Do It Yourself

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By Gene Austin
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Saturday, December 13, 2008

Q: I want to paint my textured refrigerator to match other appliances, but I don't want to spray it. Can I use a brush? -- S. Ferguson

A: You can use a brush if you can find a brush-on appliance paint in the color you want, which will probably be difficult. Epoxy paint or all-surface enamel should also do the job, but the choice of colors is usually poor. Try paint stores and home centers in your area for an appropriate paint. A small roller with fine nap or a painting pad might give a smoother finish than a brush, but if you do use a brush, make sure it is of top quality. Follow the directions on the container, but the basic needs for preparing the surface are to clean it thoroughly, removing any grease or other contaminants, and to dull any gloss with 150-grit sandpaper. After sanding, vacuum the surface or wipe it with a sticky tack cloth.

Aerosol spray paints, which are often used for painting appliances, offer the best color choices. These paints can be tricky to use, and it is important to provide good ventilation and carefully mask or cover surfaces that might be marred by stray paint. It is also a good idea to practice using the paint on scrap wood or cardboard before trying it on an appliance. You can find detailed instructions for preparation and safety at http://www.krylon.com.

If the refrigerator is 10 years old or older, the best option is to replace it with an energy-efficient fridge in the color you want. The energy savings can be considerable and can pay for the appliance over time.

Another option, if painting seems too daunting, is to have it done by a pro.

Q: The electrical outlets in my 1949 home are so worn that plugs won't stay in them. I tried bending the prongs of the plugs slightly outward, but it didn't help. Is there anything I can do besides tearing out a lot of plaster to install new outlets? -- R.E.

A: You shouldn't have to tear out any plaster to replace an outlet. Turn off the current to your wiring and remove the cover plate from an outlet. The outlet is simply attached to a junction box with screws and can easily be unscrewed and pulled out of the box. The wiring is normally attached to screws on the sides of the outlet. Outlets aren't difficult to replace, but if you have any doubt about your electrical skills, it is best to hire an electrician.

Q: I have a 20-year-old pressure-treated deck that is in good condition. I stain it every year, but when it rains, some of the boards swell shut and the water doesn't drain well. When the wood dries, it shrinks again. How can I cut 1/4 -inch openings between the affected boards? -- P. Douglas

A: It might not be necessary to do any cutting. There appears to be two things wrong here. First, you should not have to stain the deck every year.

Top-quality semi-transparent stains should last two or three years before refinishing is necessary. Second, the stain you are using is apparently doing a very poor job of preventing water absorption in the wood. I think you should switch to a better-quality stain that contains a water repellent. The best stains usually cost the most, but are well worth the extra cost. A good water-repellent stain should keep the wood from absorbing water and solve your problem.

If you still want to cut openings between deck boards, you can do it with a portable circular saw. Set the blade depth to equal the thickness of the deck boards. Clamp or nail a straight board in place to guide the saw, and push the saw along the edge of the board you want to cut. In most decks, the wood shrinks enough in time that measures like this are not necessary.

Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to doit861@aol.com. Questions cannot be answered personally.


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