Removing Black Spot Virtually ImpossibleQuestion: I plan...

Associated Press Newsfeatures

Removing Black Spot Virtually Impossible

Question: I plan to refinish an old coffee table. The finish in most places is still in good condition but in a few places there are black spots. We tried to remove one without success. All it did was leave a mess. Is there anything special that will remove black marks such as these?

Answer: As you have found, it is virtually impossible to remove such marks without redoing the entire piece. In fact, after you have taken off the old finish, you may find traces of the black still there. If so, you will have to bleach the surface, wipe off the residue of the remover according to the instructions on the container, and then apply a bleach. When you are satisfied with the result (the surface should have a uniform light color), give it a coat of sealer before applying a stain and final finish.

Weep Holes Help Trap Rainwater Drainage


Q. I plan to build a retaining wall at the rear of our house to divert water during a heavy rain. I want a little of the water to get through so there isn’t too much pressure on the wall. Is it better to just leave a few spaces in the bricks at the bottom of the wall or to use pieces of clay pipe?

A. Both are effective. They are known as weep holes. Most professionals consider the pieces of pipe more durable, although both methods are effective. Incidentally, the openings should not be at the very bottom of the wall, but 8 or 10 inches above the ground.

Re-gluing Wallpaper Requires Extra Care

Q. About two years ago, we hung the wallpaper in our dining room. Now the paper is loosening a bit at a few of the seams. What is the best way to glue it back without causing any further trouble?


A. Re-gluing the paper at the seams is easy if you exercise great care. Wherever the seam is loose, pull it back very gently until it does not give easily. At that point, stop, wipe off the old adhesive and apply new. This is where you need extra care. You must now wipe away the excess glue that has oozed out from under the paper. Wipe carefully so that your wiping cloth, which should be slightly damp, does not lift up the re-glued seam. Usually this is best done by wiping away from the seam so it is not disturbed.

Prepare Surface Before Repainting Masonry

Q. We have a brick wall along one side of our driveway. It was painted about 10 years ago and now needs another painting. Can we paint right over the old covering or should we try to remove it?

A. Removing the paint from the masonry wall would be a tough job. What you should do is prepare the old surface as best you can, scraping off any loose paint. If the scraping does not go easily, use a wire brush. If you use a latex paint, make sure it is formulated for use on masonry. After you have put on one coat, wait a few days to determine whether a second coat is necessary.

Seal Stain on Ceiling With Shellac, Alcohol

Q. There is a water stain on the gypsum board ceiling in one of our rooms. We want to repaint it. How can we prevent the stain from showing through the new paint?

A. Seal it with a 50-50 combination of shellac and denatured alcohol. Use clear shellac. However, before you begin the job, be sure whatever caused the stain will not give a repeat performance. The sealer will keep in the stain only if the mark is dormant. A new leak and you’ll have new trouble.

Check Warranty on Home Greenhouse


Q. Condensation seems to have occurred between two pieces of glass in our greenhouse. The whole unit is only about 10 months old. Is there any way this can be corrected?

A. Not likely. A hole or crack must have allowed moisture to move between the pieces of glass. Since your unit is less than a year old, check your warranty. It may call for the replacement of glass that is not performing well.

Finish Cutting Board With Vegetable Oil

Q. I plan to make a wooden board on which things like cheese can be cut. I have a pretty good idea of how to do it, but I’m not sure what it should be finished with. Can I use varnish?

A. No. You should not use any finish that can be cut by a sharp knife. Instead, use a mineral or vegetable oil and renew it once or twice a year. Clean the board thoroughly after each use to prevent retention of food odors.

Tour Neighborhood Before Painting Home

Q. We are having our house repainted and want to change the color. We are considering a mixture of blue and gray. What do those colors do to a house, since I have read many times how the colors on the outside of a house change its character?

A. Blue and gray are known as cool colors and are considered fairly restful. Your best bet is to take a tour of the neighborhood two or three times and see if you can find a color combination you like. Especially note the color of the roof.


Use Household Bleach to Lighten Furniture

Q. I plan to refinish a piece of furniture and intend to use a bleach to lighten the wood. Is it OK to use a household bleach?

A. Yes, if you plan merely to lighten the color of wood a bit. But if you intend to lighten the wood drastically, as is sometimes done after the entire old finish has been removed from a piece of furniture, you will need a stronger bleach. The commercial bleach you buy in a hardware or paint store or home center comes in two containers. Follow the instructions on how to apply the bleach from one bottle and how long to leave it on before putting on the contents of the second container. This is a stronger product than a household bleach and you must use it very cautiously, wearing rubber gloves and goggles. After the old finish has been removed and you apply the bleach, it is best to put on a sealer before going to the next step.