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posted: 5/19/2013 4:53 AM

Manufacturer's products may be best for cleaning floor

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Q. I hope you can help me. Our vinyl kitchen floor (Mannington) has a textured surface with hundreds of small crevices. It looked fine for a few years, but now that we have had the floor for six years it has begun to look very dirty. These small crevices collect dirt, which is not removed by regular mopping. I have tried a brush on a mop handle, but that does not do the job. Even scrubbing with a toothbrush does not effectively remove the dirt. I am 71 years old with arthritic legs and cannot get down on the floor with toothpicks, which is what it would take. Do you have any ideas? This dirt is beginning to drive me crazy. Thanks for your help.

A. Mannington's maintenance instructions specify sweeping the floor at least once a week to remove loose dirt, wiping spills promptly to prevent stains, followed by occasional mopping with Mannington Award Series Cleaner (available from Mannington retailers) when dirt builds up and sweeping alone is not sufficient.

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Use two to three capfuls of the cleaner in one gallon of warm water, but no more, as it may leave a dulling film. You can substitute clear, non-sudsy ammonia for Mannington-brand cleaner, but do not use soap or detergent products, as they will leave a dulling film. Rinsing is not required when using Mannington's cleaner, but rinsing will result in the highest shine.

If you have followed these recommendations, it may be time for a more drastic solution. All high-gloss floors will lose shine over time, but you should be able to restore the gloss to your floor by applying Mannington Award Series Polish.

Before applying the polish, be sure to thoroughly clean and rinse the floor, and allow it to dry completely. Do not use wax and do not buff.

If excessive dirt and grime have built up, the floor may need stripping. This can be done with Mannington Award Series Heavy Duty Cleaner and Stripper.

Once the stripping has been successfully done, the floor rinsed and thoroughly dry, apply Mannington Award Series Polish to restore the shine. You may need to apply more than one coat of polish in heavy-traffic areas, but be sure to allow the polish to dry "tack-free" between coats.

This may be too much for you to handle, so you may want to have a Mannington flooring dealer take a look and recommend what needs to be done, and then let them do it.

Q. I have a problem with my porch floor. It is above my garage, and over the years the floorboards have begun to leak. The floorboards are T&G and 3 inches wide. The porch is only 7-by-12 feet.

There is a layer of tar paper under the floorboards for waterproofing, and plywood under that.

I would like your opinion on the best way to waterproof it, and what type of flooring to use that will hold up to the weather. I plan to remove everything and repair any joists if needed.

The floorboards butt up against brick walls on two sides and siding walls on the other walls.

A. If your garage ceiling is open and you can ascertain the condition of the joists from below, any repairs can be made by sistering new pressure-treated (P.T.) joists to any damaged ones.

I would suggest you remove the floorboards and the tar paper, but leave the plywood in place if it is in good condition.

Have a contractor install a synthetic rubber roofing material over a cushioning material, which can be a fiber board, XPS rigid insulation or one of the new reinforced roofing felts available, depending on how much clearance you have at the door to the porch.

Proper flashing will be essential, which is why you should have a professional roofer or experienced contractor do the installation.

Then you will need to build a floating floor so as not to punch any holes in the roofing. You'll need some P.T. sleepers onto which you can screw P.T. deck boards. To reduce the risk of the P.T. material curling and cupping, apply a coat of Wolman's Woodlife Classic on all parts before installation.

Q. Thank you for your reply on my question about Dryvit. What do you mean by "destructive testing" around windows, doors and flashing points? Is this the hole drilling that's done around such areas (which is re-filled)? Are you suggesting that the only remedy for a prospective buyer would be to totally replace the Dryvit material?

A. Destructive testing is done by forensic engineers or other experts to uncover hidden defects, which cannot be detected otherwise. It entails removing enough of the material to be able to see what, if any, damages have occurred. It can be minimal or it may have to be extensive -- if problems have been found -- to determine their extent and to perform necessary repairs.

Most of the problems with Dryvit and other EIFS exterior finishes are found around openings and flashings.

I am not suggesting that you need to remove the entire Dryvit, but your choices seem to be to have some destructive testing performed by a forensic engineer or to hope that a buyer will come and buy the house as-is.

Q. I live in northern Vermont, and on calm, cool, humid days I have a septic smell around the house. It is not from my septic system, and I have traced it to the plumbing venting through my roof. The main waste line to the septic tank is a straight line without a trap. If I install a trap in the waste line in the crawl space, will this eliminate or help this problem?

A. The smell comes from your septic tank. A trap on the waste line may help, but it needs to be vented on the house side, and the vent needs to terminate at least seven feet above the ground. It is best to have a licensed plumber do the installation to be sure that it is done properly and does not violate code, which may become a problem when you sell the house.

An alternative you may want to try is to place a 90-degree elbow on top of the roof vent stack without gluing it, so you can turn it to adjust it until you find the right position that eliminates the smell. That position depends on the wind direction.

Q. I enjoy reading your column and would like to ask about space heaters. I have a 1,800-square-foot condo, and I try not to run my furnace very often to keep my electric bill low. If the indoor temperature gets below 60 degrees, it seems silly to heat the entire apartment if I am only in the living room. I am thinking of buying an electronic space heater and would like some general information about them. Are they energy efficient? I don't want to keep the one I bought if it isn't going to be cheaper than the furnace. Are they really cheaper to run than my furnace? The instruction book on the one I purchased (Life Smart) gives information on how to calculate the cost. The instructions indicate that the unit is in addition to a furnace and not intended to replace a furnace.

I live in northeast Illinois and I do use a humidifier (kept around 40 percent). Thanks for any insight you can give.

A. You haven't mentioned what is the fuel used by your furnace. That's important to know.

Every fall and winter, several full-page advertisements in newspapers clamor the advantages of these heaters as a way to save "up to 50 percent or more" on heating bills, but keep in mind that "up to" starts at zero!

The manufacturer of the heater you bought is correctly stating that it is in "addition" to your furnace. So you may try to lower your furnace thermostat to whatever you find bearable and use the electronic heater in the living room and move it to the bedroom when you retire for the night, if you find it too cold.

Try it for a few weeks and see if you are actually saving money. You may want to check the reviews online. And I would not trust these heaters left unattended.

If you decide to follow this regimen, you will need to lower your humidifier in order to avoid moisture problems.

Q. Every summer, we have bats that find their way inside our house and fly around our living spaces looking for a way out. A few years back, we hired a professional wildlife relocation specialist who performed "exclusion" on the roof so that the bats could leave their roosting place in the attic space, but not re-enter the house. This did not work, and we had bats again the following summer.

Do you have any recommendations or suggestions for us? We just really dread summer coming knowing we will have "intruders" in the house again.

A. If bats have not returned yet, consider having another specialist come to seal any possible point of entry and install a bat house near your home to encourage these most useful creatures to hang around. They should keep you free of mosquitoes and other biting insects.

You haven't said, but if the bats get into the attic, you can discourage them by installing several light bulbs and leaving them on; they do not like lights when they sleep. Look around to find out how they get from the attic into the house; these entry points should also be sealed.

Helpful comment from a painting contractor: "Someone wrote in with a rather involved process for restoring luster to faded vinyl shutters. Flood Corp. makes a product called Restora that is very easy to use and works well. Just wash (the) shutters with soap and water and rinse. Then brush on Restora. They look new and will so for three to five years. It is available on Amazon in Satin and Semi-Gloss finish: satin for siding, and semi for shutters or trim. It also works on factory painted aluminum."

• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at henridemarne@gmavt.net.

2012, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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