Q: I have some dark, blotchy areas appearing on my white vinyl flooring. The flooring is 18 years old, and I’ve been told that the glue is turning dark. Can I clean it, or is it time for a new floor? –Barbara D.

A: In my experience, dark staining that appears below the surface of a vinyl floor is most commonly associated with water damage, such as a leak from an appliance or around a toilet. The water spreads out below the surface of the vinyl, which is waterproof so it won’t allow the water to migrate to the surface, and then the staining appears. It’s also possible that, as you were told, the glue itself has become discolored, but that’s not as common.

In either case, it’s going to be time for a new floor. Of greater importance, however, is that you have the floor checked to see if moisture is present. If it is, then the source needs to be tracked down and taken care of as quickly as possible. I would suggest that you contact an insurance restoration contractor in your area — check the Yellow Pages under “water,” or ask your homeowner’s insurance agent for a recommendation. They are equipped with moisture meters that can check for hidden moisture, and they’ll advise you accordingly. There may be a small service charge for them to come out, which most will credit back to you if you have them do the repairs.

Q: I am thinking about remodeling my kitchen, and I have heard the terms “partial” and “full” kitchen remodel. Can you tell me what the difference is? –Chris P.

A: As a general rule of thumb, a complete kitchen remodel typically includes new cabinets, new counters, new appliances, new plumbing fixtures and new flooring. There are usually electrical wiring changes involved, and sometimes structural changes as well. There is often a change in the overall layout or work patterns of the cabinets and appliances, and a complete remodel will also almost always require a building permit.

Partial kitchen remodels are usually considered more of a facelift. They may include painting or re-facing existing cabinets, changing counters, new flooring, and maybe a new sink or the replacement of a single appliance. There is no change in the kitchen’s layout; no wiring or structural changes are involved; and usually a building permit is not required.

Q: What can you tell me about the pros and cons of “real stucco”? We are considering using it on the front of the house, and are being told that it is durable and weather resistant. –Annette S.

A: In recent years, a number of synthetic or “engineered” stucco systems have come on the market, with varying amounts of success. Incorrectly applied, synthetic stucco can lead to some potentially serious water intrusion problems. As a result, the traditional method of stucco construction has now come to be known as “real,” “traditional” or “conventional” stucco.

Traditional stucco is a mixture of Portland cement, sand, lime and water, sometimes with other additives. It is usually applied in a three-coat process. First, waterproof paper and some type of wire mesh are applied over the exterior of the house, and a first coat of stucco is toweled on and left rough. The first coat is pressed hard against the wire mesh so that the mesh becomes embedded in it, and this is what gives the finished coating much of its strength.

The first coat is allowed to dry, then a second coat is toweled on, evening out the walls. This second coat is “scratched” as it dries to provide a good base for the third coat to bond with. The third and final coat of stucco is often mixed with dry powdered colors to give it a finish color that does not require painting, and it is toweled on in a variety of different texture patterns. Any traditional stucco, even if it’s pre-colored, can also be painted after it is completely dry.

Traditional stucco has been around for a long time, and when correctly installed it is a strong, long-lasting exterior finish that should remain pretty much trouble-free for decades. It needs to be applied correctly by an experienced contractor, and with proper care given to preventing water intrusion. As far as drawbacks are concerned, if it cures too quickly in hot weather it can be somewhat prone to cracking, and the same is true if the house settles or shifts a lot. It can also be somewhat difficult to patch if you have remodeling work done, such as replacing doors or windows.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@ykwc.net.

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