Q. Our den has a wall that was wallpapered many years ago. The paper is in good shape but is outdated. Instead of going through the hassle of removing it, I’d like to paint over it. Can this be done without making it look silly?
A. Clean off the wall with a mild soap and rinse, says Charlie Kaczorowski of Tustin Paint Mart. Then glue any loose seams or patch any holes with a patching compound to get as smooth a finish as possible.
Coat the wall with an oil-based primer before using a latex finish coat. You may need at least two coats to provide good coverage. The result may not be as smooth as a normally painted wall because of the appearance of the seams, but it should still look nice.
Q. Our upstairs bathroom is carpeted; when our small children take baths, their splashing soaks up the carpet by the tub, even after using area rugs. I’m concerned that eventually mildew will develop. Are there preventive measures we can take?
A. The best solution would be to remove the carpeting and replace it with tile or vinyl flooring, says floor installer Steve Martinez of Fountain Valley.
If the tub doesn’t have an enclosure, consider installing one; this will cut down greatly on the amount of water that’s splashed from the tub. Try plastic sheets instead of cloth rugs to cut down on the water getting to the carpeting. It’s also probably a good idea to pull up the carpet where it meets the tub and let the padding underneath dry out.
Q. This is the time of year that we clean out our two fireplaces, but it’s always a problem because soot tends to get everywhere. Is there a way to clean out a fireplace cleanly, such as spraying it with water first to keep the soot from flying around?
San Juan Capistrano
A. Probably the worst thing you could do when cleaning out a fireplace is to spray water on it, says George Moelter of Anaheim Patio & Fireside in Brea. You’ll end up with a lot of black sludge that will be even harder to clean up.
Use plastic tarp to cover the hearth and carpeting or flooring in front of the fireplace; tape it into place so it doesn’t move. Using a brush and dustpan, sweep the soot carefully and patiently and work from the top of fireplace to the bottom.
Q. The hardwood floor in our kitchen is about 5 years old and is in pretty good shape, except for the area in front of the dishwasher. We had a leak, and in an area about a foot square the grain of the wood has been raised. Can this be spot finished, or do we need to redo the whole floor?
A. It depends on how bad the water damage is, says Steve Guenther of Wood Floor Wholesalers in Anaheim. If it’s relatively light, you can use painter’s tape to cordon off the damaged area. Make sure you extend the patching area out a little farther. Then, abrade the area and use a touch-up kit to restore the finish.
Modern water-soluable finishes make patching easier because they allow the color to be more easily matched.
Helping Hand Note: In a previous column, we had a question about how to make a rain gutter less noisy. C.M. of Los Alamitos wrote in with her solution to the problem. “Hang a chain, metal or plastic, down the downspout. The morning dew hits the chain and drops down slowly, which eliminates the noise.”