Q: We recently bought an older house with wallpapered walls. We suspect there is lead paint under the wallpaper. Can we safely remove the wallpaper and paint, or what is the best way to handle this situation?
A: Lead paint removal is not a safe project for do-it-yourselfers. It should be done only by certified experts with the proper equipment and training.
However, you should not jump to the conclusion there is lead paint behind the wallpaper. Even if there is, and the paper is in good condition, the best bet could be to leave the paper in place as a means of encapsulating the paint.
Encapsulation, usually with special coatings, is an accepted method of dealing with the toxic paint, which becomes harmful when fragments or dust from it are swallowed or get into the air and are inhaled.
If the wallpaper is in good condition but you don’t like the pattern, you can wallpaper over it, paint it, or even install a thin layer of drywall to form a fresh surface.
If the old wallpaper is in poor condition and you feel it must be removed, you can test any underlying coatings to see if they contain lead. Lead-paint test kits are sold at most home centers or can be bought online (try www.prolabinc.com).
Test kits generally contain chemically treated cotton swabs that change color if they contact lead. Carefully expose several small test areas and check them.
If you do find lead paint, you should stop immediately and consult lead-paint experts. You can find one under “Lead” in the Yellow Pages.
Lead paint on window sills, doors, trim and wood siding is generally the biggest hazard in old houses. Children and pregnant women are most at risk from lead contamination.
Q: My rain gutters froze up last winter and caused roof leaks. How can I prevent this?
A: This a fairly common problem in cold-climate areas. Ice in the gutters and at the eaves of the roof forms dams that cause melting snow to back up under the shingles and leak through the roof.
One solution is to install thermostatically controlled heating cables along the roof eaves and in the gutters to keep water flowing properly. The cables are sold at some hardware stores and are available from several sources on the Internet (use a search engine and the words gutter heating cables).
Frozen gutters are also an indication the attic of the home might not be adequately insulated. This causes heat from the house to escape through the roof, melting snow soon after it falls.
The escaping heat doesn’t warm the eaves, so the gutters freeze and ice dams are formed, causing water to back up under the shingles.
Homeowners with this problem should check their attic insulation and take steps to “keep a cold roof” so snow melts naturally and eliminates the problem.
Q: I have a stamped concrete patio that originally had a glossy coating. The patio has gone dull and I would like to renew the gloss. How do I do it?
A: Masonry sealers that give a glossy or wet look are available at some home centers. One widely sold brand, Behr, is sold at Home Depot.
The best bet is to test the sealer on a small area first to check adhesion and appearance. Also be sure and clean the patio thoroughly before you apply the sealer.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.