Q. We recently moved into a house with wall-to-wall carpet in several rooms. The carpet seems to be in good condition but is loose at several places along a wall in a couple of rooms. There are some wrinkles near these loose places. I tried to stretch the carpet back into place with my fingers but couldn’t. What’s the answer?
A. There are special tools to stretch carpet, and you need one. The most used stretching tool is called a knee kicker. It is a simple rodlike device that has a gripping surface at one end that sinks into the carpet, and a padded bumper at the other end.
To use it, get a grip on the carpet with the front end and bump the pad with a knee at the back end. Don’t use this tool if you have problems with your knees. Even if your knees are fine, don’t bump the pad too hard; it might cause an injury and could also tear the carpet if it is deteriorated.
Other types of stretchers are available, including power stretchers. All these tools are fairly expensive – even a simple knee kicker costs $50 or more – so check with tool-rental agencies in your area to see if you can rent one.
Also check the condition of the tack strips that normally hold the carpet in place. The carpet might have pulled loose because one or more of these strips is damaged. The strips should be firmly fastened to the floor and have sharp prongs extending upward to grip the carpet. If any strips are damaged, you can buy new ones at some home centers and carpet-supply stores. Tack strips usually come in 4-foot lengths.
If you use a knee kicker, you’ll want to pull the wrinkles out of the carpet so you can fasten it. Place the gripping pad at one end of the loose area so that it points toward the problem wall. Give the knee pad a thump so it moves the carpet toward the wall and starts pulling out the wrinkles.
Experiment with easy knee thumps at first and don’t build up forced unless it is needed. Move the kicker about a foot each time, parallel to the wall, until you have flattened the carpet. You might need to move the kicker forward, closer to the wall, and repeat the series of knee thumps to get the carpet stretched enough to hook the edge on the tack strip. The carpet should be flat and stretched enough so that you can tuck the edge down behind the tack strips. Force the carpet down onto the pointed strips with the end of a screwdriver; don’t use your fingers or you could cut yourself. I don’t advise do-it-yourselfers to try and stretch carpet that is loose along more than one wall. For that, it is time to call in an experienced carpet installer.
Q. I have a number of cans of old latex paint and stains that I want to dispose of, but the trash people or recyclers won’t take them. I know about donating leftover paint here and there but that doesn’t work for me. Any other ideas?
A. Once the solvents have evaporated from latex paint or the paint hardens, it is OK to put it in the trash. There is a paint additive called paint hardener you can buy at some home centers or on the Internet that converts liquid paint into a lumpy solid that you can put in the trash.
Unfortunately, it is a pretty costly way to dispose of leftover paint. Prices vary by brand but some hardeners cost about $2.50 for enough additive to harden two-thirds gallon of paint. Some people use cat litter (not the clumping kind) to treat the paint.
I use much less expensive methods. If you have a high shelf in a shed or garage that can’t be reached by children or pets, you can remove the lids from the cans and simply let the solvent evaporate. This can take a long time, sometimes months or more, depending on the amount of paint.
A much faster method that I use sometimes is to spread some old cardboard on a flat surface where an accidental drip can’t cause any damage, then dribble the paint over the cardboard. Try not to let the dribbles get too thick – the thicker they are, the longer they will take to dry.
Turn the container upside down for a while to let remnants of paint drain, then right side up to dry. When all the paint has dried, usually after a few hours or overnight, fold the cardboard and put it and the empty container in the trash.
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