I am contemplating painting the exterior of our home (which has wood siding) myself rather than hiring a professional.

Do you have any tips for a novice painter? -- L.M.B.

Proper preparation of the surface before painting is often the key to success. If the surface has been painted before, you will need to scrape off peeling, cracked or bubbled paint. Sand to smooth the surface.

Wash with a solution of trisodium phosphate and warm water (1 to 2 cups of trisodium phosphate for every quart of water). If the old paint is still glossy, sand it for better adhesion. Be sure to use a primer on any bare wood or rough spots that may appear on the surface. Repair surface defects. Use spackling paste or ready-to-mix powder to fill small cracks and holes.

Avoid the following:

Painting in damp weather.

Painting in cold weather.

Using poor quality paint.

Failing to mix the paint as directed on the container.

Applying the paint too thickly or too thinly.

Allowing insufficient drying time between coats.

Not using a primer when the manufacturer advises it.

Painting too often.

Last year during the rainy season our roof leaked. After we had the roof fixed, we used several coats of paint to cover the stain left on the ceiling by the water. With time the stains have reappeared. What can we do to get rid of the stains? -- G.C.

The staining is caused by silt and grease embedded in the plaster. First sand and scrape the area to make it as smooth as possible. Then seal the stained area with two coats of aluminum paint or shellac. When dry, you can reapply the original color.

My vinyl floors have become dingy and yellowed. Do you have any recommendations on how to clean these floors and restore the natural color? -- K.G.

Use plenty of wax stripper to get the old wax up. Let the stripper set until your fingernail tells you the wax is loose.

Take it up with a squeeqee and dustpan and rinse the floor with clear water and a little vinegar.

Repeat this process if it is necessary.

Let the surface dry thoroughly. Then rewax the whole floor.

From now on, wax only in heavy traffic areas.

I am remodeling my kitchen and plan to install new flooring.

I would like to use vinyl, but I am concerned about dents from our breakfast table and chairs on the new flooring. Do you have any suggestions on how to prevent this? -- S.L.

Most floor-covering or hardware stores or even furniture stores sell a variety of furniture glides that attach to almost any style leg. This will help protect your new flooring.

Often the more resilient (cushiony) the floor covering, the more subject it is to dents and spike heel marks.

Occasionally, whatever underlays the vinyl or improper installation is to blame. inquiries to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the colum