Q. My kitchen floor has older sheet flooring that is very worn and damaged in spots. I called a contractor and he gave me several options, all expensive. Is there some low-cost way to renew this floor that I can do myself? I’d also like repairs to be easy.
A. I think your best option, by far, is self-stick vinyl tiles. These are comparatively inexpensive, rather easy to install, and repairing damaged tiles is simple if you buy some extra, matching tiles. The existing sheet flooring is probably glued down and could be messy and difficult to remove.
If the flooring is adhering tightly and can be smoothed and leveled by filling cavities and tears with floor-leveling compound, a plaster-like material that dries very hard, you should be able to install the tiles over it. Sand repaired areas so the entire floor is smooth and flat. Vacuum up sanding dust, then scrub the floor with a solution of household detergent and let dry thoroughly.
If the old flooring is damaged so badly that it can’t be smoothed this way, you should install underlayment panels over it to form a new surface. You can use one-quarter-inch plywood, sold at most home centers. Before starting, remove the shoe molding or quarter round at the borders of the room and save it to be re-installed if it is in good condition. The underlayment panels are 4 feet by 8 feet, but not extremely heavy. Stagger the joints of the panels and use plenty of underlayment nails to hold them down (space nails about every eight inches around the perimeter of the panels).
When you have the underlayment installed, apply floor-leveling compound to gaps and imperfections. Let the compound dry and sand it. Vacuum up all dust and repeat vacuuming regularly while laying the tiles.
Vinyl tiles come with instructions, so I won’t repeat them here except to note that you start laying tiles near the center of the floor, not at an edge. Lay down test tiles, with paper backing still on, to find a starting point that will help you avoid narrow, small pieces of tile at edges (these sometimes come loose and need to be re-glued).
Besides being easy to repair by removing and replacing damaged tiles, good-quality vinyl floors are durable, easy to clean and never need wax.
Q. We have an American Standard toilet with an EverClean finish. I am supposed to be able to remove some stains and keep the toilet clean by just using warm, soapy water and rinsing. However, we have well water and the stains won’t come off. The toilet looks very dirty. Can you help?
A. Hard-water stains are tough customers for any toilet, even for your toilet, which has a super-smooth finish that is supposed to inhibit some stains and make some others easy to remove. Hard-water stains are actually mineral deposits, often compounds of calcium or iron. There are toilet-bowl cleaners, such as Lime-A-Way, that will remove some hard-water stains, but many of these cleaners contain powerful and dangerous chemicals and you should consult the manufacturer before using any of them.
Getting firsthand advice on handling your stains should not be difficult. Visit www.americanstandard.com, click on Connect at the top of the page, then on Contact Us in the Customer Service link. You will get a page that lets you communicate with American Standard by phone, email or regular mail.
I would not use any abrasive cleaners, such as the pumice sticks some homeowners use in toilets — they can scratch the smooth surface and ultimately make things worse.
The best long-range solution to your problem, if you continue to use hard well water, is to have the water analyzed to find out what minerals you must cope with, then have a water softener installed. Many softener companies will provide a free analysis, and also try to sell you their brand. If you want an independent analysis without the sales talk, use a search engine and the words Water Testing to find a service on the Internet.