Q. We have a reclaimed wood dining table and when it was delivered the craftsman told us to use clear Briwax and #0000 steel wool to keep it up. Briwax is tough to find; do you know where to find it? Or is there a substitute available?
A. Briwax is a wax used as a finish, reconditioner, or furniture wax. If you look online, it’s easy to find. I located it on Amazon, priced at $11.99 for about 1 pound of the stuff. But I wonder: Is the table finished in any way, perhaps with polyurethane varnish? If so, it needs no wax or polish. If you use wax, you will be tied to a perpetual maintenance project. Some specialists don’t like varnish, but if the table is bare wood, even reclaimed, applying three coats of a water-based polyurethane varnish is a good way to make a permanent, good-looking finish, needing no further treatment. Water-based varnish will darken wood the least of all finishes.
Q. I have an older Cape Cod cottage in Barnstable with cedar shingles. They are natural and weathered to a nice gray. I had some new windows installed and new shingles were put on around them. I am having the trim painted and the painter suggested he power wash the house with bleach to even out the color between the old and new shingles. I am hesitant. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is my motto. Do you think the power washing and bleach is a good idea?
A. You are right on the button concerning power washing and bleach. White cedar is rather soft compared to other cedars, so power washing might slough some of it off. So do not do it. And bleach is not necessary unless you have mold (black) or algae (green) on the shingles. The new shingles will gray down in two years, sooner in a marine environment.
Q. My house is 15 years old and was fitted with Pella casement windows (vinyl frames). I had the house painted a few years ago and the window frames (not the windows themselves) were painted at that time. Since then, opening the windows has become an adventure — I need to crank the opening mechanism slowly and gradually until each window gradually breaks to seal and then opens. (I have already broken the opening mechanism on one of the windows). My wife and I have washed the window frames and the window edges thoroughly with soap and water but that has not changed this sticky situation at all. How can I eliminate this problem?
A. You can let the paint on the frames wear off eventually, or sand off as much as is practical. Then, try this: Rub all edges on the frame and window with candle wax. Being vinyl, they really did not need painting.
Q. The walls in my garage were whitewashed when the house was built in 1955. I need to whitewash the walls again or, if possible, paint them. Can any paint be put over whitewash? If not, where can I buy whitewash? Does it come premixed and ready to use, or do I have to mix the ingredients? Also, what is a good method to apply whitewash?
A. I don’t think whitewashes are sold ready-made like paint, but need to be mixed in a formula. Most formulas use hydrated or slaked lime as one of the ingredients, and it may be hard to find such ingredients. So, I suggest you try painting your whitewashed walls. First wash the walls with water, which may remove some of the whitewash. After one washing, try painting the walls with a solid color exterior latex stain, in thin coats. Whitewash is applied with a large brush, a little like a wallpaper paste brush.
A book called “Formulas, Methods, Tips and Data for Home and Workshop” lists formulas for whitewash; it is out of print, but libraries may have it. You can also find it online through various retailers. It’s by Kenneth M. Swezey and was originally published by Harper & Row.