It's a Sink or Swim Decision After Rains Do Their Damage

Question: The interior of my house is plasterboard. During the 1983-1984 winter season, my roof leaked and the plasterboard on both sides of an archway got wet. I had a plasterer come in and put plaster on the cracks that were created because the plasterboard got wet. Now the plaster that was put on the plasterboard is starting to blister.

Any suggestions on how I may repair this unsightly mess?

Answer: Stop beating what sounds like a dead issue. Once you have a problem, it is seldom helped by adding to it. From what you describe, you may have been better off in replacing the plasterboard at the time you had it plastered.

Moisture is a monster--often a house-destroying monster that can cause all kinds of problems, including dry rot. Dry rot is a a misnomer in a way, because it stems from moisture; actually it's a fungus decay that causes even the best of woods to deteriorate.

It sounds as if you still had moisture in the walls when the plaster was applied, even though the surface may have been dry.

I think I would want to see what's behind it all, and the quicker the better. Cost for tearing out and replacing the plasterboard on the archway will be small compared to replacing the stud structure in the wall if it is deteriorating--especially in an area such as an archway that has fancy curves.

If you decide to do the work yourself, there are many how-to-do-it books available in local home centers or even supermarkets.

Also, you may find helpful a U.S. government publication, "Simple Home Repairs--Inside." It's a 23-page, 8 1/2x11 journal that sells for $1.75 (no state sale tax and no shipping charge). You can order it from the Government Printing Office Bookstore, Arco Plaza, Level C, 505 S. Flower, Los Angeles 90071. Or you may inspect the publication at the bookstore. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays.

Q: I've tried so many things to remove the wax buildup on our dining-room table, and nothing seems to help. Please let me know what I should use.

A: A thick layer of wax over an extended period of time softens the varnished finish on the furniture, and you must be careful not to remove the finish with the wax.

With a similar problem, I recently used Murphy Oil Soap to get through most of the wax. It's an inexpensive (less than $1.50 for a 16-ounce bottle) vegetable household cleaner that you mix with warm water. I normally would not use water on wood, but the buildup was go great that I was really using it only on the wax. Wipe up drips that may go through to the finish, and dry off with a towel as you work. Murphy Oil Soap is available in many supermarkets and drugstores.

For the final removal of the wax, I used two applications of Formby's Furniture Cleaner, available in home centers and hardware stores, and followed it with Formby's Lemon Oil Furniture Treatment.

To be safe, try this procedure on an inconspicuous part of your table, rather than dead center.

Dale Baldwin will answer remodeling questions of general interest on this page. Send your questions to Home Improvement, Real Estate Department, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Baldwin cannot answer questions individually. Snapshots of successful do-it-yourself projects may be submitted but cannot be returned.

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