QI have stripped the finish from some old furniture and am ready to refinish. What tool should I use to apply the new finish: brush, foam or cloth? -- A. Karmans
AIt depends on what type of finish you want to apply. If you want to use regular polyurethane or varnish, I recommend a high-quality brush. I generally use a brush about 21/2 inches wide for most furniture refinishing. If you use an oil-based finish, the brush can have either natural bristles, such as China hog, badger and so forth, or synthetic bristles such as nylon. If you apply a water-based finish, use a brush with synthetic bristles only; natural bristles will swell up in water and perform poorly.
When applying polyurethane or varnish with a brush, a good procedure is to give a section of the surface a uniform coat, then immediately "tip it off," or smooth it, by running the tip of the brush over it.
Foam brushes are sometimes used to apply polyurethane and varnish, but I find it difficult to control the amount of finish picked up by the foam. These brushes tend to become overloaded and drip.
Some people, including many beginners, prefer to use wipe-on finishes. These can be applied with a soft, lint-free cloth such as a piece of an old T-shirt. Examples are Minwax's Wipe-On Poly and Danish oil. These give a thinner coating than most brush-on finishes.
Always read the directions and cautions carefully before applying any finish. With some wipe-on finishes, the cloths used for application must be spread out to dry before disposal. Crumpled rags still wet with solvents can spontaneously burst into flames.
One of the faucets attached to my washing machine leaks. Because it's on the second floor, the leak also damaged the ceiling below. I had the faucet replaced some time ago, but it is leaking again. Can you help? -- E. Wagner
You don't give many details about the leak, but I suspect it is either at the point where the faucet or valve connects with the supply hose to the washing machine, or at the valve stem (handle). In either case, you can probably stop the leak and guard against future leaks simply by tightening things up.
Washing-machine valves that are frequently opened and closed sometimes leak because the cap around the stem works loose. This type of leak can often be stopped by tightening the cap. A leak like this happened at our house, and we now keep a small adjustable wrench nearby to tighten the cap occasionally.
The hose connection can be tightened with pliers.
Remember that washing-machine valves should always be closed except when the washer is being used. If valves are left open, water pressure can cause hoses to burst. As an extra precaution, replace standard rubber hoses with flexible metal hoses that can resist high water pressure.
We have a beautiful wood floor in our kitchen that has been waxed, but not for several years. The floor is starting to look very dull, and we're debating whether to wax again or to use polyurethane. We'd rather not sand the floors. Any suggestions?
-- S. DiSalvo
Once a floor has been waxed, it is difficult to apply a surface finish, such as polyurethane, without sanding down to a fresh wood surface. Polyurethane will not adhere to wax. Even if the wax is carefully removed, traces will probably remain that could ruin a new poly finish. For this reason, most manufacturers of surface finishes -- polyurethane, Swedish finishes, moisture-cured urethanes -- recommend that the finishes not be waxed.
Since this floor has already been waxed, you might be able to restore a good appearance by using a liquid cleaner-wax combination. These liquid waxes, such as Wood Preen, are sold at many home centers and hardware stores. Be sure to buy a solvent-type product and not water-based. Solvent-based cleaner-wax products have a distinctive solvent odor, similar to that of turpentine. Read the directions and cautions carefully before using.
When the floor is waxed and buffed, it might be slippery. Use foam-backed throw rugs in high-traffic areas to improve traction and protect the waxed finish.
In response to a recent item on the many uses of the spray lubricant WD-40 and duct tape, reader Ken Winter of Cherry Hill, N.J., wrote that he can't decide which product is most useful, so he likes them both. "As we say around here: If it moves and shouldn't, use duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use WD-40. That philosophy has worked for many years."
Readers' questions and comments are welcome and should be sent to Gene Austin, Box 861, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions cannot be answered personally.