DIY Q&A

Don't expect duct tape to seal heating ducts

November 9, 2012 

Q: My home-improvement center sells a half-dozen types of duct tape, and I have tried a couple of them to seal the joints in my metal heating-air conditioning ducts. Each came loose in a year or so and so far I have been unable to find a sealer. Can you help? – B. Baker

Most so-called duct tapes sold at home centers and hardware stores are not suitable for sealing heating and air-conditioning ducts. Some of these tapes have many uses, but they are mis-named. “Utility tape” would be a better name.

Heating technicians who do duct sealing usually use a glue-like mastic or a special metallic-faced tape (often called foil-faced) that stays in place despite the frequent temperature changes, expansion and contraction, and pressures in ducts.

Caulks that remain flexible and adhere well to metal, such as urethane and silicone, are also sometimes used. Mastic is usually applied in a thick coat with an old paint brush – wear rubber or plastic gloves and eye protection. The mastic stays flexible so it can move with any movements in the ducts. Water-based mastic called Master Flow is sold at some home centers and heating-supply dealers; a half-gallon plastic tub costs about $12.

Do-it-yourselfers will probably fare better with metallic tape, which has a neater appearance but costs more. Some retailers and heating-supply dealers sell special metallic tapes. Be sure the label specifies it’s suitable for ducts.

Sealing duct leaks can save significant energy and improve comfort.

Painting kitchen cabinets

Q: My kitchen cabinets are good quality, but are old and starting to look shabby. I also don’t like the dark, stained color. How can I renew these cabinets inexpensively? – Alice

Probably the least costly approach is to paint the cabinets. Some special cabinet paints are available, but almost any high-quality enamel will do. The first step is to thoroughly scrub the surfaces you’ll paint with a degreasing cleaner, available at any supermarket or home center. Next, lightly sand with 100-grit sandpaper to remove rough spots and repair any defects such as nicks. Small defects can be filled with vinyl spackling compound and smoothed with sandpaper. Number the doors so you can easily put them where they belong after they have been painted. Remove the hardware – hinges and handles or knobs. Lay the doors flat on a table or floor protected by a tarp or plastic sheeting. Apply a latex primer such as Bulls-Eye 1-2-3. When the primer is dry, check again for rough spots, sand them smooth, and wipe off sanding dust. Use water-based (latex) enamel and a good-quality brush to apply it. (Spray enamels are difficult to use in a kitchen without getting paint on surfaces where you don’t want it.) Let the first coat dry and sand it lightly, then apply a second coat.

Another system you might want to check out is Rust-Oleum’s Cabinet Transformation, sold in kit form. You can find information, including a how-to video, on the Internet. Cabinet Transformation is what used to be called antiquing. A base coat, which Rust-Oleum calls a binder, is applied to surfaces, followed by a glaze. Most of the glaze is wiped off with rags while wet. When the glaze is dry, a protective clear coat is applied. Dozens of colors are available. Prices start at about $75 for a kit with enough materials to cover 100 square feet.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Austin: gaus17@aol.com

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