Q. We recently moved into a house with beautiful hardwood floors. We have a dog, and noticed that the floors are becoming scratched from his nails. What are our options?
A. There are several things you can try, short of covering the floors with wall-to-wall carpet or banishing Fido to an outdoor doghouse. Some owners say that keeping the nails well trimmed will solve the problem, but others say that this doesn’t work. Another treatment that has many advocates is to put baby socks on the dog’s feet when he is in the house. Some dogs will promptly tear the socks off, but you can tie them on with cord and probably train most dogs to leave them alone.
Still another well-thought-of remedy is a product called Soft Paws. These are plastic caps that fit over the nails and are said to eliminate scratches on floors, doors, wall and people. Soft Paws are glued to the nails, but they wear out, of course, and must be replaced periodically. A kit with enough caps and adhesive to last two to three months costs about $19. You can find sources and more information at www.softpaws.net.
Using throw rugs in strategic areas can help reduce scratching, but is not an ideal solution. Unfortunately, I know of no hardwood-floor finishes that are “scratch proof,” although some finishes resist scratches better than others. If you ever have your floors refinished, you should discuss possible scratch-resistant finishes with the contractor; these finishes are best applied professionally and are often considerably more expensive than conventional floor finishes.
Q. We have a cedar-sided house and have had recurring problems with woodpeckers, which have drilled holes in the siding. How can we fix the holes and keep the birds away?
A. Filling the holes will probably be the easiest part of your problem. If the holes are small, probably made by birds fishing for insects in the siding or engaging in a courting ritual called drumming, you can fill them with exterior-grade wood putty stained to match the siding. Plastic Wood will usually work. If the holes are several inches in diameter, probably made by birds planning to nest inside the wall, buy a piece of cedar siding and use a hole saw to cut a plug that will fit the hole; glue the plug in place with exterior glue such as Titebond III. Keeping the birds away from the house is a complex problem that could take a lot of trial and error. I know of a couple who became so frustrated they had their cedar siding completely covered with vinyl siding. Keep in mind that woodpeckers are protected by law and are also valuable insect destroyers, so pellet guns or similar solutions should not be considered. Hanging strips of aluminum foil over the attack area will sometimes keep the birds away. If you think your siding might be infested with insects, having it sprayed with an appropriate insecticide would help (have a pest-control pro examine the siding). Unfortunately, many solutions of this type are temporary at best. If your property is large enough, you might get better results by placing several woodpecker nesting boxes in the vicinity; they could lure the birds away from the house. You can find plans for building simple nesting boxes on the Internet; use a search engine and the words How to Build a Woodpecker Nesting Box.