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Wood window frames can require yearly work

Q. The paint on my wood-framed basement windows is peeling on the outside and the wood has some cracks. I want to repair and repaint. How do I go about it?

A. Many homeowners will be repairing and repainting wood window frames this spring. These frames are a perennial maintenance problem.

One good solution is to have the outside frames “clad,” or covered with pre-finished aluminum or vinyl. Most window installers routinely do this, and if the work is skillfully done it will sharply reduce maintenance for many years (you will still need to clean the frames occasionally).

If you choose to repaint, examine the frames and decide whether to strip the paint or simply scrape off all loose and deteriorated paint. If there is extensive peeling, stripping is best.

A variety of paint strippers are sold at paint stores and home centers. A paste-type stripper works well on window frames because it clings to the surface. Give the stripper plenty of time to soften the old paint before scraping it off.

If there is peeling only in a few spots, there is no need to strip; scrape off the deteriorated paint only. Fill cracks with an exterior spackling compound, let it dry, then sand the frames smooth.

The next step is to apply a high-quality, exterior-grade primer to the frames, making sure all bare spots are well covered. I like Bulls-Eye 1-2-3, a water-based primer that is widely available.

When the primer is dry, paint with a top-quality acrylic house-and-trim paint. Choose a paint with a flat or satin (eggshell) finish.

Q. Our 20-year-old washing machine makes a banging noise when the water to it switched on and off, as it does during rinse cycles. I thought it was water hammer in the pipes, so I installed a water-hammer arrestor in each of the water lines to the washer. The noise is as loud as ever. Why are these arrestors so ineffective?

A. There is a very good chance your problem isn’t water hammer, or noise resulting from lack of an air cushion in the pipes. Your 20-year-old washer is well beyond the normal lifespan for a washing machine (usually about 12 years), and the problem could be in the machine itself, such as worn gears, belt or shock absorbers.

Many experts recommend that old appliances be replaced with modern, energy-saving models. You might not only save energy and stop the noise, but end up with cleaner clothes.

Of course, it would be wise to have an appliance technician check your machine. If the estimated repair cost is moderate, your machine might last a few more years.

Q. Two sides of my house get mold and algae on the vinyl siding. What is the best way to clean it and prevent future mold problems?

A. The fastest way to clean vinyl siding is pressure-washing, but the work should be done by an experienced contractor with the proper equipment.

Care must be taken not to let water get under the joints of the siding, where it can cause rot and other problems inside walls. The flow of water from the pressure washer should always be downward, so it runs off the siding like rain.

Special “house washes” are available to eliminate mold and algae.

Another way to clean the siding is to use a product such as Mildew Check, which is applied with a garden-type sprayer and rinsed off with a hose. Again, the water flow should be downward.

Also keep in mind that any cleaner containing bleach, which is the standard ingredient used to kill molds, should be tested first on an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t affect the color of vinyl siding.

The walls that accumulate mold and algae are probably shaded by trees or other buildings. If trees are involved, some judicious pruning should help.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at doit861@aol.com. Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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