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Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006 11:41 am

Mind in the gutter

Regular maintenance will help avoid clogs

Dear Gene: I recently had my rain-gutter covers removed because they did not keep out small debris. These covers had two rows of slots that got plugged up with fine stuff from my trees. Is there some type of gutter cover that will work better?

I prefer screen-type gutter covers to keep out the fine stuff such as needles, seeds, and buds dropped from both evergreen and deciduous trees. One type of screen that is virtually impervious to any debris consists of two layers, one with a fine mesh much like insect screen. These screens are sold at some Lowe’s stores (www.lowes.com). Single-layer screens with relatively fine mesh are available at www.gutterscreen.net. All screens I have used do need some maintenance to keep them open, because fine debris can accumulate on top of the screening. I brush off my screens once or twice a year.

Dear Gene: Our unpainted concrete garage floor looks awful as a result of oil drips and various other stains. Can we paint it? Is there a product that will prevent future staining and make cleaning easier?

The floor can be painted, but the preparation (cleaning and possibly etching) will be difficult if the floor is badly stained. You will also need a special paint suitable for garage floors — one that resists “hot-tire pickup,” in which vehicle tires can cause ordinary floor paints to peel. These paints also resist stains and simplify cleaning.

Epoxy garage-floor paints generally give best results. A new one that is easier to use than most epoxies is UGL’s Drylok E1 1-Part Epoxy Floor Paint (www.ugl.com). This is a water-based paint, and, unlike most epoxies, doesn’t have to be mixed with a hardener before use. Other good candidates, including tough two-part epoxies, are sold at many home centers and paint stores. Before buying any garage-floor paint, be sure it specifies that it resists hot-tire pickup, oil drips, and other stains that occur in many garages.

The paint container should give instructions for cleaning and preparing the floor and recommend specific cleaners. Etching might require the use of an acid wash that gives the concrete a slight texture and improves adhesion of the paint.

If you want to avoid the hard work of paint preparation, there is another option. Interlocking tiles made of tough plastic are available for garage floors. They cost considerably more than paint (typically $2.75 to $3 per square foot) but install easily without adhesive and look great. Spills are easily wiped up. The tiles can also be removed if you want to change patterns or take them elsewhere. Various colors are available.

Garage-floor tiles are widely available on the Internet. Sears (www.sears.com) is one source (click on Tools in the search space and type in “garage floor tiles”). Among other Web sites where tiles are available are www.gregsmithequipment.com and www.jmkproducts.com.

Dear Gene: We have a large butcher-block counter in our kitchen that is badly scratched and needs refinishing. Can you help?

Removing the scratches could be tricky. If they are deep scratches, a hand-held belt sander is the best tool — you can rent one at a tool-rental agency. Start with 80-grit sandpaper. If you have never used a belt sander, practice on scrap boards until you can remove wood evenly without gouging the surface. Always sand with the grain of the wood. For shallow scratches, an easier-to-handle finishing sander can be used. As the scratches disappear, switch to 120-grit sandpaper. The entire countertop should be sanded to expose fresh, clean wood. Applying a new finish is easy. Special butcher-block finish (also called salad-bowl finish) is sold at many home centers and woodworking stores. An online source is Woodcraft (www.woodcraft.com, item 124024). This is an oil finish that is wiped on the wood and allowed to soak in; excess oil is then wiped off. Mineral oil can also be used as a finish, but avoid vegetable oils, which become rancid. Add a new coat of oil about once a year to keep the counter looking good.

Correction: In a recent “quick tip” in my column, I said that a water-shutoff valve stuck in the open position could sometimes be freed by turning the handle gently counterclockwise with pliers. This will work if the valve isn’t fully open, but I should have said that the handle should be turned gently clockwise. “Gently” is the key word in this tip; if the valve handle still resists turning, give up and start thinking about installing a new valve.

Send questions and comments to Gene Austin at doit861@aol.com or 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Copyright © 2006 Gene Austin

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