Question: We had a mahogany door installed last year that supposedly had five coats of protective finish. The door was fading a little so I sanded and sprayed on a urethane finish. It soon developed many blisters, especially near the bottom. I stripped it and redid it with a marine varnish, and the blistering is still there. Any suggestions?
Answer: "The problem could be related to the rainy weather we had last winter," says Jim Craig of Decratrend in Anaheim.
"Mahogany is a naturally porous wood, and while your door may have five coats of finish on the front and back, the top and bottom may be unprotected. Moisture may have entered the top of the door and drifted down to the bottom where it creates blisters. You may have to strip the door again of all finish coats, then put a sealer on the top and bottom, before putting a new finish on the front."
Q: I'm interested in doing sponge painting in my bathroom. I've never done this before, and I've been told that to do a good job, I'll need to use natural sponges. I don't understand why I can't use an artificial one; they're less expensive and they look just like a real sponge.
A: "Sponging creates a great effect, but you really do need a natural sponge," says a spokesman at Tustin Paint Mart. "A natural sponge has imperfections that make it unique--no two sponges create an identical pattern.
"Go to a regular paint store, and you should be able to find a natural sponge for about $10 to $20, which is less than you'll find in some sponge-painting kits. Many stores also have brochures on how to create sponge effects, and possibly videos to give you help."
Q: I'm going to be putting new floors in my bathrooms and I was told I'll definitely have to put caulk around the bottom of the toilets after they're reset. I don't see a need for it. Why do I have to caulk?
A: "The caulking doesn't seal the toilet's plumbing; that's done by the wax ring," says Joel Gwartz of B.J. Discount Plumbing Supply. "The caulking basically protects your floor by keeping water and cleaning products from getting underneath the toilet. It also provides a clean, finished look to the job."
Q: Years ago I bought a wall covering that was made of rolls of silk attached to vinyl paper. I'd like to hang it now, but I'm worried about getting paste on the silk. Should I cover the silk before hanging?
A: "Just be very careful and take your time is the best advice," says paper hanger Steve Grabow of Santa Ana.
"You may want to mix your paste and roll it onto the wall with a paint roller. As you're rolling, go a little over into the area where you'll place the next roll. This will keep you from getting paste near a sheet that you've already put up. Keep a bucket and towel handy to wash your hands and dry them before handling and cutting the paper."
Q: Our upstairs fiberglass tub has a few cracks and now it feels soft in the center. We put duct tape on the cracks as a temporary fix, but we know we need to replace the tub. I'd prefer a different type of material. I want to know what's causing the soft area and do we need new flooring as well?
A: "In cracked fiberglass, there is a tendency for the tub to appear soft and spongy," says Ted Blanke of Central Plumbing & Heating in La Habra. "The floor underneath could be wet and adding to the spongy feeling. However, if you did have a damaged floor, you'd probably see water leaking downstairs. Whether you do the job yourself or if you hire a contractor, you'll probably want to choose between a cast-iron or pressed steel tub. The pressed steel is less expensive, but a cast iron is longer lasting."
\o7 Got a question about your home or garden? Write to: John Morell, Handyman, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.\f7