Grass-Roots Repair for Wall Cloth

Question: I have a beautiful grass cloth wall covering in my living room and, unfortunately, my cats have shredded it. Is there any way to fix or repair this?

M.G., Fullerton

Answer: “Grass cloth can look beautiful on walls, but unfortunately, cats will attack it like it’s a shredding post,” says Suzanne Robotham of Dunn-Edwards Paints & Wallcoverings in Anaheim. “It’s made of a natural fiber from China, and it’s dyed or a natural color. It comes in 36-inch rolls, and it’s usually applied horizontally.

“To patch it, you’ll need a matching piece of the grass cloth. Use a razor and cut out the old piece, then make a trace of the area you’ll need to patch and cut a replacement piece a little larger. Paste it in and trim the edges so it’s flush.


“I don’t know of anything you can use to keep cats away from it. If they were declawed, at least they wouldn’t be tearing the grass cloth as they scraped at it.”

Q: The exterior wood shingles on the sides of our 12-year-old condominium complex are in need of maintenance. They were originally a natural wood color and appeared to be untreated. Now, some are light in color, while others are dark and stained. I’d like to recommend painting them, but is it wise to paint wood shingles?

L.D.B., Capistrano Beach

A: “They sound like they’re cedar shingles, which have been commonly used on exteriors,” says Tom Toia of Imperial Paint Co. in Anaheim. “The reason they look so weathered is that both redwood and cedar have a high level of acidity, and often when it’s painted or improperly sealed, it begins looking old and gray very quickly.


“There is a special primer for these types of woods. Clean and prepare the wood, then paint over it with the primer. It’s important that you let the primer dry at least four days to give it time to form a barrier against the acid. Without the primer, it will start looking bad within a few months. After you’ve let the primer dry, you can use a good water-based latex paint, and it should last.”

Q: How does one remove grease marks from a concrete driveway?

M.D., Los Alamitos

A: “Being successful at getting grease off of a driveway depends on how long the stain has been there,” says Sally Brockett of Plains Lumber & Supply Co. in Costa Mesa. “If it’s fresh, you can buy different products that will absorb the grease and leave a stain that can be washed off. Otherwise, there are driveway cleaners that specialize in tough stains you can try. Or, you can just use a cleaner like TSP, a scrub brush, a little bleach and some sunshine.”

Q: Our house has a badly scorched and stained brick fireplace. I’ve been considering painting over the brick, but is that recommended?

J.K., Fountain Valley

A: “You can paint over scorched brick, although there are some things to know about before starting,” says Todd Corum of Orange Paint Store. “You have to get rid of as much soot as possible from the brick, which means scrubbing it with a solution of TSP and water.

“The next step is to wash the area off with fresh water. This will wash away any TSP, since it contains an acid and can affect the paint job, then let it dry for a day to allow the moisture to evaporate. Use a good quality oil-based primer to seal the bricks before painting. This will keep any leftover soot from bleeding through the top coat of paint.”