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HANDYMAN ON CALL

Use heat to soften the glue under laminate cabinet facing

Q. I refaced my kitchen cabinets 20 years ago with laminated plastic. Now I want to take off the plastic and refurbish the original cabinets. How can I take that plastic off the flat unpaneled doors and drawer fronts? And how can I get rid of any glue that remains? JOE DeMARCO, Medford

A. Heat will do it. Some people put a flat iron on high or medium high heat, but you may be better off with a hair dryer. A hot-air gun is too hot for safe use indoors. Start heating a corner, and try to pry up an edge with a wide putty knife or chisel. As the plastic yields, keep moving the dryer to soften more glue. Edges should yield quickly.

To get rid of the glue, which is pretty thin, use chemical paint stripper, such as Citristrip . This is a mild stripper, and if it doesn't work you will have to go to Stripeeze or 5F5, a stronger stripper. Use lots of ventilation when working with any kind of stripper. If the old contact cement is very hard, sanding might remove it, too.

Q. Are there any drawbacks of tiling over old ceramic tile with new ceramic tile on a kitchen floor? MARK WALSH, Hansen

A. One drawback is added weight. Most floors are more than sturdy enough to handle one layer of ceramic tile, two may be the straw to break the camel's back. Check with an engineer to determine this. The second drawback is raising of the floor, which might interfere with doors and their ability to open. And, a raised floor could trap a dishwasher installed under the counter. That is easy enough to check, and doors can be trimmed to accommodate a higher floor.

If you are able to apply new tiles, put them down with a thin-set mortar.

Q. Scrapes on the bottom of my fiberglass Whirlpool tub are showing brown under the finish. How can I cover or disguise them? NANCY HANA, Morgan Hills, Calif.

A. You can do a temporary fix by applying appliance touch-up paint. Several coats are better than one. Short of that, you could have a fiberglass fabricator redo the tub.

Q. I am trying to put up a boxed shelf on the wall, one that looks pretty thick but is actually hollow. Trouble is, the dry wall is too thin and the molly bolts tend to enlarge the holes made in the dry wall, making them hopelessly loose. Any good ideas? ROBIN PHILLIPS, Brockton

A. The dry wall may be very thin, but this may not be a disadvantage. Drill holes for the molly bolts, to fit snugly but not so snug as to enlarge the hole. Hold the shelf in position and drive in the bolts, being careful not to move the shelf because that will enlarge the holes.

Another idea: Position the shelf so that one fastener can be driven into a stud with a long screw instead of a molly bolt. Then the other end that requires a molly bolt will not have as heavy a load to carry.

Finally, glue will do it. Gorilla Glue is a new adhesive that claims to glue anything to anything. Or, use phenolic vinyl adhesive caulk (PhenoSeal is one brand name). Be warned: Either of these glues will hold so well that when you go to take down the shelf someday, it will take part of the wall with it .

Q. My vinyl replacement windows, installed 12 to 13 years ago, are tight in their frames and very hard to open. Will WD-40 make them work better? FRANCES BUCKLEY, North Adams

A. A little lubrication won't hurt. Even better is to open the window and rub wax on the jamb. Windows must be tight enought to resist the weather, but loose enough to move. If the sash are installed in a wood frame, the wood took up moisture and expanded, tigthtening the windows even more. In winter, the wood will probably dry out and the windows will be looser, it is fervently hoped.

If the sash remain tight, and intolerably so, then the only solution is to take out the windows and plane down one side of the frame (the jamb) so the sash will be looser -- but not too much.

How a door loosened up

Speaking of tight windows (and doors), B.D. of Winthrop e-mailed the Handyman with this tale of how a steel door remained tight for too many years.

A few weeks ago you wrote that storm doors do not belong covering steel doors. Twenty-seven years ago there was a storm covering a steel door on my house. When I renewed the storms on my windows, I also did the doors. For 27 years it has been a battle every winter to close and lock the steel door. Now after reading your piece, I drilled two holes top and bottom of the storm door. Within two days the steel door was closing easier. Now after a few weeks the door closed like it it does in summer. I will keep the storm for screen in good weather. Again, my thanks.

And thanks to you, B.D. I suggested drilling holes in the storm to reduce heat buildup between the doors, but it also must have, for you, reduced water vapor, drying out the frame around the steel door and making it contract, and the door easier to open, close, and lock.

Q. My neighbor has cows that are fenced in near to our house. I don't mind them at all and the wind blows in the right direction so there is no smell. But this fall was so warm and the flies were incredible. They covered our house and our screens for weeks until the real cold weather hit. Now, how to get rid of the fly specs that are everywhere on our vinyl siding? J.D., by e-mail

A. Those were manure flies, present where cows and manure are present. I have heard tales of woe about mold, algae, lichen, and moss on siding, the artillery fungus that fires bits of mold on siding, just plain dirt, even a hornet and wasp bomb that made an awful stain. But fly specks, that's a new one.

The cure is pretty much the same. Make a strong solution of Spic and Span or your favorite strong detergent and double the formula. Apply this, let it sit on the stains for a few minutes, then scrub with a scrub brush and rinse with a hose. Do not power wash vinyl siding unless you use low pressure and point the stream downward so no water gets behind the vinyl. If any water does get behind, it will take weeks to dry out, and if it remains it can cause decay.

If that does not work, try one of the citrus cleaners, Citrus Clean or Citrus Green.

Readers to the rescue!

Several readers, bless their hearts, have responded to C.M. of Danvers who was looking for a machine that rolls newspapers to make logs for burning in the fireplce.

T.C. said that Lehman's Co. of Kidron, Ohio, makes one. Call 877-438-5346; item no. #72-737, $37.95 plus s&h.

K.W. of Pembroke also mentionoed Lehman's, 888-438-5346.

S.J. e-mailed: http://metalwebnews.com/poorman/energy-money.html

S.C. of Wallingford, Conn., added in an e-mail: Look for machines in flea markets or thrift stores and you will surely find one sooner or later.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to Boston.com. Hotton's e-mail is photton@globe.com.

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