Pressure-treated wood should not be painted
Q. This photo is the floor of our screened-in porch. Please provide suggestions for refinishing -- paint, vinyl planks or other. We are not interested in outdoor carpet.
A. Your screen porch floor looks like pressure-treated wood that has been painted, which is not a good idea, as southern yellow pine does not take paint well.
Consider having the paint remnants removed either by sanding (wear a mask) or with a chemical paint remover like Peel Away, which is a gel. Peel Away is sold by Dumond Chemicals; its website is www.dumondchemicals.com.
When Peel Away has done its job, the top fabric layer is rolled away with all the paint wrapped in it and must be disposed of environmentally.
Then, if you don't want to leave the restored wood natural, apply a coat of wood stain of your choice. Be sure to choose an acrylic semitransparent stain (not a solid color one that is simply a diluted paint) and apply it with a brush or paint pad on a long handle.
My favorite over time has been one of the Amteco TWP stains (www.amteco.com). Amteco's Series 100 offers several hues to choose from and is ideal for this type of deck.
Q. We remodeled a mid-1800 cape farmhouse in Vermont. The former laundry and bathroom area was changed to only a bathroom with a replacement pedestal sink, new wall and floor tiles. The original toilet was kept. Since we moved into the house, every spring and fall there has been an unbelievable smell (similar to a dead animal) that emanates from that area. The smell is also noticeable as you descend the stairs from the second floor. After a few weeks, the smell goes away. Could it possibly be coming from the old toilet, but if so, why only in spring and fall? Could it have something to do with the higher water table during those months? We have tried everything -- except replace the toilet. Do you have any suggestions?
A. It sounds as if the toilet's wax seal needs replacing and, if so, do it with the new type of waxless seal.
You smell this odor in the spring and the fall because that is when the stack effect in the house, caused by the differential between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, encourages warm indoor air to exfiltrate through every crack it can find on the second floor while outside, cooler air infiltrates through similar cracks on the first floor to equalize the air pressure in the house. As the air moves up the stairs, you get the full whiff as you descend them.
Strange that you do not experience the smell during the winter, as the same situation exists. This may be because of the type of heating system you have.
Q. Last winter we began noticing smokey odors coming into the house (mostly at night when the neighbors are home). Our homes are close to each other here and many have wood stoves or even wood firepits. I do not know where/how the smell is coming in; our windows are closed and locked. We have lived here 15 years and this seems to be a recent development. Your thoughts please. I have allergies.
A. Do you have a chimney for a fireplace? If you do, the neighbors' wood smoke may enter your house through the chimney or other avenues (cracks around windows, doors, mud sill and other framing joints, etc.). As warm air exfiltrates outside through the upstairs' areas, outside air can come down the chimney or infiltrate through the same similar avenues on the first floor to equalize the pressure in the house.
The wood smoke infiltration may also be encouraged when your heating appliance runs and creates a negative pressure in the house, or its flue could also be another entry point for the wood smoke when it is not running.
If the chimney is the culprit, be sure the damper is closed even though dampers are not that tight. Any other points of smoke entry will be difficult to find and seal unless you have a blow door test and infrared thermography performed by an energy auditor to locate them and seal them.
Q. What sealer product(s) do you recommend for brick and mortar joints? And where can I find such sealers?
A. Building-supply stores and masonry specialty stores are your best source, although you can find masonry sealers in hardware and big box stores.
Select a sealer that has a siloxane base and allows moisture in the masonry to permeate out through the sealer. The masonry needs to breathe.
Apply it following the directions on the can. But be sure that the mortar joints are sound and that all anomalies are repaired to keep water out.
Q. We had a paver patio installed around about 5 years ago. In certain areas they were set in concrete and the joints were filled with cement or concrete instead of sand or gravel dust. Unfortunately, after a year or so, the sand (I think) in the mix started to show in the joints. I have tried using cleansers and acid to clean, with little success.
I am attaching a photo so you can see. Besides chipping out and redoing the concrete, is there anything I can do?
A. I assume the problem is occurring in the areas set in cement mortar. From the photo you sent, it looks as if the original mix was too strong on sand and not thoroughly mixed.
I don't see any option other than removing the failing joints and replacing them with new mortar.
Q. I am inquiring about cat urine smell. I had two cats and they lived upstairs in the attic. I have not located the source of where the cat urinated. I think the smell is coming from the crawl spaces. I was wondering if there is a cleaning solution to use to clean the area and remove the smell. Or am I stuck with having to replace the floors?
A. Try washing the floors with Pine-Sol; it has worked for others. Or spray Nok-Out liberally on them.
Nok-Out's website is www.nokout.com. Select the 32 oz. sprayer bottle.
• Henri de Marne, a former remodeling contractor turned columnist and consultant, is the author of "About the House with Henri de Marne" (Upper Access Publishing). He continues to take questions from readers for this column and his website, www.henridemarne.com. Email questions to email@example.com.