Q: I have talked to many people and received the same amount of answers. Maybe you can help. I have an old, pressure-treated, 10-foot-by-6-foot deck, painted, that has seen better days. I thought a new coat of paint would help, but the quote I got back was more than the expense of building a new one. The footings are solid and the boards mostly level. I was wondering if I could build a new cedar deck directly on top of the existing one, and if so, what do I need to keep in mind? –Michael L.

A: There are a couple of problems associated with adding new deck boards over old ones. The primary concern is with the additional weight. The old deck framing would have been sized and built to handle the load of a single thickness of decking, and adding more lumber on top of that can add a substantial amount of additional load.

Besides the weight, you have some practical issues to contend with.

For one, whenever you drive new fasteners through the new boards, you are pretty likely to hit some of the old fasteners. This can be dangerous, and can also result in unnecessary holes in the new decking from fasteners that have to be relocated.

Your old boards can also split from the additional fasteners being driven down through them, which can cause additional weakness in the structure and possible irregularities in the new deck.

You may also trap moisture between the two layers that can potentially create problems.

Finally, you may create height problems where the new deck hits doorways and stairs.

In my opinion, your best bet is definitely to remove the old decking boards, repair and reinforce the original deck framing as needed, and then install your new decking.

Q: My wife and I are looking at a home (to buy) that was built in 1955. Some of the wiring is paper wrap. We aren’t sure how much. I was wondering if any of the paper wrap was ever made with a ground wire. Also, I was wondering about the safety of paper wrap. We have to travel about 750 miles to look at this home and would like to know if it should be a big concern. –Lloyd C.

A: There’s no easy answer to this one. Some of the cable you refer to did not have a ground wire, and some of it did. Also, older wiring such as this was not as heat resistant as the jackets used today, and it’s not unusual to find wiring that has heat damage to it, especially behind light fixtures.

Finally, a house that is more than 50 years old is almost certainly going to have had some remodeling work done, and it’s impossible to know what different homeowners, contractors and electricians may have done with the wiring.

If you’re seriously considering buying the house, you need to have a qualified electrician examine the wiring and determine its condition, as well as determine whether subsequent repairs and remodeling were done correctly. The electrician can also determine if the house is safe and up to current code and, if not, what would be required to get it there. Incidentally, I would suggest the services of a licensed electrician for this, not a home inspector.

Since the house is so far away, if you are working with a real estate agent in that city perhaps he or she could arrange to have the electrical evaluation done for you and save you a trip. That way, if the work is too extensive you can have the opportunity to re-evaluate your purchase plans, or perhaps talk with the sellers about a price reduction.

Q: Would you give me some tips on how to repair drywall for my older home. I have cracks in several rooms, including two bathrooms. A wall in the dining area warped due to a roof in need of repair (water). The roof has been replaced. Now I need to fix the cracks. Any tips or advice you can give me on how to cut and measure, tape, float, mud, sand and paint, and anything else I need to know, is greatly appreciated. –Leo L.

A: Your best bet is get a book on the subject of drywall repairs, which will contain not only written descriptions but more importantly, lots of photographs to guide you through the process. One book I’ve found particularly useful is "Drywall: Professional Techniques for Great Results" by Myron R. Ferguson. You can find books at your local library or bookstore, or through online retailers such as Amazon.com.

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