Q: We recently had the parquet wood floor in our dining room refinished but the cracks between the boards were never filled properly. Everything I use to fill these cracks comes loose. Is there anything I can use that will be permanent?
A: I don't know of anything. Since floor boards always "give" to some extent, hard fillers will crack out in time. Flexible fillers attract dirt and will often pull away from the boards.
Q: I recently pulled some growing ivy off the side of my house, which is covered with aluminum siding.The problem is that now there are marks where the ivy had originally attached itself to the siding. How can I remove these marks?
A: This question comes into my office frequently and, unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Whether the marks are left on brick, stucco, wood or - as in your case - aluminum siding, the only way I know to get the marks off is with mechnical abrasion; in other words, by scraping, sanding or similar means.
In your case this may also mean damaging the finish on your siding. I suggest you try to rub the spots off with a fine abrasive pad of the kind used on Teflon pots. This should get the marks off, but it may dull the finish. Wax will help restore the luster. If a coarser abrasive is required, you may be faced with a repaint job.
Q: The house we have just bought has a kitchen with pink Formica tile on the walls. I am not keen on having a pink kitchen and would like to change the color of the tiles without removing them. Any suggestions?
A: I'm not sure what you mean by Formica tiles, but I assume you mean the walls have some kind of plastic tile on them. In most cases these can be painted, but you will have to test first in one corner to make sure the paint won't react unfavorably with the particular type of plastic on the walls. I recommend washing the tiles thoroughly with strong detergent, then allow them to dry completely. If they are still glossy, dull the gloss by sanding lightly with fine-grit paper. Use a pigmented shellac-base primer and sealer for the first coat. Let this dry for about one hour and apply enamel in the color of your choice, using either high gloss or semigloss. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Bethann Thornburgh for The Washington Post