Q. We live in an old house with a cast-iron bathtub. The tub has developed some chips and cracks in the finish that we want to repair without spending a lot of money. Is the finish porcelain? Can you help?
A. The finish is almost certainly porcelain enamel, the hard, glossy finish that has been used on bathroom fixtures for many years.
You can buy kits to repair chips and cracks, but it is unlikely that you will get a perfect match for the old finish and the patches will be rather conspicuous. The best bet is to visit www.porc-a-fix.net/ and check their list of repair products, which includes color-matched patch kits.
If you are not satisfied with color-matched patches, you can refinish (paint) the entire tub interior. Special paint is needed and the tub surface must be carefully cleaned and prepared or the paint will not stick.
Before doing this job yourself, I suggest that you call a few professional tub refinishers in your area and check their prices. Some refinishers do a good job and offer good warranties. You can find them under Bathtubs & Sinks – Repair and Refinishing in your yellow pages.
If you can spend more money, consider a tub liner. These are acrylic or other tough plastic liners that fit exactly into the old tub, giving it a brand-new appearance.
Again, check your yellow pages or visit Web sites like www.rebath.com for more details.
Q. I live in an old brick house. When the trim was painted years ago the sloppy painters got spatters and drips on the bricks. I tried paint remover, but it didn’t take off the stains. Also, is it a good idea to just paint the entire house to hide the damage?
A. First, I think it is very seldom a good idea to paint a brick house. No matter what the problem with the bricks, there is almost always a better solution than covering it with paint, which will require regular maintenance even if the work is expertly done.
One reason the paint spatters are hard to remove is because they are very old and the paint has been allowed to penetrate deeply into the brick pores. You don’t say what kind of paint remover you used in the past, but I suggest trying a powerful remover like Strypeeze.
Buy the gel-type remover, which will cling to the vertical bricks, and lather on a thick coat. Let it work for 10 or 15 minutes, then use a putty-knife to scrape off the remover and paint. You might have to apply several coats and scrub with a stiff scrub brush to remove all the embedded paint.
If even this doesn’t work, try Peel Away, a remover that is often effective on bricks. For more information, visit www.dumondchemicals.com/ html/peelaway.htm. There are a number of types of this remover and you can select the one that seems best for your project.
Q. I have a wicker trunk with a wood lining that I want to use to store linens. The problem is that the inside of the trunk has a musty odor that transfers to the linens. Would it help to put it outside in warm weather and expose the inside to the sun?
A. Sunlight is one of the best possible treatments for musty odors. Just make sure that you set the trunk in a dry place and that the interior doesn’t get wet while the trunk is outside. Move the trunk to a sheltered place at night and don’t put it outside on cloudy, damp days.
If there isn’t some improvement after a week or so of the sun treatment, make sure the wood interior is thoroughly dry and give it two coats of shellac, which you can buy at most home centers and paint stores. Shellac is one of the best products available for sealing odors in wood.