Question: We recently bought a home with a beautiful polished-oak staircase. We love looking at it, but we have a problem walking on it. It's very slippery when you have dress shoes, and my wife and I have had several near accidents when walking downstairs. Would it be a good idea to refinish the staircase with a top coat that wouldn't be so slippery?
Answer: "That's going to depend on whether it's laminated oak or solid oak," says Jeff Caudron of Anaheim Centsible Tile & Installation. "If it's solid oak, you can have it stripped and put a light urethane finish on it that won't be as slippery. If it's a laminated oak, that's not something you can strip. Your best alternative would be to carpet the stairs."
Q: We have vertical blinds over a sliding glass door, and for some reason I can't get them to open. There's a chain that you pull to open them and it gets to a certain point and stops. I can see nothing in the mechanism that would obstruct it. Is there any other reason this would occur?
A: "One of the most common reasons something like this happens is that one or more of the slats are misaligned," says Jeff Jackson of 3 Day Blinds in Buena Park. "All you need is to have one slat overlapped by another in the wrong direction and it will freeze the blinds from turning. Look at each slat and make sure it overlaps the one next to it in the right direction. If it's still not turning, something has probably come free in the head rail."
Q: Along one side of the wall in our living room our 3-year-old carpet keeps coming loose from the tack strip on the floor. Is this a result of a faulty strip or is the problem in the carpet?
A: "If the carpet installers used the old tack strip when they laid the new carpet and it wasn't good, then you may need to replace the strip," says Walt Parker of Parker's Floor Coverings & Draperies in Orange. "However, that can also be caused by having the carpet cleaned and not having it restretched. It might shrink after being cleaned, then it pulls off of the tack strip.
"Another possibility is that it wasn't installed correctly in the first place. When you have carpeting put in, make sure the carpet mechanics will be using power stretchers. These are hand-cranked extensions that stretch the carpet out from various angles to make it smooth. Once even an inexpensive carpet has been power stretched and it has a good tack strip, there's no reason for it to come loose from the wall."
Q: I want to paint the stairwell in our townhouse and I'd like to find a ladder than can be used on stairs. What are my options?
A: "There's a five-way combination ladder you can buy that lets you adjust the legs so that you can safely work in a stairwell," says Mike Delaney of Fullerton Hardware. "You'll have to spend around $200, but it can also be used as a regular step ladder and an extension ladder and can be very handy if you do a lot of work around the house and you have high ceilings or you have to do some climbing."
Q: I'm interested in turning my yard clippings into compost for the rest of my garden, but I'd like to find out about oleander branches and leaves, which are poisonous to animals. Is it safe to turn them into compost and spread it in my vegetable garden?
A: "They should be fine as long as they're fully degraded," says landscaper Minda Green of Santa Ana. "You should use a compost mix which is available at most nurseries which has the bacteria that will breakdown the leaves and make them safe."