Q: Our outside cement steps have been painted many times with a glassy paint; consequently, they become very slippery in wet and snowy weather. Our painter can offer no remedy. Can you suggest anything?
A: There are two things you can do. The next time you paint the steps you can mix a powdered additive with the paint to create a non-skid surface. Many paint stores sell this additive, as do marine supply outlets. You can also try using a less slippery, dull-finish latex deck paint instead of a glossy oil paint next time. However, sand the glossy finish before applying latex paint.
Q: Our 30-year-old brick house has casement windows. I have been having problems with two of these windows that have a lot of moisture around them. The plaster around each window is badly damage and stained. The windows have storm sashes. Caulking on the outside did not help. The plaster around the two windows in this room is bubbly and falling out.Could the moisture be coming from cracks in the brick on the outside, or do you have some other ideas?
A: I think the cause of your problem is moisture working its way into the wall from the outside. The amount of plaster damage you describe could not be due only to condensation or sweating. If the caulking has been checked and replaced where necessary, I suspect the trouble is in the mortar joints in the outside brickwork and tuck pointing may be required. Also check the flashing above the window frames to see if this needs repair or caulking and examine the gutter and the roofline above the windows to see if roof flashing or leaking gutters are allowing water into the walls from above.
Q: My roommate did me a favor and painted my room, but in doing so she also painted over two of the electrical wall outlets in the room. Now I am unable to get those outlet plates off the wall. Is there any way I can clean the paint from these outlets without electrocuting myself?
A: Use a knife or small chisel to cut around the outside of the outlet cover plate, scoring deeply enough to cut through the paint that is "welding" the plate to the wall. Next shut off all power to the outlet by pulling the appropriate fuse or curcuit breaker, then use the point of a knife or similar tool to scrape the paint away from the center of the plate in order to uncover the screw that is there.
When the screw head is exposed, dig the paint out of the slot in its head, then use a small screwdriver to take the screw out and remove the plate. Now you can scrape paint away from the receptacle on the inside. Small amounts of paint inside the slot where the plug is to go can be scraped out with a knife, but if there is a lot of paint inside these slots, the receptacle will have to be completely replaced.
Q: Our concrete porch floor has been painted many times by professional painters, but it begins to peel almost immediately after each such painting. The peeling occurs only in those spots where rain normally tends to puddle (this is an open screened porch). Other areas of the porch floor look fine and the paint does not peel. Each time the painters wire-brush off the old paint from that area, they wait until after a spell of dry weather before repainting.
A: Although you don't say so in your letter, it sounds to me as though you have been using oil paint or alkyd-base floor paint. The problem is that a certain amount of moisture saturates the concrete at that point. Days, or possibly weeks later there is still moisture on the inside (and in the ground underneath), and this causes the oil paint to peel. I think that if you repaint with latex deck paint you will have no problem.