I Recently bought a new wood bread box and finished it with stain and varnish. Now any bread I put in the box absorbs the odor of the stain and varnish. I have aired the box in the sun, sanded most of the varnish off, and even coated the inside with a plastic sealer. Nothing helps. Do you have any other ideas?
A: Try one more thing: Clean the inside thoroughly, allow it to dry, then give it two thin coats of clear shellac. Shellac is a good sealer and it may work where what you tried did not.
Q: I live in a condominium that has a small kitchen but a rather large terrace. I would like to put an upright freezer out on the terrace. Can you tell me if the freezer would have to be enclosed in some kind of shed-type structure that would also have to be insulated?
A: I would normally suggest asking the manufacturer for his advice, but I know the company would say they don't recommend this. Your biggest problem will be to protect the unit from moisture and corrosion, so a waterproof enclosure of some kind is advisable. However, remember that the freezer needs air, so provide openings near the bottom and in the back, using louvers that will let in air, yet not permit water to enter. Also, make sure the doors to the enclosure are weather-stripped to keep out wind-driven rain and snow. I don't think insulation will be needed.
Q: The pipes for my hot-water heating system run across the ceiling of the basement before going upstairs to the radiators. I know these give off some warmth into the basement, but the water obviously loses some of its heat. Would I benefit from putting insulation on the ceiling of my basement, or form-wrapping the pipes with insulating tape?
A: Insulating the ceiling of your basement would help to keep the heat that is being lost from your hot-water pipes from working its way up through the floor, so this would probably keep the basement warmer. However, if the basement is already fairly cold, insulation would also help cut down on heat loss (through the floor) from the rooms above; this might help keep the upstairs a little warmer (but only if the basement is now quite cold).
On the other hand, covering the pipes with insulation will keep much of the best from these pipes from dissipating into the basement, and thus would make for a colder basement area. It would also mean more of the heat is delivered to the upstairs radiators, so the system would not have to run as long. It depends on whether you want more heat in the basement or in the upstairs areas.
Q: I was given an old wood chest that I plan to refinish. There is a small amount of rot on the bottom of the piece, and many wormholes in the frame. What has to be done to stop the progress of this rot, and will bringing the piece inside allow the beetles to invade my other furniture?
A: The rotted wood should be cut out and patched with new wood that is fitted in and glued into place. If there are still insects of any kind in the wood, they could invade other pieces of furniture inside the house, although it is by no means certain they are still in the wood. I advise fumigating the piece, or at least spraying it thoroughly with a good insecticide. Then leave it outside for some time to see if there are further signs of insect activity.