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Do It Yourself: Waxed surface must be cleared before painting

Q. I want to paint our older kitchen cabinets, which were originally finished with shellac but then stripped and finished with paste wax. I know we can’t paint over wax but I haven’t been able to get any good advice about how to proceed. Can you help?

A. The keys to painting a once-waxed surface are to remove as much of the wax as possible, then use a blocking-type primer to give good adhesion to the finish paint.

You can remove the wax, or enough of it to let you prime and paint, with mineral spirits. Mineral spirits, also called paint thinner, is an excellent wax stripper but must be used with caution because it is flammable and has a strong odor.

You’ll need to make sure there are no flames or sparks in the kitchen while you work, and you should open windows and doors for ventilation. You should also wear rubber gloves and eye protection. You’ll also need scrubbing pads and paper towels. Pieces cut from an old towel or some cheesecloth make good scrubbing pads.

Work a small section at a time, such as a cabinet side or door. Dip a folded pad into the mineral spirits and scrub the surface briskly, then wipe immediately with paper towels. When the surface of the pad gets gummy with wax, expose a new surface and keep scrubbing and wiping. When you feel you have removed as much wax as possible, you are ready to prime.

Two primers that work well over once-waxed surfaces are Bulls Eye 1-2-3 and Cover Stain. I prefer Bulls Eye because it is water based and has little odor. For more details on these primers, visit Read directions on the label for application instructions. When the primer is dry, you can paint with any high-quality acrylic enamel.

Q. Our kitchen cabinets have scratch marks around the door handles. What is the best way to touch up these areas?

A. If the cabinets have a wood-tone finish and the scratches are shallow, as they usually are, you can use a so-called scratch cover to improve the appearance. A well-known scratch cover, Old English, is sold at some home centers and supermarkets. You can get a dark-toned or light-toned product, depending on the wood finish.

Follow directions on the container, but basically you just wipe it on and wipe it off; it will penetrate and help conceal the scratches.

If the wood is painted, you’ll need matching paint to touch it up. Clean around the handles with mineral spirits (see above), sand lightly and paint.

Q. My galvanized rain gutters are rusted and in poor condition and I want to replace them with either aluminum or vinyl gutters. Which do you recommend? I might do the work myself.

A. Aluminum gutters are by far the most popular, though vinyl might have a slight edge if you install them yourself. The fittings of some vinyl gutter systems have built-in gaskets to prevent leaks and do not need caulking or sealing. The gaskets allow gutter sections to expand and contract with temperature changes without pulling loose at joints.

Aluminum gutter joints sometimes leak even if they are carefully caulked, but aluminum is basically stronger and there is a wider choice of bracket types.

I have installed both types of gutters and I can tell you that handling long sections of gutter and getting them correctly positioned is not easy. A helper is almost a necessity and if you work from a ladder it can be dangerous. Most professionals set up a scaffold that makes the work safer and simpler.

If this is a two-story house, I strongly urge you to have an insured, experienced pro do the work. Pros can also install “continuous” aluminum gutters, which eliminates some of the joints.

Whatever choice you make, you should check the fascia boards behind the old gutters carefully when they are exposed. Rotted or damaged boards should be replaced, and I think it is wise to cap the entire fascia with aluminum or vinyl before installing new gutters.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.