Handyman on Call
Solid wood is the best flooring
Q. I have looked at manufactured hardwood flooring, and found that it is a thin layer of hardwood covering low-quality interior wood. Why would anyone want to buy this sort of flooring? Your thoughts?
DAVE LACEY, Melrose
A. The answer is easy. Flooring is expensive these days and this manufactured wood, even prefinished, was dreamt up to save the consumer money. It’s both cheap and inexpensive, and appeals to speculators who want the cheapest material to put in their houses that they will sell in a few short years. That goes for the plastic laminates, usually warranteed for 15 years, which is nothing compared to real flooring. It is a boon to speculators, and maybe OK for homeowners who can’t afford anything else and want to stay in the house. The only good thing about the veneer wood is that it is prefinished. It cannot be sanded, but many buyers don’t care.
The best kind of flooring is solid wood. Softwoods, such as pine, are great as wide boards (preferably antique) in old houses or reproductions. Hardwood is also good, 5/8- to 3/4-inch thick, and prefinished, a very hard, baked-on finish. It can be sanded when necessary, at least three times, so in the long run it will last 100 to 200 years. Hardwoods come in many species. Oak, red or white, I think is a best buy, and not that expensive if you install it yourself. All you need is a nailing jig, sold or rented at hardware and big box stores, and a boxful of nails.
Q. I have a follow-up question about repointing masonry foundations. All I need is mortar mix and water for repointing a fieldstone foundation? I have been worried about using the wrong type of mortar and torpedoing my repair job.
JOE, in Hotton’s chat room
A. If your foundation dates to earlier than 1872, you need an old-fashioned cementless mortar (sand and slaked lime) that does not expand as much as Portland cement mortar. For a post-1872 foundation, regular mortar mix, made by Quikrete and Sakrete, will do. There is also a new mortar called Vinyl Cement Patch, which may stick better. For small jobs, buy Top’n Bond, which comes in 10-pound tubs. Be sure to dig out mortar as deep as practicable, and as wide as the joint. Don’t mix up too much mortar; it sets up in 15 minutes. You will be working slowly, and if you make too much, you may find the mortar has turned into a rock-hard lump.
Q. I have an oil-fired, 14-year-old boiler that is leaking water from one of the cast iron sections. It only leaks slightly when the boiler is running, not when it is idle. Would a boiler sealer work for this problem? If not, would a patch from the outside work? Or can I have someone come in and weld a patch on the area? Can you help?
DAVE CLIFFORD, Lynnfield
A. A boiler sealer might work, but I don’t understand why the company did not suggest a sealer. Otherwise, call the oil dealer, or the installers, or better yet, the boiler company. Fourteen years is mighty short for a named boiler.
(Dave called back to say, “They want to sell me a new boiler. They say it cannot be repaired.’’)
My goodness. Keep after them, especially the company. Is the boiler under warranty? If not, you still have a legitimate complaint.
Q. I am planning on painting this spring but I have a problem. Some candle wax found its way onto a section of painted drywall. I know the new paint won’t cover with the wax on it, but don’t have a clue how to take care of it. Can you help? The wax has been on for several months.
NANCY LUTHER, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
A. Age does not matter. First, scrape off as much wax as possible. Put a paper towel on the stain (tape it), and run a hot iron over it. The heat will melt the wax and will be absorbed by the paper. Repeat with a fresh towel. After several tries, you can clean the remaining wax, if any, with paint thinner. As an extra precaution, paint the wax stain with clear shellac, then repaint the walls. The shellac might block any residue of wax from bleeding through.
Globe Handyman on Call also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (email@example.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com.