Q: Some years ago we lined the insides of our kitchen cabinets with a self-adhesive, contact-type paper. We want to remove it, but cannot get it off. We have tried mineral spirits and a number of other suggested solvents, but they have not worked. Can you offer any solutions?
A: As far as a solvent for the adhesive on the back is concerned, rubber cement thinner, sold in artist supply stores, will usually work. If this fails, then acetone will almost certainly dissolve the adhesive. Both of these solvents are highly flammable, so when you work with them, make sure there are no open flames nearby and provide plenty of ventilation.
Also, you will have to peel or scrape some of the "paper" (it is actually a plastic) off before the solvent can work on the adhesive backing. Use a razor-type scaper, similar to the kind used for cleaning windows, if you cannot peel it off by hand.
Q: We have moss growing on the north side of our roof, as well as on some parts of our asphalt driveway that are almost always in the shade. How can we remove this moss without damaging or discoloring the shingles on the roof or damaging the surface of the driveway?
A: as a rule, the easiest way to remove moss and fungus growths is to wash the surface with laundry bleach and water. Mix one part liquid bleach (it must be fresh) with three parts water. Scrub the surfaces with this mixture, allow it to stand for 10 or 15 minutes, then flush it off with plenty of water. If you are worried about the possibility of color changes on the shingles, test first in one corner. If this does cause a problem, try washing the surfaces with a liquid household disinfectant instead of bleach, or use the type of fungicide sold for use in swimming pools.
Q: Our house has been painted five times on the outside over the past 25 years. The last time it began to peel noticeably -- mostly on the south side -- after about two years. Now, after four years, it is peeling all around. Only the most recent coat seems to be peeling. We have been told that this may be due to having used alkyd paint over latex, to moisture or to inferior paint. Where can we go to have the paint tested, or can you tell us what is wrong?
A: There are too many reasons for paint peeling to be able to go into all of them in a column such as this. Since only the last layer is peeling, I doubt if moisture could be the problem. It is also unlikely that it is caused by putting alkyd over latex.
However, it could be that the old surface was very dirty or chalky (powdery) -- this would keep the paint from adhering. Poor-quality paint could also be a factor, as could putting the paint on too thin, either because you tried to spread it too far or because you thinned it too much.
Some paint companies will analyze sizable chips of paint if you send them the chips intact, packed in cotton or tissue paper, Check with your local paint dealer for more information.
Q: I am planning to put insulation under the floor boards that cover my attic floor. The space under the boards is exactly six inches deep. Should I use batts or blankets that are six inches thick, or should I use batts that are slightly thicker (6 1/2 inches) and depress these to squeeze them into the space? Or should I buy thick (10-inch) batts and squeeze them in?
A: When you squeeze batts to a lesser thickness, you also cut their efficiency to some extent, because you cut down on the amount of air space inside the insulation. If you can get bats in that are slightly thicker this would be fine, but don't try to install those that are more than 6 1/2 or seven inches thick. Incidentally, since you have flooring down already, and apparently do not intend to pull it up, you are going to have to slide the batts in from one end. Thick ones will jam and may be impossible to slide into place, so try one first before you buy enough for the entire attic floor.