Q: The overhead garage door on my house is varnished, and this varnish is beginning to peel. Also, the wood is splitting and starting to turn black in spots. There must be five or six coats of varnish on the outside of this door (the inside is in excellent condition). Do you have any suggestions?
A: When the exterior wood surfaces are varnished, and in an exposed location, you will have to apply another coat at least once a year (sometimes twice a year). Before each coat is applied, a thorough sanding is advisable. From your description, I don't think this routine has been followed. When varnish cracks it lets moisture in and starts to peel -- and some woods turn black when they are exposed to continual moisture. Now you will have to strip all the varnish off to the bare wood, use a wood bleach to get rid of the dark spots, and then start again with at least three coats of varnish.
Q: The previous owners of our house had painted one of the bedroom windows shut so that we cannot open it now. The window was painted the same color as the walls. Is there any way of getting this window open?
A: Since the paint that is causing the problem was applied from the inside, you can do the job from inside. Force a stiff putty knife into the joint between the front of the sash frame and the edge of the stop molding that holds it in place. If you can't do this by hand, tap gently with a hammer or mallet. After the knife is forced in, wiggle it back and forth to break the seal. Then repeat this by working it up and down along each side until you break the seal along the full length of the sash frame.
If, after all this, you cannot move the sash, you may have to take the moldings off and lift the sash out of the window frame completely. Scrape the edges of both the sash and the frame to get all the excess paint off. Finish by spraying the channels and the sash edge with silicone lubricating spray.
Q: The white marble counter in my powder room has a yellow water stain on it. Can you tell me what to use to remove this stain?
A: Stains in marble are ususlly removed by using a poultice made by mixing a solvent or bleach with powdered chalk (sold in paint stores and called whiting). The type of solvent or bleach you use depends on what caused the stain. For most stains, mix some peroxide hair bleach with the powder to form a thick paste, and spread this over the stain. Add a few drops of ammonia, then cover immediately with a piece of plastic food wrap and allow to stand overnight. If the stain is much lighter but still remains, repeat the process. If this doesn't take the stain out, it may be rust, and for this you can try a liquid rust remover. After the stain is out the marble may be dull -- if so, the luster can be restored with paste wax.