Handyman: What to do about a stain on reader’s deck

May 23, 2014 

Q: Last October a worker stained (exterior semitransparent) my pressure-treated wood 10-by-10-foot deck. It had been power-washed before he stained. Deck came out a nice brown-red color – “Yankee Barn” Sherwin Williams. In the winter, I went outside on the deck to clean the cat’s litter box. Perhaps a chemical (from litter) or something else spilled. Now there’s a light white-colored stain on four boards. I tried a mix of one part bleach and two or three parts water to remove, but the white didn’t come out. I have leftover stain, but before I apply it, what can I use to remove the white? I think the deck requires a bit of sanding because shoveling scratched the surface here and there.

A: I don’t think it’s a bleach stain, where water has stood on the wood for a goodly time. Try rubbing with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If that doesn’t work, sand the stain to the bare wood, then restain lightly.

Water causes odor problem

Q: We live in a 30-year-old Colonial. Our house has always had an unpleasant odor. It is especially bad in the winter and after rainstorms.

In the attic, we have a ridge vent and also small soffit vents. The insulation is blown in throughout the whole home with additional batting on the attic floor. In the basement, we have had water come in the bulkhead over the years and have tried many remedies. Currently, it comes in that area only during downpours (we put down towels). The basement is mostly finished and has a musty odor. We try to open the small windows as much as possible to let in fresh air. We also use a dehumidifier in the spring and summer, particularly after rainstorms. I don’t see any other leaks, but we do have many finished walls as well as carpeting.

The home has gutters leading water away from the house except for a couple of the corners where the gutters lead into drywells. We also have central air conditioning, which we use all summer long. I know there are home ventilation and dehumidifying systems, and I am wondering whether one would help this situation.

A: It’s an odor problem caused by a water problem. The water comes into the cellar through the floor and walls, causing mold to grow. You must stop it with more drainage, such as a sump and a pump. You need a basement water control, by a pro.

Also, you need proper venting. Your new ridge vent is good, but the small soffit vents are way too small. You must install a 2-inch-wide screened strip going the full length of each soffit. Open cellar windows all year long. The basement windows of my 1768 Colonial are always open, and I have a good screened soffit vent on all four sides of the hipped roof.

Removing vinyl tiles

Q: You recently responded to a reader’s question about vinyl tiles with asbestos. I have what I assume are those that were installed 35 years ago. A couple of years ago our cellar flooded. Many tiles were damaged. I never bothered replacing any of them because it is just a laundry area and playroom. Now I wonder if I do need to have them removed.

A: Those are vinyl-asbestos tiles and are typically 9 by 9 inches. They do contain limited amounts of asbestos. Intact tiles are safe. If you are concerned, then have a qualified company remove all. Then you can install ceramic tiles or vinyl tiles (sans asbestos).

Hotton: photton@globe.com

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