June 19, 2011 in Features

Do It Yourself: Covering paneling is cheap, not easy

Gene Austin McClatchy-Tribune
 

Q. The walls in my house were covered with paneling in the 1970s and I am thoroughly sick of the wood look. Anything I do to redecorate the walls has to be easy and inexpensive. I’m not interested in filling the panel grooves with spackling compound. Can you help?

A. Refinishing the paneling can be relatively inexpensive, but it isn’t especially easy. Even painting, which is the simplest option, takes some time and effort if you want to do it properly.

I agree that the grooves in the paneling should be left alone. Some people fill them with spackling compound or drywall joint compound, but pieces of the filler can fall out in time.

If you decide to paint, start by making sure all the paneling is firmly attached to the wall. Add nails if necessary.

Next, wash the walls with an ammoniated cleaner such as Top Job With Ammonia, which will remove grease, polish that might have been used in the past, and other contaminants. Then prime with a stain-killer primer such s Bulls-Eye 1-2-3 or Kilz.

When the primer is dry, you can roll on acrylic-latex wall paint. There will still be grooves, of course, but a light-toned paint can give the walls a fresh new appearance.

Another option, which takes more work and cost somewhat more, is to use wallpaper. Check wallpaper dealers for a heavy, textured paper that will span the grooves and give a relatively smooth finished look.

Some of these papers can be painted to suit your taste in colors. If you are in doubt about your paper-hanging skills, hire a pro to do the job.

Q. The nonslip surface of our bathtub has become grimy and we don’t know how to clean it. The tub is an American Standard AmerCast. What’s the secret?

A. The recommended method of cleaning the nonslip surface is to put a “dime-sized dollop” of cleaner on a damp sponge and scrub the surface with it.

Recommended cleaners include Spic ’n Span, Bon Ami and Zud. You can also scrub with a soft-bristled nylon brush, but don’t use any type of abrasive or abrasive cleaner.

Some people also put an inch or so of water in the tub and add a quart or so of chlorine bleach, but, to my knowledge this isn’t a solution recommended by the manufacturer.

If the tub bottom doesn’t come clean with these treatments, you might want to try Fantastik All Purpose Cleaner With Bleach and scrubbing with the soft-bristled brush.

Q. I get a bad sewer odor from my shower drain after the water runs out. Can you tell me how to stop the odor?

A. There are several possible causes for sewer-gas odor from a drain.

A common cause is a leaking trap. The trap is a device under the fixture that should retain a small amount of water at all times. The water in the trap acts as a buffer to keep sewer gas, which is present in all drain pipes, from seeping into the living area.

Each of your bathroom fixtures has its own trap. A leaking trap under a shower or other fixture usually isn’t difficult to identify, especially if there is another room or a basement underneath. Dripping or water stains should be visible.

It is often possible to get access to the trap by removing a panel in the wall adjacent to the shower or bathtub controls and water supply lines. Replacing a sink trap isn’t difficult, since it is usually easy to access, but replacing a shower or tub trap can be tricky and might require a plumber.

If you can find no signs of a leaking trap, the problem could stem from rotting material in the trap such as hair, skin particles, soap scum and so forth. Bacteria will also be present.

Pour a couple of quarts of chlorine bleach into the drain and let it work overnight. In the morning, flush out the drain with several gallons of very hot water.

If this doesn’t solve the problem, you might have a clogged vent pipe in the bathroom that is siphoning water from the shower trap. Vent pipes extend up through the roof of the building and clogs can sometimes be removing by running a plumbers snake down the pipe.

Since working on a roof is dangerous for inexperienced people, a plumber might be needed to clear a vent pipe.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at gaus17@aol.com. Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.


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