Question: I have a wide, front-entrance hall with a tile floor that is ugly, and I would like to do something to change it. It is too expensive for us to lift the tile, and my husband is unable to do such heavy work. Can it be painted a lighter color or can a wood floor be put on top. Any suggestions other than laying carpet?
Answer: Painting is not recommended, but there's no reason why you can't install a wood floor over (what I presume to be) vinyl tile, but be sure the tiles are secure and the floor is level. If there are sags, the wood will eventually pull away, and you'll have a squeaky floor.
If the floor has indentations or low spots, you may want to fill these first with a leveling compound and then lay a sub-flooring of hardboard or particle board. Also, I would suggest putting a polyethylene vapor barrier between the tile and sub-flooring.
When using either hardboard or particle board, you (or the lumber yard or home center) can cut the large sheets into half to make them easier to handle and to allow more expansion space between the sections as they settle to the floor. When using hardboard, some flooring experts suggest you stand the individual sheets on edge in the room in which they'll be installed for a couple of days to get them adjusted to their permanent resting place. (Lay hardboard smooth side down.)
Leave a space of about one-sixteenth inch between the sub-flooring pieces, and stagger the places where they join. All you need are ring-shank nails or flat staples to secure it to the floor.
There are many kinds and designs of parquet floors on the market that come in squares that you and your husband can probably install yourself. A floor of this kind will take a good hunk out of a limited budget, but it should be attractive and long-lasting.
Q: We bought our house last summer when the weather was bright and sunny, and we thought the paneled walls were a treasure. This winter I've been nothing but depressed by the darkness of the house, almost totally due to those paneled walls. Dare I paint them a light color?
A: Nothing can be more depressing than a dark house during daylight hours. To pacify the readers who are purists, I suggest you work on some indirect florescent lighting around the top perimeter of the room, bouncing the light off a white or off-white ceiling.
However, if the paneling is old, you're tired of it, and you plan to live there a long time, keep in mind it's your house and do with it what you want. If you decide to paint it, I would naturally suggest using a light color and possibly giving it an antique finish, following the grain of the panels and preserving the dark ridges where the panels join or appear to join. You keep the paneled effect that way and yet brighten the room. I don't think you'll be pleased if you simply paint it a solid color, ridges and all.
Another decorative effect can be achieved, providing your room can stand a patterned wall, if you paint it and then apply stenciled designs. A perfect example is on the cover of a recently published book entitled "The Art of Decorative Stenciling" by Adele Bishop and Cile Lord. It's an 8 1/2-by-11 paperback published by Penguin Books: $17.95. It contains the how-to of stenciling, plus patterns and design ideas.
Note to D.H. in Van Nuys: A state energy-conservation credit still exists in California, as stated in this column (Jan. 19). It is 10% of the cost of the project with a maximum credit of $750. As of the first of the year, there are no federal energy tax credits.
Note to W.R. in Toro: The need for an electrician was not to repair a smoke detector, but to repair a possible short in the installation or to install another electrical detector.
Note from Mrs. F.G.R.: . . . That young man who complained about how expensive curtains were doesn't have to expose himself or blame your column for his problem. My husband and I have severe allergies to house dust, and curtains are a no-no, so we went to shades throughout the house. My own "fancy" shades cost $80, (five years ago) including special sizes, for 13 shades . . . .
Ed. Note: That should ring down the curtain on that problem. Dale Baldwin will answer remodeling questions of general interest on this page. Send your questions to Home Improvement, Real Estate Department, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Baldwin cannot answer questions individually. Snapshots of successful do-it-yourself projects may be submitted but cannot be returned.