Q: The asphalt tiles in my den need waxing. I have tried many waxes, but as soon as alcohol is spilled on the floor, it develops white spots I am unable to remove -- yet they seem to disappear in time. Is there an alcohol-resistant wax I can use?
A: Unfortunately, the best waxes, and the ones that would have the most resistance to spills containing alcohol, are the solvent-based waxes that cannot be used on asphalt tile. You must use a water-emulsion wax. Many of these contain a shellac base, or something similar to shellac, and this is quite sensitive to alcohol (alcohol is the solvent for shellac). Also, shellac tends to turn white when it gets wet, which further contributes to your problem. I suggest you try several different brands of wax or floor polish (make sure the label says it can be used on asphalt tile) until you find one that is more resistant to staining than the others are. Even more important, make certain you wipe up spills promptly.
Q: We live in an old house that has oak floors with slats about 2 inches wide. In the recent humid weather some of these floorboards have begun to buckle and there is evidence that this has happened before (signs of extra nails having been driven in). When we step on these boards they go back down, but won't stay down. We were told that one of the floors got a drenching when a window was accidentally left open during a storm. Can you tell us what causes flooring to buckle in the same place, and what we can do to effect a cure?
A: Getting the boards wet would certainly be one likely cause, as would poor nailing in the first place, or warping and settling of the joists or the subflooring. Usually you can get the boards to stay down permanently by using long screws, rather than nails. These will require drilling of pilot holes first and the heads will have to be countersunk so you can cover them with wood plugs or with a matching-colored wood plastic. Make sure the screws go into the joists, and have someone (or several people) stand on the buckled boards to hold them down while you drive the screws in. If this fails, the warped boards will have to be cut out and those sections replaced.
Q: I recently repaired a piece of furniture with an epoxy glue and accidentally got some on the wood and nearby fabric. The stains that resulted keep sticking to everything that touches them. Is there any way to get this off?
A: Epoxy is a two-part adhesive that hardens completely when it cures. When it hardens, no readily available household solvent will dissolve or remove it. However, you say the residue is sticky. This means you apparently did not mix the two parts completely or you got only one of the parts on the wood and fabric. If this is the case, the uncured epoxy probably can be removed. Try using lacquer thinner or acetone -- either one should work. But remember, this also will remove any finish on the wood and may affect colors in the fabric; test first on an inconspicuous corner. These solvents are highly flammable and should be used with care.
Q: Many of the walls in my house are covered with vinyl. I find that whenever I remove any pictures or other decorative wall pieces, a fade mark remains on the wall covering. This means I can never rearrange my pictures. Do you have any suggestions?
A: You can rearrange pictures if you do so at frequent intervals. The kind of discoloration you describe only occurs when pictures have been hanging in one place for some time: if you move them frequently you won't have that problem. But since most people don't move pictures that often, your best bet is to hang them in such a way that they are not right against the wall. This will allow some light and air to circulate behind them and minimize the chances of discoloration. One trick that often works is to drive large rubber bumpers into the lower corners of each picture to hold the bottom edge away from the wall. Another is to put up the kind of rails that galleries use and hang pictures from these.