Do It Yourself

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By Gene Austin
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Saturday, January 31, 2009

Q: Our white kitchen countertop, made of plastic laminate, is stained from spills of things like red wine, curry and fruit juice. How can I clean it? -- T. Pereira

A: Try to remove the stains with a household cleaner such as Fantastik All Purpose Cleaner or Pine-Sol. After applying some cleaner to a stain, scrub with a nylon-bristle brush or vegetable brush, and then rinse with clear water. Use water sparingly near seams, which can absorb water and cause the countertop's substrate to swell.

If one of the cleaners mentioned doesn't work, you can try chlorine bleach, which is normally not recommended for plastic laminates such as Formica.

Bleach should not be used on colored laminates. Add about a tablespoon of bleach to half a cup of warm water and test a little of the solution in an inconspicuous place to see whether there is any fading or other unwanted effects.

If not, sponge some of the solution on one of the stains. Give it a few minutes to work, and if the stain does not begin fading, wipe off the bleach with a rag soaked in plain water. Rinse the area thoroughly to remove all traces of bleach.

The best solution for stains, of course, is to prevent them by using protective covers on much-used areas of the counter, such as inexpensive place mats, cutting boards or trivets. Additional stain protection can be had by applying a cleaner-polish such as Gel-Gloss, sold at some home centers and online, which spreads a thin coat of wax on the surface.

My home has a concrete floor. Several years ago maple flooring was glued directly to the concrete. The floor has buckled in several places. If it is re-glued, will I continue to have problems? -- J. Kaplan

Gluing a solid hardwood floor directly to concrete is often asking for trouble of the type you are experiencing.

Moisture causes wood to expand, and so many things must be done just right to get a good installation on concrete.

Just a few requirements are that the concrete slab must be perfectly dry, flat and level; the wood should meet strict standards for dryness; and humidity conditions in the house must be favorable. Most solid hardwood floors also require that a vapor barrier and a subfloor of plywood or properly spaced wood supports be installed over the concrete.

Engineered wood floors, which have a plywood core, are less sensitive to moisture than solid wood and are less likely to cause problems when installed directly over concrete, but considerable expertise is needed even for these.

For more information on the requirements for a successful installation, visit http://www.hardwoodinfo.com and type Hardwood Floor Installation Over Concrete in the search space. Scroll down the list of articles until you reach one with the title you entered.

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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