Q: I would like to paint louver shutters that are now finished with a walnut stain. Can you tell me which type of paint would be the best to use (latex, oil or lacquer and how best to apply it?
A: There really is no best type to use, but I would say that you would find an oil or alkyd base semigloss or satin finish enamel simplest to apply, and more durable than a latex. Make sure, however, that you remove all wax and polish, if any, and dull the gloss by sanding, if the old finish is shiny. You can use a brush, but louvers are much easier to finish by spray, if the equipment can be rented or borrowed. Aerosol sprays will also work fine-just be sure that if you are spraying you work in a well-ventilated room, and you cover the floor and nearby surfaces with plastic drop clothes to protect against drifting spray.
Q: The house we moved into two years ago has developed a problem with the paint in the living and dining rooms. The ceilings in these rooms develop fine cracks, then the paint starts to peel. The plaster underneath is not cracked. There is evidence that the previous owners had the same problem. How can we solve this problem before we repaint?
A: I think someone used the wrong kind of primer, or perhaps a heavy coat of glue or shellac (often used as sealers years ago). Either way, the only sure cure is to remove all the old paint down to the bare plaster and start over with a new primer and a new finish coat. The easiest way is to use a semi-paste paint remover. It will be expensive and time consuming, but it's the only way to eliminate future peeling.
Q: I once read that wallpaper could be cleaned with a wad of raw dough, but can't seem to findany substantiation of this. Does it work, or is there a better way to remove a water stain from a ceiling leak?
A: I've hear of the dough treatment, but really only for surface dust and light grease stains. Sometimes an artist's eraser works for surface dust and light stains. These will all be useless against a water stain. I know of no way to remove this successfully short of painting over it. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Mary Myers for The Washington Post