Q: For years we have treated our dining room furniture with lemon oil. Now it is all sticky. How can we remove this stickiness, and what do we do to avoid it happening again?
A: First, try washing the oil off with a mild detergent solution. If it doesn't take the oil off you will have to wipe with paint thinner, using plenty of rags. When the oil is removed, switch to a good grade of furniture polish instead of straight lemon oil -- but apply it sparingly only about once or twice a year, and always rub off the excess. These polishes will not build up or get sticky the way lemon oil will.
Q: I live in an old apartment building that has ceilings that keep peeling when painted by the building painter. He paints over old peeling paint and crumbling plaster. I would like to hire my own contractor to scrape where necessary and then paint. Is it necessary to put shellac over the peeling areas after they are scraped, or will semigloss or flat enamel solve the problem?
A: Many conditions can cause paint to peel, and no one can tell you for sure the cause of your problem without examining the surfaces, and without knowing what has been applied before. More often than not the problem is due to poor preparation, or to something that is interfering with good bond. If you scrape all this defective material off, you will solve the problem, but only in that spot. It could still peel in spots that had not been scraped bare. I do not advise using shellac; a primer sealer is better for the first coat.