Q: I have two questions about remodeling my old house. First, I need to remove some floor tiles from an oak hardwood floor prior to refinishing it. There are no asbestos issues, but the tiles are pretty well stuck down with a black, gooey material. Any suggestions? Second, I have plaster walls in a small room and would like to apply a light texture to cover some minor cracks. What should I use? Thanks! –Dan W., via e-mail
A: For your floor tiles, a heat gun should be your best bet. Commercial heat guns are available from retailers of floor-covering supplies and from some home centers, or you can rent one at most rental yards. The important thing is to provide adequate ventilation and to work slowly in one very small area at a time. DON’T OVERHEAT ANYTHING — working too fast or with too much heat can create a very definite fire hazard! As you heat the tile, use a small, stiff scraper or putty knife to lift the softened adhesive as well as the tile, taking care to avoid gouging the wood. Wear gloves, and clean the scraper frequently with a rag while the glue is still soft.
For texturing your plaster, you have a couple of options. You could rent a texture hopper and compressor from any rental yard and spray on drywall texture, but this requires a little bit of practice first, and you have to completely mask off all surfaces not being textured. In your case, an easier solution would be to add some texture mix to the paint you’re going to use on the walls. The texture is similar to fine sand, and you save time and money by applying both the paint and the texture at the same time. All of the above materials are available from most home centers and paint stores.
Q: I know that protective eyewear is important, but I haven’t been able to find anything that fits me comfortably. Do you have any suggestions? –Nick D., via e-mail
A: Unfortunately, problems with comfort are all too common, and this is the main reason many people — even professional contractors — don’t wear safety eyewear as often as they should. My best suggestion is to avoid the home centers and discount houses and instead check out a retailer in your area that specializes in professional safety equipment; they can usually be found in the Yellow Pages under Safety Equipment and Clothing. Go in personally, and try on all of the different protective eyewear they carry. Some people have found that ventilated glasses work, others use different forms of goggles, and still others have good luck with face plates that flip up out of the way when not in use. The only way to find something that works for you is to try on different ones, then buy one or two and use them on the job. It’s well worth the investment in both time and money!
Q: I own a 1929 home, and I think I read somewhere that airless paint sprayers have the tendency to fill in all the grooves in old wood siding, leaving the surface totally flat. I need to paint my house and I don’t want to loose the “vintage” look of the old siding, but I can certainly appreciate the time savings of spraying instead of having to use a brush. I enjoy your column, and would appreciate your opinion for “this old house” of mine. –Dave T., via e-mail
A: If done correctly, airless sprayers put on a fairly light and very uniform coat of paint. They actually apply less paint than a brush or a roller typically does, so I would see no risk that any desirable features on your old siding would be filled in. I have used airless sprayers on many types of siding with fairly subtle surfaces, and the airless didn’t do anything to diminish the appearance of the grain pattern.
You might, however, want to practice a little bit first. If you have an unobtrusive spot on the house — or on a shed, garage, etc. — you might want to try the airless out there first to get a feel for it and see what you think of the results. You can also try it on an old piece of plywood or siding that has similar grooves.
If you do feel the sprayer is putting on too thick of a paint film, you might try a common painting technique called back-rolling, which combines the speed of spraying with some of the advantages of rolling. With back-rolling, you first apply the paint to the surface with the sprayer, then immediately go back over it with a paint roller. Use a low-nap roller and don’t dip it directly into the paint, simply use it to “press” the paint against the surface. Back-rolling actually evens out the paint film and helps it adhere more tightly to the surface underneath — a real advantage over old, dry wood — and should help to preserve the subtle grain features by rolling out any areas where the paint has been sprayed on too thick.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.