Apply Heat to Peel Tape--Not Paint

QUESTION: My teenage son used masking tape to hang posters on his bedroom walls. Now I can’t remove the tape without stripping off paint. Is there a way to peel off the tape without damaging the paint or drywall surface?

Tom Philbin, a former painting contractor, says:

ANSWER: Masking tape can be virtually impossible to remove cleanly, especially if it’s been in place for a long time. Here’s an old painter’s trick that has worked well for me:

Start by warming the masking tape strip you want to remove using a blow-dryer set on medium. The idea is to get the surface temperature to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the adhesive begins to melt. After applying heat for three or four minutes, use the tip of a small knife or razor blade to lift a corner of the tape strip. Continue applying heat as you gently pull the rest of the tape strip away. To avoid pulling off paint, don’t lift the tape straight out from the wall. Instead, keep your fingers against the wall as you draw the tape back against itself.


Once you’ve got the tape off the walls, the final step is to remove any adhesive residue. You can clean it off using a cloth dampened with mineral spirits.

Hot Flashes

Q: Whenever I shower and someone turns on a faucet or flushes a toilet in another part of the house, I get blasted with hot water. Once the faucet is turned off or the toilet refills, the shower water returns to its normal temperature. How can I remedy this problem?

Merle Henkenius, a Lincoln, Neb., plumber and author of two books on plumbing, answers:


A: What you’re experiencing is a pressure drop on the cold side of the mixer valve. When the cold water runs in another part of the house, it essentially is being stolen from the shower. That’s why your shower suddenly turns hot.

The solution is to replace your existing shower valve with an anti-scald pressure-balance valve (about $100). The valve senses pressure drops and temperature fluctuations and compensates for them. Even if water pressure drops, the temperature remains constant. Most plumbing codes now require anti-scald valves for all new and retrofit tub-faucet installations.

Dingy Deck

Q: My unstained red-cedar deck had a beautiful golden tint when it was built three years ago. I’ve power-washed it twice since then in an effort to maintain the rich color, but it quickly turns gray. How can I restore the wood’s like-new appearance and then prevent it from graying over the years?


Ken McClelland, executive director of the Western Red Cedar Lumber Assn., explains:

A: Your deck is going through a natural weathering process that eventually will turn the wood a light silvery gray. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no way to stop the wood from weathering. But you can bring back its original look--and delay the inevitable--by applying a decking stain with a cedar tint.

Before staining, remove dirt and grime by washing the surface with a chlorine-base deck cleaner and rinsing it with clean water. Wait until the wood is thoroughly dry. Then stain it according to the manufacturer’s directions.

If you don’t want to stain the deck, you can slow down the graying process by applying a clear wood preservative that contains a UV (ultraviolet) sun block.


For more information on finishing cedar, contact: Western Red Cedar Lumber Assn., 555 Burrard St., Suite 1100, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V7X 1S7; (604) 891-1225.

Foggy Window Woes

Q: Condensation has formed between the panes of the insulated glass windows throughout my home. Why did this happen, and how can I get rid of it?

Henry Spies of Spies Home Inspection Services in Champaign, Ill., replies:


A: The space between the panes of an insulated glass window is filled with either dry air or an inert gas, such as argon. The panes are sealed together by a perimeter spacer strip and a continuous bead of polysulfide or polyurethane sealant. In your case, this seal has failed, allowing moist air to enter the space and condense on the inside surfaces of the panes.

There is no way to repair a broken window seal. You must either replace the entire sash (the part that surrounds the glazing) or have the manufacturer install a new insulated glass panel into the existing sash. Window warranties range from about five to 20 years, so your insulated glass might still be covered. Check with the manufacturer.

If the warranty on your windows has already expired, consider a sash-replacement kit. Keep in mind that, because existing window frames will be left intact, sash replacement is only a viable option if these frames are in sound condition. If, however, the frames have deteriorated, the only choice remaining is to install new windows.



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