Q: I have older hardwood floors, and I want to remove scratches and lighten the color. I would also like to redo the paneling in my den. Do you have any ideas on how to do this? –Marsha H., via e-mail.

A: Removing the scratches and changing the color of your hardwood floor will require that the floors be sanded and refinished. The basic process is as follows: All of the furniture is removed; the floors are sanded down far enough to remove the scratches and the original stain color; the sanded wood is thoroughly vacuumed and wiped to remove dust; new stain is applied and allowed to dry (the wood can also be left its natural color, with no stain); then two to three coats of clear finish are built up, allowing each coat to dry before applying the next one.

For the least hassle and the best overall results, I would recommend that you have a pro come and do the refinishing. However, if you’re patient and ambitious, you can certainly do the work yourself. All of the sanding equipment you need can be rented at any rental center, and the stain and finish materials are available from any good paint store or home center. If you want to take a shot at this yourself, I would suggest that you check out your local bookstore or library for a book containing complete, step-by-step instructions.

As far as the paneling is concerned, you have several options. You can remove the old material and replace it with new paneling; you can lightly sand the old paneling, then prime and paint it; you can apply new paneling or new drywall directly over the old paneling; or you can cover the old paneling with a base sheet and then wallpaper over it. A lot depends on the condition of the old paneling, how it was installed, lights, outlets, windows and other obstacles that need to be worked around, and what the final result is you want to achieve.

Q: I bought a newly built home in 2003 that has central heating and cooling, with all of the ducts in the attic. In the winter, it is hot upstairs and cold downstairs, while in the summer the upper story does not get cool while the downstairs is freezing. The builder said there are baffles in the ducts so the warm and cold air could be proportionately distributed, but I have been unable to locate these baffles. I currently have to open and close different registers depending on the season. Do you have any other suggestions for balancing the system? –Karen L., via e-mail.

A: Warm air will naturally rise and cold air will naturally fall, so having all of the ducts located in the attic can cause the problems you’re referring to. As warm air is produced, it will want to naturally stay in the upper floor, leaving the lower floor colder. The opposite is true when cold air is produced. For that reason, a better configuration is to have a balance of ducts in both the attic and under the floor.

You mentioned that you have spoken to the builder. I would call him again and ask that he come over and show you exactly where these baffles are and how to operate them. You might also ask who the original HVAC contractor was, and have them come out, explain the baffles and rebalance the system for you. Other factors that might help would be relocating the thermostat and/or the return air duct, but both of those might be difficult to do at this point.

If rebalancing the system doesn’t help — and given the configuration of the ducts, it probably won’t — I would suggest that you install one or more reversible, ceiling-mounted paddle fans. The fans will help with air circulation, pushing warm air down from upstairs and, when reversed, pulling cold air up from below.

Q: What exactly is HVAC? I have heard the term a lot, but I don’t really know what it means. –Wyndye F., via e-mail.

A: HVAC is an acronym for Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning. It refers to the systems that handle all of the building’s heating needs, including the furnace and duct work; air conditioning, including all of the air conditioning equipment and related ducts; ventilation, including fans, kitchen ventilation and ducts; and all of the related exhaust vents for any equipment that requires them. An HVAC contractor is one who installs, services, or otherwise works with any or all of these systems.

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

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