Q: The floor in my dining room is covered with black and white 12-inch-square tiles that are either rubber or asphalt. The tiles are worn and tend to fade into one another when washed -- and heavy furniture with narrow legs makes indentations. I have cleaned this tile and it is now in need of a sealer or finish. Can it be sealed with clear high-gloss acrylic or urethane, and if not, how should it be treated?
A: Regardless of whether the tiles are asphalt or rubber, you cannot use any coating or sealer that is solvent thinned, so this eliminates nay type of urethane. You can use acrylic if it has a latex (water-thinned) base. The same is true for waxes and polishes -- use only emulsion types, not those with a solvent base. That is probably why the colors are bleeding into each other -- you must have used a solventbase wax or polish in the past.
Q: I have sliding windows and doors with steel frames and double insulating glass in each pane. Every winter the steel frames around these windows and doors get wet on the inside and water accumulates so much that it runs down and collects in puddles on the sill. These puddles eventually warp the wood and cause the paint to peel. Is this condensation, and if so, what can I do about it? Am I wrong in thinking that storm windows are unnecessary because I have insulating flass in the windows?
A: This week's Home Improvement column on the facing page discusses this problem and describes some solutions. But there is one other thing that also works on door frames and window frames of metal, and that is to apply some type of insulation to the frame itself. I have done so with some success, using the self-adhesive plastic foam that comes with an aluminum foil facing (sold in hardward stores for wrapping pipes). It comes in 1 1/2-inch rolls, and by cutting strips to the needed width and sticking them to the outside of the metal frames so that all exposed metal is covered, I found this eliminated condensation on the inside. It doesn't look great but it does work.
Q: We have recently had new butcher block counter tops installed in our kitchen, and are unsure about how to finish them. Linseed oil, lemon oil and mineral oil have all been suggested, as has polyurethane. What do you advise?
A: A lot depends on how you intend to use the counter tops. If you plan to cut food on them I advise either mineral or salad oil. Allow the oil to soak in, then rub off all excess. If you rub off all the excess, the flavor of foods will not be affected. And you should scrub clean and renew from time to time. If you won't be slicing food on them, I suggest a penetrating wood sealer. I do not recommend linseed or lemon oil in any case. Polyurethane or other varnish is fine if you will not be cutting on the surface; these scratch if used for cutting, so periodic sanding and reapplying will be necessary.