Once again it’s time to dig into the question bag. Some of the questions we get don’t lend themselves to a full column. Others present a different twist to subjects we’ve dealt with previously. Either way, here are three questions and answers that we think provide some valuable information.

Q: I am about to sand and re-oil a redwood deck and fencing. The wood is mainly dirty from smog and wear and tear. Lately I have been reading a lot about how dangerous redwood is to sand. Is this true? Would you recommend washing the wood first with TSP? I was obviously going to be wearing a mask, but is this a real risk that I should be worried about?

A: We don’t recommend sanding at all. Although we haven’t heard that redwood sanding dust is any more toxic than other types of wood dust, the tannin in redwood may well be.

But toxicity doesn’t drive the bus here. Sanding is too dirty and too labor-intensive. Instead of sanding we suggest you pressure wash both the deck and fencing.

Pressure washing will literally blow the dirt and grime away. Use a wide spray pattern and keep the wand moving to avoid damaging the wood. Once the decking and fencing is clean, let it dry for several days. If the weather is warm, a week will do the job. Then oil to you heart’s content.

Pressure washers are available for rent at any tool rental store and at many of the home centers. Deck cleaners are available for use with the pressure washer to make the job easier.

In addition to not breathing sawdust, if you pick a warm day to use the pressure washer, you’ll have the added benefit of cooling yourself off.

Q: My daughter lives in a home with cement floors that contain radiant heating. The problem is that a previous owner painted the floors a “cream of tomato soup” orange, which she does not like, plus the paint has worn away in spots and looks shabby.

I suggested she strip or sand the paint off and leave the floors natural. She feels sanding creates too much dust and that stripping would be toxic (she has pets). If she did this, would the floor need to be sealed and what would that involve?

She has considered covering it with wood or vinyl, but cost is a problem. Would this significantly reduce the heat released into her home?

A: Don’t cover it up — strip it. A couple of years ago at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference we ran across a product that just might fit the bill and address your daughter’s concerns about toxicity at the same time.

Although we haven’t had experience with it, this environmentally friendly product sounds promising. Soy-Gel is manufactured by a company named Franmar. According to their literature, Soy-Gel is a paint and urethane stripper touted to be a “100 percent biodegradable, non-caustic, environmentally friendly paint and finish remover.”

As the name suggests, this stripper is made of 100 percent soybeans and contains no fumes or flammable solvents. At about $60 per gallon it’s a bit pricey. But if it performs as advertised, it’s well worth it, in our opinion. For more information, check the company’s Web site at www.franmar.com.

Once the floor is stripped, apply a coat or two of concrete sealer. Concrete is a porous material despite its toughness, so sealing is required.

For sealer options, check out the site www.concretenetwork.com/concrete/protect_and_beautify_concrete/index.html.

Q: I am thinking about buying a Victorian in Alameda, Calif. Do you have any suggestion on a basic book or resource guide to them, and how to restore using all the modern materials, etc.?

A: In our view, the best source for historic Alameda homes isn’t a book at all. For decades the mission of the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, formerly the Alameda Victorian Preservation Society, has been to catalog and preserve the architectural heritage of Alameda.

For information about specific Alameda homes including styles, date of construction and builder, this is the place to go. Their Web site is www.alameda-preservation.org/. The site can also direct you to local owners and tradesmen who generally are happy to share their experiences renovating old homes.

Two books that we’ve found useful over the years are: “How to Design, Build, Remodel & Maintain Your Home” by Joseph Falcone, AIA, Simon and Schuster, 1980 (for construction basics) and “Renovating the Victorian House” by Katherine Knight Rusk, Charles Scribner and Sons, 1982.

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