Q: We had quarry tile installed in the dining-kitchen area of our summer home. The tile setter suggested applying a mixture of half linseed oil and turpentine as a sealer. We put it down one evening before we left for a week so it would have plenty of time to dry. The following weekend it was still sticky and was uneven in appearance. We have tried to remove what remains by using detergent, ammonia and acetone. The acetone worked best, but even after several applications there are still uneven areas -- some shiny and some matte in appearance. Can you suggest something that will leave a uniform matte appearance, and can you tell us if we have lessened the sealing effect of the linseed oil?
A: As you have discovered by now, linseed oil is not much of a sealer for this type of floor. Quarry tile is porous, so anything you put on soaks in quickly and penetrates deep -- that is why you cannot get it all out. Acetone dissolves the oil, but it dries so quickly that unless you absorb or pick it up immediately, it soaks back in and dries before you can mop the dissolved oil off.
I suggest a water-wash, semi-paste remover over the shiny areas, mopping up 10 or 15 minutes and then washing with detergent. This will get most of the linseed oil out so the tiles will no longer be sealed (they were never really sealed anyway). Then apply two coats of a good quality stone sealer or terrazzo sealer (you can find these in most paint stores and from many stone dealers). Waxing is a good idea after the sealer dries, though this may give a little gloss.
Q: I intend to close my home for the winter months. I plan to drain all the pipes in the hot-water heating system, and place antifreeze in all the bowls and sink traps. What effect will leaving the house closed without heat have on the walls, wallpapers and furnishings?
A: In a cold climate leaving a house closed, without heat, can lead to problems with mildew and condensation on the inside. This could, and often does, adversely affect furnishings and walls, as well as things stored in the closets. That is why it is generally best to leave the heat on at its lowest setting (above freezing), and to arrange for someone to come in periodically to check the heating system and air the house.
Q: I have six inches of insulation above my ceilings, and there are several vents in the roof above this insulation. I can understand how these vents would help circulate air in summer, but do they serve any function in winter? Can I close them to conserve heat?
A: They serve a very important function in winter -- one that is actually more important than that of merely dispersing heat in the summer. In the winter the ventilation they provide (assuming they are of adequate size) helps prevent condensation on the cold underside of your roof.
If there were no vents, or if they were closed off, chances are condensation would form on the roof beams, sheathing and nails, and this would drip down onto the attic floor and the ceilings below. The result would be a lowering of the efficiency of the insulation (wet insulation loses much of its efficiency) and possible staining of plaster and even rotting of wood members.