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HANDYMAN ON CALL

How to clean popcorn ceiling stains

Q. What’s the best way to get rid of a water stain line on a popcorn ceiling?

STEPHANIE, in Hotton’s chat room

A. If the popcorn does not melt, try a mild solution of 1 part bleach and 5 parts water. If that does not work, and the ceiling can take painting, paint the stain with clear shellac, then a thin coat of latex ceiling point. If the ceiling cannot take either the bleach or painting, there is nothing you can do. Another chatter asked how to take it down, and this could apply to you, too. Popcorn ceilings may contain asbestos. If so, the ceiling must be removed professionally. If asbestos-free, the ceiling can be washed heavily and scraped off.

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Q. Our son is building our 1,200-square-foot retirement house and hubby wants to do ceilings and some walls in pine and cedar which he’s harvested from our farm. I’ve had some experience with finishing raw pine and oak with Minwax, both oil- and water-based. Please comment on a product which may cause the least ambering. I am tempted to leave it unfinished.

ROBERTA ZEHR, by e-mail

A. If you like any kind of a stain, make it as light as possible. It can be one of the Minwax colors or an exterior semitransparent stain. Do not varnish; that will bring up too many problems, such as peeling, flaking, and darkening. Here is what I did on a cathedral ceiling: I bought red cedar. I put it up and did nothing. The boards have darkened, but that cannot be helped under any circumstances. There are a few dark areas caused by condensation of water vapor (no leaks), and I suppose they are water marks, but I find all the blemishes give the ceiling more character.

Q. I am thinking of replacing a Formica countertop with a slab of wood. Any recommendations of the kind of wood to use? The counter is not used for food prep. I think a wood counter would make the cupboards (upper and lower) look more like cabinets.

HOUSEPROUD, in Hotton’s chat room

A. Use a pine butcher block, at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, for a massive look. Rub the slab with 3 or more coats of boiled linseed oil. Since it won’t be used for food prep, you could instead apply 3 or 4 coats of water-based polyurethane varnish. A possible alternative is to put down ceramic or porcelain tiles.

Another possibility: There is a new system by Rust-Oleum called Countertop Transformations, a DIY Countertop Coating System that you can look into: www.rustoleumtransformations.com

Q. Do you have any suggestions for cleaning the smooth glass top of a stove? I have used the manufacturer’s recommendations: a special cleaner and razor blade, but they don’t work.

DAVE, in Hotton’s chat room

A. I think you are not using the razor blade properly. It works wonders on burnt-on food. Scrape at a 45-degree angle, and you will find it’s like magic. A razor blade came with my glass top stove, so it must be OK to use. Soaking with water for a few minutes also will help. Comet and Bon Ami scratchless powders can help.

Q. If my roof looks dark and has some areas of moss, but inside there are no leaks, do I still need to consider replacing the roof that is 10 to 15 years old?

MIMI, in Hotton’s chat room

A. No! Don’t even think of it! Say those shingles are 15 years old. They still have 10 to 20 years left. The dark areas are probably mold, which can be left as is or treated with bleach to kill it. The moss can be carefully scraped off or killed with vinegar.

The Handyman on Call column also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (photton@globe.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com.
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