Question: How can I remove stains around the drain of a bathroom sink?
Answer: The stains are probably mineral deposits, left because water repeatedly pooled around the drain and evaporated, leaving the crusty ingredients behind. A variety of bathroom cleaners claim to eat through mineral deposits, but it’s easy and quick to scrub them away with a damp pumice stone. Sold as Pumie Scouring Stick at home centers and hardware stores, this solution costs just a few dollars and doesn’t involve any nasty chemicals. Just wet the stick and rub back and forth, being careful not to scrape against the metal drain ring. A gray paste will build up. Rinse that down the drain and you should see a clean white sink.
Question: Our house, about 50 years old, still has its original double doors. They were badly painted and are starting to blister due to direct sunlight now that we have taken down some trees in the front yard. We are thinking about replacing the doors but were told that it is virtually impossible to obtain solid wood doors anymore. A door salesperson said that these days, doors are composites due to the shortage of wood. So my question is: Can you buy solid wood doors that won’t send you into bankruptcy?
— Falls Church
What you heard is right: Most of the “solid wood” exterior doors sold these days are made with some type of manufactured wood covered with veneer. True, they are wood all the way through. But it’s not straight-from-the-tree lumber. You can still find doors made the traditional way, but you’ll need to go to a custom woodworking shop or a door company that does custom manufacturing. And even then, you’re likely to be discouraged from buying unless you opt for wood that is especially stable, such as mahogany, a pricey rain forest tree.
Most lumber available today comes from relatively young trees, so it’s prone to twisting and cupping. Combining layers of the wood, though, results in doors that stay flat.
Manufacturers use slightly different systems, but the common elements are an engineered wood core and veneer surface layers. At House of Doors in Alexandria (703-751-9000; www.houseofdoors.com), workers in a 10,000-square-foot factory build up the frame pieces of a door starting with a core that consists of thin strips of wood layered like plywood. They glue solid wood banding over each side, then add veneer — the wood you see — to the front and back. The veneer typically starts about 3 / 16 inch thick and sands down to about ¼ inch, thicker than the layers in most plywood.
“There was a time when we built doors purely out of plain, solid timbers,” said Pete Tideman, a 23-year employee at House of Doors. “But for a long, long time now, we do like to use an engineered core with veneer, especially for the perimeter pieces. It reduces the incidence of twisting and swelling.”
If a customer wants a door made from solid timber, House of Doors will make it. “But we try to discourage it because we know from experience that the engineered core is better,” Tideman said. As the service manager, he’s seen the difference himself. “The older doors do things that the newer doors do not.”
At House of Doors, the installed price of double doors about five feet wide starts around $5,000. That’s for paint-grade veneers. Add windows or opt for veneers suitable for a clear finish, and the price rises.
If you’re set on using natural lumber and don’t relish someone trying to talk you out of that, you have a few options. For new doors, check out Virginia Mountain Woodworks in Independence, Va. (276-768-7710; www.virginiamountainwoodworks.com) Craftsmen there build doors with traditional mortise-and-tenon construction. The shop recommends using South American mahogany but has also had durable results with white oak. A single basic exterior door starts around $1,000, but high-quality mahogany doors with arched panels, raised moldings or other detailing go as high as $10,000.
Or you could just refinish the existing doors or trade them in for other old doors that are in better shape. For those, shop at a company that specializes in salvaged building materials, such as Community Forklift in Edmonston (www.communityforklift.org).
If you do keep your old doors or invest in new ones, Judy Wiegand, a spokeswoman for Virginia Mountain Woodworks, recommends adding a porch roof or awning to shade the doors and protect them from weather, just as your trees used to do. “A new entryway can add thousands to the dollar value of a home,” she said in an e-mail. “So it is smart to add some protection to keep it in good shape for a long time, and reduce the required maintenance.”
Have a problem in your home? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.
The Checklist: Read Jeanne Huber’s month-by-month roundup of home-improvement tasks at washingtonpost.com/home.