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Handyman Q&A

After Cleaning a Deck, Moisturize to Maintain the Wood


Question: What do you recommend for washing and finishing a wood deck?

Answer: Powdered laundry detergent and hot water are usually enough to clean a moderately dirty deck. But if the deck is older, it might need a chemical wood brightener along with a pressure-washing.

Once it's clean, moisturize the wood with an oil-base stain or wood preservative.

But don't buy any product with wax in it. When you wet a wood surface that has been sealed with wax, the water will bead beautifully.

Unfortunately, that beautiful coat of wax doesn't penetrate as far beneath the surface as oil does. Wax evaporates far more rapidly than oil--about two to three times as fast.

A good wood preservative also has chemicals that prevent damage from the sun's ultraviolet rays and from mildew attack.

Windows Sweat Because Airtight Seal Was Broken

Q: I have casement windows that used to have blinds between the two panes of glass. The previous owner removed the blinds. The windows sweat terribly.

Must I replace the windows or is there some type of repair? They sweat winter and summer. I need a permanent repair, not a temporary fix.

A: When the last owner removed the blinds, he permanently broke the airtight seal around your insulated glass windows. We find it interesting that the prior owner had the wherewithal to disassemble the windows, remove the blinds and reassemble everything without realizing he was permanently destroying the insulating value of each window he worked on.

The brand you have is probably Pella. They have been making this type of window for a long time. You would be wise to call a Pella dealer and ask to have just the insulated glass sections replaced.

Pella will probably be more expensive than a local glass company, but the warranty might be better.

With insulated glass, warranty is everything. Some window companies now offer lifetime warranties.

Use Existing Frame to Install Vinyl Window

Q: How do I replace a window that is double-hung with sash weights? I want to replace it with a new vinyl window.

A: Replacing a double-hung wood window with a vinyl one is simple and cost-effective, as long as the main frame of the existing window is in good condition and can be reused.

First, remove all the trim from the four inside faces of the main frame. You don't have to remove the ropes and weights; they can be left in the frame's hollow sides. We suggest spraying expansive foam into the balance of the void to improve energy efficiency.

Without the trim, it's apparent that the main frame has an offset in it that goes all the way around. The inside half of the frame is slightly smaller than the outside half of the frame.

The replacement window comes in its own frame and is set in place from the outside, fitting into the larger opening. It butts against the face of the smaller portion of the frame.

If the main frame doesn't have a jog, wood trim is added to create one. Trim is used to cover the caulked joint between the frame of the new window and the old one. Our first double-hung window replacement job took about 60 minutes per opening--removal, installation, caulking, trim and paint touch-up. This can be done as a do-it-yourself project.

Mitering, Coping: Two Ways of Cutting Corners

Q: In putting up crown molding, I understand that there is a more attractive way to do corners than mitering. What is it? How do you do it?

A: Mitering is the quickest and easiest way to cut and join moldings at corners where it is important for the moldings to appear that there is no seam at the joint.

With mitering, the ends to be joined on each of the two pieces of wood are cut at an angle equal to half that of the corner angle. For example: miter cuts at a 90-degree corner would each be at 45 degrees.

Coping is an optional technique, and some say it is better than mitering. But it can only be used for inside corners. Here, a coping saw is used to cut the shape of one molding into the one joining it--an end-to-face connection. A coped cut is best made with a slight bevel to ensure a tight joint at the face of the molding.

Coping cannot be used for outside corners. Here a miter must be used. Properly cut, a miter is every bit as good as--if not better than--a coped joint, especially when the molding is large and has an intricate pattern.

Prefab corners are available with some crown moldings that eliminate the need for a miter cut and simplify installation. However, most crown moldings are stand-alone items and must be installed with a miter and/or a cope cut.

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