Leave lighter hardwood alone

Posted: July 21, 2012

Question: We have had natural hardwood floors for five years. During that time we had a rug under a coffee table. This week we removed the rug and the wood floor was a much lighter color.

What can we do to have the floor return to its original matching finish?

Answer: It probably would involve less work if you just let the area darken to match the floor that was exposed to the sun's UV rays.

I've seen homeowners use bleach to lighten wood floors with some success but I wouldn't do it myself. There are, I am sure, products available on the Internet that might progressively lighten the floor, but most of the solutions I've seen involve refinishing all the floor.

My advice is to leave well enough alone if it isn't hurting anything.

Q: I plan to sell my house in the next year or two. Right now I am trying to make some small improvements to make the house more appealing.

One area that needs improvement is the patio. The previous owners poured the 200-square-foot patio in one large chunk, probably about 15 years ago. There is a large crack that runs horizontally across the patio, which was filled with some kind of caulk that only serves to make it more noticeable.

Is there any way to make this patio better, short of digging it all up and repouring it? Is there any way the crack can be repaired and the patio painted or the concrete stamped with a design?

A: The fact that the crack runs across the patio is a sign to me that the job was badly done and no amount of patching will fix it. The answer, then, is no, in my opinion, but I'd get a second one from a contractor or two before you took my thoughts to the bank.

Advice on rust from reader Jerry Grover:

I have seen several questions about rust in your recent articles.

There is a product by Loctite called Extend that is a rust neutralizer. It converts light rust to a black paintable surface. I've used it for years and never had a problem with the rust returning.

The last can that I bought came from Home Depot and I had to find it myself because the people in the paint department denied its existence.

This one is a spray can, but I have found it in a bottle as a white milky liquid that you could apply with a brush.

I have usually painted over it with Rust-Oleum, but the directions say to use three coats if you are not top-coating it.

Q: In the early '80s we refinished our basement. We used a foam-backed carpet that was glued to the floor. The carpet has gotten wet and we want to remove it.

Any ideas on how to remove the carpet and foam from the cement floor? Is there some type of solution we can use?

A: A solvent and a scraping tool, but wear plenty of protection and make sure the work area is well-ventilated.

I've seen a recommendation for that citrus paint remover but I'd head off to the hardware store for suggestions.

Q: Our dishwasher is around 10 years old, and we have a lot of calcium in our water (according to our plumbers), which leaves a brown residue anywhere the water sits for any length of time.

The dishwasher worked fine until about six months ago, when the residue started collecting everywhere (the sides, the bottom, the racks, the blades). I've tried things that are supposed to clean dishwashers: wiping off everything we can reach, adding no-spot stuff, which I never needed before.

In addition, over the last month or two the smell has gotten unpleasant. I've tried spraying everything with an ammonia-water solution, sprinkling baking soda inside, wiping the rubber ring in the center and applying the no-spot stuff liberally around it. Nothing helps.

At the same time, the dishwasher started taking a lot longer to go through a cycle.

I'm concerned that if we just replace the dishwasher, the problem will continue, since I don't know what is causing it.

A: Hard water will do these things. You'll need to look into a filtration system before you buy the new dishwasher.

Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.

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