The right flooring for a coastal getaway

A reader’s weekend and holiday house is three miles from Bethany Beach, Del.


A reader’s second home in Delaware. (Reader photo)
August 13

Question: We bought a small ranch house three miles from Bethany Beach, Del., in 2007. The house, which we use on weekends and holidays, came with light beige wall-to-wall carpeting. After lots of guests and two dogs, it’s now in desperate need of replacement.

I’ve gone to flooring stores, but get overwhelmed by the choices: laminate (good for our dogs but bad for resale?); wood (so many different kinds and price points, bad for dogs, not good for areas near a beach?); engineered wood (what is that?); tile?; bamboo? Different carpet (yuck)? What is the best flooring for this near-the-beach house?

— Chevy Chase

Answer: A floor that’s easy to sweep, mop or vacuum, depending on the level of grime, seems like the best fit. You and your guests want to enjoy your time at this house. You don’t want to scold people for traipsing in after expeditions to the beach. Nor do you want to spend much time cleaning.

You might want to focus on the types of vinyl that manufacturers market as “luxury vinyl.” Available as planks, tiles and sometimes sheets, it comes in styles that mimic hardwood, stone or ceramic tile. The designs are high-definition photographs of actual wood, stone or ceramic tiles, so the resemblance is very close. The photo layer is topped with a thick, clear layer that resists scratches and stains. Most spills wipe up with just warm water. Installing vinyl that looks like pricey tropical hardwood flooring could seem a little odd in an informal, simple house. Many of the designs that look like stone or ceramic tile look less pretentious.

If you don’t like the idea of vinyl or can’t find a style you like, other good options include bamboo, which is harder than most hardwoods, and stone or ceramic tile, provided you choose a style that’s slip-resistant and rated for use as flooring. Instead of spending several weekends looking through samples at home centers or flooring stores, you might want to browse through the design sections of manufacturers’ Web sites, such as www.armstrong.com and www.mohawkflooring.com.

Skip carpet, if for no other reason than that it makes you say yuck. Traditional hardwood flooring isn’t a great choice, either; to keep it in good shape, you’d need to be too protective of it. Laminate, which is very tough and therefore sometimes recommended for houses with dogs, can be so slick that dogs slide around on it. And if it does get scratched from beach sand and dogs, there’s no way to repair it.

Question: I have a Ridgeway grandfather clock that loses about five minutes a day. I have adjusted the pendulum to the max but it is still slow. What can I do to fix it myself?

— Chantilly

Answer: The length of the pendulum, as you suspect, is what controls the speed of the clock. The shorter the pendulum, the faster the clock runs; the longer the pendulum, the slower it runs.

When you say you’ve adjusted the pendulum “to the max,” are you certain you have turned the adjustment nut in the right direction? Turning it counter-clockwise makes the pendulum shorter, which is the adjustment you need. If you’ve turned the adjustment nut the correct way and as far as it will go, it’s possible the pendulum wasn’t installed correctly. To see the installation instructions, check the downloadble manual on the Ridgeway Web site, www.ridgewayclocks.com.

If you still can’t find the problem, one solution is to turn to a professional set of eyes. Three authorized service centers near you are the Potomac Clock Shop in Gaithersburg, Md. (301-990-2460; clockdoctor.buck@gmail.com), Kensington Clock & Watch Repair in Kensington, Md. (301-942-3794; kensingtonclock@verizon.net) and Eastern Standard Time in Purcellville, Va. (540-338-3959; easternstandardtime@gmail.com).

Don Buck, owner of the Potomac Clock Shop, suspects that your clock may just need cleaning and oiling. “Once a clock begins losing time after running properly, the problem is due to an increase in friction of one type or another — wear, gummy oil, etc.,” he said in an e-mail. Cleaning involves taking the movement apart, polishing (on a lathe) the steel rods that hold the gears and repairing the brass plates. Oiling, which he recommends every three to five years for modern clocks, helps prevent wear on the steel rods and brass plates. His fees range from $175 for clocks with time and strike movements to $350 for Westminster clocks and $425 for triple-chime clocks with three tunes — plus travel fees. Repair people make house calls for grandfather clocks, since moving the clock would throw things out of adjustment.

Of course, whether a clock center is authorized to work on Ridgeway clocks really only matters if the warranty is still in effect. Ridgeway’s warranty on floor clocks lasts two years — and only for the original owner and only when there is a receipt or other proof of purchase. If you’re covered, contact the company at 616-772-9131.

Assuming a warranty isn’t in effect, another solution would be to connect with the Horological Association of Virginia (www.havhome.org), an affiliate chapter of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. The club offers regular meetings where you can ask enthusiasts for help. One of the guilds associated with the chapter sponsors clock-repair classes in Fairfax starting in September and December; see the association’s Web site for more information.

Have a problem in your home?

Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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