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ASK THE HANDYMAN / JOHN MORELL

Light Touch Is Best to Clean Walls

March 19, 1994|JOHN MORELL

Question: I recently tried cleaning the walls in my bedrooms, which were painted two years ago. While the cans say that the paint is washable, the spots I cleaned seemed to have worn down a little. If it's washable, what should be used to wash it?

W.Y., Buena Park

Answer: "Just because it says 'washable' doesn't mean you should get out the scrub brush," says Joe Ragsdale of Color Center in La Mirada. "Use a bucket of hot water, a soft cellulose sponge and some plain dishwashing detergent. When you find a spot, rub the sponge over it softly until the spot goes away. This is especially important when cleaning a semi-gloss finish. Don't use anything abrasive or you'll end up taking the sheen off. And always keep your eye out for stains. The longer they're on the wall, the harder they'll be to remove."

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Q: We're planning on putting a four-foot high strip of wallpaper in our living room. After putting the wallpaper up, we want to frame it with molding to give the walls a "wainscoting" look. Should the molding be nailed into place or glued to the wall?

S.D., Fountain Valley

A: "It's probably best to use finishing nails," says carpenter Steve Arroyo of Santa Ana. "And you'll find the job will be a lot easier if you can rent a nail gun. The problem with gluing is that years later when you want to redo the room, you'll find that getting the glue off the walls will be a problem; it's also hard to hold the molding in place while glue sets."

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Q: I'm thinking about replacing the standard interior doors in my house with paneled doors. I found paneled doors that are the exact size as the ones I have, and they're even pre-hung with hinges. Would making this changeover be relatively easy?

S.A., Anaheim

A: "It all depends on how handy you are, your tools and your patience," says Pete Gorman of Rancho Lumber in Westminster. "Hanging doors can be a real headache, even for the pros. Pre-hung doors often need a new jamb, which requires some special skills to install correctly. You may find that hinges appear to match up exactly, but if they're even 1/16th-inch off, you'll have to mortise a new position for the hinge and patch the old position, which may not look great. Think it over before trying to tackle the job. Even if you know how to do it, you may save yourself a lot of time having someone else hang the doors."

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Q: I've got to change my window screens this spring, but I need more than the usual screen. I want to get something that will allow a good air flow but also block out light. What options do I have?

T.E., Placentia

A: "When looking around, remember the darker the screen, the less light it will admit," says Frank Eckert of Arrow Hardware in Orange. "There is a product called SunScreen that is made of a heavy mesh, with thicker strands that block a good percentage of sunlight. It's a little more expensive than regular screens, but if you're spending a lot on cooling your house during summer, this can make a difference."

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Q: We have a long hallway in our house, and I'm concerned that in a fire or an emergency, it may be difficult for our children to find their way out of the house if the power was out. What would it take to install those emergency lights that turn on when the power's out in our house?

C.N., Santa Ana

A: "That's a great safety feature, but it's usually done in a custom home or a house that's going through a complete remodel," says David Gallucio of Harbor Lites in Costa Mesa. "The wiring is what costs and takes up the most time installing. You may be able to wire an emergency light system through the attic so that it won't be visible. You may also want to check hardware stores to see if there's an emergency light available that (doesn't require wiring)."

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