Q: I have some kind of rodent digging up small mounds of dirt in my yard, but now they are under my house pulling the insulation off from over their little heads and urinating in the soil (after having come up under the plastic tarp and tearing holes in that). I can smell an odor coming up through the bathroom heater vent. Orkin says they don’t do that kind of pest. What can I do? Thanks again for all you do to help us!

A: What you need is an exterminator that works with small rodents, so I would suggest you call someone other than Orkin. There are a number of different approaches ranging from poisons to live traps that any good exterminator should be able to help you out with.

Once the little guys are taken care of, you need to remove the plastic vapor barrier, both because of the holes they’ve torn in it and the urine on it. To neutralize the odor, rake some lime into the soil (lime is available from home centers or any retailer that deals with cement and masonry products), and then put down a new vapor barrier. Also, be sure and repair or replace any damaged insulation.

Incidentally, some homeowner’s insurance policies will cover situations like this, so if the damage is extensive enough you might want to check with your insurance agent.

Q: How do you clean a redwood deck?

A: For normal dust and dirt, you can clean any type of wood deck with ordinary soap and water. Use a nylon scrub brush for tougher spots, and then rinse. Don’t use the concentrated spray from a pressure washer, as it can raise the grains in the wood and do some serious damage.

For deeper cleaning, use a deck-cleaning compound designed specifically for wood. It should be one that contains sodium percarbonate, which is also found in many color-safe laundry bleaches. Sodium percarbonate is a powder that mixes with water to form hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate, both of which are very effective at removing gray weathering residue as well as mildew, dirt and other discolorations. Properly applied, oxygen-based bleach products will go a long way toward restoring your wood deck’s original appearance. Don’t use regular household bleach!

A common problem with redwood and certain other species is a natural resin in the wood called tannin. Tannins, which are water soluble and a reddish-brown in color, can migrate to the surface of the wood and be deposited there, leaving dark brown discolorations. Tannins can also react with the metal in the fasteners that secure the deck boards, resulting in dark, blue-black stains that can really mar the appearance of the wood. …CONTINUED

Oxalic acid-based cleaners will are very effective on tannin and iron stains, turning them virtually colorless. Oxalic acid, however, will not clean mildew and some other types of stains, so if tannin is a problem look for a cleaner that is formulated for all types of cleaning — tannin, dirt and mildew — or use a general-purpose cleaner first, followed by an oxalic acid cleaner specifically for the tannin.

All of these materials can be found at good paint stores and some home centers. I’ve found the Wolman brand to be very good, and there are other good ones on the market as well.

Q: I’m looking for a good price on beadboard-type paneling that is a bit wider than traditional beadboard. MDF is fine, as it will be painted. Do you have any suggestions on what to use and where to find a dealer?

A: Unfortunately, I don’t have any dealer recommendations for you, especially if you’re looking for a more custom size. However, if you have a table-mounted router and a little time, you might want to consider making your own. You can use any width and thickness of boards that suits the look you’re going for, and they can be MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or any other paint-grade material. There are a number of router bits available for making beads, so you can really get a custom look. For a good selection of bits, try Rockler, Woodcraft or Eagle America.

Depending on how much material you need, you may be able to find something interesting at a company that deals in recycled materials. They may have something from the interior of an old home or commercial building, or you may even find some old exterior beaded siding that will work. You’ll also have a lot of fun looking!

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.


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