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ASK THE HANDYMAN / JOHN MORELL

Paneling Is Easier to Paint Than Refinish

March 20, 1993|JOHN MORELL

Question: We have dark walnut paneling on the walls of our living room that has become darkened over the years. We'd like to refinish or paint it--any ideas?

J.S.

Whittier

Answer: "Most paneling is very difficult to refinish," says Jim Craig of Decratrend in Cypress. "It's usually made of pressed wood with a laminate coating that's too thin to work with. In a small, inconspicuous area I'd try stripping it with steel wool and a stripping solution to see if it will work. If not, you could easily paint it after using an undercoat primer that will hide the dark color of the wood. As long as the paneling is on correctly and isn't bowed, you could also hammer a lighter paneling directly on top of old paneling."

Q: At my local hardware store I saw water heater blankets that were offered free after buying them for $20 and getting a $20 rebate from the gas company. Before I go back and get one, will I really notice a difference in gas usage with a blanket?

C.C.

Fullerton

A: "Before going ahead with it, I'd check with the gas company," says Rod Albright of Albright Plumbing and Heating. "Many of those rebate offers are available only after you also have your attic and hot water pipes insulated as well. . . . You're always going to save money with a water heater blanket, but there are many variables as to how much.

"If your heater is kept outside or in the garage, a blanket protects it from cold winter temperatures. If it's inside, your house is already warm so it's not as necessary. A newer water heater also has more built-in insulation than one made 10 years ago, so it's probably not as crucial to get one right away. But if you want to save money in the long run, even without a rebate, I'd get the blanket."

Q: We have white ceramic tile that was installed in our shower about a year ago. A light blue stain has appeared on the floor near the joint of the riser tiles that is about 6 inches long and 1/2-inch wide. So far, it's defied all cleansers and brushes; can you suggest a solution?

T.H.

Laguna Beach

A: "It sounds as though it's a defect in the tiles themselves," says Dan Richey of California Wholesale Tile in Anaheim. "The stain could be in the glaze or underneath the glaze in the bisque of the tile. Ceramic tile really doesn't stain; the glaze on top prevents the tile from being touched by anything on the outside. The only solution is to replace the stained tiles."

Q: We have a concrete fountain that was originally painted white, but over time, the paint has worn out and has become black. What can we use to paint the fountain that will last and will be waterproof?

T.H.

San Juan Capistrano

A: "You should try some pool supply stores to see if they carry the paint that's used to cover concrete pool surfaces," says Jodie Reeces of Fountainland in Garden Grove. "You also might think about cleaning it out and removing all the paint. The style that's in right now is the 'natural' stone look."

Handyman's Note: B.B. of Tustin writes with an additional suggestion for removing lime deposits from toilet bowls: "Try inserting a few chlorine tablets in the water tank. The lime deposits around the rim of the bowl will disappear after about two weeks, and doing this periodically will help keep the bowl clean."

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