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HANDYMAN\Don't be floored by options; use wire mesh, mortar.

Byline: Peter Hotton

Q: I plan to put ceramic tile on my hall floor, which is oak boards. I've had three different offers. One tiler said to take up the oak and replace it with plywood, then the tiles. Another said to put down WonderBoard, then the tiles. A third said to apply steel mesh, then a bed of mortar, and the tiles. How should I go?

A: I think the best bet is the wire mesh and bed of mortar. The mesh reinforces the mortar, which gives a smooth, even bed for the tiles, which should go on with thin-set mortar. This will give the best service, and the tiles will not rock on that even bed. The WonderBoard (cement board) is also good, except that if the surface is the least bit uneven, tiles may rock when walked on, resulting in cracks.

The added weight of the mortar and tiles should not affect the floor, but it would not hurt to make sure the floor as it is is not bouncing or yielding even slightly when walked on.

Q: My walls have a flat white paint, which is OK, except I would like to have a surface that is easier to wash off fingerprints and other dirt. As it is now, I'm afraid my scrubbing will take off the paint, and the smudges don't come off anyway. Also, the ceiling is in good shape but semigloss. How can I make it flat?

A: In the good old days of oil paint, walls, even those painted with a flat paint, washed up beautifully. I remember my father, many years ago, washed the walls regularly with something called crystal cleaner. And I remember how nice the walls came out.

No more. The latex paints are soft, and they don't wash very well. Also, many walls are not plaster, but plasterboard, which has a soft, paper surface that makes washing more difficult if not impossible. (Skimcoat plaster on Blueboard, the current wall-finishing material, is harder and may be more washable.

The old way to make walls washable was to use a semigloss paint, but semigloss is not appropriate in many cases, and your ceiling is a good example.

But to get to the question, apply two thin coats of an eggshell finish latex wall paint. It is neither flat nor shiny, but is harder than the flat latex paints, and therefore more washable.

As for the ceiling, sand it enough to reduce gloss and roughen the finish, and apply a latex enamel undercoater. Then finish with a coat of latex ceiling paint. The handyman cannot stress this enough: thin coats!

Q: How can I remove the Formica from my kitchen walls? I would like to paint the walls.

A: Apply heat with a flat iron or hair dryer. Don't use a hot-air gun; it is too hot and hazardous indoors. Start at an edge so you can pry off the plastic as you heat it.

Now you have to get the contact cement off. If it is very hard, you might try sanding it off. If it is a little soft, try softening it with heat so it can be scraped off with a wide putty knife. If that doesn't work, use chemical paint remover, and use lots of ventilation when using it.

Q: I am taking the ceiling down in a room that has blown-in insulation above it. I can't put a new ceiling on the old because that would lower it too much. Can I vacuum that blown-in insulation before taking down the ceiling?

A: A regular vacuum, even a shop vac, won't work, mainly because of the filters in them. If you can reverse the flow direction on a rental blower (one that is used to blow insulation in), you could rent that for a day and take it all off.

If not, it's a matter of scooping it up carefully and filling big rubbish bags. Or, put a big tarp on the floor and let the insulation fall as you remove the ceiling, wrap up the tarp and haul it away. Tedious, messy and necessary.

There is no need to reuse the insulation; it would be better if you stapled polyethylene plastic to the bottom of the joists before putting up the new ceiling. Then you could drop in 6- or 8-inch-thick unbacked fiberglass on the attic floor for a better insulative value and have a vapor barrier there to boot.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 23, 1996
Words:744
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