Q: Our home, built in 1850, had a problem in the cellar because of the deterioration of the stone walls. Because we ignored the problem for a while, we accumulated several inches of damp dirt on the concrete floor. We had the problems fixed and the dirt shoveled out, but what remains is a fine coat of dirt that cannot be vacuumed. (I have ruined two vacuums – one a Shop-Vac – trying.) Sweeping the dust contaminates the air and settles all over everything. A contractor suggested I get an industrial sweeping product called Uline and a natural bristle broom. I used Uline three times, but the floor remains filthy. Ideas?
A: If that final dirt coat is very thin, try laying down maybe 4 inches of concrete as a new floor.
Fixing old walls
Q: My wife and I are removing wallpaper from horsehair plaster walls in our late 1800s vintage house. The plaster is in good shape. Is it OK to apply a super thin layer of ready mixed joint compound once we have all paper and glue removed? I am thinking apply, and basically just quickly “squeegee” it off to fill imperfections.
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A: A skim coat is not going to do much good, because it will follow the imperfections, but there are two tricks you can try. One is to keep the old paper intact, then paint it. Or take off the paper and buy a canvas-type paper called Cover-All, which will cover imperfections and make the finish smooth and paintable.