Categories in Fix & Improve It

Explore these fix-up topics and let your home improvement adventure begin!

recommended for you in Fix & Improve It

Fix-up content selected especially for you from our most popular posts, galleries, videos, and podcasts.

your questions in Fix & Improve It

See Answer
Tools for home repair

How to Prioritize Repairs in 100 Year Old Building

I've just moved into a new apartment, in a building that's around a hundred years old. I'll be asking a lot of questions in the future, but my first question regards choosing a priority area of focus.  There are 3 areas of concern:

#1 Water Damaged Walls and Chipping Paint

There is water damage to the walls with chipping paint that looks very old and there is accompanying yellow orange bubbling (almost like old sun worn spray foam/great stuff).

#2 Worn & Damaged Hardwood Floor

Then there is the beautiful hard wood floor. It has various areas of water damage, decades of foot traffic wear, possibly some burns from smokers many years old, and some cracking here and there. I would not want to replace anything, but rather restore it all and fill in cracks with a metallic copper epoxy.

#3 Worn Bathroom Fixtures

The next area of focus would be the bathroom sink, toilet, tub, and various wood work around the house. I have no idea how to get the decades of grime out of the tub, or taking the rust out of the sink (CLR is not working).I have experience with the first two options, but not the third.  If you can help me prioritize these projects, and provide tips on how to go about getting the projects done, I would love to hear your suggestions. Thank you for your time!

Our Answer

Your questions are understandable as many in your situation have the same question which is not what needs to be repaired, but what needs to be repaired first!

Generally speaking, repair priority should be based on first doing repairs that are needed to preserve a building for further damage.  So, for example, you'd fix a leaking roof before you remodels a worn out bath.  In your case, none of these repairs seems to negatively impact the structure or mechanical systems, so the good news is that you can proceed as budget and timing allow.  That said, I do have some suggestions that may help you decide.

Water Damaged Walls and Chipping Paint: I assume that the cause of the water damage has been addressed.  If not, that should be your first priority.  As for the paint and other substances, given that the building is 100-years old, there is a significant risk that this paint contains lead, which can be dangerous, especially to children.  You'll need to have the paint tested and if it is lead, find a trained, certified and experienced lead paint remediation company.

Worn & Damaged Hardwood Floor: This is a pretty easy fix.  Given the condition the floors need to be sanded, a job I'd hire a floor contractor to do.  These reason this may not be a DIY project as it requires an experienced using a large, heavy floor belt sander -- which is a machine that can easily damage your floor if not used by an experienced pro.  The only thing really odd about your proposed repair is that you talk about "fill in cracks with a metallic copper epoxy", which is a material I'm unfamiliar with and seems unusual.  If after sanding you have cracks to fill, that would be done with a floor filler material.

As for any gaps you may have between the boards, those can be filed with jute rope, pressed down in place and then covered with the floor finish (oil-based polyurethane is best).  While there are other techniques we'd recommend if the damage was minimal, deep stains or gouges require the floor to be sanded.

Worn Bathroom Fixtures: Remodeling a bathroom is always a smart home improvement project as updated bathrooms, as well as kitchens, generally provide a good return on investment.  The condition of the finish you describe sounds to me like its simply worn and all the "cleaning" in the world is not going to make it any better.

There's no emergent reason you need to do the floor or bathroom projects.  However, my advice would be to first determine if the paint is lead based, and then take it from there.  If lead paint removal is needed, it's a project that would interrupt either of the other two projects.

Good luck and let us know if you have further questions!




See Answer
Oak hardwood floor in bright home.

Refinishing Hardwood Floor Tools and Finish: Tools to use for sanding and recoating hardwood floors

I'm going to refinish my hardwood floors; what grid sandpaper should I use and what type of coating should I put back on the hardwood floors?

Our Answer

Refinishing hardwood floors is a popular project that can really improve the look of your space. If the finish is just dull and there aren't deep gouges or any other kind of serious flaws in the floors, the simplest way to prep the surface for a fresh new coat is to rent a floor buffer with a sanding screen.   The screens gently rotate to take off only the top layer of finish and won't damage the surface underneath.

If the floor is badly damaged, you'll need to rent a floor sander. Typically, there are two types of floor sanders available.  A floor belt sander is the tool most pros use.  These tools are big, heavy, hard to maneuver and if you sneeze when you are using one, can damage your floor for life.  We don't recommend renting a belt sander for your floors. If they are that bad, hire a pro to do the sanding.  Nothing short of using one of these behemoths every day is going to give you the experience to use one without making the floor look worse than when you started.

A better option for the DIYer when refinishing hardwood floors is a machine known as a U-Sand.  A U-sand is a 4 disk random orbital sander that does a fabulous job sanding the floor and is goof-proof regardless of the skill level of the user.  It also does a good job of sucking up the dust it creates, making for a much neater job and smoother finish.
Even with these tools, you will most likely still need to do some sanding by hand in the areas tough to get to.  You can also rent a disk sander that is designed to get into the edges of the floor, but keep in mind that these machines typically leave swirl marks that may none the less need to be hand-sanded out.

Polyurethane is the finish of choice for floors.  The finish is available in both latex and oil based versions.  In our experience, the latex finish works well for cabinets, trim and furniture but just doesn't have the abrasion resistance to do a good job on the floors.  For refinishing hardwood floors, oil finish still delivers the best long term result.

When refinishing hardwood floors, the best way to apply oil-based polyurethane is to "mop" it on with a synthetic "lamb's wool" applicator.  This useful tool, available at any home center, looks like a sponge mop and lays down a silky smooth finish in a fraction of the time it would take to do it using a brush.  For best results, use several thin coats and try to avoid heavy traffic on the floor for a few days after the finish is applied so that it can fully harden on the newly refinished hardwood floor.

See Answer
air filter

MERV Score for Indoor Air Filters?

What rating should indoor air filters have?  Many intake filters don't list the MERV rating.

Our Answer

MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, and ranges from 1 up to 20.  The higher the rating, the greater a filter's effectiveness.  It generally doesn't take more than a few dollars per filter to jump several grades higher on the MERV spectrum.

I would say that, as a rule of thumb, go with a microallergen filter, which usually has a MERV score of at least 11.  However, if you want to hone in on more than just ratings, there's a whole line of Filtrete air filters that can weed out various particles depending on your intended result, such as reducing odors or allergens.

product reviews in Fix & Improve It

The latest products in home improvement, decor and more with reviews by the Money Pit's band of serial home improvers.