Q: Do you have an easy way to remove adhesive that was used to put down vinyl on top of concrete? I would like to stain the concrete instead of tiling. I don't mind the imperfections in concrete, but I do want a continuity look of imperfections. My biggest hurdle is that it's a great room and half of the room is vinyl and the other half is carpet. I will have to patch holes where the tack strip comes up. I don't want to paint just stain. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated. --Jayne P.
A: Unfortunately, you can't use "remove adhesive" and "easy" in the same sentence. There's really no quick and simple way to deal with adhesive removal, but there are some methods that work better than others. My best suggestion is a scraper -- anything from a putty knife or drywall knife to one of the wider, razor-edge scrapers with replaceable blades that you can get from a retailer of flooring supplies. Hold the scraper at a low angle to the floor, push it into the adhesive, and have a rag handy to remove the old adhesive as soon as it builds up on the blade.
When you have removed the adhesive, you can clean up whatever residue is left using mineral spirits. Be sure to have adequate ventilation in the room, and follow all of the safety regulations on the can.
Staining concrete can be very attractive, but it's not the easiest thing to do. I would definitely talk with an experienced dealer of concrete supplies to find out exactly how to clean the concrete prior to staining, as well as the specifics of how to mix and apply the stain and any top coat you desire. Also, be aware that the stain will not hide imperfections, such as areas that have been patched.
Q: I installed engineered hardwood floors a few years ago and they dent and scrape very easily. I've heard you can sand them since they have a layer of real wood. Would you recommend sanding or some other methods of hiding the various dings, gouges and scratches? My current finish is very smooth and shiny; I find it hard to imagine sanding won't ruin the look. --Rob R.
A: Engineered hardwood flooring is tongue-and-groove strips with a base layer of plywood or other material that is topped by a layer of hardwood veneer. The pieces then have a finish applied, which ranges from certain oil combinations to polyurethane or other top coats.
For a hardwood floor that's become scratched and dinged, the only effective solution is refinishing. Other methods of camouflaging the damaged areas don't work very well, and are especially difficult over large areas. So with that in mind, I would recommend refinishing over repair.
However, the first thing you need to determine is whether or not your floor can be refinished. The construction, finish and overall quality of engineered hardwood can vary greatly. The better grades have a relatively thick layer of hardwood veneer that can stand up to one or more sandings and refinishings, while lower-quality material has a very thin veneer that can't be sanded without risking going all the way through to the base layer below.
As to the finish itself, you probably won't be able to exactly duplicate what's currently on the floor, since that's a factory-applied finish. However, there are several very good polyurethane finishes on the market that will give you the look you're after, and many are superior to the finish that came on the boards originally. I would suggest that you talk with an experienced, licensed hardwood-floor contactor to determine if your floor can be refinished, and what the best way would be to go about it.
Q: I have an electric water heater that's about six years old and tried to change out the anode after an online discussion with the vendor. However, I gave up because it won't budge with several wrenches. My understanding of an anode is to collect foreign minerals to extend the life of the heater. Is this correct? The current problem is air in the water system -- each and every time I open a faucet anywhere in the home (a double-wide manufactured home) air spits out. The hot water feeds seem to be the worst and that is why I thought about the anode. I've also drained the tank several times and this doesn't help. Any advice? --Phil S.
A: The anode is definitely there to collect minerals in order to keep the inside of the tank from corroding, so replacing it probably won't help in your situation. I would begin by contacting your water company. Explain the situation, and see if they have done anything with their system that might be introducing air into the water lines.
Next, I would try lowering the temperature of the water, which may be enough to solve the problem. This is simply a matter of shutting the power, removing the thermostat covers on the side of the water heater, and turning the adjustment dials inside. I would suggest trying 120 to 130 degrees and see if it helps. Make sure both thermostats are set the same.
Finally, you may need to install an expansion tank on top of the water heater. This is a small metal tank with an air bladder inside, which gives the hot water a place to go as it expands while being heated. This relieves pressure inside the tank, and may stop the air bubbles. Consult with a licensed plumber for installation.