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Do It Yourself: Buffer handles tough wax jobs

Q. My house was built in the 1960s and has beautiful oak floors that were given an oil finish, then waxed. I have been re-waxing them regularly on my hands and knees, but can’t keep that up. I want to switch to a polyurethane finish for the floors. Is that feasible?

A. It is not practical to switch to a polyurethane finish, because I doubt if there is any way that all the wax and oil could be removed from the floors without ruining them. However, a moderate investment in a power buffer will get you off your hands and knees.

Polyurethane will not adhere to wax, and even small traces of wax can mar a new polyurethane finish. In addition to the oil and wax that penetrated the surface of the wood, it has probably gone even deeper into the joints between boards and into any tiny cracks in the surface.

Another reason to stay with your present finish is that many experts think a wax finish is the best of all floor finishes. It is beautiful, easy to repair and relatively easy to maintain with proper equipment.

You can buy a power buffer, which can be used while standing, for about $150, although some cost much more. For equipment, check home centers in your area along with the Internet. To find equipment online, use a search engine and the words Power Floor Buffer.

You should follow directions for your specific buffer, but in general it is best to use a solvent-based liquid wax or cleaner-wax. You can tell if a wax has a solvent base by smelling it; solvents have a distinctive odor that is lacking in those that contain water.

It is best to work on a small area at a time. You will know when it is time to move to the next area when you get the lovely glow that is characteristic of waxed floors.

Q. What paint should be used for flat and shingled roofs?

A. Flat roofs are generally coated with a bright white or aluminum coating that reflects sunlight and helps keep the space under the roof cooler. These roof coatings are especially popular in hot climate areas where they can help reduce cooling costs.

Some of these coatings contain fibrous material that gives some protection to the roof surface. Roof coatings of this type are sold at many home centers. They are generally applied with a roller.

Coatings or paint for shingled roofs, especially the asphalt shingles used on most residential roofs in the U.S., are more controversial.

Some painters say asphalt shingles can be successfully painted. An elastomeric paint or roof coating is sometimes recommended; these have some flexibility to help deal with the temperature changes that affect roofs.

Other sources say a high-quality acrylic-latex paint can be used.

Behr, a leading paint manufacturer whose products are sold at Home Depot, makes a roof paint that it says can be used on a variety of materials including asphalt shingles, tiles, metal and composition roofing.

However, some painters don’t recommend painting shingles and say any paint is likely to chip and need frequent maintenance.

If a shingled roof is in good condition and is simply faded or a color change is wanted, painting might be a worthwhile option. If a roof is stained, it should be cleaned before painting is attempted.

And if a shingled roof is in poor condition, I think it needs new shingles, not painting.

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