Dear Ken: Is there any way to remove paint from concrete surfaces? I think we may have waited too long. -Phyllis
I assume you're talking about latex paint. This is one of the toughest stains to get out of anything. For instance, if you get some drips on your clothing, you hustle to the cold water faucet to rinse the spots and then launder quickly. Otherwise, once it sets, you're stuck. The same is true of concrete. It's quite porous, so anything that lands on it soaks deep into the surface. Our old friend, Goof Off, is a pretty good paint solvent. Spritz some on the spots and then blot – like we would on carpet. If that isn't effective, you could try grinding in some kitty litter with the solvent, as we do for oil spots on the driveway.
If dissolving it doesn't do the trick, you'll need to resort to either power washing or covering the whole surface with a stain or some deck enamel.
Dear Ken: Could you give us the pros and cons of granite versus other manmade types of countertops. -Gary
Many folks think that nothing matches the natural beauty and elegance of real granite tops – whether solid, overlaid or in tile form. It comes in a variety of colors and variegations, depending on what quarry (and country) it comes from. It resists heat quite well, but it can crack, and, as you probably know by now, it's very expensive. It also requires on-going maintenance, including sealing the surface. Otherwise, it will absorb stains.
On the other hand, manmade, ground-up quartz material – like the Silestone, Zodiaq and Cambria brands – are virtually indestructible. They, too, are a little pricey, but they resist stains and require almost no maintenance or annual sealing. They are also available in a wider rainbow of colors than granite.
If your budget is constrained, you could consider plastic laminates – like Formica and Wilsonart. These companies have come up with new patterns that resemble natural stone, and they are quite remarkable.
Dear Ken: We have cracks and crumbling in our stucco. The repair attempts by the stucco contractor haven't turned out very well. Any ideas for a permanent fix? -Tom
Minor cracks in stucco – usually caused by temperature changes or slight movement in the underlying framing wood – should be ignored, unless they are wider than say, the edge of a nickel. To patch, use some ordinary spackling and then touch-up with matching paint.
In your case, the crumbling you mention is a little more serious. The Quikrete and DAP companies make a latex stucco patching compound that can cover larger areas. Then you can apply an elastomeric (rubbery) paint. It does a better job than ordinary latex because it's a little flexible and can "breathe."
Dear Ken: I would like to paint my daughter's bedroom. She has a bookcase painted with flat latex. Do I need to sand it first or just apply a primer so I can paint it? -Louise
It's always a good idea to prime before you repaint, especially if you are drastically changing colors. In fact, for big changes the paint store will sell you a tinted primer which will provide additional compatibility. First, wash the case with some vinegar and water, rinse and let dry. Then scuff sand a little to break any glaze on the surface. Once it's wiped down, you can apply a couple of coats of a primer/sealer, like KILZ or Bullseye 1-2-3. Lightly sand between each coat with some fine (150 grit) paper.
Then you're ready to apply your favorite acrylic latex, semi-gloss topcoat. You might prefer an alkyd system here – what we used to call oil-based paint. Even though it's inconvenient to handle and slow drying, it is a little harder and much more wear resistant.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 9 a.m. Saturday and is carried on KRDO, AM 1240 and FM 105.5. Visit www.aroundthehouse.com