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Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006 08:26 am

Paint your cracks

Ways to camouflage defects in a plaster walls

Our house has plaster walls with many minor cracks. Is there a special paint that will camouflage these cracks? I can’t afford to replace the walls.

Texture paint, a heavy-bodied paint that leaves a much thicker coating than regular paint does, will conceal some blemishes in walls or ceilings — but if the cracks widen the paint will also crack.

Another treatment that you might want to consider is Nu-Wall. The manufacturer claims that it will restore cracked plaster walls and ceilings. In this system, the walls are covered with a heavy-duty liner that can be painted or wallpapered. For more information, go to thewarnerco.com/global/html/nuwall.htm.

We have white kitchen cabinets that are only 10 years old. The doors are made of particleboard with a covering that appears to be vinyl. Some of the doors have taken on a yellow tint. How can we restore a uniform color?

One option is to paint the doors — or the entire cabinets. The particleboard is probably coated with melamine, a thin plastic that is often used to cover inexpensive furniture, cabinets, and shelving. To paint melamine successfully, the surface has to be carefully prepared. Your best bet is to paint a small, inconspicuous area as a test to see whether you like the effect, then wait a month or so to make sure that the paint adheres.

If you decide to paint, clean the surfaces with an ammoniated household detergent or a solution of TSP (trisodium phosphate, sold in paint stores). Do not get water on any uncovered particleboard — it will swell up. Rinse by sponging with clear water.

Doors should be removed and laid flat to paint, and all hardware should be removed.

In most cases, the surface must be either sanded lightly or primed to improve adhesion. If you choose to sand, use 150- or 200-grit sandpaper, which will degloss the surface but not break through the melamine if care is used. To prime, use a glossy-surface primer such as B-I-N or Kilz, or ask at paint stores for any special primers for plastic. There are also some special melamine paints, although they are difficult to find, but you should inquire about them at your local paint stores. If you can’t find a special paint, use high-quality acrylic-latex enamel.

Another option is to replace the doors with solid-wood doors, which can be painted to match the rest of the cabinets. Many kitchen-renovation contractors can replace cabinet doors, or you can do it yourself. One door source is the Web site www.newdoors.com.

Can you give me any information about the effectiveness of ozone-type air cleaners?

Consumer Reports had an in-depth report on this topic in the magazine’s issue for October 2005. The article included test results and ratings for many room-size and whole-house air cleaners. Some public libraries have files of this magazine, and anyone considering the purchase of one of these machines would do well to read it. I won’t give specifics, but the title, “Air Cleaners: Some Do Little Cleaning,” might pique your interest.

You should also be aware that high concentrations of ozone — the gas produced by some air cleaners — can be an irritant to people with respiratory problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov) has a number of reports on ozone, including one titled “Ozone-Generating Air Cleaners and Indoor Air Chemistry.” Although it concedes that some air cleaners restrict ozone to acceptable levels, the EPA report adds, “Tests . . . clearly demonstrate that these devices are capable of producing ozone concentrations well above those of accepted health guidelines.”

Quick tip: A reader reports excellent results in removing pet stains from carpets with Woolite Pet Stain and Odor Remover. “It works great to remove both pet and nonpet stains from my carpeting, no matter how long the stains have been there,” he said. “Follow the directions, and the stains come right out.” Before trying any carpet cleaner, test it in an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t leave a stain of its own on the carpet.

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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