Do It Yourself

Maintaining waxed oak floors: Stick with the finish you've got

By Gene Austin
Friday, January 7, 2011; 8:50 AM

Q. My house was built in the 1960s and has beautiful oak floors that were given an oil finish, then waxed. I have been re-waxing them regularly on my hands and knees, but can't keep that up. I want to switch to a polyurethane finish for the floors. Is that feasible? -V. Battaglini

A. It is not practical to switch to a polyurethane finish because I doubt there is a way to remove all that wax and oil from the floors without ruining them. However, a moderate investment in a power buffer will get you off your hands and knees.

Polyurethane will not adhere to wax, and even small traces of wax can mar a new polyurethane finish. In addition to the oil and wax that penetrated the surface of the wood, some has probably gone even deeper into the joints between the boards and into any tiny cracks in the surface. Plus, many experts think wax is the best of all floor finishes.

With proper equipment, wax can be beautiful, easy to repair and relatively easy to maintain. You can buy a power buffer, which can be used while standing, for about $150, although some buffers cost much more. For equipment, check home centers in your area and the Internet.

You should follow directions for your buffer, but in general it is best to use a solvent-based liquid wax or cleaner-wax. You can tell if a wax has a solvent base by smelling it; solvents have a distinctive odor that is lacking in those that contain water. It is best to work on a small area at a time. You will know when it is time to move to the next area when you get the lovely glow that is characteristic of waxed floors.

Q. What paint should be used for flat and shingled roofs? -Tommy

A. Flat roofs are generally coated with a bright white or aluminum coating that reflects sunlight and helps cool the space under the roof. These roof coatings are especially popular in hot climates, where they can help reduce cooling costs, but they are also used in other climates. Some coatings contain fibrous material that gives some protection to the roof surface. Roof coatings of this type are sold at home centers and are generally applied with a roller.

Coatings or paint for shingled roofs, especially the asphalt shingles used on most residential roofs in the United States, are more controversial. Some painters say asphalt shingles can be successfully painted. An elastomeric paint or roof coating is sometimes recommended; these have some flexibility to help deal with the temperature changes that affect roofs. Other sources say a high-quality acrylic-latex paint can be used.

Behr, a leading paint manufacturer whose products are sold at Home Depot, makes a roof paint that Behr says can be used on a variety of roofing materials, including asphalt shingles, tiles, metal and composition roofing.

However, some painters warn against painting shingles and say any paint is likely to chip and need frequent maintenance. If a shingled roof is in good condition and is simply faded or a color change is wanted, painting might be a worthwhile option. If a roof is stained, it should be cleaned before painting is attempted. And if a shingled roof is in poor condition, I think it needs new shingles, not painting.

QUICK TIP: Candle-wax spills on carpets are a common holiday-season accident. If the carpet is an expensive one, the best bet is to call in a carpet pro to remove the wax. For others, here is an often-recommended method.

Start by very carefully scraping off as much of the wax as possible with a dull kitchen knife. Next, make a pad of several layers of white paper towels and cover the stained area. Move a warm (not hot) laundry iron over the paper towels for only a few seconds at first; the object is to melt the wax so the towels can absorb it. Keep checking the results and putting a fresh towel surface on the stain each time. Always keep the iron moving. When most of the wax has been absorbed, blot the residue with a solvent such as Goof Off Heavy Duty Spot Remover and Degreaser or Goo Gone (these solvents are sold at some supermarkets and home centers).

Always test any solvent on an inconspicuous area of the carpet. Finally, clean the stained spot with a clean cloth moistened with warm water containing a little dishwashing detergent.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422.

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