Home & Garden

When all else fails, try sand blasting

We have a large stone (about 30 square feet) in our yard that was coated with asphalt by a previous owner of the property. We would like to restore it to its original appearance but had no luck with solvents or pressure washing. Any ideas? -D. Woods

Asphalt is very difficult to remove and I don't think solvents or even pressure washing is the best solution. I think you should try sand blasting, which is not as difficult or expensive as it might sound. You should be able to rent sand-blasting equipment at a tool rental agency near you. You will need an air compressor, a special sand-blasting gun, and some blasting sand.

Once you get the equipment home and set it up, you should be able to do the job in an hour or two. The fine, hard sand will peel off the asphalt and probably a thin layer of the stone's surface. Be sure and wear, goggles, gloves and other protective clothing, and keep children and pets away while blasting.

We had beautiful ceramic-tile floors in our bathrooms, but the gray grout has become discolored and I can't seem to get it clean despite lots of scrubbing. Is there a way to restore the grout color? -D. Johnson

A colored grout stain could be the answer. These stains are available in a variety of colors, including light gray, white and darker tones such as green, brown and black. Grout stain is not difficult to apply, but you should read the directions and cautions carefully. The surface must be clean and dry before application, which is done with a sponge or brush.

There are a number of Internet sources of grout stain. One source of standard colors and custom colors is www.super-tek.com. You can also contact the company with questions by phone, fax or e-mail.

Before trying grout stain, however, you might want to take another turn at cleaning the grout. You don't say what product you used to scrub, but there are some excellent and powerful grout cleaners available. Some are sold at home centers and supermarkets, and a widely used cleaner is available at www.marble-cleaning-products.com (click on Grout Cleaner for information).

Clean grout will stay that way longer if it is sealed (sealer is available at the Internet sites above and at home centers).

We have a sunroom, unheated except for solar heat, and are trying to choose a floor for it. We were interested in engineered wood, but the dealer told us there would be no warranty on it. Same with laminate flooring. Any suggestions? -E. Lenander

The three most popular types of flooring for sunrooms, I'm told, are laminate, ceramic tile and indoor-outdoor carpet. Engineered-wood flooring, which is composed of thin strips of wood glued together in a sort of sandwich, is very versatile and can withstand some conditions that would ruin other types of wood flooring, but I have no information on how it would perform in a sunroom in your area.

I think your best bet is to contact a local sunroom specialist, who should be able to give you some insights into an appropriate flooring. I certainly would not buy or install any type of flooring that did not come with a warranty, so probably you should also check with other flooring dealers.

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