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A HELPING HAND

INSIDE & OUT : Stuck With Paint Over Wallpaper? Check the Walls

July 30, 1994|JOHN MORELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Q. We recently bought a condo in which the previous owner had painted over wallpaper in the dining room. We want to get this paper off before repainting. Should we remove the paint first or work on getting the paper off?

D.H., Dana Point

A. Unfortunately, once wallpaper is painted, there's no way to soak it off, says Charlie Kaczorowski of Tustin Paint Mart. If, by chance, your walls are plaster, you can use a sharp wallpaper knife to cut it away. If your walls are drywall, you'll end up chopping hunks of the wall off. If it's tight on the walls, you're probably better off sanding the wall lightly, spackling any rough areas and painting over it.

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Q. Our interior walls have a rough, "orange peel" texture. We'd like to smooth them out. Can that be done easily?

M.K., Lake Forest

A. It's not too hard, but it will take some time to do the job right, says Jim Gorman of Rancho Lumber in Westminster. You'll need what's called "topping," which is a plaster-like product that comes premixed in a 50-pound box. Using a trowel, you apply it to the wall and smooth it out. Topping fills in the all the ridges and creates a smooth surface. After it dries, you'll need to sand it with a drywall sander, which looks like a fine screen. After sanding, apply a polyvinyl acetate sealer, which will keep your paint from soaking into the wall.

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Q. At our townhome, the electrical meters for all the units are located in a cabinet at the end of the building to make it easy for meter readers to see them. Periodically, our power has gone out and I've found that the circuit breaker at the meter has flipped. Why would this happen?

B.I., Anaheim

A. First, you have to evaluate if you're overloading your circuits, says electrician Gary Hargrave of Santa Ana. That may require a professional looking at your circuits to determine if there's a problem. If your circuits are OK, the breaker at the meter could be faulty. This isn't uncommon when meters are outdoors like that. They're subjected to the heat and cold of the seasons, and will crack over time. If it is damaged, it's not a hard unit to replace.

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Q. We have hardwood floors in our den and kitchen, and someone who walked across them recently had tar on his shoe. There are now little patches of tar on the floor, and I'm not sure how to clean it. I don't want to ruin the finish with a solvent.

S.S., Huntington Beach

A. It's actually OK to use a solvent such as paint thinner on your floor, says Reza Jozi of Hardwood Floor Galleria in Costa Mesa. If the floor has a urethane finish, solvent won't damage it and it should pick up the tar. If your floors have a waxed finish, you can use a specialized wood cleaner, or the solvent. Then you'll have to apply a new wax finish to that spot to restore it.

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Q. Whenever I turn on the water in my sinks, water floods the area around the spouts and handles. What makes me angry is that they're all only a few years old. Are they just made of cheap materials?

G.K., Stanton

A. Cheap plumbing that gets used a lot does tend to leak, says plumber Manny Herrera of Anaheim. You should always figure on changing the washers in your faucet once a year. That leaking water may not seem like much, but when you figure how much you use your sinks, it adds up. Your faucets may be inexpensive, but if you properly maintain them, they can give you as much use as expensive ones.

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