Q. Our concrete basement floor was painted before we moved into our house, but the floor was bare in spots. We had it repainted, but now the new paint comes off easily if scuffed. Is it possible to successfully paint a basement floor?
A. It is definitely possible, but painting a basement floor has several pitfalls:
•Moisture seepage. If water is wicking up through the concrete from the soil underneath, it is virtually impossible to get any coating to stick; the hydrostatic pressure will simply lift the paint off.
Before attempting to paint, check for seepage by taping foot-square pieces of aluminum foil at several places on the floor (it is best to do this during a rainy period). Let the foil in place for several weeks, then remove and examine it. If moisture has collected on the underside of the foil, the floor is seeping.
Stopping seepage can be very difficult.
The cause is sometimes a malfunctioning rain-gutter system or improper grading around the building (the soil should slope away from the foundation).
•Wrong paint. Painting a concrete floor require special paint. Most so-called porch-and-floor paints will work if other conditions are good, but it is best to look for a special concrete-floor paint. Epoxy paints are the toughest, but even these can fail if other conditions are not right.
•Improper preparation. Always read and carefully follow the directions on the paint container. Thorough cleaning is the minimum preparation, but some concrete floors also require etching with an acid etch to overcome excessive smoothness.
Q. Our 1970s bathrooms have small floor tiles and grout that has become dingy and dirty despite regular cleaning. We’ve tried bleach but it didn’t help. How can we clean these floors?
A. A number of special tile-and-grout cleaners are available and some of them do an excellent job when properly used. You can find special cleaners at home centers, supermarkets, and janitorial-supply outlets.
Heavy-duty cleaners such as Aqua Mix ( www.aqua-mix.com) might be needed to remove the soap scum, mold and ground-in dirt that has accumulated over the years.
Special, brand-name cleaners usually are a better option than home-made formulas, but if you can’t find a cleaner that works, try a solution of 1/4 cup TSP (trisodium phosphate or a phosphate-free substitute, sold at paint stores) to clean the tiles, and a 50-50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water on the grout.
For badly stained grout, you might have to resort to a whitener, sold at some home centers and hardware stores, or a grout dye. Dyes, which can change the color of grout, are available at www.aqua-mix.com.
A power scrubber, like those made by Black and Decker, can help save effort and often give superior results.
Q. The bedroom floor squeaks in spots in our year-old house. The floor is carpeted and there is a family room underneath. How can we fix the squeaks without taking up the carpet?
A. Since your house is only a year old, I think you should contact the builder about the squeaks and ask him or her to fix them. If you can’t get any results, there is a repair procedure that seems to work on some carpeted floors, since it has been marketed for years.
This system uses special screws that are driven into joists underneath the squeaky areas. The screws are driven through the carpet and flooring with a power drill. After installation, the heads of the screws are snapped off, supposedly leaving no damage to the carpet.
A kit containing screws, a special tool for aligning the screws and snapping off the heads, plus instructions and other needed hardware, is available from Improvements ( www.improvementscatalog.com, item 110189) for about $30.
Fixing squeaky floors is tricky under any circumstances, so I can’t guarantee that this treatment will work in your case. However, it seems worth a try.