Home & Garden

DIY kits let you tackle repairs

Q. There are a number of narrow cracks in my popcorn ceiling. Is there something I can inject into these cracks to repair them and restore the appearance of the ceiling?

A. A number of products are available to repair defects in popcorn (textured) ceilings, but it isn't normally as easy as just injecting some sealer into a crack. Cracks repaired that way - by squirting a bead of acrylic caulk into them, for example - are likely to reopen and need more extensive repairs. Typically, to properly fix a crack, the crack is widened and the old popcorn scraped off down to the drywall. A special popcorn-repair material, such as is included in the Homax Acoustic Ceiling Repair Kit, is then spread into the bare area with a small, pump-like tool. The tool can be adjusted to give various common popcorn-ceiling textures such as orange peel, stipple, and knock-down (a random pattern that alternates smooth and rough areas). You should be able to find some special popcorn-ceiling repair materials at a home center near you or you can buy repair kits on the Internet.

Some products are applied with aerosol spray containers. When the new popcorn is dry, it should be given a coat of oil-based primer. Repairs usually mean that the entire ceiling must be repainted to restore its appearance. Painting can be tricky, since latex paint will often soften old popcorn and cause it to fall off. Readers have told me that they successfully painted popcorn with latex paint after first giving it a sealer coat of oil-based primer.

Before attempting any repairs to a popcorn ceiling, however, you should determine whether it contains asbestos. Tampering with asbestos, of course, is a serious health hazard. Ceilings more than about 25 years old can contain asbestos and should be tested before any work is done on them. For more information on dealing with asbestos, visit www.epa.gov and enter Asbestos in Your Home in the search space.

Q. We have a brick walkway that is shaded by trees and over the years has developed a black coating that makes it very slippery, especially when it is wet. How can we correct this without damaging the lawn at the sides of the walkway?

A. The black coating, which is mold and mildew, can easily be removed with a pressure washer. No cleaners that can damage the grass or other foliage need to be used - a strong blast of plain water will peel off the black stuff and leave the bricks looking like new. This method also works to clean concrete walks, patios, swimming-pool aprons, and other masonry surfaces. A water pressure of about 2,000 pounds per square inch is adequate. If you don't own a pressure washer, you can rent one at a tool-rental agency. An electric pressure washer with an output of about 2,000 psi can also be bought at most home centers for about $200.

Q. I am in the process of having my bathroom remodeled and, since I am getting up in years, want to include a "walk-in" shower without a threshold to trip me. I have discussed this with 10 contractors and half say it can't be done and each of the others has a different plan. Can you help?

A. What you want is called a no-threshold shower, and your best bet is to seek out a contractor who specializes in bathrooms and home improvements for the physically handicapped. It is quite possible to install a no-threshold shower that gives the user full access. There is a great deal of information on these showers on the Internet; use a search engine and the words No Threshold Shower to visit various sites, some of them with illustrations and purchase information.