Q. How do I go about refinishing my porcelain bathtub?
A. The refinishing or painting itself isn’t too difficult, but preparing the surface properly can be quite a hassle, even if the tub does not have chipped areas that must be repaired first. Don’t skip the preparation, or any paint you apply is likely to peel or chip quickly.
If you buy a tub-painting kit, it should include instructions as well as the paint, a primer or bonder, and probably a few other materials you will need. Expect to pay $25 and up for kits, sold at home centers and on the Internet.
Two-part epoxy paint has traditionally been used for do-it-yourself bathtub painting, but acrylic paint is also sometimes used.
The usual first step is to remove all traces of soap scum, grease, dirt and other contaminants from the tub. Scrub with TSP (trisodium phosphate or a phosphate-free substitute, sold at paint stores). Use a stiff brush and follow up by rinsing the surface thoroughly with clean water.
Let the tub dry and de-gloss the surface with 120- or 150-grit sandpaper. The surface should have a slightly rough feel when you are finished. Remove all the sanding dust with a vacuum or tack cloths (sticky cloths sold at paint stores).
If you have chosen spray paint and primer, you will need to mask all surfaces in and around the tub to keep stray paint from landing where you don’t want it. When the primer is dry, you can paint.
Your paint job could last for years, but, of course, there is no guarantee that it will. One option is to have the tub refinished by a pro; you can find candidates under Bathtub Repair and Refinishing in the Yellow Pages.
The cost is usually $275 to $350 for professional tub refinishing. Some refinishers offer five-year warranties on their work.
Another option is to have a tub liner installed – the usual cost is $800 to $1,200, but your tub can look like new for years. For more information, search for Bathtub Liners on the Internet.
Q. How can I remove a wax buildup on the linoleum floor tiles in my kitchen?
A. You can use a ready-made wax stripper like Armstrong Genuine Floor Stripper, or make a homemade stripper that also works well by adding one cup of cream of tartar to a gallon of white vinegar.
Test any stripper first on an inconspicuous area of the floor to make sure it doesn’t damage the linoleum.
Also, before beginning wax removal, you should clean the floor as thoroughly as possible to remove dirt and dust. If vacuuming or sweeping doesn’t appear to get the floor clean, damp mop it.
When you start stripping, work on an area about two feet by two feet at a time. Apply the stripper with a sponge mop and let it work for several minutes. The treated area should turn cloudy as the wax softens. Use a scrub brush to break up the wax sludge, then rinse with clear water.
Try not to get the floor too wet during the process; too much water can cause the linoleum tiles to warp. When you have the floor stripped and dry, you can wax again.
All this explains why I prefer no-wax vinyl to linoleum that needs waxing.
Q. I hate having to mix gasoline and oil for my lawn string trimmer, which is also very hard to start. I have seen battery-operated trimmers advertised. Are they any good?
A. Some of them work very well. I share your dislike of gasoline-operated trimmers, but any small-engine device usually starts more easily if you use fresh gasoline.
I have used two brands of battery-operated trimmers, and have settled on one made by Ryobi, which I bought at Home Depot for about $100. An 18-volt lithium battery was included, and it gives the trimmer plenty of power for routine trimming and lasts a long time before it needs a quick recharge.
The trimmer is one of Ryobi’s One-Plus tools, meaning the battery can be used with a host of other One-Plus devices. I have used the same lithium battery with a portable circular saw, chainsaw, hedge trimmer and blower.
My battery trimmer will also work with Ryobi’s regular 18-volt NiCad batteries. I have several of those, but they don’t seem to have the zip or lasting power of the lithium battery. I think a lithium-ion battery is the key to best performance, especially if you have a sizable lawn that takes a good deal of trimming.
There are several other brands of battery-powered string trimmers available, a couple of which will also serve as edgers, and I have seen good recommendations for some of them.
I also have a gasoline-powered string trimmer, but I haven’t used it since I bought the Ryobi, and will get it out only if I have to whack some brush or other very tough growth.