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posted: 2/14/2014 1:01 AM

Care tips for all kinds of hardwood floors

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Hardwood floors are more popular than ever. And there are all different types of wood floors.

Let's go over some basic advice to keep them looking good, no matter what type you have.

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• Keep them clean to avoid a lot of the problems. Use a broom, dry mop or even a vacuum (or all of the above) to clean them daily, if you can.

• Cover high-traffic areas with rugs or runners. Place "Welcome" mats at house entrances. Keep high heels and other hard-soled shoes off, if you can.

• Light scratches can be touched up with a little oily floor polish and a light buffing with a microfiber cloth.

• If the scratches are a little deeper, then you can lightly rub them with a steel wool pad. Touch up any discoloration with a dab of matching stain.

• Small dents might be repaired by putting a few drops of water on the dent and then using a hair dryer to heat the area, allowing the water to penetrate and cause the wood to swell back into shape.

More serious damage might require replacing a plank or two. Depending upon what type of flooring you have and how it was installed, this might be easier than you think. If you have extra pieces from the original installation, you'll be able to see how it was installed originally. If you can use a circular saw to cut down the middle of the damaged piece, you can pry it out. Once it's out, you can see how the new piece needs to be installed if you don't already know. Cut your replacement piece to fit. If it is tongue-and-groove, you'll have to cut off the bottom part of the "grooved" edge and slide it into place.

Another option for severe damage probably will require sanding the whole floor, applying new stain and a protective covering of polyurethane. Do some homework to learn how to use a rented floor sander before trying this, or hire a professional to do this. Vacuum thoroughly after sanding. Apply a floor stain and polyurethane. It is possible to buy a total finish and do it in one step.

If you do preventive work and maintenance as soon as you spot a problem, then you can hold off on major work.

Easy template

When it comes to mounting something on your wall, you want to keep the damage to a minimum. Some items come with a template right on the package so you know where to drill for screws or bolts. If you don't have a template, it's easy to make one right on a copy machine. Just set the item on the copier and make a copy of the back. You can then place the copy on the wall and use it to mark the spots to drill the mounting holes. This is great for picture frames, home decor, surge protectors and other wall-mounted items.

Plant problems

Whether you keep plants indoors all the time or just during cold weather, you know if you set them in the wrong spot, they can do some damage. One way to add protection to pots is to use plastic trays underneath the pot. Another way is to install "feet" on the bottom of the pots. This is easy to do by just adding three or four small blobs of silicone caulk to the bottom of the pot. Flatten them slightly, and give them time to cure. These caulk feet will keep the pot off the surface and protect it. These feet can be put on the trays, too, and on other items that might scratch table tops.

Super hints

• Don't be a hero when inspecting your roof for leaks. Use binoculars to get a closer look from the ground. You'll be surprised at what you can see with these, and, when the weather is nice or you find someone to spot you, you can get up there and make repairs.

• I grabbed an old plastic pot the other day, and ended up with a bunch of fiberglass splinters in my hand. We've all had this before, and it's very annoying, to say the least. I grabbed a plastic mesh scrubber from the kitchen and rubbed it vigorously over the area. It got all of those tiny splinters out in a flash. Keep this in mind the next time you end up in this spot.

• Trash bags can make great "suit bags" for off-season storage or travel. Hang suits or coats or anything else on hangers in the closet and open the trash bag, pull it up over the clothes and tie the bag around the hangers at the top. Your clothes will be protected against dirt, moisture and dust.

Q. We want to make a set of glasses out of our old wine bottles. What's the best way to cut them?

A. It sounds like a fun project. There are lots of ways to cut glass but, for a whole set of glasses, we suggest getting a bottle cutter, made just for this purpose. These are not that expensive and will give you clean, consistent cuts. Make sure to grind or sand down the edges. And don't forget to wear leather gloves and safety glasses!

Q. Our house is part cedar siding and part brick. We had some roof work done last week, and the roofer said we ought to use a sealer on our siding to protect it from rot. He mentioned a brand name, but I can't find it. Is this really something I should do and if so, what should I shop for?

A. If your siding is not sealed with a water seal or stain, then, yes, you should do so. Penetrating stain will change the look of the wood and is labor-intensive, but will last longer. Plain water seal won't affect the color of the wood, but will be much easier to apply and will need to be applied annually.

Q. I'm seeing a lot of ice buildup in my freezer. It's supposed to be frost-free. What can I do to fix this irritating problem?

A. This can be caused by several things. The first thing to check is the seal around the door. Clean it and rub it down with a thin coating of petroleum jelly. If the seal looks sound, then it might be the automatic defroster. Check your owner's manual to find the location and test it. If it doesn't appear to be working, most are easy to replace. A good source for all appliance information and parts is www.repairclinic.com, one of our favorite online shops.

Reader tips

• I converted an old closet into a small library. I installed paneling over the drywall and then put up shelves. I needed to drill a series of holes, spaced exactly the same on both sides, so I could use adjustable shelf holders. I got a scrap of pegboard as a template and drilled the holes on both sides all the way down the walls. Then, I installed adjustable shelves. You don't see the holders at all, and the shelves are filling up with books already. I replaced the ceiling fixture with a hanging pendant light and brought in a comfy chair. It's really nice.

• One of my favorite hand cleaners is WD-40. I keep a can inside the house to use here and there, and have found that it's great to help get glue, paint and other stuff like that off your hands. You just use it like a hand cleaner, follow it with soap and water, and most sticky stuff comes right off. It also can help you clean things like stickers and price tags off nonporous surfaces. It's really easy and handy.

• Our sunroom turns into a greenhouse during the winter months. We have a lot of plants that we keep inside the room when it's too cold outside. We do have carpet in this room, so we make sure we have trays to catch the water from spilling out of the pots. We also buy packages of clear shower caps at the beauty supply store to put on the bottom of the hanging baskets. They don't really show and they stay on pretty well. At $3 a dozen, you can't lose!

• We have a nice rock wall in our great room. It's the real thing, not fake stone. I dust it every month to keep it looking nice, but once a year I rub it down with a mixture of turpentine and boiled linseed oil. This cleans off any airborne dust and brings out the colors of the beautiful stones. Of course, the windows are open on this day to let out the fumes from the turpentine, but it's worth it. And the good look lasts for about a year. You'll be shocked at the colors that come out if you do this to a rock wall in your home.

• I love to paint and do other repairs around my home. My home is right around the corner from an appliance dealer, and I've started getting some of their heavy-duty plastic wrappers that come around appliances, to use as tarps. I bring them home and straighten them out and then fold them up to keep them handy for my projects. They are great, and I easily can replace them when they wear out or get too dirty.

Shoptalk

• With Rust-Oleum Specialty Frosted Glass Spray paint, you can create a semitransparent faux etching on glass and mirrors that looks just like the real thing. It's quick and easy and a lot more versatile than real acid etching materials. Use it to decorate or to add privacy to your windows and doors, freehand or with a stencil. Find out more at www.rustoleum.com or at your paint, hardware or hobby store.

• Patching holes in walls just got a lot easier and super fast! Now you can prime and Spackle in one step with Onetime Patch and Prime from Red Devil. It's a lightweight, pre-mixed spackling that dries quickly and requires no sanding. It's great on wood, plaster and drywall and even cleans up fast with soap and water. Check it out at www.reddevil.com or at your hardware store.

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at thesuperhandyman.com.

© 2014, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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