it with Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer (or other anti-rust coatings), which will turn the rust black and make it paintable. Then apply one or two coats of Krylon wrought-iron paint. No primer needed.
Replacing a door
Q: I want to replace my front door. I thought I could just buy a door, pop the pins and put it in on my own. Not the case. I’ve been told that I need to buy a door and frame and that since I have side lights, I would need to buy the whole unit. What is really necessary to replace? And what would be a good, low-maintenance weatherproof door to select? I now have a metal door with sidelights, and windows on the door have lost their seal.
A: You need to buy only a door. Ask for the Brosco catalog. It contains many kinds of doors, including wood, which is what you want. The proprietor should find you a wood door; it may come with things you don’t need, but that is OK. Be sure to tell the proprietor the exact size and thickness of the old door. And remember, the beauty of wood is that it can be trimmed to fit, if necessary.
Cleaning a counter
Q: I put a leaky bottle of cleaner on my new Silestone counter and it dulled the luster. I have been fearful of making the problem worse, so have simply cleaned it up with soap and water, which removed the spill but didn’t solve the problem. Suggestions?
A: Try Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If that doesn’t work, ask a dealer what will.