Before repainting a bathroom, wash the woodwork to remove any soapy residue — a common thing in bathrooms — and let the surfaces dry. (iStock)

Question: I have bathroom baseboards, cabinets and doors that were painted 14 years ago with Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo alkyd low-luster paint. What do I need to do to prep for repainting? Should I continue with alkyd or switch to latex? Once repainted, how long must I wait to take a steam-creating shower?

— Lancaster, Va


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Answer: Ashley Kinder, a spokeswoman for Benjamin Moore, recommended switching to the company’s Advance paint, a water-based alkyd.

The word alkyd is paint manufacturer lingo for the film-forming resin that used to be found in solvent-based paints. The resin made the traditional paints perform beautifully, but the solvents were blamed for contributing to smog, indoor air pollution and painters’ health problems. So manufacturers mostly switched to water-based paints with acrylic and vinyl resins. A few kept making alkyds, but air-quality laws in many states now limit sales. In Virginia, for example, you can still buy solvent-based Impervo, but generally only in quarts and only in low-luster. (The company stopped making the gloss formula a year ago and plans to phase out all of its solvent-based alkyds for interior woodwork, according to Kinder.)

Meanwhile, researchers kept looking for a way to keep alkyds but cut out the solvents. Advance paints are one result; Sherwin-Williams’s ProClassic paints are another.

Before you repaint, wash the woodwork to remove any soapy residue — a common thing in bathrooms — and let the surfaces dry. Lightly sand to dull the paint, and wipe away the residue. Then brush on a primer. Kinder recommended Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start Multipurpose Latex Primer, Fresh Start High-Hiding All Purpose Primer or Advance Primer. The fact that she recommended three products without singling out one probably means you could use any good-quality, water-based primer. If you are going for a dramatic color change, a high-hiding primer would work best.

Check the labels on the primer and the paint to see what the temperature and relative humidity need to be for each layer and how long you need to wait between coats. It’s generally quite a few hours longer than it takes for the surface to feel dry when you touch it. The Advance primer needs at least eight hours of cure time, and the Advance topcoat 16 — and that’s if the temperature and humidity are ideal. On a more humid or cooler day, it could take even longer.

Question: My husband and I live in a newly built townhome. We upgraded the flooring from carpet to engineered hardwood throughout. We are extremely disappointed with the quality. We are experiencing large gaps throughout where you can see the tongue of the flooring. We saw this from Day 1, and it has gotten worse. Our complaints to the builder have gone unanswered and unresolved. I would like to bring in a third party, someone impartial, for a professional opinion. Whom should I call?

— Fairfax

Answer: A lot can go wrong when wood flooring is installed. The manufacturer might have let its standards slip, or perhaps the installer didn’t take the time to let the flooring adjust to the temperature and humidity of the room, or there could be an underlying moisture problem. Because you have tried but failed to get help from the installer, your idea about calling in a wood flooring inspector makes a lot of sense.

The National Wood Flooring Association, a trade group representing all segments of the industry, from manufacturers to installers, offers a “find an inspector” service on its Web site, Inspectors who are listed have completed a training program, passed a written test, and submitted inspection reports that met the association’s criteria.

The inspector closest to your home is Tony Robison, with Consult Inspect Design in Woodbridge (714-269-5777; He is also vice chairman of the board of directors of the National Wood Flooring Association Certified Professionals. His minimum fee is $750. For that, you get an inspection and a written report, typically with photos, that documents his findings. “An inspection is not a call to action,” Robison said in an e-mail. “It will not require anyone to do anything. It provides the basis for further action (such as litigation) if necessary. However, a well-written report can encourage a reputable builder/retailer/installer to provide corrective action.”

In other words, you need to decide whether the floor is bad enough to warrant not just the inspection fee but possible additional legal costs. On the other hand, just getting the report might get the problem fixed. And if it shows that the problems are within industry standards or not so bad that you want to proceed to litigation, you should at least get some answers. And that’s probably better than glaring at the floor day after day and feeling cheated.

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