1. Archive

Seal formaldehyde inside pressboard

(ran HC edition)

Question: I have a number of pressboard shelves that are giving off formaldehyde. I replaced most of them with wood, but I can't get to some of them to replace them. What can I use to seal in that formaldehyde?

Answer: Prime the pressboard shelves on all surfaces with an oil-based interior primer and finish with a latex enamel or latex eggshell finish paint or use two coats of an oil-based polyurethane varnish.

Rotten-egg odor

Question: My new house has four bathrooms with top-of-the-line fixtures. In some sinks I get a smell of rotten eggs when I turn on the cold water. After a short time, it stops.

How can I eliminate that odor?

Answer: The odor is caused by hydrogen sulphide dissolved in the water. It may be occurring naturally or could be due to a buildup of bacteria.

Sometimes aeration will help, which is what you did when you turned on the water and let it run. Sometimes you may need special filters. Consult your local water department for advice. Sometimes the water, especially if it is well water, will need chlorination.

If it is from a bacterial buildup, it may be due to a dirty filter, which could be replaced. Check the faucet aerator, too, the device that screws on the end of the tap. Filters and aerators can collect a lot of bacteria.

Replace filters as necessary. Unscrew the aerator, take out the gaskets and washers, clean them thoroughly and put everything back together. A new house should not have dirty filters or blocked aerators.

Anchors loosening up

Question: The plastic sleeves holding bolts for a toilet paper bar and towel rack bracket are losing their strength, and the units are sagging. I cannot move the holes, which are { inch in diameter, so how can I make the brackets hold properly when I remount them?

Answer: It sounds as if the holes were enlarged by the flexing of the bolt, since the towel bar and paper holder receive a certain amount of handling. As a result, the fixtures come loose.

What you need is a sturdier wall. The plasterboard or plaster wall is not thick enough to hold the bolt properly. You could fill that hole with joint compound, let it set and redrill a hole for the plastic sleeve, but it would work loose again.

I suggest a drastic solution. Remove enough of the plasterboard or plaster to allow insertion of a horizontal 2 by 4 between two vertical studs to be toenailed to each stud. Replace the plasterboard and finish off. Now you can mount the fixtures directly on the wall with screws going into the 2 by 4.

Another technique is to cut out the plasterboard or plaster and insert {-inch plywood in its place, nailed or screwed to the studs. Finish this off, and you can mount the fixtures directly on the plywood.

Installing railing

Question: My concrete stairs have no railing. Can I put a wrought-iron railing on one side of those steps?

The concrete is finished. Can I drill into finished concrete?

Answer: You can do the work yourself with wrought iron or aluminum post and rails, drilling into the concrete and setting the posts into the holes, then filling the holes with hydraulic cement.

Yes, you can drill holes in concrete. It is not easy, but it is possible.

In my opinion, however, you are better off having it done for you. Years ago I had two rails, one on each side of the steps, installed for about $600, which, for a high-quality job, is not expensive.