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Do It Yourself: Overhead deck may need drainage system

Q. I have a second floor deck made of concrete and supported by steel. Unfortunately, the deck wasn’t waterproofed and water drips on the patio underneath. Is there any way to keep the patio dry?

A. There are drainage systems for overhead decks that can keep the space below dry. They are usually designed for wood decks, but most are professionally installed and it is possible that one could be adapted to your deck.

The systems consist of panels attached to the underside of the deck that catch water coming through cracks. The water is diverted to drains much like those on rain gutters.

The systems can be valuable not only for people with patios under decks, but for people who want to use the under-deck area for storage. When used for storage, clutter can be screened off with removable lattice panels or other screens.

To get a better idea of what the drainage systems are like, use a search engine and the words Drainage Systems for Overhead Decks. You should be able to contact manufacturers to learn if a specific system is suitable for your deck.

Q. We have several hardwood floors that are a very light color and I can’t tell whether any stain was applied under the surface finish. I’d like to stain the floors a darker color but without having to sand off the old finish. Is that possible?

A: Floor stains are best applied to bare wood, although a well-thinned coat of sealer such as shellac is sometimes applied to help ensure an even color.

That means you would have to have any surface finish removed, usually by sanding. The wood is probably finished with polyurethane or some other hard finish, and stain would not penetrate.

The best bet is to have a flooring professional check the floor to determine what finish you have, and advise you on what needs to be done to apply a dark stain.

There is a finishing product called varnish-stain, notably Minwax PolyShades, that can be used over some existing finishes, but it is not recommended for floors.

Q. I clean my laminate floors regularly, but they don’t shine. Aren’t they supposed to shine? What am I doing wrong?

A. Laminate floors have a variety of finishes, but most of them normally have some gloss. You don’t say what brand of laminate you have, but it is possible you are using the wrong cleaners.

Armstrong, a leading maker of laminate flooring, cautions against the use of soap-based detergents, which eliminates many common household cleaners. For routine cleaning, vacuuming with a soft wand, or sweeping, is often adequate. For “spring cleaning,” Armstrong recommends a “well squeezed” damp mop and Armstrong Hardwood & Laminate Floor Cleaner or Bruce Hardwood & Laminate Floor cleaner.

It is best to get cleaning instructions from the manufacturer or dealer of your specific product, but there are special maintenance products that would probably help at most home centers and on the Internet. There are also products to restore shine to dull laminate floors.

Again, consult the manufacturer or dealer if possible, or use a search engine on the Internet with the words Restore Shine to Laminate Floors. It pays to use nonslip throw rugs at entrances and other well-used spots to help keep laminate floors bright.

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


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