Q. What can I do to get greasy residue off wooden kitchen cabinets? The greasy buildup is from using aerosol spray cans to coat pans for cooking.
We put in new cupboards about a dozen years ago, but they are now looking bad. The cupboards are a whitewashed finish, and when I tried to scrub them, some of the finish came off. I am thinking of painting them, but they still need to have the greasy residue cleaned off.
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I've tried different grease cutters, rubbing alcohol, etc., but nothing seems to work. I would appreciate any suggestions.
A. The best wood cleaner I know is Milsek. Many readers have written back after they read about it in this column to tell me what a miracle product it is.
For readers who have access to the Internet, you can order it on Milsek's website (www.milsek.com) or see the list of stores carrying Milsek in your state.
Once you have cleaned the cupboards, allow Milsek to penetrate the wood for a day or so, after which, wash the surfaces off with a vinegar and water solution to remove any remaining oil residue. When dry, you should apply a primer such as B-I-N and paint the cupboards with the paint of your choice.
Q. We have a very large bathtub that is difficult to get in and out of. We would like to take the tub out and replace it with a large shower with a bench seat. Our home is 7 years old and on a slab. The remodeler states he will move the existing drain about two feet by using a "diamond" saw/drill to create a channel to center the new drain. My question is: Will drilling into the slab cause any problems now or in the future, to the integrity of the slab/house? Possible small cracks that may widen, etc.?
Thank you for any and all information you can provide so we make the right decision. We hope to have this started in late February. Would it be better to wait for warmer weather since a cold winter may affect the slab itself?
A. Cutting a slot in the slab by an experienced contractor should not affect the integrity of the concrete slab. Assuming your house is lived in and heated, the weather should not be a consideration.
You mention a very large tub; is it longer than five feet -- the size of most tubs? Why don't you go to a plumbing supply house and look for a 5-foot (or larger) shower unit with a left or right drain so there would be no need to cut into the concrete, or if the shower drain does not line up perfectly with the tub's, it would require only minimal cutting.
Q. A while ago, I cut out a column in which you recommended a certain power drill. I needed to go buy a new one this weekend and, of course, I could not find the article.
Can you let me know which one it is or direct me to archive files that I could search?
A. You must mean an impact driver, as I do not recall mentioning drill/drivers. Impact drivers are not drills; they can be used only to drive screws, but they are far superior to drill/drivers as drivers, which can do both tasks.
The impact driver I have tested extensively in the last few weeks is the Black & Decker 8-volt impact driver. I have been very impressed with it and recommend it because of its affordable price. Most impact drivers are in the $100 to $300-plus range. The B&D 8-volt driver, model No. BDCS801, is selling on Amazon for about $50 with free shipping.
Even though Black & Decker states this driver is meant for small around-the-house jobs, I have used it for a large project lasting several days, as well as for several smaller jobs, and it never ran out of juice and drove large screws without any effort.
Black & Decker also has a new 20-volt impact driver, which it states is more for heavy-duty professional use. I have not yet had the occasion to try it.
Q. We had new Andersen storm doors installed during the summer. They are great at keeping the heat of summer and the cold of winter out. They have a screen we can pull down to let fresh air in, if we choose to.
My question is, during the winter, condensation and frost form on the inside of the door. We leave the main door open to keep the frost and ice from forming. But when we retire for the night, we shut the main door, and in the morning, the frost is there again. Is there a solution? Right now we wipe the condensation off when we remember. We have dogs, so we use the door quite often.
A. You leave the main door open during the day to keep frost from forming on the new storm doors, but in doing so, you are exposing the glass to the warm, moist air of the living space. When you close the primary door in the evening, the air, now trapped between the main door and the storm doors, cools off and can no longer hold the moisture it contains, resulting in frost and condensation. The solution is to use the storm door as a storm door only in the winter and keep the main door closed except for passage.
Q. We restored a 300-year-old center chimney home (three stories, a two-story L and five fireplaces) 30 years ago. Two years ago, we did a weatherization project, but still have heating and cooling issues. We have central hot air on the main floor, but none in the rest of the home. Our thinking in our younger years was that heat would rise. In reality, not really. The other issue is maintaining proper humidity levels in winter. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
A. First, heat radiates in all directions; warm air rises. Unless you have large floor grilles to allow the warm air to convect upstairs, the conduction through ceiling and floor material is going to be minimal to the second floor and practically zero to the third floor.
To solve the problem, you'll have to install supply heat and return ducts to each room. Your new furnace should be evaluated to make sure it has the capacity to take care of the additional load.
If that is not possible, and the rooms are only used minimally, electric baseboards would be the least expensive way to add heat. They also have the advantage that you can turn the heat on in only the rooms you use and for the length of time it's needed.
Otherwise, exteriorly vented space heaters may be the solution. Rinnai heaters are very efficient and come in several sizes to fit the space to be heated.
In such a large house, you may need to have a humidifier installed in the furnace plenum to maintain around 35 to 40 percent relative humidity for health reasons.
Interesting suggestion from a Mount Prospect reader: "I am a longtime reader. Thanks for all the help. Now it is time to pay it back.
"After 20 years of having the back of my house and deck bake in the sun and, of course, the backrooms becoming very hot, I built a permanent shade structure in 2008. We considered a three-season room but opted for an open pavilion. Originally, I was going to put a ceiling of wainscoting up but we liked the rafter look. This created the perfect building site for paper wasps. We had to work weekly to keep them at bay.
"Three or four years ago, I read that folks down in Georgia solved the problem by painting the ceiling a light blue. I was skeptical, but my wife and I were tired of fighting the wasps.
"Well, it worked! No more wood boring-bees either. Two coats of primer sucked into the bare wood, then the final coat. Last year was the first full year we could stay on the deck without a can of wasp spray and the ceiling looks like the sky."
A. What a great idea! The photo you sent shows a beautiful ceiling. I have always loved the look of visible framework, and have preserved it on some projects with scissors trusses where we installed a 4-foot-wide skylight and drywalled all the elements of the visible center truss. The shadow patterns it gave when the sun shone on the skylights were spectacular.
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2014, United Feature Syndicate Inc.