Talk to a Toolman: Q&A With Chip Wade
Q: My hardwood floors are scuffed. Help!
Chip says: Give it a go. The only way to really fix a scuff is to refinish that portion of the floor. A pro job can cost hundreds of dollars, so if the area is small, do it yourself. First clean the spot with a degreaser. Then sand it with a sanding sponge or an orbital sander, going from a coarse grit to a fine grit. Wipe the wood with a damp cloth, then restain it by applying the stain in light coats with a foam brush, then wiping with a rag. Let it dry, then use a paintbrush to apply a protective finish such as polyurethane, extending it a bit beyond the repair so it blends in. If it looks too glossy after it dries, buff away some of the sheen with superfine steel wool.
Q: I'd like to put a sliding door where a regular door is. Is this doable?
Chip says: Hire a pro. This is a fairly simple job for a licensed contractor, as long as your original doors are French or double doors; otherwise, it will require a major renovation. Either way, if you can, buy your sliding door from the company that made your old doors, as they're more likely to have the same dimensions. Before your contractor arrives, tape down a tarp to protect your floors. He'll remove your old door and install the new one, as well as flashing (strips of sheet metal that help weatherproof the opening). Make sure he offers a warranty so you're covered in case of leaks or drafts.
Q: How do I add crown molding to my ceiling?
Chip says: Hire a pro. Unless you're comfortable using a compound miter saw, call a carpenter. You have to miter the ends of the molding (i.e. cut them at an angle) so they fit together at the room's corners, and this can be tricky, especially if your trim has lots of nooks or raised panels. A carpenter will cut the trim to fit your space. Then he - and likely a helper, since it's tough to hang molding alone - will install it with a nail gun and finish by caulking the seams and nail holes. An average-size room will take a pro an hour or two.
Q: There's a crack in one of my window panes. Can I replace it on my own?
Chip says: Give it a go. Putting in new glass is easy, especially if you have single-pane windows, which are only one piece of glass thick. To start, put X's of painter's tape over the cracked pane. Tap it with a hammer to free it from the frame, then, wearing heavy gloves, pull out any remaining pieces. Using a screwdriver, dig out the old glazing putty and the glazier's points, the small metal triangles that hold the glass in place. Once the frame is clear, apply a thin layer of new putty around it. Press the new pane (get one at a glass shop) into the putty, and insert new glazier's points. Roll more putty into ropes and press it around the new pane's edges, then smooth with a putty knife. If you have windows with double panes, you can buy a replacement sash (which includes the glass and frame), then pop out the old one and put in the new one.
Q: I found a wasp's nest in my backyard. What's the best way to get rid of it?
Chip says: Hire a pro. Wasps can be aggressive if they feel threatened, so play it safe and hire an exterminator. To prep for his arrival, clear the surrounding area the best you can without disturbing the nest. After the treatment is done - it can take a few hours - wait several days before hanging out in the area so any remaining insects have a chance to buzz off.