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Use a flexible filler for molding

Published Oct. 1, 2005

Question: I have been in my 40-year-old house for about two years. I am noticing the baseboard molding pulling away from the wall, leaving a gap, and around the inside window frames. Can I fill them with spackling or wood filler?

Answer: The gaps appeared because the wood contracted when it lost moisture. It occurs mostly in winter, when the house is dry. The gaps may close a bit in summer, when the wood takes on moisture and expands.

You can fill the gaps but not with spackling or wood filler because it hardens up, and, when the stuff hardens, and the wood expands and contracts, it will break up that hard filler, making the gap look worse than it does now.

Fill the gaps with a phenolic vinyl caulking compound (Pheno-Seal and Poly-Seamseal, sold in many stores). Place a bead in the gap and press it in with your fingers. Scrape off excess with a putty knife and clean off residue with a wet sponge before the caulking sets.

The caulking will expand and contract with the wood and will keep the gap filled.

Thermopane fogs up

Question: My big picture window of Thermopane has fogged up between the two panes of glass. Is there any way I can get rid of that fogging?

Answer: Not really. It's better to replace the glass, which is the standard way of fixing fogged double glazing.

Stained fiberglass tub

Question: Oven cleaner severely stained my fiberglass tub when it was used mistakenly to clean a stain. I found fiberglass restorer at a boat store, which is a rubbing compound, and reduced the stain quite a bit but not entirely.

Can I repaint this stain? If so, how can I get a color match?

I also discovered that Gel-Gloss comes in colors, also sold at the boat store.

Answer: The colored Gel-Gloss should do it, but getting the right color is very difficult. You could try mixing various shades of Gel-Gloss, but that would require buying scads of the stuff, which is not practical.

While fiberglass generally requires a specific paint, you could try painting the stain with an indoor-outdoor oil enamel and hoping for a disguise, at least. You might get a better color match with the enamel.

Glue spilled on counter

Question: Super Glue was spilled on a laminated plastic counter, making a clear but distinct stain that I can feel. How can I remove it?

I'm afraid that I will scratch the surface if I scrape it. I tried Goo-Gone and heating without success.

Answer: There is a solvent for Super Glue called, amazingly enough, Duro Super Glue Remover, made by Woodhill. It is sold in hardware and building-supply stores. Try it on an obscure area of the plastic to make sure that it does not affect the plastic adversely.

Window-glass molding

Question: My garage door windows have little strips of wood molding in place of the glazing compound holding the glass. I can take them out when replacing the glass.

Why don't regular windows have this molding, and why can't I use such molding when I reglaze my old windows?

Answer: Why not indeed? In fact, I think some replacement windows have wood or plastic molding. I have no idea why such molding was not used on old windows; perhaps it was felt that the glazing compound was more waterproof.

I have seen such molding on the market, and you can use it in place of glazing compound, but you must first take out all the glazing compound from your windows, not an easy chore.

Once the old stuff is removed, be sure to caulk the joint (between wood and glass) with caulking compound. Then, when you press the wood molding into place, it will press against the caulking compound to make a waterproof seal. Be sure to paint the molding.

If you can't find the ready-made molding, which slopes a little to allow water to run off, you can make your own molding out of pine in the shape of a right triangle, about half an inch wide on each of the flat sides.

Flat floor finish

Question: I had my hardwood floors refinished with a satin polyurethane varnish. Small particles showed up in the final coat. The painters did a fourth coat, but the sheen would go flat, shiny and flat, unevenly, and then fisheyes showed up. The finisher said it was the varnish formulation that caused the unevenness and fisheyes. How can I get a decent finish?

Answer: The fisheyes, which look like little craters in the finish, were caused by the final coat not sticking to certain places because of contamination by floor polish, oil or too-hard a finish.

The solution there is to sand the finish lightly to reduce gloss and roughen it so the final finish will adhere. This is particularly important when using polyurethane varnish.

Satin finishes are made semigloss by an additive to the varnish, which, when stirred, makes the varnish cloudy. The unevenness might have been caused by applying the satin finish without constant stirring to keep these flatting agents well mixed in the can.

To fix, I suggest that you sand the finish lightly, enough to roughen it and reduce gloss, then apply one coat of a high-gloss polyurethane. If the previous coats were oil-based polyurethane, continue with the oil-based. The same goes for water-based polyurethane.

The high gloss varnish will provide a more even coat because it doesn't have all those must-be-mixed flatting agents. It is tougher than satin, but the high gloss will dull down nicely in a matter of months.

Send questions to Peter Hotton, the Boston Globe, Boston, MA 02107.