Q: Do you have any ideas on how to clean my Cadet baseboard heaters?  When I first turn them on for the winter, I get a black film on the wall above the heater.  What should I do? –G.K.

A: What’s probably happening is that during the time the heater is off, dust or other material is accumulating inside the unit. When the heater is turned on in winter, this material burns off and streaks the wall. 

First of all, try to minimize the dust buildup. This might be done by rearranging furniture, increasing fresh air in the room, or increasing air flow in front of the heaters. Then, prior to starting the heater in the winter, make sure it’s clean. For their baseboard heaters, Cadet recommends that you remove the front cover, and use a vacuum to clean out the inside of the heater before starting it for the season. Be sure the power is off before removing the front cover, and be careful not to damage the aluminum fins inside the heater.

Q: We have a fireplace insert. At times, especially when the fire is low, it doesn’t draw well and smoke comes out into the room when we open the door to add more wood. Would one of those chimney toppers you often see at the coast — the ones that look like a big bird and turn with the wind — help the problem?  If not, do you have any other suggestions? –Richard J.

A: There are a couple of things that can cause the woodstove to not draw well. One of them, as you suggest, is wind across the top of the flue pipe, but that really only becomes an issue in high-wind areas such as the coast, which is why you commonly see those moveable chimney caps there. A dirty flue can cause draft issues, as can an obstruction in the flue, damage to the flue cap, problems with the catalytic converter or obstructions to the draft damper.

The situation you describe can sometimes be an indicator of a serious problem that could result in a flue fire, so you don’t want to ignore it. I would strongly suggest that you have a licensed woodstove contractor or licensed chimney sweep come out to the house, examine the stove, and make any corrections or repairs they might suggest. 

Q: I want to lay down sheets of plywood and use that as my finished flooring, not as subfloor. I then want to stain it a deep cherry color and then polyurethane the heck out of it. I saw a DIY TV show where they took squares of plywood and stained them different colors and laid them in a pattern. Do you have any idea how to do this? (My boyfriend said he’ll do the work as long as YOU think it can be done and that it will look great afterward!) –Charise M.

A: To answer your boyfriend’s questions first, yes, what you suggest certainly can be done, but since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the two of you will have to be your own judge of what looks great afterward!

First, you need to start with a sound, relatively smooth subfloor. Cut your plywood into squares of whatever size you wish — to ensure smooth edges and uniformity of the squares, I would suggest ripping the plywood into strips on a table saw, then cutting the strips to length using a miter saw or a circular saw with a saw guide. Pre-stain each square, allow them to dry completely, then install. I would suggest a flooring adhesive that is formulated for wood, applied with a notched trowel (again for uniformity of application), or you could just use construction adhesive. If you want visible fasteners, you could also install the wood with finish nails, box nails or screws. Finally, sweep and then vacuum the floor completely to remove dust, then apply two to three coats of clear polyurethane that is specifically formulated for floors — follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions for application and ventilation.

As to the type of wood, that depends on the finished appearance you want. A-C plywood will have one smooth, clear face, while C-C Plugged or shop grades, which are less expensive, will have one smooth face that has repairs in it. You can get plywood in fir, oak, birch, mahogany, cherry and any of a number of other woods. I have also seen this done with OSB (oriented strand board, also commonly known as waferboard), which has a whole different look than plywood. 

Some home centers have small, precut plywood pieces for craft projects that you might want to experiment with, or you might also check local construction sites and cabinet shops to see if you can buy some small scraps of different woods to play around with. While you can use any thickness for your experiments, I would suggest 1/2-inch-thick material for the final installation.

Be forewarned that once the wood is glued in place, it is quite a chore to get it back up again if you want to change it. To keep peace in the family, make sure you both like the appearance of the floor before you actually glue it down.

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

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