Q. We have large ceramic tiles at our entry. They look fine, but when it rains they get very slippery. Is there a remedy for this? -L. Schnell
A. Several companies make products designed to reduce slipping on wet tile surfaces. Many of these products can be used indoors or outside, and they are often touted for aprons around swimming pools, patios, entries and bathroom floors. Some products can also be used on slippery marble, smooth concrete and other floors. Basically, many of these products etch the surface to eliminate some of the glaze that causes slipping. Most manufacturers claim their products won't change the appearance of tiles, but I can't vouch for that or for the effectiveness of the slip-reduction.
Obviously, it takes a strong chemical to etch the surface of a tile, so all directions and cautions should be read carefully if you decide to try one of these products. I also recommend testing it first on an inconspicuous part of the surface to see whether you like the results.
The products are generally applied with a mop, allowed to work for a specified time, then thoroughly rinsed off. A couple of applications might be necessary. I haven't personally used any of these products, so this should not be considered an endorsement.
Q. I have metal kitchen cabinets that I would like to repaint. Do I have to remove the old paint first? -R. Forbes
A. It usually is not necessary to remove old paint as long as it is adhering well and is in good condition. Even some minor peeling often doesn't mean old paint needs to be removed. Simply scrape off the peeling stuff, sand the edges smooth, and prime any bare areas.
There is an exception to this, however: If the paint was applied before 1978, it might contain lead, and any scraping or sanding is a health hazard. If lead paint is suspected, buy a lead test kit at a home center or on the Internet (leadcheck.com is one source) and test the old paint. If the paint does contain lead, it should be removed only by a certified expert. Visit epa.gov/lead for details.
There are situations when old paint should be removed before repainting. These include severe peeling, cracking and chipping. Stains on sound paint are usually don't necessitate removal; they can be treated with a stain-killer primer and painted over.
Even if paint is adhering well and is in good condition, it is important to clean it well before repainting. Cleaning can normally be done with a solution of household detergent, followed by rinsing.
Q. I have oak kitchen cabinets that are stained a light honey color. I would prefer a much darker color. Is it appropriate to stain them a cherry-mahogany color? -Shoma
A. I think it would be mistake to stain the cabinets a dark color. Oak is an open-grained, easily recognizable wood with a natural light tone, and dark oak cabinets might look odd to some people. This could be a factor if you plan to sell the house, since many people seem to prefer light wood colors to dark ones. I have been asked many times how to convert dark wood to light but virtually never am asked for information on changing light to dark.
Quick tip: Several readers have offered suggestions for reducing traffic noise in a house built close to a busy highway. Mitchell Davis said he got good results from noise-reduction windows installed inside existing windows.
Information on the windows is available at soundproofwindows.com. The windows can be opened and closed, giving access to the regular windows. "They made a big difference for me," Davis said.
Leslie Wilder offered a tip that I especially like: "I have friends that live just a sidewalk away from busy Route 1," she said. "They built a wall of bookcases and filled them with books." The books, of course, serve as insulation to absorb and help block the highway noise.
Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422.