Q. I have aluminum awnings that are about 20 years old. The finish is fading and I want to paint them this summer. Can you tell me if a primer is needed and what type paint I should use?
A. If the old finish is not peeling or flaking, you probably do not need a special primer. Some latex paints are designed especially for use on aluminum siding: One of these would probably be excellent. Or you can use a latex exterior trim paint. Be sure the surface is thoroughly cleaned first, and rub off heavy coatings of oxidation before applying the first coat.
Q. About five years ago we had a linoleum-type floor covering put down on our kitchen, family room and utility room floors. Less than a year it started to discolor. I complained to the store, and after they inspected it they told me it was due to moisture seeping up through the concrete slab floor under it. Since then the discoloration has gotten worse, the seams are starting to come apart, and we have to replace the flooring. What is safe to put down -- assuming that moisture is actually causing the problem?
A. If you really have moisture coming up through the slab, that condition will have to be corrected before any floor covering will stay down. Some vinyls are more resistant to slight amounts of moisture than others, but no manufacturer will guarantee their material if there is a moisture problem. You can make a simple test by placing a sheet of plastic flat on top of one of the open seams and taping it down firmly around all four sides. Leave it there for about 24 hours, then pick it up to see if moisture or condensation has formed under it. If so, there is a moisture problem; if not, chances are you can apply a sealer and put down a new floor after ripping up the old material.
Q. We stripped a beautiful oak table, then rubbed pure linseed oil into the raw wood. Now the wood is very dark and has turned a muddy brown color. Can anything be done to restore its original beauty?
A: You will have to start over and use a semipaste remover to strip the wood bare again. If the wood is still too dark, use oxalic acid crystals to bleach it. Mix the crystals with hot water to make a saturated solution (keep adding crystals until no more will dissolve), then mop on and allow to dry. Rinse off with clear water and wipe dry.
Q: Our bathtub and kitchen sink were painted with a semigloss acrylic enamel. The paint has bubbled and chipped, but I cannot seem to get it all off. How can I get the rest of it off without using something harmful to my lungs?
A: You can safely use a chemical paint remover if you buy a water-wash, nonflammable type and follow the commonsense precautions given on the can. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands and work in a well-ventilated room if the fumes bother you.
Q: I recently bought an old house that has a concrete basement floor. It was so dusty that I could not clean it, so I had four inches of new concrete poured. After a week or so it started to get dusty again, but this time not as bad. Is there a coating or paint I can apply that will keep the concrete from becoming so gritty?
A: Some dusting or powedering is to be expectged on a concrete floor, but this should soon lessen. However, there are a number of clear sealers or coatings you can buy in a paint store or a masonry supply house that can be applied to masonry floors to help seal them and minimize dusting. Or you can apply two coats of a latex-base deck paint -- this, too, will stop the dusting and make it a lot easier to keep the floor clean.